Thursday, September 3, 2009

Red

Today is the anniversary of my father's death, and it is always a difficult day for me. My father was my Rock of Gibraltar, and ever since he died, I have always felt slightly less anchored to the earth. I remember the day after he died, I thought, "This is the first day of my life without my father, and nothing will ever be right again," and it never really was. I was only 31 when he died, and I thought he would be in my life for a lot longer. My happiest memory is of the two of us, sitting on the banks of the Somass River on a bright summer afternoon, talking about all the important things in life. I was only four years old, but my father listened to me as though I were an adult. To him, nothing I said was childish, and he took me very seriously, even though he always called me "Kidlet". I felt he was the only person in the world who really knew me. I have rarely had that connection with any other human being.

My father was sort of an early-era hippie. He was well-educated, he was a Chartered Accountant, an accomplished pianist, a keen outdoorsman and an avid reader. He had a wonderful library of books, and when I was very young I would browse through them, and get lost in "The England of Elizabeth" about Queen Elizabeth 1, or I would lie on the lawn in the backyard reading "The Collected Works of W. Somerset Maugham". My father introduced me to "The New Yorker Magazine" and all the wonderful writers in it -- James Thurber, Philip Roth, John Updike, John Cheever, Vladimir Nabokov, Raold Dahl -- so many more.

My father decided, after practicing as a C.A. for a few years, that he was becoming desk-bound, so he uprooted himself, his wife and his oldest son and moved to Vancouver Island -- God's Little Acre, as he called it. He loved the outdoors, and he taught us to love the outdoors as well -- swimming, hiking, fishing. He taught us to feed the whiskey jacks out of our hands, and where to pick the best wild blackberries -- before the bears got them.

My dad had flaming red hair and his nickname was "Red" -- naturally -- and he had a temper to match. He had an innate sense of right and wrong. How often I heard him say, "Well, that's just not right!" He believed everyone had an inner compass that could detect right from wrong. If one of his children got into trouble for something, we could be reduced to rubble by my father yelling at us, "You bloody well know the difference between right and wrong, and what you did was wrong!" We never repeated that particular transgression again.

My father could also size someone up in less than 60 seconds, and he was always correct. It was uncanny. There are certain people in this world with whom there is no subterfuge. What you see is what you get. My father was one of those people. It would not occur to him to be otherwise. A person always knew where they stood with Red, and people liked him for that. Whenever my parents entertained their friends for the evening, and they were going to be serving drinks, my father would take the bottle of Canadian Rye Whiskey, or Vodka -- or whatever it was -- out of the liquor cabinet before his friends arrived. I once asked him why he did that, and he said it was just "good manners to know beforehand which drinks and even which brands our guests preferred, and to have it out ready for them rather than to take it out in their presence". It took me a long time to understand and appreciate the nuance of being that gracious a host.

I think a lot of the rough patches in my life might have been a bit easier if my dad had been around a bit longer. Occasionally when I am feeling low about anything in life, I think about my father, and the fact that he liked me. He approved of me, and his approval meant a lot, and still means a lot to me. And it's very strange, but I still feel that connection with him.

33 comments:

Alissa said...

Sending some good thoughts your way, during a difficult time of the year. I think my father might be the complete opposite of your own, and even though I seldom see eye to eye with him, I don't know what I would do without him.

Ruth D~ said...

Nice testimony to the first man in your life, Jo. May his good memories continue in your heart.

Michelle said...

It is sad to lose parents so young. My father died 2 years ago, I was 24. My life changed. Hugs.

Sunny said...

My thoughts are with you as I can really relate to your post, I lost my Dad when I was in my forties, he too was an C.A. I learned so much from him and even to this day, I feel a strong connection. It's a void in my life that can never be filled.
Always keep his memory close to your heart.
Sunny

jojo said...

