I come from a French Canadian family but one of the biggest days of the year in our house was March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day. My mother loved to celebrate and she never met a holiday she didn’t love. March 17th was a double hitter in our home – a day to celebrate the life of a great Catholic saint and my father’s birthday.
With the physique of a leprechaun, a twinkle in his eye, and a spring in his step, it was totally fitting that my Dad was allowed to be Irish one day of the year.
This year to celebrate this special spring holiday, I started the day by tending to my little seedlings. The first seeds I planted are coming along nicely. I hope they do not get too big before our garden is ready for planting.
My father was a good man. He was kind and peaceful. His life was never easy but he dealt with it – whatever it was.
Dad was born premature, weighing one and a half pounds. His father bundled him up, put him in the sleigh and hauled him off to town to be baptized. On the way to town, the sleigh hit a rut and overturned. Dad was thrown into a snow bank. He survived (obviously). If I know my Dad, he was laughing when they found him.
When my Dad was old enough, he was sent to a convent where his classes were taught in French. When he was in grade two, his mother suffered a serious stroke. My Dad went to work for a storekeeper, spending his days sitting in the basement of a store removing eyes from potatoes. His father needed help feeding his family and paying medical and care bills for his mother. As always, Dad did what he could do to help.
As a teenager, Dad went to the city to work with his brother, Herman. A few months later he returned home with Herman’s body. Herman had died a victim of tuberculosis. Dad was by his side, holding his hand when he passed away – then he brought him home to be buried in a grave marked by a concrete gravestone that he designed and made for him.
After Herman’s death, Dad stayed home to help the family. He became a licenced bartender and a true craftsman at applying stucco. Although his formal education had been so short, Dad never allowed that to limit his options. After my parents married, Dad went to work at an Airforce training base during World War Two. (At five foot nothing and color blind to boot, the army wasn’t looking to send him into battle). After the war, my parents moved up north, where Dad supported our growing family with his stuccoing skills. When they moved to southern Manitoba, he entered the auto body trade. When I was three, we moved back to Saskatchewan. My parents purchased an autobody shop which they ran until they retired.
After retirement, my parents enjoyed a few easier years. They would visit my siblings and I on a regular basis. At my home, Dad could always find yard work to keep him happy and occupied. When we moved to a home with a large, neglected yard, Dad was in his glory for years!
In 1989, when Dad was eighty years old, just months after celebrating his fiftieth anniversary with Mom, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer of the sinuses. He passed away four years later, on December 17th, 1993. Losing a loved one is always difficult, watching my Dad waste away for four years from this insideous disease was heart wrenching beyond belief. It was also incredibly inspiring and such an honor to witness the strength, grace and dignity that he displayed throughout his final years.
Rest in peace, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!
Fyi Father’s Day is on June 21st. At least one of my sons keeps track. Same son who informed me I was 59 when I was pretty sure I was 48🙄
It was 1994. With three teenagers to raise and provide for and a recent escape from unholy matrimony (as I referred to my first marriage), the last thing I wanted or needed in my life was a man. My life was good, happy and fulfilling.
For a couple of years things went along great. My kids and their friends filled our home with love and laughter. I filled it with groceries and other basic necessities. As the months went by, we were able to take my mother on an unforgettable family holiday. We moved from our little basement apartment to a much nicer and roomier duplex in a better part of the city. I traded in my battered and worn sedan for a sweet turbo charged convertible. Life was good.
The only downside to my life was that I was grieving the loss of my father who had recently passed away (although I always felt that he was very much with us through those years) and my health. I had lost an unhealthy amount of weight in previous years. I was working for a millwork company and was frequently in the warehouse, which was in the same building as our offices and showroom. I was, and am, asthmatic and seriously allergic to trees and everything tree related – wood, sawdust, wood smoke, feathers (birds have feathers and they live in trees). It still seems rediculous that I would put myself in such a situation but I loved the place and everyone in it.
Although everyone else at work was male, I didn’t really think anything of it and I didn’t really think anyone considered me as anything but one of the guys (who happened to always wear skirts, heels and makeup). A couple of years in, my bosses hired an autocad guy to work in the office. Since said bosses were busy on Dave’s first day, I took him out for lunch to welcome him to the team. He took the opportunity to hit on me. I told him in no uncertain terms that I did not date, would not date and dropped it. He did not, but he was not there long and he just never got anywhere with me. He did however, tell his friend Dan about the company. Dan had years of experience working for industrial steel companies. With a downturn in the economy, the company he had been working for went out of business and he had found himself unemployed.
