Uncle John and Auntie Jean's cabin in Kenosee Lake was limited in space and abundant in visitors. "Across from the tennis courts," were all the directions needed. Around back was the hammock, fire pit, outhouse, garden shed and woodpile. An old log laid out to suggest parking, room for two vehicles bumper to bumper. Long before the age to drive, we were trusted to roam as far as we could walk without any sense of time, always returning exhausted from the heat.
As summers passed, so did interests. I bought Uncle John's mint 1983 Pontiac Grand Prix Deluxe for next to nothing the moment I received my license and pushed newfound boundaries. We could reach Kenosee from Kennedy on backroads and with the cabin keys hidden behind the rain barrel, our memories were replaced of their innocence. We would frequent the campgrounds, excessively drink, and pass out in the bed that once slept four. The habit worsened and by the time my grade eleven year came around I had their lake neighbours reporting us to authorities and privileges suspended. The summer ended with a car-load of friends hanging out the Grand Prix's sunroof as I swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle, totalling off my Uncle's car into a tree. By the grace of God, we all walked away unscathed with the exception of my 'do no wrong' reputation gravely disappointing both my Uncle John and Aunt Jean. I carried the shame until I left home.
Urged to pursue post secondary education, I did the bare minimum for a year at the University of Saskatchewan. Living away from home for the first time, I kept close to a few friends that found similar paths before meeting a girl from a Regina suburb, transferring as many credits as I could to the University of Regina and boarding with my Auntie Jeannie's youngest sister, Dorothy; widowed and living alone.
Occasionally returning to the farm on the weekends, I was finding my family connection in my time spent with my two aunt's and Uncle John. The closest I had ever lived to any of them. Uncle John’s academia added to my sense of guilt as I was not the slightest bit interested in school, however I played the part as best I could when in his presence. It was unnecessary. Following that year of studies, I left for a job assembling air-seeders and reconnected with old hockey-mates to form a band. Uncle John's support was unexpected but not surprising considering a life's love of music and the arts. I remained in Regina for a couple more years before leaving my family, my job and my girlfriend of four years, unannounced, on a random Friday afternoon. I relocated to Medicine Hat, Alberta, blind in the pursuit of music and twisting up a half dozen hearts. Uncle John's being one of them.
It had given him trouble for years. In '97 he called himself an ambulance with a coming attack, defibrillators activated upon hospital arrival and a stent placed inside his chest before leaving. Then, in '99, a second heart attack as he drove himself to emergency, my aunt at the cabin in Kenosee for the day.
Quickly after I had moved to Alberta, he went down with a third. Full cardiac arrest on the floor of their Regina home. My 63 year old aunt taking direction from a 911 operator alternating between chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. They shocked him back to life again. With funding finding its way into the Saskatchewan health system, literally over the weekend, he became the first resident to have a defibrillator surgically implanted on Saskatchewan soil. Aunt Jeannie saved his life, the technology did after that. A game of keep-away, all on borrowed time.