“That’s my father.” … Seemingly an innocent and offhand remark made by the youngest of his three children, those three little words meant much more to our dad. I know it made him feel proud and happy to be that father, that figure of authority and loving protector of his family.
It was a responsibility he took seriously, a role that only he could execute with his unique brand of friendship, understanding and humour…”
These days, few of us experience the old-fashioned pleasure of receiving a letter by standard mail. So imagine my joy to find, tucked inside a Christmas card from my aunt in the U.S., a handwritten note, along with a handful of photos sent to her from my father.
“Dear Jennifer – A note to enclose with these snapshots sent to me many years ago. They are precious to me, but belong in your heart and your home. It was a great adventure that Ralph shared with me over the phone lines. – Lovingly, Irene.”
Discussing this with my aunt recently, she was unable to nail down the year they were taken, but she believes Dad made the trip to Labrador in the mid to late fifties. That would make him, at the youngest, twenty-one, and still single.
An added bonus: his familiar handwriting scrawled on the back of each snapshot. ♥
I have captioned each one with his words.
A closer look:
I love his outfit. Lots of layers, warm boots, yet he is wearing a jacket, shirt and tie, and his hair is perfect.
This begs more questions: why did he fly out of Gander and not St. John’s? Who was he with and who took the pictures? Why did he make this trip to Labrador? Unfortunately, we are fuzzy on all the details.
No surprise to me at all that Dad would love the little animals!
If only he and I could sit down and have a chat together about his adventure in “The Big Land.” In any case, I cannot put into words how good it feels to see my father’s young face again. ♥
Have you ever gotten mail that made your day?
Is there someone you love and miss with all your heart?
I’m too tired from novel writing to come up with anything of my own this week, so I’m sharing a post from Journey Into Poetry. Christine is one of my favorite bloggers for the poems she writes.
Here is one I found especially moving. Love and miss you, Dad. x
Your whole life was wrapped around you
on that day,
propped up on a pillowy white cloud,
a few extra ones, cool, crisp
arranged in a special way,
a privilege for the dying.
How could your tiny fragile frame
have carried so much,
braved storms at sea,
ministered prayers from pulpit.
The swimming lessons you gave me;
you had the patience of Job.
And the turnip faces you carved
for Halloween, they were perfect;
(you would have cringed at pumpkins.)
But then you could do everything in my eyes;
you knew everything too.
I remember you trying to
show me how to use a slide rule;
I still haven’t a clue.
on a warm day, early May
in a special bed for the dying,
lay all of that,
your whole life in a cradle of time,
and it weighed next to nothing –
In a recent telephone conversation with my aunt in the U.S., we got to talking about my dad (her brother), in his early years. Long before he fell in love with and married my mother, my father was an interesting fellow in his own right, excelling in his school studies and discovering his deep passion for all things musical.
Most likely because of the popularity of the big bands andswing music back in the day, his first musical instrument of choice was the saxophone.
Later, when icons like Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins, and Glen Campbell, to name a few, came on the scene, Dad took up the guitar. When Beatlemania exploded, he joyously took part by buying their albums and learning to play many of their songs. As many can attest, he stayed devoted to guitar music the rest of his life.
As you can see from the above photo, my father was very thin when he was young. But after he married Mom, he began the quest of bodybuilding, transforming himself into the strong, well-muscled dad his children grew up with.
Pondering these things about my father made me think about the power of reinventing oneself. Sometimes the reinvention is necessary for survival, for instance a health issue demanding change. Other times it is a choice we make in the belief it will make us happier and more fulfilled.
I have had some reinventions of my own throughout my life. A few examples:
1. stay-at-home mom
2. customer representative in a bank
3. writer and blogger
Number three became possible when my husband and I did what my parents had done later in their lives: made the big move out of the city and into the country. Doing so gave me new insight into why they made such a change, and the benefits of this lifestyle which happen to better suit our personalities too.
People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out. ~ Warren G. Bennis
Have you done anything in your life to reinvent yourself? I’d love to hear from you if you have your own tale of reinvention to share. Don’t be shy. 🙂
~~Special thanks to Auntie who sent me these precious photos XOXO~~
When we were little children, my dad worked as a salesman. Sometimes he had to leave his young family to go on short business trips. On several occasions and if we were on summer vacation, he would take us along, and he would make a working holiday out of it. We loved to stay in whatever motel or hotel he booked for us. It was on one of these little motel stays that I saw my first TV program in colour (I’m telling my age here, for sure). And of course we enjoyed the novelty of eating in different restaurants each night.
