I was reminded of my late father, Wendell Sedgwick (or The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, if you prefer) in a nice way today. But before I tell you that story, I’ll explain for possible newcomers here at Meanwhile, at the Manse that the reason my husband, Raymond, and I are living here in this old manse in Queensborough, Ont., is because we decided to buy the house I grew up in; and I grew up in this house because Dad (The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick) was the minister of the United churches in this area when I was a kid. And the minister (and his family, which included me) would of course live in the manse connected with the churches on the local pastoral charge.
Okay, that’s the back story; now we return to me being reminded of Dad. I was driving home from work in Belleville, and after stopping to do errands in Madoc I decided to head homeward out of that town via Highway 62. It’s not my usual route, but I like to vary things a bit; sometimes I take 62 north and then cross eastward over to Cooper Road (and thence Hazzard’s Corners and home to Queensborough) via Riggs Road or Hazzards Road or Public School Road. (If you’re not from here and are having trouble following the geography, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter all that much in the overall scheme of my story).
Today my plan was to take Public School Road. But due to my daydreaming, enjoyment of the late-afternoon springlike sunshine, and singing along to Petula Clark singing I Know a Place (on Freddy Vette‘s excellent radio show of 1950s and ’60s songs on CJBQ, 800 on your AM dial), I completely missed the turn. No worries, I thought; I’ll head north to Eldorado and take Rimington Road.
Now, Rimington Road is an east-west route that my dad used to use when travelling between Queensborough, where home (the Manse) and St. Andrew’s United Church were located, and Eldorado, where there was Eldorado United Church (also part of his pastoral charge) and its parishioners who lived in the surrounding area.
And so it was natural that I was thinking of Dad as I travelled that old country road, which – it struck me as I drove – probably hasn’t changed all that much in all the years since Dad last travelled it in one of our family’s old and always-breaking-down Pontiacs or Chevs. The farms that are along that road are the farms that were there then. It was lined then, as now, by the split-rail fences built by pioneering farm families:
So I tried to look at the road, and my drive, through Dad’s eyes. And as I did so, I also remembered how he would have felt had he been driving home to the Manse at that very hour of the day (shortly before 6 p.m.) on a late-winter afternoon. He would have been feeling: full.
Here’s why. In those long-ago days when Dad was a young minister and I was a very young child, ministers used to go out “visiting” – stopping in at the homes of parishioners to say hello and offer spiritual or material help if needed, and just generally be sociable. It was an expected part of a minister’s job, and something he (or, very rarely back then, she) did several days a week. The families the minister would be visiting, here in our area, were by and large farm families, remember; so both husband and wife would probably be home, or at least on the property, when Dad stopped by of an afternoon.
(Just the other day a longtime parishioner of St. Andrew’s United was telling me fondly about how, when Dad showed up for a visit at their home, he’d head out to the barn or the fields where her husband was working and happily help out as they talked. I wrote here about how work was the primary theme of my dad’s life; he grew up working hard on a farm, and he continued to work hard on that family farm even when he became a minister. And as a minister to farm families, he was more than happy to help out on parishioners’ farms when that help was needed.)
Anyway, here’s the thing: at every house Dad would visit, the wife would insist on him having tea and food. Perhaps savouries like sandwiches and pickles and cheese; but absolutely and without question sweets like homemade cookies and squares and tarts. And “No thank you, I’ve already eaten at other homes” would not be an acceptable response when such goodies were offered. So Dad’s afternoon of visiting would entail consuming gallons of strong tea and endless cookies and squares and sandwiches and pieces of cheese.
He would arrive home at the Manse – having followed my route today along Rimington Road, if he’d been visiting in the Eldorado area – practically groaning with repleteness. And there on the kitchen table, right inside the front door, would be: dinner.
I have to give it to my father: as full of tea and cookies as he might have been, he always did justice to whatever my mum served up. Dad was not one to see food wasted, or anyone’s efforts in preparing a meal underappreciated. But oh, how he did moan sometimes at how very much he’d felt obliged to consume that afternoon.
Not in a bad or complaining way, though. Dad was always extremely appreciative of the kindness and hospitality he’d received on his visits, and the friendly exchanges he’d had – perhaps with a bit of forking manure or repairing of a tractor thrown in.
All of that came to mind this late afternoon as I drove home to the Manse, in the last of the late-afternoon winter sunshine, along Rimington Road. And even though I wasn’t full of tea and sweets, I too felt appreciative: of how past and present come together in this place for me; of the beauty of the landscape; and most especially of my memories of my dad.