In 1978 our family of 16 at Maplewood Lodge grew by one as my brother Rob, came over from England, intending to make Canada his home too. His decision was helped by the fact that during a visit the year before, he had fallen in love with one of my friends.
It was fall when Rob arrived. The children had made welcome banners out of construction paper, which I found while cleaning up in the loft room recently.
"Welcome to Canada, Uncle Bob. We love you," the words danced over the paper in childishly scrawled letters.
Rob was a champion shot putter and also into weight training. Paul was the brother he never had and together they lifted weights and trained in a shed that was baking hot in summer and frigid in winter and which stood about 20 feet from the house.
At school Rob had been the victim of cruel bullying and for him, building a body that was big and strong was a way of ensuring that no one wanted to pick a fight with him.
The men we supported at the home loved and respected him. The first person he met though, the day after he arrived for his first visit, told him so convincingly that he was the gardener, that Rob believed him and we in turn had to convince him that we didn't have a gardener!
Peter remembers Rob's green Adidas track suit, in which he thought he looked like the Green Giant! He credits his uncle with teaching him how to throw a frisbee and catch a football. He taught Peter to keep his eye on the ball, a principle he thinks helped him finally win the heart of Sue after we had all given up hope! His dad also helped, with the adage, "Faint heart never won fair lady." How could he go wrong?
Rob mowed a running track into the front lawn. Not used the heat and humidity, he sweltered as he ran, sweat dripping, while Peter trotted behind him. Peter made the mistake once, of saying to his uncle, "This is easy." Rob was not impressed!
Rob regularly ran the 5 kilometer block from our house. Our little dog Honey used to hide when she saw him lacing on his running shoes!
Buffy the cat seemed to target Rob for special blessings. She used his suitcase as a rather large litter box on occasion, and when she was sprayed in the face by a skunk she retreated to her favourite suitcase. Rob is the most fastidious person you would ever wish to meet, so of all the places she could choose, this one caused the most laughter. :)
Rob stayed with us for two years, during which he became a Canadian citizen, but sadly, his relationship with my friend did not go further than a very close friendship. After a few jobs that he did not enjoy, he found that he couldn't settle and in 1980, returned to England.
Before he left he carved his initials into a tree in the conservation area off Mulock and Bathurst in Newmarket.
We have so many happy memories of Rob's two years with us and when we are together, the stories begin, always bringing with them laughter.