Last Sunday was Father’s Day, a busy day for the fortunate amongst us who still can hug their fathers, a day of recollection for the rest of us. For some the memories are recent and shadowed by loss while others treasure precious moments untarnished by time. And in this way I remember my father.
Lifted in your arms
Watching the moon rise higher…
Wrapped warm against cold.
It’s said that opposites attract. My mother was full of energy—Dad was laid back, easy going. My mother loved flowers and gardening—Dad would not have been able to tell a rose from a turnip. Both of them were courageous people, but while Mom would have faced an invading army without flinching, Dad would have made sure that there was a Plan B in the works.
As early as I can remember, Dad read to us in the evenings. His choice of books was not the literature to which Uncle Harry introduced me but ranged more to Peter Rabbit and Cinderella. Later, these morphed into adventure stories—the more imaginative the better. Soon, he, my mother and I were taking turns reading King Solomon’s Mines, The Three Musketeers and The Count Of Monte Christo. Dad would always get involved in what he was reading, and I loved the way he would chuckle during D’Artagnan’s exploits or get choked up over Tiny Tim’s death. On occasion he would become outraged over injustices and inaccuracies.
Tale Of Two Cities was a pet peeve. “What nonsense,” he would snap when we got to Sydney Carton’s iconic last lines. “Why would anyone want to get himself killed to help his rival in love?”
“It’s a story,” Mom would point out, peaceably. “He hadn’t done much with his life, you see. It was a noble gesture for Sydney to sacrifice himself for his love.”
Dad would produce something that sounded like a snort. “Foolishness if you ask me. He could have changed his ways, couldn’t he? Made something of himself? Helped Lucy and her family in every possible way? But no, he had to take the easy way out.”
Mom invariably pointed out that it was hardly easy to go to the guillotine, but Dad did not retreat. “I might do the same thing for you, Jo, but I certainly wouldn’t put my head on the block for some chap who looked like me!”
Oddly enough, it was to my practical father that I would take my problems. Situations which I would not have discussed with anyone, not even my mother, were often hashed out between us. He could keep a secret and knew when to listen without interrupting, and his advice, seldom given, always provoked thought. Once at a friend’s wedding, he shook his head over the somewhat pompous groom. “Always marry someone with whom you can talk about anything,” he advised me. “That’s most important. The rest—money, position—doesn’t wear as well.”
My father lived a long, happy life and died in his sleep at the age of eighty. I was a continent away when it happened, and I still remember being left with a sense of unreality. Dad, I remember thinking passionately, is still alive. Surely, he was. He was reading his newspaper and shaking his head over the business column or re-reading A Tale Of Two Cities and waxing indignant over Sydney Carton’s idiocy. Any minute now, he’d look us, see me, and smile. He was alive.
And in all ways that matter, he still is.
When I think of him,
There is that remembered smile…