“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry” – William Shakespeare
March 3, 1998 my father succumbed to a brief battle with cancer and left this world. This is dedicated to his memory and written on behalf of every child that ever lost a father they didn’t fully understand. It has taken me twenty years of his absence for me to fully understand the impact he had on my life.
My father was a patriot and a proud Canadian. His commitment to his country and justice was never more apparent than when he enlisted to serve in WW2. He was from a large Manitoba Mennonite (a faith based, in part, on pacifism) farming family. He went against his faith and faced excommunication when he enlisted in Armed Forces to defend democracy. His commitment to hard work and fierce belief allowed him to rise to the level of a gunnery sergeant. He spend the rest of his life wrestling with his war demons while quietly accepting the hearing loss associated with the roar of large artillery.
My father had been a healthy man up until the end. He grew up in a time when you grew or raised your own food. That was the farm life. I grew up with a garden in the backyard every year and a pantry full of homemade jams, pickles and even home made beer. Years before micro breweries. The only sickness he ever experienced (besides my polio) was when he had tuberculosis and five of the six kids weren’t even born then. He did what that generation did and spend almost 18 months in the Ninette, Manitoba Sanitarium. That finished his future in farming and we migrated from small town McCreary to Winnipeg. For the rest of his life exercise and health were managed through camping, fishing and good old fashion hard work.
My father was a very humble and introspective man. He wasn’t highly educated but he never stopped studying and learning to advance the betterment of his family. As kids we never really understood just how many evening course my father was attending at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. This was all part of the process to move from a prairie farmer to the level of assistant operations manager with Transport Canada with the primary goal to provide for the growing needs of his family.
My father was a mentor to many. He could tap into his deep pool of experience and apply the natural common sense he had. He could quickly scan a situation and then step forward with a solution. And he didn’t wait to act on the solution, he acted on it himself. When others stepped in to help he was there to “show”. He was a scout master and shared his knowledge by teaching those skills to his cubs and scouts.
My father was a support system. He was a founding member of the Forest Lawn Legion in Calgary and supported the WW2 veterans while working quietly in the background. He never spoke of his war experience until he started attending his battalion reunions. Even then he protected his family from the vicious memories of war and only shared as a matter of perspective. He was against any form of violence but would not hesitate for a moment to stand up to any form of violence. He not only talked the talk but he walked the walk.
My father was not an overly expressive man when it came to his emotions but there was never a doubt about the love he had for his family. I have three memories of him in tears and two of those was him waiting for me to wake up following particularly nasty surgery’s as a kid in the hospital. Both were cases of confusion over whether or not I would even wake up. That was how he expressed his love, quietly. He wasn’t a “gusher” of emotions but you knew they were there.
My father was the glue that held my family together. He was always one of the driving forces behind major family reunions (long before the Internet and social media). This was at a time where you would spend two years and Canada Post to organize a major get together. My dad and his brothers (then spread all over Canada) were part of that “silent majority” generation that were quietly witnessing the death spiral of the traditional extended family. They understood the need and the work involved to organize these events. My uncles, like my father, were the glue of the world that understood the importance of glue and would not settle for duct tape.
My father was the foundation on which I have build my life. Sadly it has taken almost twenty years to fully understand this. As a family we never wanted, we never needed but we always expected. My father took care of our wants, our needs but left our expectations up to us with the hope that he had planted the right seeds. Unfortunately it took his death for me to really understand this. As mentioned above March 3 marked the 20th anniversary of my fathers passing and there is so much I would love to tell him. My father made me who I am and I am just now realizing it. He truly is a member of a dying breed, fathers with extended families. I miss the wisdom his past experiences brought to my life.
Love you dad…