Memories of Dad, one year on.

It’s so hard to believe that my dad’s been gone a year today.  Time has elapsed since that fateful day, but this fleeting time has not been easy, there’s so much left undone and much relating to that day still needs a resolution.  I have scattered around me many photos, many memories, but I’d rather have dad here again, to share what should have been shared, and said long before last year’s untimely goodbyes.  I miss you dad, so much.

I drove to town this morning for one reason only: I had to get a date square, dad’s favourite.  I will have this treat in a little while, and while enjoying the intensely sweet filling and buttery crumbs, I’ll raise a fork to you dad, in honour of everything you did for me, and for everything I am trying to remember about you.  I love you dad.

To all reading this post, what follows is the letter I wrote for my dad for the Celebration of Life we held in his honour last July.  So long ago and yet so vivid in my mind’s eye today.  My dad, Lloyd, the most genuinely kind, most gentle, and the best person in every way I’ve ever known.  I love you dad, and I miss you in ways I could have never imagined.  You’re not here, but you are here, with me, always.  Until we meet again, I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places….

Memories of a Wonderful Dad

Dad, 1949

(Dad, 1949)

Cornflakes – I remember with lots of love getting up early weekday mornings and sharing dad’s cornflakes.  I remember too dad letting me dunk cookies in his tea… I don’t think he was able to finish many of those cups, given how all those crumbs collected in a clump at the bottom of the cup J  I learned how to dunk cookies from the master – dad taught me how!

I remember with love watching Star Trek with dad – thank you for intruding me to sci-fi – Live Long & Prosper!!  He and I watched Bonanza and Gunsmoke and Hockey Night in Canada.  I remember going to the show with dad – he loved Westerns!  I remember going to see Jaws with him, my first adult, scary movie J  and to this day, my favourite movie!  Dad loved movies and the classic actors – Clint Eastwood, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Mitchum, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracey, Audrey Hepburn, Edward G Robinson…  Not long ago when dad was over for supper, we saw Coal Miner’s Daughter listed on the TV guide; dad said how much he liked that movie and that he had watched it again recently.

Dad enjoyed big, epic movies, movies with good plots and lasting messages – Dances with Wolves, To Kill a Mockingbird.  He also loved the Bond franchise – I think he liked Sean Connery as Bond best, but he enjoyed the recent Bond movies too.  He enjoyed watching a wide range of movies and TV shows, and Frank and I enjoyed watching Law & Order, Criminal Minds and other shows with him over the years.  All in the Family and M A S H were two of his favourite comedies from a while back.

I remember walking with dad to the Fish & Chips store on Cosbourne, a small restaurant run by a hard working Chinese family, including a son and daughter.  Dad always talked with the owners, asked them how they were, and they in turn always acknowledged us when we came in. Dad, like mom, appreciated those who worked hard to make a living and make a better life.  I can still see the Fish & Chips boxes wrapped in newspaper, and oh the smell, even now, was so wonderful.  To this day, I think often of that store and going with dad to pick up supper.

I remember dad teaching me to skate on the rink in the park up the street from our house in Toronto, dad wasn’t all that comfy on skates and he didn’t like the cold, but he skated and coached and guided me for hours and days on end.  Unfortunately, I can’t skate worth a darn, but thanks Dad for being there to teach me how and to encourage me.

I remember fondly dad teaching me to swim, he in the water, me, standing on the dock, reluctant to jump, but again, dad encouraging me and catching me when I finally decided to jump.

All those drives north to the cottage, with me asking ‘are we on the dirt road yet’? I remember us going through the drive-in A&W in Newmarket and getting a root beer and a Baby Burger.  Dad loved root beer too.  He and mom always liked driving up through Newmarket and Aurora, going through the Holland Marsh.  I wish dad could have had a dollar for every trip we made ‘up north’ when I was little as they were many and every one filled with adventure.  I miss those days – the road ‘up north’ with mom and dad, quiet and still filled with countryside – so too did Dad, he said on my many occasions over the last few years how he didn’t like the way down south was so built up now and heavy with traffic.

Fishing, such a wonderful memory, recounting dad teaching me how to put a worm on the hook, how to put a sinker and bobber on, how to cast, how to wait – be patient, when I get a nibble, then wait to hook the fish and reel it in.  I remember catching a huge pike in Georgian Bay, it was around 16 pounds.  Dad turned into a bay that was rather shallow and weedy.  I wasn’t having much luck that day, but I recall feeling the tug on the line, winding in the line, seeing a clog of weeds as the lure rose above the water, then seeing the pike’s head surge through, then the fish dived and fought.  Dad let me struggle with the fish, reel it in, fight it, keep reeling.  I remember dad being so excited when he got the pike into the net and into the boat.  It was my first – and only, really big fish, and I’m glad I caught it with dad, on the Bay, a memory I’ll cherish forever.

Then there are all the times we went catfishing – packing up the aluminum boat and heading out to MacDonald’s lake as dusk fell.  Mosquitoes, catfish coming in, dad helping me, teaching me how to take them off the hook without being stuck by their ‘whiskers’.  Staying out on the lake until 10 or 11, then hauling boat, people, fishing gear, and fish back home to clean the catfish.  He taught me the trick of cleaning catfish, quick and easy.  Then mom fried a few up… I think of those days often too and often when I pass the lake, I think of those days with dad, fishing, in the dark.  Thank you dad, I won’t forget those wonderful times, bugs and all.

