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Sunday, June 19, 2016

 Ah, Retrospect. 

Reflections on this Father's day. 2016

"Father's day is meaningless to me", I said to a friend who had asked me if I would be able to attend a function on this day. WHAT? That can't be right!!!

Well, its Father's day again. Every year it comes, every year it goes. Usually it just slips by unnoticed by me, unless of course I go for brunch and can't get a seat, suddenly realizing that it is in fact Father's day and that's why there are so many people about celebrating. Today I decided not to let that happen. I would not let this day go by without really thinking about my father.
It has been so long since the word "dad" has been part of my vocabulary that it feels weird even typing it.

My father died when I was young, eleven to be exact. My aunt arrived in her most serious form and as she leaned against our kitchen stove she told my brother and I, "Your dad is gone".  I didn't exactly know what she meant. Really, I just wondered where he went and when he would be back. But somehow I knew (what with all the tears and my Aunt's serious face). I had observed that he was ill. That was clear. I had learned very quickly the meaning of words like cancer and stroke, but still, I had no real idea how serious it all was. Back then, I was considered too young to go to a funeral. Its just as well though; today I remember him alive and as a comforting force.

And so he went away...

Every day he would get up, fill the  bathroom sink with warm soapy water, wash with Ivory soap, then shave leaving tiny dark whiskers in the white sink as the water drained. He would then go off to work delivering other people's fine furnishings for Osmond's Furniture. Sometimes he might bring home a special gift from work, like my new white dresser. This was my pride and joy until my budding artist sister, whom I have since forgiven for this, saw only a fresh white canvas as she did her best work with her red crayon.

Every night he would come home, sit down for supper, bless himself before eating, have some tea, after which he would sit in his big green lazy boy, wear his thick reading glasses and examine with great interest the Evening Telegram. Then, he might watch Bonanza which I pretended to like because it meant spending more time with my dad.

Every Sunday he would sport his hounds tooth polyester pants and a white dress shirt and I my white turtle neck and navy jumper and off we would go to mass. It was he who fostered in me the fear of God without ever having raised his voice at me. At folk mass he had  always let me sing really loudly even if I  had clearly been off key.  He had always let me place the envelope in the velvet lined collection plate. I really was Full of Joy when we set out for the House of the Lord, but only because I was with my dad.

With my dad I picked my first pair of fashionable Road Runner jeans, a hefty $17.00 purchase. I realize now that  this was a lot of money back then! With him I chose my first pair of stop signed shaped eye glasses from the cheap section at Mitchell's Optical. He had picked them out, had told me I looked beautiful. I believed him.

Every Tue. night, we would drive to my grandmother's house and I would go to Brownies with my Aunt Bertha, feeling safe knowing he was waiting just down the street. On the way home we'd stop at the Sunrise Confectionery on New Cove Rd. and I would be allowed to fill a small paper bag with penny candy as he chose his Rothman's from behind the counter. I'd get some Swedish berries, glass candies, Mojos, Tangy Taffy, perhaps a Fun Dip. For him, always an Orange Pineapple ice cream and for me a Rainbow ice cream or perhaps a Dixie cup instead eaten with an accompanying paper wrapped wooden spoon. And always, a bag of hostess chips for John, and "something for the little one".

And who could forget the old Dodge Dart he and Wayne Baker attempted to paint (with a roller) and of which they were so proud (I think they were going  for beige and red but it was more like peach and red). That was a little embarrassing, but I sat proudly seatbeltless in front seat with him and my baby sister in the  middle. I  would turn the big dial, moving the orange line until I  had found VOCM on the radio.  If we were lucky it might have been  Blondie singing Heart of Glass and Kathy  would belt out the "OOO OOO OH OH" part quite  enthusiastically.

I went everywhere with my dad. We had many visits with his step mother "Mrs. Oliver" on her Thorborn with her free roaming wild and crazy turkeys, their scary but colorful bulbous masses hanging from their chins all flopping about as they would run erratically throughout the yard. And then there was the  gathering of caplin at St. Phillips. My favorite.
Child gathering caplin
Sometimes we would walk to the nearby  Janeway apartments where there was a playground. I  would swing for as long as I was allowed, mostly singing  as loud as I  could as he patiently waited. We camped in the back of the furniture truck, fished in the water supply area, rescued my brother from quick sand, got Christmas trees from the forest ( well, you know it seemed like a forest, but it was probably our back yard). 
And of course, there was the trips to clean up the family plot. As he trimmed the grass, picked up the mess, placed flowers, I played with the pretty white rocks rocks that filled the plot. The best part though, of family plot day, was sitting on the cement frame (which defined our dead family's space) and eating bologna sandwiches and drinking Pepsi with my dad. Ah...the family plot... He lives there himself now.

A few years back, the homemade marker (above) for which I was grateful, was replaced with  a well deserved beautiful headstone.

Yes today I will honor and remember my/our father who instilled in me a healthy dose of self esteem, whose spirit is with me always...He was a great dad, and he would have been a wonderful grandfather. Definitely NOT a meaningless day!  Happy Father's day to all dads...and to me I remember.

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