Most of the time though, Dad’s job only required him to be away from home from nine to five, Monday through Friday. One particular day, as he was getting home just before supper, he got out of his car and noticed my little sister playing outside with her friend. He heard her as she turned to her playmate and said in a proud but quiet tone, “That’s my father.”
That little memory always made my father smile when he shared it with someone. Seemingly an innocent and offhand remark made by the youngest of his three children, those three little words meant much more to him. I know it made him feel proud and happy to be that father, that figure of authority and loving protector of his family. It was a responsibility he took seriously, a role that only he could execute with his unique brand of friendship, understanding and humour.
We had our dad with us through all the joy and the turmoil of growing up, and for many years after. He stood by me twice as I married, giving me away to another man who professed his love. But when we lost him almost ten years ago to the devastating illness known as ALS, none of us were ready to say goodbye.
Today is his birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad. He would have been seventy-nine. It was my wish to let everyone who reads this blog today to know a little bit about him. He was a man I was proud of, and still am. Why?
In today’s age of high-definition PVR’s and the luxury of watching television on demand to fit into my schedule, I rarely watch commercials anymore, and that suits me fine. But there is one ad I have seen recently that I think I could watch every day.
I won’t reveal whose advertisement it is; let’s just say it is for a financial company sharing the benefits of a home renovation loan. In this particular case, the son in the ad has just renovated part of his home to make a self-contained apartment. We see the son showing his aging father around the apartment, who appears very impressed with what his son has done. The father touches the new kitchen cabinets and remarks that the apartment should fetch good rent.
It is then that the son reaches in a box bearing the financial company’s logo, and comes out with a set of keys. He then gives the keys to his dad, telling him for the first time, “The apartment is yours, Dad.”
Then follows his father’s reaction of surprise, and he reaches out and hugs his son.
I swear, my heart gives a little leap and a flop each time I see this ad. Of course, I know why; I lost my dad nine years ago to ALS, when he was 69. I never got to see my father anywhere near as elderly, and yet healthy, as the gentleman in the ad. My mother didn’t fare much better, being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in her sixties, and now in the latter stages in a nursing home.
I didn’t write this post out of self-pity. I just wanted to impart to those of you who read this, the fortunate ones who still have a parent or parents who are loving, healthy and of sound mind, to treasure them. Please don’t take them for granted. You have something, and an opportunity that I will never know: the ability and the joy of giving back to those who brought you up and gave you their all.
For me, watching that commercial reminds me, and lets me dream – just for a few minutes – of what could have been.
As far back as I can remember, I have had a penchant for words, especially the written word. Whether that love was instilled in me by a father who had such an affinity for language and books, or it was inherited from him, I believe he deserves the credit. I’m sure my brother, who shares that love, would agree.
Word games have always been my favourite. Give me a competitive game of scrabble any day over other board games. I delight in solving a difficult crossword puzzle, anagram, cryptogram, or jumble. And if playing Jeopardy, what is my favourite category? You guessed it: Word Origins.
When I think of word origins, I fondly recall one particular book, recommended and owned by our dear father. Our Marvelous Native Tongue – The Life and Times of the English Language by Robert Claiborne, is probably the best book ever written about the origins of our language. Thorough in its examination and encompassing the first intonations of our caveman ancestors to the many dialects of today, I found it hard to put down, even on a second reading. Particularly notable are the many words we ‘borrowed’, and then kept from other languages, making English a true amalgam, and the rich, colourful and ever-evolving tapestry of words and speech we know today.
“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” – Truman Capote
On that dark, torturous day when your heart stopped beating, I could hardly breathe. I couldn’t feel. How could I myself bear to live, with this black chasm of grief where my soul used to be? You had always been my solid rock, my fortitude, and more times than it should have been, my safe harbour. And without a doubt, you were my biggest fan. You were the one who taught me that it was not only okay to be different, but it was desirable. You understood me when others couldn’t. How would I survive now? How could any of us?
Somehow, though, as each day was born, we went on. I thought I was learning to live without you. The days became weeks, then months, that became swallowed up by year after passing year. Life’s problems and challenges had to be dealt with. Its promise and joys waited to be fulfilled. Often I would ask, what would you do, Dad? How would you handle this? How can I face this, or celebrate that, so you would be proud of me?
And now, even after all this time, in the midst of sleep, deep inside a dream, I feel the grace of your presence, so familiar; and in the middle of an adventure when the adrenaline is racing through my being, I see your eyes mirroring my exhilaration. I even hear you joke and laugh when I take myself too seriously. Again and again you resurface, and we are face to face, sharing the moment. I feel the longed for warmth of your smile.
Love truly is stronger than Death. How do I know this? Because, Dad, you have been at the core of everything that ever mattered to me. You never really left me after all.