These are just some of the thoughts that run through my mind, remembering Dad today.
My dad was a hard working man. He was raised on a farm in Austin, Manitoba. They had hard times, as did many and I would often hear the stories of what a long walk he had to make to get to school on the coldest prairie days. Grandmother would try to keep pennies in a container and dad would sneak them and replace them with buttons. Grandmother never let on that she knew of his game. Grandmother was an English war bride having moved to Canada after marrying my Grandfather. He was twenty years her senior. I never met him as he died the day I was born. I would see Grandmother many times over the years. She would ride the rails down to Ontario in the summer and spend her summers with us. Saying goodbye at the end of the summer was always difficult and sad.
Dad worked in a factory for his entire work life, other than his service in the paratroopers. All of my childhood Dad worked three shifts, week after week. He’d carry his trusty lunch bucket to work and return with it at the end of his shift. We’d hear talk of the rubber room and the latest news of the fellows he worked with.
On Saturday nights, I’d snuggle up on the couch by Dad and watch Hockey Night in Canada. He would buy hockey pool tickets at work, always hoping to win the big one. He was elated when his player got a goal.
He had the same routine day after day. He’d walk to the local smoke shop, at the same time, walking the same route to buy the newspaper. He’d never pay to get it delivered, even though he would have saved money that way; he just preferred to make the walk every Monday through Saturday.
We’d go to church on Sunday morning. Dad would dress in his Sunday best. Every Sunday morning he would tell us to eat soda crackers so our stomachs wouldn’t growl in church. Just about every week, his did. He would proudly sing the hymns, loudly but out of key, shake the minister’s hand on the way out and then we’d head home. Some Sundays Dad would announce that he’d buy us a treat of fish and chips, the kind that comes wrapped in newspaper, the best kind.
He’d take us for rides around the loop line, as he would call it. We’d all wiggle into the car and take the same route and some times, if we were lucky, he’d buy each of us an ice cream cone. He and mom would talk for a long time trying to decide what flavor to buy. He always would get maple walnut.
In the summer, we’d squish in to the car again, and Dad and Mom would take us to the beach. He drove and Mom did not. She never did learn how to drive, although she often expressed in later years that she wished she had learned. We had fun at the beach and although Dad wasn’t much of a swimmer, he’d always go in the water. We’d have potato chips for a snack and Kool-Aid to go with it.
As Dad got older he mellowed. He got sentimental or maybe it’s that he always was but just wouldn’t show it in his younger days.
When I was a teenager and had begun dating, Dad would wait up to see that I made it home on time. Even when my boyfriend was over watching a movie, Dad would stay up and play solitaire in the kitchen to ensure the safety of his little girl.
If I had to choose adjectives to describe my dad, I’d choose loving, dependable, stubborn and faithful. I’d also chose honest, earnest, devoted and kind. We had a big yard with huge blue fir trees, a weeping willow, a catalpa tree, lilac bushes and a crabapple tree as well as shrubs that he would tend to. I remember him climbing his ladder to return a baby bird to his nest, and dad himself fell while trying to rescue the bird. He lovingly crafted bird houses and bird feeders to hang around the yard and we were all quite surprised when Dad brought a pet kitten home and wondered what would happen to his much loved birds in the yard.
He stood by my side and gave me away when I married the man in the black leather jacket. He once didn’t give that same man my address, and tried to rescue his daughter like rescuing the bird. Obviously the motorbike rider found me with or without my dad’s consent.
On Christmas morning, Dad always hid one of his presents and when everyone had opened their last gift they had, he would announce that he had one more to open and we’d all watch him. We used Dad’s grey and white work socks with the red stripe on them as stockings to hang hoping Santa would come. Then on the great day, we’d all wait for the moment when Dad would pass around the box of chocolates, hard centered and soft. We all knew Dad’s rule, that if you got a pink centered one, you would get an extra chocolate. I grew up thinking that everyone did that and was surprised to learn that Dad was the only one with that tradition. On New Years Eve, Dad would walk through the front door after midnight, claiming that good luck came to the home, when the first to enter it in the New Year was a man with dark hair.
Hokey Doodle was one of his favorite expressions. He’d used it when he opened the biker’s playboy magazine.
Dad loved family times together playing euchre, crib and rumoli.
These thoughts represent just a portion of the whole man my Dad was to me. I miss him and wish I could talk to him often and am thankful for the years, he was there when I called. To my kids he was Poppa and they fondly remember the times they shared with him and muffin nanny and some of their best times in their lives were spent with them.
Often in my travels, I’ll come across such a man that wears hats like my father and jacket and pants. When he’s walking away and I see his grey hair, I think, just for a moment, my father is there. One thing is for sure, in our hearts he’ll remain; he’s there in the sunshine and there in the rain. One could search high and one could search low, but never a Dad like my Dad would they find. My wonderful dad was one of a kind.