In the photo album there is a picture of my mom and dad and me standing on a hill in front of the cottage. I was probably about two years old. I look at the picture and feel Dad’s hand holding mine, yet I don’t really remember much from when I was that young.
I remember going with him on insurance calls. One recollection was of a boy/man who I think was celebrating his 21st birthday. He had a very large head and a body so tiny that he lay on a pillow on the kitchen table. Today I’m still not sure if this is true or it was a dream.
I remember sitting on Dad’s knee in the big overstuffed chair in the living room while he read to me from my storybooks or a “comic” book.
When I was a little older Dad would come home from a week of deer hunting sporting a rough unshaven face and playfully give me a whisker rub. One time that I remember, he brought a deer home and had it hanging in the garage. I remember scolding him about that.
I remember having lipped him one morning before going to school and receiving a spanking that left me sobbing. Only once.
I remember laughter.
I remember him driving me to parties and always being available to pick me up after if I needed a ride home.
I remember him giving me my first driving lesson and afterwards suggesting that I take Driver’s Ed at school. I remember him being proud of me when I passed and the examiner told him I was a “good little driver”.
I remember going fishing with him for rock bass and perch at our cottage on the St. Lawrence River; and waking up to the smell of fish frying for breakfast, Dad having been out early to catch pike.
I remember boat trips to Alexandria Bay to buy Tootsie Rolls and Poppycock. I remember him teaching how to drive and dock our boat, and later allowed me to take my friends out myself.
I remember how he came to my rescue when a friend and I were stranded with a broken down car in Belleville; and when I’d had enough of Toronto and wanted to move back home; and when the wedding rings didn’t fit and he took me to the Consumers Distributors store to exchange them, only to learn it was too late to get them resized in time for the wedding. The next evening he took me to his favourite jewellery store to buy replacements. I wonder what he would have thought when Brian and I broke up.
I remember him always being there for me if I asked, but not interfering if I didn’t.
I remember his confusion, the sadness of moving him into a nursing home; stopping in on my way home from work to see how he was and finding that he didn’t speak but took hold of my hand and walked me through the halls. I remember his no longer having control over his bodily functions or understanding of social ones. I remember taking him to the doctor when he broke his finger, and visiting him in the hospital when he broke his hip, and crying at his bedside because I knew from his vacant stare that he didn’t know who I was or why he was there.
And finally I remember getting the call when we were in Vancouver for my niece’s wedding, the call that informed us that the father who had mentally left us five years earlier had now left us physically as well. He was 82.
I don’t go to the cemetery to pay my respects; I don’t put memorials in the newspaper. But I do remember and miss him.
I don’t remember saying “I love you, Dad” nor do I remember him telling me that he loved me, but I knew that he did and I hope he knew that I did.