In my family home all the photographs where kept in a drawer in the dining room cabinet. These photographs were not in that cabinet, I found them one day when I was 8 years old in a box in the basement. When I showed them to my dad he said “oh that’s the car your grandparents were killed in, the car collided with a train and was dragged a couple hundred feet down the tracks”, he turned and walked away. An 8 year old usually has all kinds of questions to ask, I was silent realizing that my father never talked about his parents.
I never met my paternal grandparents, they died before I was born.
My father on far right with his five siblings. This photograph shows more emotion than I have ever seen from the paternal side of my family and oddly enough this was made at the funeral for my grandparents in 1959. Prussian-German family photographs are often sad, sullen, stoic expressions showing no emotion. I am Irish on my maternal side and there are always smiles and laughter at every wake, as life is to be celebrated. Witnessing the emotion in this photograph gives me a connection to my fathers side of the family I have not felt before.
In 2016, on a road trip across the country, my wife and I stopped in Cabri, Saskatchewan to see the family farm and the rail crossing where the accident happened. We met with the man who now owns the old family farm. He was 10 years old and had crossed the train tracks in a school bus only a half hour before the accident that killed my grandparents. I asked him about the conditions that summer. Had the grass or crops grown so tall to block the view of an on coming train? He said “No, it is the same as you see it today”.