Father’s Day, or one more day I know I’m an orphan

16 06 2013

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There once was a father names Chris
Whose puns would so often miss
He’d tell them, we’d moan
He’d tell more, we’d groan
It’s strange how I wish he still did this…

My dad, my superhero, passed away the Christmas before my first child was born. He never got to enjoy his grand kids or see how impressive all of them are (not just mine). It is the sort of unfairness that really grabs my throat when I think about it, because my dad was made to be a father/grandfather. He loved kids. He loved us. His day wasn’t complete without some sort of interaction with us, and while my siblings might have a different remembrance, to me he was always the guy who gave me my self-esteem, made me feel important and worth being.

He’d do crazy things like tell one of our friends that green stripey caterpillars tasted like peppermint, and then yowl with horror when the daring child ate it, shrugged, said, “naw it doesn’t”, and then went off to play.

He’d spend hours teaching us how to do things like painting or photography or ceramics or fixing things, and then recoil in mock horror when we’d supersede him at the task. While being proud as anything about us.

He taught me about ladylike behaviour, or tried to- sorry Dad! Tried to get me to soften my loud laugh, reminded me gently that ladies didn’t use that language, showed me what a gentleman could be (perhaps this explains my fondness for older men who still do that walking on the outside of the sidewalk thing?).

He’s been gone over half my life now, and I still miss him. I’m at the age he was when he was fighting his lymphoma the most diligently, being whacked with chemo until he almost died. Actually he was younger than I am now when he went through that. Amazing to think about.

I wonder if I would have had his grace in dealing with things.

Maybe.

He taught me well.

Fathers, don’t underestimate he effect you have on your kids. They know their mothers love ’em, mostly. But fathers? Those guys have to be persuaded, in my experience. I was so lucky to have my dad’s unconditional love. I can never ever thank him enough.

Except that, on my 60th birthday, the age he was when he left us, I’ll be sure to raise a toast. And, with any luck, a book, and a completed model ship.

But that’s another story…

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Dear Dad….

18 06 2011

I don’t have many photos of my dad. He was always the one behind the camera, capturing out smiles and foolishness and big events and small ones. But I can see him in my mind’s eye, alas, all that I have left, since he’s been gone  25 years now and for some reason it still feels fresh. So, I thought, in honour of Father’s Day, I’d write him a wee note. He only wrote me one letter, but I still have it.  I hope wherever he is, he gets this one.

 

Dear Dad –

Thanks.

Thanks for teaching me that it’s okay to be silly, like all those times you’d hide behind bushes with one finger held out, trying to tempt a bird to alight. Or walk new pants around the store on their hangers to see how they walked. Or drink peppermint schnapps with me to help us get through another party.

Thanks for teaching me that Goethe’s belief that whatever you can dream you should just start isn’t just words. You taught me, us, so much – things you also taught to yourself.  Photography, pottery, canoeing, painting, gardening, drawing, birdwatching, building model boats, creating pendulums (pendulii?), making pyramids, playing the piano and guitar and recorder and clarinet, designing the AWACS systems.  You would think about something, and then make it so. I tried to follow, but your skills outflanked mine so that I’d become discouraged – but the lesson remained.  Now I throw myself into things that I think about and try them, not afraid.  Sometimes they work out better than other times, but at least I don’t hang back. You taught me that, and I love you for it. I’m still recovering from your confident sailing trip, though.  Won’t see me in a sailboat on Lake Washington anytime soon, especially in a gale.

Thanks for teaching me that a sense of humour is a must. From endless punning sessions to jokes around the dinner table or in front of unamused laughing gulls, you made me laugh. I remember short-sheeting your bed as a joke when you and the family came back from camping.  I didn’t know my sister had dropped the camper on your toe and broken it…. After the shouting when you pushed your toe against the folded sheet, you laughed – we laughed together. (I got you a bunch of times. I remember putting the “Sexy Senior Citizen” license plate on the front of the car, replacing the one with crossed Canadian and US flags. You didn’t figure it out til you were bragging about your classy license plate to colleagues and they were singularly unimpressed. )(you got me, too.)