Soon after, Dan walked into the office and asked to speak to Ken, one of my bosses. I took one look at him and ran to the other side of the warehouse to find Ken and to tell him that there was “a BIG native man there to see him”. (In my defence, I knew very few natives, had never seen a Hungarian before – and I was very sleep deprived at the time).
After a short interview, Ken hired Dan. Dan went home and was to start work in a couple of days. The day before he was scheduled to start, his mother passed away suddenly. He came to the office to explain the situation and his pain was obvious. He was very close to his mother. She was, to him and to all who knew her, a very special woman.
A few days later, Dan returned to start work. He was introduced to everyone and announced to the rest of the guys that he was there to work and marry the receptionist – me. Nobody told me of his plans or that he was Hungarian(which was totally irrelevant but it was hilarious that I was oblivious to the fact until a year later, after we had been living together for a month). I did however learn that he worked hard, took pride in his work, and that he stood up for himself and supported his fellow workers.
On July 31st, 1999 we were married. Our family and friends were there to support us. We had a beautiful wedding. We both agreed that as heaven’s gates opened for his mother, my father had been there to welcome her. Together they had conspired to bring us to each other.
By that point our economy had improved, Dan had gone to work at the pipe plant of our local steel factory and I had moved on to a healthier environment. We moved in to Dan’s house (an ongoing project) and we built a good life together. We have definitely had great times together, good times together and faced difficult and heart wrenching challenges together. We have come to love, respect and and admire each other. We have definitely learned to annoy each other and at times to take each other for granted.
This week, I realized how very much I love Dan, appreciate him and how perfectly suited we are for this life that we share. This week, Dan had a few days off between shifts. On Tuesday, I called him from work to tell him I was was very sick and struggling to breathe. He rushed over to pick me up and took me to the hospital emergency ward. He stayed by my side for six hours, on his last day off this week, to support me. When we got back home, he went to get my medication and pick up supper. The next evening, when he returned home from work, he told me some silly anecdote from work that made me laugh until my sides hurt. Last night we started talking about people winning large lotteries. I said my biggest concern, if we ever won, was that we would want such different things that it would be hard to find workable compromises. Dan agreed. Then we started talking about what each of us would want and our thoughts on the matter were almost identical. We had even both always thought of how important it was for us to show our appreciation to two special doctors. A few years ago Dan went to the emergency department with a blinding headache. A young doctor looked up from from his paperwork, yelled “get that man on a stretcher – he is septic” and proceeded to save Dan’s life. He was fantastic. My special doctor, went above and beyond to take care of me and keep Dan fully informed of what he was doing, after my lung collapsed and no one could repair it. He saved my lung (without surgery) for which I will always be grateful. Both of these men were such gifted physicians and such dedicated humanitarians – and they were both high on both of our lists of ‘lottery win’ priorities. (In the guise of their dream medical equipment I would expect).
I know – I had no want or need of a man in my life. Until he met me, Dan was quite content with his sports and his cat Hank. I am however, eternally grateful that my father and his mother felt otherwise.
‘I tip my hat to the keeper of our stars. They sure knew what they were when they joined these two hearts.’
My father passed away 26 years ago. To this day, the thing that I most remember about him was his kindness.
It did not matter who you were relative to him – family, friend, or stranger – my father was always kind. Your heritage, politics, religion, age, IQ or status did not matter to my father – he was always kind.
One miserable winter day, my dad saw an old man passing by in a thin, worn sweater. Dad called him into our shop and told him that he had been going through some jackets that someone had given him and asked if he could take one off his hands. The old man said he would be grateful for one, if there was one to spare. Dad took a warm jacket off of our coat rack, held it out to the old man and nonchalantly said “This one should fit about right”. The old man left, not only with Dad’s best winter jacket but with his dignity as well. That was just Dad’s kind way.
When Dad was eighty years old he developed cancer of the sinuses. He lived and suffered unimaginably for four years with it. The last few months of his life were spent in hospital. He weighed less than fifty pounds. His face was disfigured and his body was skeletal. His entire diet was tea and soft toast. He was so weak that he needed to be lifted up onto pillows to sit up. At his funeral, the parish priest spoke about what a good man Dad was and about the condition he was in the last few months of his life. He said it was difficult to go to visit him because it was so heart wrenching to see the condition he was in. But, he would go to visit him and when he got there Dad would insist on being propped up on his pillows. He would thank him for coming and then he would ask how the renovations on the church hall were going. He would tell him about our latest family news. Before long it would be time for the visit to end and the priest would leave, always amazed, at how pleasant it had been. Even dying, my father, could not stand to see people uncomfortable. He was that kind to the end.
November 13th is ‘World Day of Kindness’. Having grown up with the father I had, I believe every day should be ‘World Day of Kindness’. I think we should always strive to be better and what can possibly be better than being kind?