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Dad and His Heart
The snow has stopped for now but the weather is still very cold with a slight wind out there so please hurry in and take a seat. I have the fire still burning in case you are late I will toss another log on for you before I call it a night.
It has been an interesting day. I mentioned my Dad earlier today and he has been on my mind and I thought I would share a few thoughts with you. I think we can all relate to loss in our lives. It effects us all in different ways. I do miss Dad even though it has been going on seven years since he passed away.
Please gather around and let all take some time and think of the impact our parents have had on us and maybe even look deep within and see if we can see some of them in ourselves.
Dad and I
This picture was taken many years ago as you can see I still had some hair left. I inherited my quickly thinning hair from Dad. He lost most of his before he was twenty. Dad was born and raised until he was 11 in Rhode Island where his parents were both weavers in a factory. Life was not easy then. There were eight children born there and six passed away and are buried there.
The family name still remains in the area with many prominent industries. Rhode Island Cranberry Bogs. Chabot College and Water Engineering project all over the US can be traced back to the name. I once completed a family history for Dad that he treasured. It took me several years and much research but the day I set it in his lap the tears flowed freely. His words were few as he looked at all the names and finally a picture of the house where he was born. "This is my family son and you are part of all this, thank you for this gift."
My Grandparents heard of homestead land in Canada in Alberta and sold all they had and headed north through Virginia and then by rail to the north of our province. Dad used to share with me the stories of his youth were he did the work of a grown man to help the family.
They arrived at the homestead of two quarters of land with one in Dad's name and the other in Granddads name. The first thing was to build a log home. Timber was not a problem as Dad would joke about the only thing he could see that year was Moose, Deer, Rabbits and trees. By the end of the summer they had a small shack built and enough logs down and peeled to start on the main house the following summer.
It was a task of brute labour as they dug the foundation footing that year. Three feet wide and four foot deep which they filled with large rock where later the footing logs would lay. It was the first winter and one of the coldest they had in 1921.
The following year they started on the main house and it rose two stories. All hand hewn square logs with hand made dove tail corners. It would later house a growing family as there yet another 5 children to be born. They earned their living by clearing the timber from the land and selling it to a mill nine miles away. All hauled and manhandled by horse and wagon.
I took Dad back one year in the late eighties and I dropped a plum line down from the second story and the house stood as plum 70 years later as the day it was built. Sadly the following year it got caught in the path of a grass fire and was lost.
The depression hit in the late twenties and Dad was forced to travel south by any means. His way of travel was by hopping onto box cars and eventually found work on a farm just north of Calgary. His earning were meagre but he managed to send any extra home to his parents and family.
When the war broke out Dad signed up. He married my Mom before he left and he shipped out Christmas eve to a whole new world again. Even as an American he was able to sign up as an able bodied Canadian Soldier. He travelled by ship to England then was deployed throughout Europe. Dad never spoke about the war much but shared it had been hard to see what he did.
He returned home to a new wife and baby daughter. He worked in a laundry and took his barbering course in the evenings. I was born the following year. Eventually he was able to own and open a small Barbershop and billiards hall in a small town here in Alberta.
I would watch my Dad start his day at the crack of dawn and work late into the night running his shop. He had a special way with people. Soft yet even in the rough business of a pool hall was able to keep everything in order. I was one of the fortunate kids in town that had access to be able to learn the fine game of billiards. By the time I was 10 I was helping Dad most nights working with him.
He was a fair man, kind and loving to his children yet firm when he needed to be. I laugh now as several years ago Dad wrapped up something special for me. His old razor strap with I have hanging in my studio. His words were simple. "Son if anyone earned the right to call this their own it was you. I want you to keep it as a reminder of the young man I have raised as best I knew how."
There are so many things I learned from this man over the years but of all I think the best was the love of nature and the balance that hung so delicate in our hands. His words were "Son we have been charged with looking after all of this." He would wave with his hands. "It is up too you and I and the many who live here to care for it." Care he did. I would watch Dad time and time again bend to pick up a loose piece of garbage even well into his nineties. He was a man who respected all that had been provided. Often I find myself doing the same.
The Barber Shop and Pool Hall started to fail and Dad chose a new vocation at the age of 50. He worked hard and completed his degree as a Nursing Orderly. It was hear he truly found his calling to serve others. Mom would say many times Dad would stay with the lost and the lonely as they passed away so someone would be there. Even today when I go back to the hospital where he worked they still talk about him and the way he was with people.
At the age of 65 Dad retired and he and Mom travelled each year to Mesa Arizona where they had many years of loving life. The last few years Dad grew to old to be driving that distance. They would live in their small trailer all summer long stopping all over to just enjoy life. Often I would drive them, get them parked for a few weeks then return and drive them to the next location.
One time I recall pulling into a secluded spot to move them and there were 30 of the toughest bikers there. Mom was making them all eat cookies and have coffee and Dad was teaching the how to play Horse Shoes. I was mortified and yet when the gang left there were waves and cheers. They had been entertained and appreciated the folks.
The one gift I have always treasured were the early morning fishing trips with just Dad and I to a small river close to home. The first fish and the many years of pleasure that has brought to me. I have fished many places and over many miles because of the love he taught so well.
Dad loved his fishing. He simply valued all the pleasures in life. It did not matter if he caught anything or not. He was doing what he loved. He would be so calm, cool and collected until he caught his fish then he would be a little kid all over.
When Dad was 90 I recall sitting with him on the couch and asking him what his secret to life was. He smiled and with an ever present glint in his eye he answered. Each morning son as I stand before the mirror shaving I still can see the little boy in me smiling back."
So many things come to mind as I sit and write of my Dad. The family water fights, the tricks he would pul on people and get away with it. The tears of joy pouring down his face when we would all gather for a holiday. His pride he would have as he took each of us into his arms and spoke of love and happiness he had to be our Dad.
His affection for Mom remained as strong during the 63 years they were married as it was the first day. The last Christmas Dad was with us he was in terrible pain and suffered a great deal but he managed to hang on until we had all left and he was rushed to the hospital. He lived for another two days and finally just gave up knowing his life purpose had been fulfilled.
Thank you for the memories Dad. Thank you for the love. Thank you for being the mentor you were all those years. Thank you mostly Dad for allowing me to see the little boy looking back at me in the mirror. I miss you but I know you live in me. "Well done good and faithful servant."
© Rolly A. Chabot
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