My dad was a true adventurer. He loved to explore, invent, pioneer, and learn constantly. I could never decide if he was born at the wrong time or if he was exactly what we needed in our time.
A lot of people already know the story of my dad building our house in Bamfield on a water-access only piece of property, with no electricity or running water, having no construction experience, and only using the plans for a double-wide garage. No? Well, that story is coming. It’s a good one.
This post is about years later in 1996. The year I turned 17, Dad took a six month leave of absence from work and moved to Mexico to build a house. We had been going to the same spot down south since I was five years old. We would go every few years, whenever we could afford it, and we had made (and continue to have) and incredible community there.
While going through some old boxes the other night, I found a letter that my dad had written to me – but I had no memory of. In it he details his days of walking the beach, visiting with friends, learning Spanish, and trying to get the house built. Many of the details are mundane, but the following section really stood out for me.
Nov. 2, 1996
I miss you.
This must be the first letter I have ever written to you. Wow!
This trip so far is everything I wanted it to be, I know that a lot of people couldn’t understand why a person would want to go off on their own for such a long time, but I think they have no adventure in their blood. They also don’t have wives as understanding as your mother, I know she understands why I wanted this, and that’s one of the reasons I love her.
I remember that people thought it was strange that Dad would leave for six months. My mom would frequently have to answer questions about if they were having marriage problems or getting a divorce. A favourite was, “but what if he meets someone else and doesn’t come back?” My mom would smile and say, “then that’s what happens.”
There were no cell phones or email. There weren’t even landlines in the village. Once a week Dad would hitch a ride to the city and call from a payphone, hoping Mom was home. On her end, Mom kept a long list next to the phone of things she needed to tell him when they did connect. It wasn’t easy, but they did it.
What I witnessed between them as a teenage was something that continues to influence my ideas around love and marriage. I saw was two people who loved each other, who were both working towards a common dream and embracing and celebrating their independence as individuals. No, maybe it wasn’t my mom’s first choice to spend a west coast winter alone, but she had a full shed of wood – and she will tell you to this day that surviving that winter gave her strength and confidence from an experience that is rare in a 40-year marriage.
I’ve got a room at Leonardo’s (the same one we had at Christmas) and I eat at the palapas each morning and evening. Tomi takes my laundry home each week and a lady there does it for me. She also would not accept my money when I went to pay my food bill at the end of the week, she said all she wants are my tapes when I leave. I finally got her to agree to take 100 pesos a week. They have been just great to me. Special friends are hard to find.
The special friends he is talking about are a family that we have known since 1985 and who we are still close with today. They created the base of the community that Dad built for us in Mexico and they were there for us through the tragedy of his passing.
I can’t imagine how different my life would have been if Dad hadn’t decided one day to move to Bamfield and do something he had never done before. And I can’t imagine what my life would be if he hadn’t decided to move to Mexico without speaking fluent Spanish to build a home there. There are lots of reasons not to do things – marriage, money, language, and he didn’t have the luxury of looking to the future and seeing how grateful we all are. Dad just followed his heart and gut and didn’t care if people didn’t understand.
I doubt that Dad meant for this letter to be kept for all these years or that it would have any meaning beyond a little update from this trip, but his message is exactly how he lived his life – adventure always, love deeply, and cherish your friends.
Well, I’ve got to get going now, and you will probably know most of this stuff by the time you get this letter. I plan to be talking to you and mom on your birthday.
I love you.
My mom rents a casita on her property in Barra de Potosi, you can find more information about it here.