It’s the day after Father’s Day, and the bright sun beaming down on my face through the window woke me up. I wanted to write about Dad this morning, and all of the reasons why he was the best, but I wanted to sleep in and do it a little later in the day!
But I’m reminded…… My dad never slept in. Never. He worked until he was in his mid 70’s, despite having a blood disease that for most of my life tried to kill him. He never missed a day of work even though there were times when he could hardly walk. When he was very, very sick, and he was home unable to work for months, I don’t recall him EVER complaining, except if someone bumped his sore foot. Then, he would yell out in pain, and forgive whoever bumped him.
Even while dad was going through chemotherapy for his cancer, every Saturday morning, he cut the grass, or shoveled the snow, did his usual household chores including scrubbing the kitchen and bathroom floors (on his hands and knees), and shaking out all of the rugs.
He was handy and fixed things around the house for Mum. I remember, in fact, the two of them tiling floors, even fixing leaks in the basement walls using corks from old bottles of wine, and doing odds and ends of household repair jobs at his work bench in the basement. Mum and Dad had their routines, and were quite the “team!” When Rory & Ian were young, he would include them in anything he did, and made them feel like they were really accomplishing something big, even if all they were doing was holding a hammer.
But let’s go way back in time – Back to when I was a young girl, and my most cherished memories of Dad. We grew up in an 800-square foot house. I’ve since been back in it and now realize how small it was! Dad kept the bushes impeccably trimmed, the grass cut, the roses pruned, and the garden beside the garage planted. My favorite dinners were my Mom’s hamburgers with sliced cucumbers from that garden, and to this day the smell of a cucumber reminds of eating those dinners on the picnic table beside the house, on paper plates. Nothing fancy, but soooo much fun!
When Dad came home from work in the pickup truck, all the kids in the whole neighborhood would be outside waiting for him. We would all jump into the back of the pickup and he would take us for a drive around the block and we would wave to everyone. It was so fun to have the wind blowing in my hair. Then he would pull up at the side of the house as if to stop, and then surprise us and take off again. Now that I’m a mom – I wonder if he was doing it partly to give my mother a few minutes of peace and quiet after a long day of watching children!
Our garage was dented up from hockey pucks, where my brother and his friends would practice taking slap shots ALL DAY LONG. My dad didn’t care. He repainted that thing every year. In winter, we had a production line of buckets of water from our bathtub going out to the front yard where Dad sacrificed his impeccably kept grass so that the whole neighborhood could have an ice rink.
My parents had a small white milk jug they kept change in. They saved and saved so that we could take the long, 3-day drive, and go home to Nova Scotia every summer so that Dad could visit his brothers and sisters and we could play with our cousins. We brought a variety of things in the car to keep us busy – Coloring books, work books on phonics, and math, and crossword puzzles, and journals, and magazines. And we usually brought home souveniers, like pretty rocks that we would find along the side of the road while making the long trip.
He worked hard and he worked long hours, because sending us to a private school was a priority. He wanted us to have a better education and better lives than he had. Dad looked far into the future and knew what would benefit us later, which was not always what we wanted “now!” We were told “no” often so that in September when the fair came to St. Robert’s, we could go and ride the carnival rides unlimited times. I learned that he often told me “no” because he loved me. And the smell of cotton candy always reminds me of this!
Despite not having a lot, Dad and Mum always put God first, and gave to the church what was God’s. I don’t remember ever being taught that tithing was an option, and although it took until my adult years for this to “sink in,” my Dad and Mom’s obedience to this command is one I remember keenly, because I know it was a sacrifice to them. Not because they complained, but because we all knew the toll my dad being sick often took on our parents’ finances. But I don’t remember ever going without what I absolutely needed. We lived frugal, responsible, simple lives. And because of that, I know what it’s like to climb a tree, plant a garden, play hide and seek, use my imagination, and I appreciate the smell of a good home grown cucumber!
He taught me how to work and save, and he helped me purchase my first couple of used cars. He changed the oil for me, and taught me how to keep my car clean and “gassed up,” and never go beneath a half of a tank in the cold winters. On Saturday mornings after floors were scrubbed, he made sure that each of our cars were in the safest of conditions, because he loved us. I can sometimes still hear him telling me, “Rita, make sure you put a can of dry gas in your car!”
When I was in the Army, he would write me letters and secretly slip in a $20. (I’m not sure my mom knows this!)
These may all seem like silly things to remember about my Dad, but they are truly the memories I cherish and remember most often. Dad was simple. He found simple ways to entertain us, and by doing so, probably without realizing it, taught us to live within our means. That is a difficult concept for most people to grasp nowadays, including myself at times. But it is truly one of the two lessons I am most thankful for. Dad also always taught me to do what is right, even if that leaves me standing alone. He would always say that it didn’t matter what anyone else was doing – It only mattered that I did the right thing. I’m pretty sure my dad didn’t have even an ounce of pride in himself. He never, ever spoke poorly of anyone. He was always willing to help anyone. He always came through and did exactly what he promised he was going to do. And, I do not recall even one time that my Dad raised my voice to my mom. He was, the absolute, one-of-a-kind, perfect gentleman. And everyone who came within a 100 feet of him, loved him. I miss him like I’d miss a limb if it were cut off. And I miss his influence in the lives of my sons.
He was simply the best, and I wish I was a bit more like him.