When I think of Peter Lougheed, I think of my father.
Nestled in the trees of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, there is a haven: William Watson Lodge. It is a modest group of cabins but there is magic within. The magic is quite simple really, but life-changing for some. These cabins were designed for people with disabilities: wide doorways that easily fit the width of a wheelchair, accessible decks off each cabin, wheelchair accessible showers, kilometre after kilometre of paved paths right down to the water. This lodge was established to be an affordable experience for those with disabilities and their families.
Peter Lougheed and his wife, Jeanne, are credited for the idea of William Watson Lodge.
When I was growing up, our family spent countless days camping. I have vivid memories of my father chopping wood or tending to the steaks on the hibachi, of my brothers, my parents and I standing at river’s edge skipping rocks, of all of us sitting around many a campfire. When my father became quadriplegic, one of the many losses we faced as a family was the loss of the outdoor experiences we once so enjoyed.
And then William Watson Lodge changed all that. Suddenly we had a place where we didn’t have to raise the bed to fit the Hoyer lift underneath. Suddenly we had a place where we didn’t have to struggle to push the wheelchair over the gravelly ground. Suddenly we had a place where disabilities were common and those around us understood the daily challenges we faced. Suddenly we could be a family enjoying the natural world once again, for a few precious days forgetting the sadness and loss.
Because of Peter Lougheed, I now have memories of my stepdaughter hanging off her grandpa’s chair on a mountain trail, I now have memories of our entourage – homecare workers included – sitting around a campfire, I now have memories of my father, though rendered immobile, once again at water’s edge relishing the fresh mountain air.
I never met Peter Lougheed, but he certainly changed my life. Rest in peace, dear sir. I imagine my father was waiting to greet you.