By today’s standards, this story won’t pique the interest of those who choose to fault their childhood for their own actions today. I’d be hard-pressed to find anything wrong with the way I was raised. How many people can truthfully say that?
I come from a large family. Six of us kids. I have four sisters and one brother. I was born in the small town of Wallaceburg in an era when large families were the norm. Which was fortunate for me as I’m the fifth child!
Mom and Dad taught us great values through their example. There was no need for words. Mom returned to the workforce as a nurse when I started kindergarten. Dad pitched in with the household cleaning and childcare at a time when it was unheard of for Dads to “help out.” It was just what you did. Things needed to be done and you did it. No complaining. You helped each other.
Mom worked, canned fruits and vegetables and still found time to bake. Peanut butter cookies, date squares and homemade apple pie, to name a few desserts. Mom even sewed some of our clothes. We lacked designer clothing yet felt no loss. I fondly recall a matching orange polyester pantsuit she made for me in the fifth grade. I thought I was the cat’s meow, haha!
Us kids were never told to study hard, get a part-time job when old enough or pursue further education. We just knew that to get ahead you needed to work hard. Privilege did not exist.
We enjoyed camping, whether in our own backyard—
or all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Dad taught us how to build a fire —
and we became experts at it.
That’s how we became confident. Dad made us a swing set and a trick bar for our backyard.
Who needed Disneyland? We were happy to climb trees and ride bikes.
Dad built a stereo from a Heathkit and we played records over and over. Everyone knew which song came next.
We learned early on to keep active. We walked downtown to the library, rode our bikes and learned to swim.
Dad golfed until late in life. Mom, now 93, walks around the perimeter of her retirement home most days, weather permitting. She tells me of a 90-year-old who completes the course THREE times daily!
Speaking of walking, we never thought twice about walking to school. Everyone did. No rides from parents. I did not require an alarm to wake up in the morning. I’d awaken from the sound of bustling with dishes and pots in the kitchen as Dad made breakfast. We enjoyed porridge for breakfast topped with strawberries (frozen after being picked in the spring). We wiggled our feet down into boots lined with plastic bags (from bread wrappers) for waterproofing and were sent on our way to school. We grew up strong and resilient. We could handle snowstorms or anything life threw us.
But I digress. This is supposed to be about Dad. Yet, all of our lives are intertwined. Mom and Dad were a united parenting team. A dynamic duo.
Dad had the ability to make you feel like you were his favourite. He always showed interest in your life as if you were the only one that mattered to him. He displayed this same manner with all of the grandchildren. Dad’s eyes lit up like a kid’s on Christmas morning when he saw you.
Dad loved to play with us. Yup, a pool in the front yard! It was moved often to keep the lawn alive.
Dad instilled fine qualities in us kids and taught us to be independent. But, must of all, he showed us love and kindness and compassion. Nowadays, when I struggle in a situation, I pause and ask myself, “What would Dad do?”
Dad was my first love who escorted me down the aisle at my wedding to hand me over to the second love of my life. True gentlemen, both of the men.
Dad passed away suddenly when he was 94 years old. Despite his age, it was a shock. He’d been a vital man, still driving even. It was a great loss to everyone who knew him.
My sister Lisa wrote a poem in her time of grief. Her poignant words touched our hearts and consoled us siblings.
This week, my brother Marty put Lisa’s words to music. Marty says it wasn’t sad to compose the song. He’d been playing around with a guitar riff for several weeks, pondering what to do with it. On the third anniversary of Dad’s death, he read Lisa’s poem again and knew exactly what to do. He’d write a tribute song to Dad using Lisa’s words as the lyrics.
Here it is below. Simply titled Dad. Click here: https://artist.landr.com/music/628810847686
You can listen to it on Spotify, Deezer or Tidal. Or buy it from Google Music or from Amazon. The photo was taken in the summer of 1973 by Marty, using his Zenit-B camera.
He developed the Kodak High Speed Infrared film in the basement darkroom that Dad built for him.
Until we meet again, Dad, we will honour you through our love for each other. Your love continues to live on through our actions. We were taught well!