You’d come home with tales of woe, told in sorrowful tones, specifically so we could laugh together. You honed my wit. You made me funny and quick and thoughtful.

Thank you for not dying that first time you almost did. I still need you now, but then, we would all have been shattered even more. You fought, though, taking on doses of chemotherapy that would have “killed a lesser man”.  You were brave beyond imagining. I still will never forgive you for blaming me for driving you and your collapsing spine deliberately over potholes – but I probably deserved it for all the other times I teased you.

Thank you too, for always getting my sister the things I wanted for Christmas. Yes, seems cruel. But by doing that, you taught me to take pleasure in the things that life did give me, to find pleasures and gifts in the everyday, and to be grateful that you knew me well enough to know what I truly needed and wanted. And you made me tough, so that when I didn’t get what I wanted out of life sometimes, I could grin and bear it. And I still get a chuckle at the look on my brother’s face when he realized his present would only work if he gave away something to his younger siblings in trade for something they unwrapped. Ah, Christmas. I’m still in therapy.

I am your daughter, dad. Strangely, though I felt you always liked my siblings best, you became a part of me. Yeah, I’d make myself scarce when you wanted to show me how to fix a toaster – and I still regret that, 14 toasters later! – but I was watching and learning.  As my kids will tell you, some things I learned almost too well. They’re coping.  But we don’t discuss marshmallows much. Don’t ask. I have at least 10 minutes in hell for that one.

Every Father’s Day, I wish I’d had longer with you.  Then I go try something new or paint something or laugh, and I realize you are here always. And that’s the best gift you could give me.  Best thing of all? You gave it to all we kids, each in our own way.  No fighting. Well, not much, anyway.

Love always,

DA

 

 





The pearl

19 06 2010

I have a sweet pearl necklace that my dad gave me way back when I was a young teenager.  It’s a single, perfectly round pearl, with a gold holder and a thin 14 carat gold chain. Every time I wear it I am afraid I’ll lose it, but it holds on. The chain tangles, but it always untangles.

My dad gave me a few pearls – I have a ring he gave me also.  I don’t know why pearls – my birth stone was the yucky pee coloured Topaz. Perhaps he mixed me up with my sister, or perhaps he just knew me better than that.

The pearl is a live thing. Like amber, it comes from a slow, natural process.  And it has to be worn to keep its luster.  Other gems stay, cooly glinting, not caring whether you wear them – in fact probably preferring to be left alone to shine on their own. A pearl, though – it rubs against your skin, and it becomes warmer, more alive.  It takes on your body oils, becomes part of you as you become part of it.  Perhaps my dad knew that sort of ornament would be more me than any other.

My dad and I did pottery together, taking earth and forming it with our hands. We drew together, taking charcoal from the ash and sketching.  We gardened together, and he taught me how to grow foods in a small plot of land, taught me the immense pleasure of eating vegetables right off the plant. He taught me to see the world, taking all of us to canyons and mountains and caves and seashores, sharing their marvels with us, always finding something to wonder about, learn about. He made kites out of scraps of paper, built sand castles, carved boats and Kachina dolls and walking sticks, taking what was there and adding his touch. He taught me to see, to smell, to feel. To relish the world and all that was in it.

I still wander around, touching stone and sensing its roughness, feeling objects in stores, disobeying the look but don’t touch warnings we all heard from parents. The sensory world is my favorite, and one of my favorite things to sense is the slight insignificant weight of my father’s pearl around my neck as it warms to meet my body temperature.

My dad’s been gone 24 years now and it is so hard when I realize he’s been gone almost half of my life. He is still such a large part of me.  As with my pearl, we were able to rub against one another enough through the experiences he shared with me that some of him has seeped into my skin.  Tomorrow, for Father’s Day, I’ll put on the pearl, and remember him from when he gave it to me – crazy funny, laughing, finger outstretched to attract birds, always interested, often challenging, endlessly interesting, warm and wonderful.








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