Today is Father’s Day. Neither of my sisters were able to make it to visit my parents today, so we’re getting together next weekend instead. I called my dad this evening, however, to wish him a happy father’s day and catch up.
I somewhat regret that I didn’t spend more time with my dad growing up, while I lived at home. A truck driver early in his career, Dad was often on the road for a couple days at a time, while my mom remained home to raise us. He worked hard to make sure our family didn’t want for anything. We didn’t live extravagantly, and we did need to make some sacrifices here and there, but we were comfortable, and more importantly, we were happy. I think my sisters and I have come to know the value of a dollar for this upbringing, and also recognize that money isn’t everything. Dad is no longer on the road, instead some time ago having been accommodated in the company offices once the long days in the truck started taking their toll physically.
Not us, though we did paddle a red canoe.
Of course, being daughters, it’s natural that we would have shared more with our mother than our father – most dads hope for a son that they can share their own interests with, and find it difficult to relate to a daughter. My dad did pretty well by us in this respect. Dad owns a canoe that must be nearly as old as I am. Some of my fondest memories of being with my dad involve taking that canoe out on the water. Dad taught us how to canoe when we were still youngish – myself maybe ten, my youngest sister only six. Since I was the oldest, and therefore biggest and strongest, I was the paddler, and my sisters would usually sit in the floor of the canoe. Even at ten or twelve, though, I wouldn’t’ve been much of a contribution, and I’m sure that Dad did most of the work on those outings. He took us up to the small manmade lake in the nearby town to teach us, and we’d also go out to other lakes and rivers within a reasonable drive. Today I still love to paddle along the shore of quiet water, taking in the surrounding nature from a totally different perspective. I never took lessons; all of my instruction came from my dad. When I eventually have a home where I can store it I’ll get myself a canoe or kayak so I can continue to go out and enjoy the water.
Second only to that memory is going out with my dad on bike rides. Although we’d sometimes bike around the roads in our area of the countryside, more often we’d pack them up and take them to a bike trail someplace. We’ve done the Toronto lakeshore, the Grand River rail trail, another rail trail east of Georgetown, and the Niagara River bike trail. It was a great way to see the area, and I loved to watch the scenery flow by, the breeze in my hair and the sun on my face. My bike once I graduated up to “adult” size was a maroon 18-speed hand-me-down from our next-door neighbours, and I loved that thing. A thin-tired racing bike with rams-horn handlebars, I could speed along on good paved ground and feel like the wind. It wasn’t as great for rough trails, but we were rarely on them anyway. My dad maintained the bikes, and put a lot of care and effort into keeping them in good shape for us.
Dad built many things for us. Living in the country, we took the bus to school, and would have to wait for it at the end of the moderately long driveway. Dad built us a cute little shelter, complete with door and windows, and a bench to sit on, to wait in for the bus on days where it was cold, windy, or rainy. When the shelter was destroyed a few years later (we presume by either an errant car or intentionally by vandals), Dad collected up the scraps and used the good pieces to build a tree house in one of the maples in the front yard. The treehouse was a great little retreat, with a trapdoor, a roof in one corner, and a balcony on the other side. It’s still there, although probably no longer safe for anyone but the raccoons and squirrels. When I took a notion a few years ago to own a small flock of birds, he helped me build a large walk-in-sized flight cage for them, coaching me through the measurements and structural . In the winter he’d build a fabulous toboggan run down the one moderate hill on the property. Because of the way the trees on the hill were laid out, it was necessary to bank the run in a couple of spots, and Dad would build up the sides and corners to create a contained track that was difficult to fly out of. To make it speedier and more exciting, he’d take his water sprayer and coat the smooth track with a thin layer of ice. It was huge fun, and a favourite winter pasttime. I sometimes think in the winter of going again, but I doubt I’d enjoy it as much as the run in my memory.
Dad always seemed to have the answer. If something broke, Dad could fix it. If you needed a gadget, Dad would have it. If you wanted something to accomplish a particular goal or task, Dad could rig something up for you. In fact, he still does. I have all kinds of respect for my dad and his knowledge. In particular, he has and continues to coach me through so many computer problems. Dad got into computers early, back when they operated off floppy disks and had no internal hard drives, and he’s always known an astounding amount about them. The only reason I know as much about computers as I do is because of what he’s taught me. The same applies to household problems or car problems. Or cars in general – all three of us girls now own standard transmission cars, and the reason we can drive them is because of Dad’s patient tutelage.
I owe as much to my dad as to my mom for where and who I am right now. He’s influenced my life in a different way than Mom, but just as strongly. For everything, Dad, thank you. Happy Father’s Day.