Monday, June 13, 2011

Fathers' Day Stories #1

          Our post-war house sat on a big lot with a huge vegetable garden out back. I didn't realize then that Dad's hunting and Mum's garden were what kept food on our table throughout the years of my childhood. I didn't learn the stringent economies of our household until I was nearly 21.
          Mum stayed home to "raise the kids" and Dad went to work wearing a suit every day. He was proud that he had a good job. Still, there was never an easy, disposable income. Every Saturday, or was it every bi-weekly pay day, I would see Mum poring over the big leather book with pages divided by dark blue and red lines, neatly sorted piles of bills and receipts and her coffee mug at hand.
          When Grandpa died, Dad was the only one of our family to make the trip out west for the funeral. I remember the serious, late-night discussions debating the cost of plane versus train or bus fares, the should-he-stay or should-he-go agonies.
          I got my heart’s desire for my 10th birthday…a “big girl bike”. I LOVED it’s wide comfortable seat, the coaster brakes and the woven, plastic basket hanging off the handlebars. It wasn’t until years later that I realized it had been a garage sale find, not the brand new bike I had thought.
          A sibling needing extensive corrective surgeries not covered by health insurance was cause for a $200,000.00 loan that hung over my parents’ heads for more than 20 years. The cars we had were always used. Mum sewed our clothes. We wore hand-me-downs.
          Having grown up during the depression, my parents knew how to “get by”. Careful management of their resources, creative economies and hard work gradually whittled down the debt and my siblings and I grew up unaware that we were missing out on anything.
Photo by Grant Cochrane

          As our family grew, Dad built the 2nd story on our small house with his own hands. He fixed, rebuilt, repaired anything we brought to him, even our cars as we got older. Mum often remembers the day I proudly announced in my three year old voice,    Daddy and God can do anything.     Dad liked that I put him first, before God.
          Every spring, he was the first one into the freezing, mid-night waters when the smelt were running. He brought home tubs of fish to clean, package and freeze for lip-smacking suppers. Every fall, he and his friends would go hunting. He had a “22” for rabbits and partridge and a “305” for moose and deer. Many is the time I would visit a Big Beast hanging from the basement rafters, waiting for Dad to come home from work to “deal with it”. We dined in style on roasts, chops, steaks and chuck all year long.
          Dad is gone now. His careful investments and planning for the future guaranteed that Mum would be safe in her later life. Now at 89, she is comfortably cared for, without financial worries. I look back on all his life challenges and how he rose to meet and conquer them and I am proud of my Father. The memory of his words, his principles, his good deeds are the standard I will measure against for the rest of my life. They say a girl marries a man like she remembers her father to be. I married a wonderful man—the story goes on.
           As Fathers' Day apprpoaches, are you remembering your father fondly, or still working on issues from childhood?  Can you recall a great story about your Dad?  What makes you smile when you think of him?
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