Fathers for good

He’s been gone since 2008, but old as I am, I still remember my first true love – my Dad. There hasn’t been a day in the past eight years that I haven’t thought of him or felt his presence. Bright memories of him have been at the heart of previous musings (Love Letter to Dad and Enduring Gifts to a Daughter among them). Leading up to Father’s Day, I’m drawn to re-read these – and other past Dad-inspired prose and poetry where I’ve unleashed my inner mush – and remember that once I was an adored little girl in pigtails who waltzed with him at the grade six “Daddy Daughter Dinner Dance.” He stomped on spiders for me, he held his cheek next to my temple to feel if I had a temperature and waited up for me to come home from dates (and then the best part – we’d talk into the wee hours of the morning). There are no end of stories. But for this blog, I invited three friends to share short, poignant, amusing memories of their dads. What follows are their heartwarming – and unedited – stories. 

by Nancy Painter

I don’t remember being there when someone took my favourite photos from my childhood.

In one, my Dad, wearing his usual coveralls and work shirt but looking younger than I remember him, is lying on his back on the old armless couch we kept in the kitchen for his after-dinner naps. His arms are stretched straight up, holding an infant me in the air, and he is looking up at me with a smile on his face.

Nancy Dad w PipeI’m a toddler in the other one, trying to saw the end off of the trunk of a Christmas tree on the kitchen floor, Dad holding his work-hardened hand over my tiny one on the saw. (No doubt I wanted to do what my brothers were doing!)

Our family was fairly traditional; my brothers helped outside in the barn and fields, I helped in the garden and house. But once in a while, Dad would take pre-school me with him when he took a load of grain to the elevator in town, seven miles away. He would sing old songs like “Darling Clementine” as we bumped along the dirt roads, and sometimes he would stop at the Co-op and buy gingersnaps – not the homemade ones we had regular access to, but the small, hard, store-bought ones. Those cookies are still a treat for me.

Dad wasn’t a demonstrative man. I don’t remember many hugs; I’m sure he never told me he loved me in the 28 years we shared on this earth, though I knew he did. That’s why I treasure memories of gingersnaps in the cab of the grain truck, or of him sitting in his recliner with my young children cuddled up next to him.

And those photos that show me, in black and white, how much he cared.

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by Shelley Walker

Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worries on the doorstep
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street

Can’t you hear the pitter-pat
And that happy tune is your step
Life can be complete
On the sunny side of the street.

If I tried to pick one word to encapsulate what my dad meant to me, it would be “sunshine.” Not to say that he was a carefree dreamer. He was complex, opinionated, full to the eyeballs with life, and best of all… beautifully flawed.

Shelley Dad multi tasking_1960

Shelley’s dad “multi-tasking.”

I think all little girls love their fathers, even if those fathers don’t deserve it. I’m lucky because my dad deserved my adulation. I still have to stop myself from thinking “Wait until I tell dad!” It happens each time something good happens to me or one of my kids, and it is unfathomable to me that he isn’t there any more. I try to build the illusion for myself by keeping a pair of his shoes by the back door where he had left a pair of gardening shoes a few years ago.. so that he could “play in your garden”.  Aren’t I lucky!

He did good… quietly, humbly, persistently. He said to me once, when I was sharing a concern over some world issue or another, or maybe it was one of the countless times that i was bitching about some insignificant personal dilemma… “Because I am so privileged, I feel a responsibility to be happy.”

Dad. Dean. Deano. Grandad.

Mentor. Friend. Partier. Dancer. Paddler. Explorer. Thinker. Hero.

Mentor. Some of the clients I have today were passed on by my dad. He included me in his work from the time I was sixteen, with unapologetic nepotism, and I am so thankful for his belief in me.

Friend. On his 60th birthday he said “Life becomes richer when family become friends and friends become family”.

Partier. Dancer. My dad loved people and driving and talking and loved to entertain his friends. I think he liked to see people happy. And although he didn’t have a great sense of rhythm… he danced anyway.

Paddler. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting in a canoe with him. The last time was on the lake where my family had a cottage. He instructed me to stop and I know what he was feeling. The quiet, the drip of the water off the tip of the paddle, the perfect simplicity of the moment.

Explorer. Thinker. These go together for me. Dad was always curious… I’m sure that’s the reason that he became a journalist. He became my moral compass having so much knowledge and understanding and a sense of fairness and proportion.

Hero. Always has been and always will be for me. At the risk of being too cloying, the thing that makes me most happy and proud is when someone says “You’re a lot like your dad”. I can’t think of a better thing to be.

One of my dad’s favourite expressions was “Here we are having fun again”. Well Dad, life isn’t nearly as much fun without you in it. But I’ll continue to raise a glass and think of you every time I say it, at every opportunity, for the rest of my life.

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by Andrea Wittig

My Dad was a gentle-hearted, animal loving, Scottish Viking who loved my Mom to a fault, and was quick to laugh at every opportunity. He was also the worst driver in the world! Here’s one of my favourite dreadful driver stories.Uncle Andy
One day in Calgary, I broke my own person rule about getting in the car with Dad behind the wheel, however, for some reason it only made sense for him to drive that day. Sitting in the passenger seat, well and truly buckled up, I noticed that the passenger side rear mirror was broken; spider-web cracks radiating from the very outside edge. Curious, I asked Dad what happened and here is how the conversation went.
Me: Dad? The rear view mirror is broken.
Dad : Yes, I know.
Me : I don’t remember you telling me about it. What happened?
Dad : I broke it.
Me : Well I can see that! HOW did you break it?
Dad : I hit someone with it.
Me: You hit someone????
Dad : Yes. I hit another vehicle.
Me : What? When?
Dad : Last week sometime.
Me : What happened?
Dad : Nothing.
Me : Dad! You don’t just hit another vehicle and then nothing happens! What did the other driver say? Do?
Dad : Nothing. His car was parked and he wasn’t there.
Me : So you did a hit and run????
Dad : Of course not. I stopped my car when I hit his car. I looked all up and down the street for the cop but couldn’t find him, so I left.
Me : The cop? What cop?
Dad : The cop car I hit. I scraped my mirror down the full length of his patrol car.
Me: You left???
Dad : Well, I couldn’t stay there. I was blocking traffic.
Me : (under my breath) Oh F**k!
Thankfully, the only person that got hurt by Dad’s terrible driving was Dad. He once drove over his own foot! I loved that man with all my heart and miss him every single day. But I don’t miss his driving.
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“Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion. When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes.” 

Markus Zusah, The Book Thief

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3 Comments on “Fathers for good

  1. Thanks Tracey. I know it’s Father’s Day but when I woke up I decided that I wasn’t going to think about my dad today. After all, it’s been 20 years since he passed away while visiting his favourite city Jerusalem. I tried to push away thoughts of him knowing it would just tug at my heart strings. After 2 decades I can’t still possibly be missing him! Isn’t loss suppose to heal with time? So I’ve busied myself all day until I heard that ping from your incoming email and couldn’t resist reading other daughter’s heart-warming memories of their dads. I’m thinking of my dad now. I can still hear his voice and double over as he told the funniest stories. He always made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. He wasn’t perfect – far from it. But he lived each day to the fullest, took nothing for granted and was at peace with his maker and everyone else. Like Frank Sinatra, he did it his way.

  2. Beautiful Tracey!I tried to write something for my dad but it is still too soon for me. Lots of good thoughts about him today though ☺ I hope you are enjoying your weekend!