I can tell this story only because he is no longer around to read it. He would be none too pleased, to know I was talking about his money. Well, here goes. You need to have a bit of background about my father, Albert Finlay, before you can get the jist of what I’m about to tell you. He was born in January of 1929 to Thomas Francis Finlay and Maude Myrick. He grew up in the small fishing community of St.Shotts on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. And he never had any money of his own before he moved to Pasadena at the age of 15. He had a flour bag filled with his belongings when he came to Midland to find work in the lumber woods.
He worked hard most of his life, and because he didn’t have a lazy bone in his body, he valued anyone who was not afraid of work. Let’s just say he had a great work ethic. He liked to play hard too, but that’s a story for another time or not at all. Anyone who knew him knows what I’m saying without me putting the words in this story. He enjoyed friends visiting him and always said “You’re as welcome as the flowers in May!” He liked to visit his friends, too.
He prided himself on always paying his bills, especially after he married Joan Marie Whiffin, a daughter of one of the first settlers of Midland, and fathered nine children. He cut many cords of wood, drove a taxi, and in later years had his own landscaping business and strawberry farm. He also built several houses and sold them, and lived in a total of six homes. The site of the mini golf base was the last house I ever slept in during his time in Pasadena and it was built for my mother so that she didn’t have to go up and down stairs with her weak heart. However she never lived long enough to enjoy it. He built one other house after that one and repaired a small house in Trepassey which he lived in until his death in 2008. He even tried to be a fisherman for one year and bought an old house in St.Shotts. So you see what I mean when I say he didn’t mind hard work.
In his later years he didn’t have to worry about money, but he didn’t care much about saving it. One night when his brother Gerald was visiting him in Pasadena, he and his wife Lillian were settled away in bed. Suddenly there was a big noise and the bed collapsed. When they managed to get out of the bed, money was flying everywhere. Between this box spring and mattress was one of dad’s hiding places. It was a great laugh for Uncle Gerald who is a gifted storyteller. I can imagine him telling that story over and over to attentive listeners. To hear him tell it would be worth a million dollars!
My father was famous for putting money under his mattresses. I’d tell him he should have a better hiding place but he was stubborn and would not change the hiding place. He mostly kept the money in his wallet but during the times when he was given cash for his landscaping jobs, he didn’t carry it all around with him. He left his door unlocked, and stowed the bills under various mattresses in the house before he visited his friends at Maxwells or other places. He hated locking the door, even when I visited with my three young sons.
In his last years he would pass over his wallet to my sister or me to go shopping for him. He always said before we’d leave the house “Get something for yourselves.” No one could say he wasn’t generous. I would do his taxes for him and he was properly charmed when he didn’t have to give the government any of his money. When I’d drive him to see a doctor in St.John’s or pick him up after a stay at the hospital, he’d always take out some twenties to cover the gas and a meal of Mary Browns chicken.
If my father gave some needy person money, he didn’t tell us about it and I believe he never asked that it be paid back. But if I asked him for a loan, I’d better pay it back. He had a long memory then. I guess he felt that he shouldn’t have to ask for it and every debt should be paid, as he had always done.
When I worked on the strawberry farm, he would ask me at the end of the day “How did we do today?” I would take the money out and count it in front of him. Then he’d say “Take a hundred dollars for yourself.” And if I refused, he’d always manage to give my sons some money to get a treat or to buy a toy. He was generous with all of us at times. Each Christmas he’d get Carolann to write a cheque for the same amount for each of us. He didn’t want to treat anyone different and he always included all his children in his giftgiving. He said he didn’t want any gifts but his eyes lit up when he got a warm sweater or coat or pair of winter boots.
If there’s one thing I will always remember about my father is his generosity with friends and family. He didn’t talk much about his troubles or any mistakes he had ever made. He didn’t lament about what could have been. He wasn’t one to be mean intentionally. That is a good legacy to leave for everyone who cared about him. He truly had done his best and money really didn’t mean much to him in the end. People were most important and that is as it should be, in my mind.