One of the fondest memories I have of growing up in Attawapiskat is of my grandfather, James Kataquapit, who lived with our family for a few years when I was a young boy. We called him Mooshom, which is the Cree word for grandfather.
Before he came to our home, Mooshom lived alone for many years. His wife, Janie Kataquapit, passed away before I was born.
Mooshom eventually found it hard to live by himself and came to stay with our family for a few years. Although our house was filled with nine children, mom and dad cleared a room for Mooshom in our four bedroom house.
I was too young to really discover Mooshom’s life but I remember him talking about the feet that he had gone to a great war across the ocean. As part of his remembrance he would sing, ‘It’s a long, long way to Tipperary’. My brotl ers and I always laughed with Mooshom after he san; wasn’t until later when I went to school in the south that I learned about this English marching song from the First World War. Mooshom always enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren, which included my brothers and sisters and numerous other cousins. He gave us kisses and and made us laugh whenever we sat down with him.
I will always recall coming home from school during the summer when Mooshom was living with us. Dad kept wooden bench, specially designed for our freighter can’ alongside our driveway and this is where Mooshom sit on a warm sunny day.
Mooshom always wore the same style of clothes, whi consisted of a black pair of pants, a white shirt and suit jacket. In the sun he sat with a green hunters cap and he also had his cane to help him walk back to the house. As I walked up the driveway he would call me over and ask me to sit with him for a while in the sun before I went inside. I was always only able to sit for a few short moments but before I got up to go he would ask for a kiss and hug. I wasn’t the only one to meet Mooshom beside the driveway on those sunny days, my brothers and sisters also sat with him and got their kiss and hug before they came in.
Inside our home, Mooshom had his own table and ate his meals in his room. He always preferred wild meat and did not like the non-Native meals that mom prepared for us. He was a very traditional person who had spent most of his life out on the land hunting and gathering his own food. It was only in the later part of his life that he lived a non-traditional lifestyle. Mom accommodated his tastes and sometimes while we had spaghetti or shepherd’s pie, she would prepare a little goose, moose or caribou for Mooshom. Everyday during supper, it was my chore to take Mooshom’s meal to his room. Once his plate was on his table and his kiss had been given, I would go back to the kitchen to fetch his tea. Mooshom always loved his cup of tea during his meal. Mom knew how fond he was of his tea and she always served it in oversized mug that held four regular cups.
When Mooshom moved in with us he was starting to feel his age and after a few years in our home his health deteriorated until he had to leave to be cared for at the local hospital. Even when he was in the hospital, the people he loved were not far away. Dad worked in the maintenance department of the hospital and was always around and mom sent us there just about every day to deliver a meal package of goose, moose or rabbit. Mooshom complained that he did not like the food they gave him in the hospital because they served no wild meat.
It feels good to remember Mooshom while he lived with us during that time. This was a precious time for me and although I did not know it then I carry these memories of Mooshom like a connection to where I come from. Mooshom will always be a part of me.