I remember with love going smelt fishing with dad and mom, coming home with buckets of smelts, dad cleaning and mom frying them – so good!  I was always amazed how dad dipped the net into the dark water and came up with so many smelt!

I remember with love dad teaching me how to ride a bike – oh how I hated those training wheels, but dad kept saying ‘once you learn how to ride, they will come off’.  I remember going on bike rides with dad around our neighbourhood, his knees gave him pain and discomfort, but he never said no or stopped taking me for rides.

I remember snowmobiling with dad – he loved to go snowmobiling.  He taught me how to start the machine and ride by myself.  Poor dad though, if there was any slush on the lake, either I or he would get really, really stuck, and dad would struggle and heave on the machine for minutes on end, sometimes half an hour, to get the snowmobile out of the slush.  We both got stuck in slush a lot as I recall J

I remember – a distant memory, dad carrying me or pulling me in the toboggan across the lake to the cottage in winter – with Bunny the dog and a rabbit and food, water, etc., in tow too.  That’s just what dads did right?  Thanks dad.

When I was 9-11, on his summer holidays, dad and I drove and camped across Canada.  I remember the very wet campground in Saskatchewan where we woke up to water in the tent.  Then there was the site we had a family of goffers who lined up beside the picnic table in anticipation of free food.  I remember dad using the Coleman stove, us washing dishes in a pot and having terrible times sometimes getting tent pegs in the ground at some sites and getting the tent poles to stand up correctly.  I remember rolling and unrolling the tent with dad every day/evening and looking for holes.  I remember how much he loved Pacific Rim National Park.  We walked along the beach and found sand dollars.  That was the time I thought we could bring starfish home by just drying them outside then put them in the car and bring them home – well, no, oh what an awful stink… sand dollars came home, no starfish..

Dad was just as excited as I was to see animals along the drive – through Banff and Jasper we saw bighorn sheep, deer, gofers, fox, coyotes, eagles, etc.  We even watched a bear go walking through our campground in Banff.

Looking back now, I am so grateful to have had that opportunity to go across the country with dad, he really loved seeing the many sites.  We even survived the ferry trip to / from Newfoundland J .  Dad always said I was too quiet in the car, and I regret that now, he tried to keep the conversation going.

I remember when I was hit, while driving dad’s car on our back road and his car was really damaged, dad wasn’t angry, despite having to deal with insurance and having to get another car. He was always understanding and patient.

I remember dad and mom driving me out to Saskatchewan to start Grad school.  We had the Ford F-150 packed up and I recall how ‘cozy’ the ride was – I don’t remember how long it took to get there, but I do remember how alone I felt when, after I was settled at the U of S, they left me standing on the walkway outside Place Riel – looking back now, I can only imagine how they must have felt, leaving me there and driving off.  I recently found a card and note I wrote to them from the U of S, probably not more than 6 months there, and in the card I said how much I missed them and how good it was to hear their voice and talk with them when I called home.

Dad would always ask me how work was going and what I was doing.  I wish I could tell him now that it’s going well and that, as when I was a kid and he’d ask me if I finished my homework, I still have one more page to go.

I wish we had been closer, and that was my shortcoming not his, dad always cared how I was and how I was doing.  He helped me through a lot, many journeys and trials and I have so much love and respect for him – a man that gave everything he could to help me grow, flourish, and believe in myself.

Dad (mom too) loved animals, and I am so lucky to have grown up with a menagerie of wonderful dogs, rabbits, fish and other critters.  Dad loved Bunny, Lassie, Teddy, Midnight, Simon, Eros, Simon 2, Butch, Linc – and yes, even Sheba J  Ironically, the rabbit cage is still in relatively good shape behind the shed J … it’s only about 45 years old J

Dad worked hard throughout his whole life.  He worked for 40 plus years at one plant in west-end Toronto, rarely missing a day of work.  I still remember his work number – Clifford 5, 0 1 6 3.  He walked to/from the Subway every morning/night, took it all the way to the end of the west line to work.

He was never rich, but he always provided us with everything we needed.  Dad was strong but sensitive, kind but firm, always willing to help, always curious, always there.  He was a private man, but dad would do anything for anyone to help and he would ask nothing in return.  How many people can say that their father built a house pretty much by himself – okay, there were a few ‘structural issues’, but still, a pretty impressive feat nonetheless!

Well Dad, the garden is growing very well, I’ve seen deer, moose, a bear and many other critters on the roads lately, the days have been warm and humid lately, Linc is as energetic and ball crazy as ever, yep, I’m still driving to/from North Bay, and I’m going to see the latest Star Trek movie as soon as I can.

I never told you near as often as I should have that I love you, but I do love you – always, and I thank you for all the things you’ve done with me and for me through the years.

Now Dad, relax, enjoy the warmth of the sun, a gentle breeze and days filled with many, many memories from a life well lived and full of love.  Say hello to mom for me, give her my love.  Keep a place on the other side for me for when I get there – we’ll go fishing, play cribbage, have tea and date squares – but, I’ll probably still have that one more page to finish.

I miss you Dad, and I Love you.

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