My father has been an inspiration to me for most of my life but especially in his later years. Dad had always been a hard-working man–still is on some levels, despite his many limits. He is my guide through this illness. He has physically suffered much in his life and yet he just keeps on going. I have always said that he is like a cat with nine lives who has used up ten of them. I am going to try to continue to beat some odds, too.
My early memories of my father are fun ones. He would bundle some of the four munchkins onto the back of the sleigh and pull us down several blocks to the corner store beyond the one at the end of our street for candy. I remember the night sky after supper, the coldness I breathed in, and even the sound of the sled runners on the snow-covered sidewalk. Halloween nights he would take us around the blocks, holding our bags of candies (probably pilfering the odd chocolate bar as he did so), and then help us check them with Mom afterwards for any suspicious-looking candy that might have been tampered with. I would wait for him on the front steps after school some summer days, to drive up in our station wagon and park in front of the house. Daddy’s home! I would shout, running to him. He would on occasion play Red Light, Green Light, What Time is it, Mister Wolf?, and Statues with us if he had the time and energy. We made us a backyard skating rink for a couple of years which is a pretty Canadian prairie thing to do. We had a pop-up tent in the summer and we did cross-country treks to see cousins in Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
He and Mom square danced, participating in jamborees that allowed us to see a bit of our corner of the world. We made good friends with some of the children of their friends, one that remains to this day. I have this memory of our two families playing baseball, the two dads and their kids making up each team. I do not remember who won but I and one of the other dad’s daughters got injured accidentally by the opposite father. We laughed about it.
Dad worked hard to give us such amazing opportunities as a family. The station wagon and pop-up tent were replaced by a half-ton truck and trailer that took us all the way to Disneyland and down to Mexico, Six-Flags-Over-Texas, Carlsbad Caverns, Yellow Stone, Mount Rushmore, and Las Vegas. If anyone has ever wondered where my wanderlust came from, blame it on my parents. Many summers he left us at the lake with Mom and returned each Sunday to the city to work. I wonder now what the house was like for him, empty of laughter and noise. Was it a haven for him or did he miss us? How did he spend his hours in the evening?
Dad loved to cook so he sure did not starve during that bachelor week. Our house was always full of home-cooked and often homegrown food. The farm never left the boy. We always had gardens with food. I seem to remember corn which seems unlikely in our little yard, but I do know that there were potatoes, peas, rhubarb, raspberries, and tomatoes. The garden still exists, now in a different location, and even though it is downsized I was happy the other day to see that the rhubarb a friend gave us–one who is married to the square dancers’ son–has taken root and is growing. We look forward to eating it soon. French food and farm favourites slipped into our diet. Some–like head cheese and blood sausage–rejected by the children. Other like the brown sugar rolls were always devoured. Dad made amazing homemade buns. Perhaps I too inherited his love for preparing food.
Dad does not talk about his younger days but when he does I listen well. He has memories that he will not share and others that can be coaxed out of him. He came from a family of eight and his work ethic kicked in early as one of the oldest. He has funny stories about trying to sleep in and his mother yelling upstairs for the children to come down. He has not so amusing reminiscing about being on the farm alone when his appendix ruptured. I wonder sometimes about parts of his life he will not talk about–the pain trapped inside his heart. I never knew his parents; they both died one after the other two months after my birth.
Dad did not seem to be fond of his school years. He quit his studies early and worked to support his family. Years later when the meat-packing company he worked for closed down he had to try a new career. In high school, I tutored Dad in math to prepare for a test that he needed to take for a promotion. Some times he struggled to understand and I had to explain it several times before he mastered it. I am sure it must have been humbling for him to ask this of a child. When he passed I was very proud of him. His hard work had paid off.
Dad was always there for me with car matters. I never needed a roadside plan because I just called DAD-Help and he would come-usually in the bitter cold–to change a tire or jump start my dead battery. I finally learned to do these things myself and in later years, I had a plan but every time something goes wrong with my car, I do think of my father. He is never one of many words but his actions speak volumes about how much he loves each of his children.
Dad is not perfect by any means–who is really? In my heart of hearts though, I know he loves me and that I love him. When I was living in the United States one year, he suffered a heart event, as they are now called. I remember flying home and visiting him in the ICU. He was confused as to why I had come. How could I not? We are not a family that talks about our feelings to one another but I think over the years we have come to understand that we do love one another and are there when we need to be.
I send my father much love tomorrow and always. Happy Father’s Day to a dear dad.
What is your relationship with your father?
What memories are you thinking about this Father’s Day?
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of my earthly father. He has shown me great love, modeling self-sacrifice and mercy that help me to understand You better. Bless him today and throughout the remainder of his life. Grant him peace of mind and heart. Give him all that he needs each day. Amen.