Rivers & Roads – Mr. Bays
Updated: Oct 20
I started my Friday learning of the passing of an old family friend, Doug Bays. As I sat in my car in the parking lot at school, I sobbed. I hadn’t seen Mr. Bays in a number of years, but the mere mention of his name brought an image of his face to my mind and a million memories came rushing back.
Growing up, my family did not spend long living in one location. My dad was chasing his next big break so we were always on the move. Our longest time in one house was in Kingston, Ontario on good ole Knightsbridge Road. I spent five years between kindergarten and fourth grade there, and when I look back, they are truly the happiest memories for me. Life was simple, joyful, uncomplicated. It was during these years that our family began spending time with the Bays’.
My Dad and Mr. Bays met each other through Sears Canada. The Bays’ lived just outside our hometown of Kingston in Perth Road Village. It was a mere twenty minutes away, but at nine or ten it felt like one hundred miles traveling in the back seat of my family’s Oldsmobile. We went out to Perth Road more weekends than I can count. The Bays lived in an old farmhouse that I loved. I imagined that it held so many secrets in its limestone basement or the passageway between the girls room and the master bedroom. They had a red barn that seemed constantly full of kittens and an old workshop building. The backyard had a large garden and an old tree where a family of long ago had built a treehouse, now filled with cobwebs. Nestled in the woods, at the end of a long driveway, their home was magical in my eyes.
Mr. Bays was quite the character. He was always in good spirits, laughing and telling stories. He loved to tease us kids and always had us working around the property – gathering beans or picking up apples. I wish I had a picture of Mr. Bays, but he was always on the other side of the camera. As an avid photographer, Mr. Bays saw the beauty in the smallest of details, in every living thing. He was just a darn joyful human being.
My Dad goofing around while we were making cider. Good times.
Mr. Bays is tied into a thousand memories I have of life in Perth Road. Making apple cider, raising and killing chickens, lol, yes it is as awful as it sounds, sliding on pillows down the main staircase, snowmobiling through the thick woods, making forts in the evergreens, milk with every meal. What is it they say about the innocence of childhood? Well, this was mine, and as much as I often felt I was journeying into the land of Deliverance, banjos and all, lol as we made our way down Wilmer Road, this time may have marked the only time I lived and breathed without fear or anxiety or sadness.
Can we bring back 1976?
I think the best part of this story is… as I spent time making memories with my family, and Mr. and Mrs. Bays, and Jennifer and Melissa… just one and a half miles down the road, the man that would be my partner in life was also growing up. The infamous John Inwood lived literally over the hill and around the corner by the baseball diamond. Worked at the General Store that we would walk to and buy our penny candy and banana popsicles. Turns out John’s Grandma and Jennifer and Melissa’s Grandma were sisters. That when I would go to the cottage on Draper Lake, John Inwood was probably swimming through the weeds two cottages down at the exact same time. I mean, SERIOUSLY. You just can’t make this stuff up. The Universe is some kind of wonderful.
So Peace be with you, Mr. Bays. You were a good man with a big heart and an even bigger smile. You teased me, but never too much which I appreciated lol. I will try and find the beautiful in the ordinary just for you.
With love Xxx
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