What a beautiful tribute to your father. He obviously had a huge impact on your life, in a good way. That is a Blessing that you will always carry with you.
YAY! for the fierce red-heads...(my mother was one, as am I)...Sweet memories and love to you on the day...;p

Linda S. Socha said...

lOVELY TRIBUTE Jo.
I believe you are absolutely right. This connection is forever.
Shat a gift
Linda

Hilary said...

A tender tribute to your Dad. It's always difficult no matter when you lose them. I'm sorry for your sadness.

lovelyprism said...

Jo, this made me smile. He sounds like a lovely man. I'm so happy you had a Father like that, you're a lucky woman.

John said...

Red sounds like he was a terrific guy and an exceptional father. He sounds a lot like my Dad, the liquor, the temper the personality, love of the outdoors. I felt a void too ever since my Dad died nine years ago.

Dad didn't have much when he died, but I got all his little things that were his prized posessions--things like the photo section of his wallet, his wedding band, belt buckles, lots of caps and the strangest collection of clippings (all humorous stories or jokes), etc.

I know what you mean about still feeling that connection.

Sarah Lulu said...

What a lovely tribute...and how blessed you were to have a Father like that at all. xxx

Firefly said...

It is so great for you to have such memories of your father. I also lost my father when I was 31 and I now wish I knew him better.

the walking man said...

I have long thought that in keeping the standards of them who taught us right from wrong is the way we keep the love and spirit of that person alive to pass down from generation to generation.

I think in doing that you have successfully kept your father in your portion of the world for another generation Jo.

nomore said...

Probably you had a nice father. Well educated and nice parents used to make their children to nice personality....Lucky woman...

momcat said...

There's no right time to lose your dad (and mom) but your dad was taken very early. He sounds like a sterling person. It happens a lot in life that the best people are taken too young!

Carla said...

This is a lovely tribute to your father. I'm glad you have these wonderful memories.

(I also lost my dad when I was 31.)

Nicole said...

Your father sounds like a wonderful man. How lovely to grow up with a man like that.
I am sorry he was not with you longer but you were so lucky to have such a great influence in your life which you obviously know.

The Bug said...

I know you miss him, but it sounds like he laid a foundation of self worth that you carry with you today - even though you struggle, he's back there in your mind to remind you.

Land of shimp said...

I don't think it sounds odd, at all, that you still feel a connection with your father. He was clearly a wonderful person, and a great dad to have had. Most of us are loved by our parents, not as many are truly liked and to have both is a great gift.

I'm sorry you are sad, even though it is for understandable reasons. It's important to treasure the memories of those we loved. I think it was once said (and probably many times after that), that no man has truly died until he has been forgotten.

DUTA said...

What a moving tribute to your father! I resemble my faher in many ways ; got his green eyes,patience, but also some of his whims - so there's no escape , we are connected forever even though he's gone from this world.

PhilipH said...

You clearly had a strong relationship with your Dad and it has survived even after his too early departure.

I hope my two daughters feel they've lost a friend as well as a father when I shuffle off this mortal coil. I love them dearly and they're still my little girls, even though the youngest is now 33.

TheChicGeek said...

This is a beautiful tribute to your Father, Jo. You are so blessed to have had him on this earth in your life. I always wished I had a Dad like that....some of us are not so lucky.

I look forward to meeting him in heaven one day! He certainly was a treasure. I'll be looking for the flash of red up in the sky!
I'm sending much love and good wishes your way, Jo. That really was a beautiful tribute. Your father would be proud.

Have a Wonderful Labor Day Weekend!

Anonymous said...

A.M.

What a wonderful message about your relationship with your father. I wish I had that type of relationship with mine. R.I.P

Thinking of you,

Anne-Marie

sinnlighet said...

Oh my.... I like like like your blog & your pic's!! Amazing!!

Regards from Agneta in Sweden

Anonymous said...

My father died when I was five. I have no memory of him, how lucky you are to have him around for so many years. Pam K.

JeannetteLS said...

Beautiful. It's the way we keep our fathers alive, tributes like yours. We can see him and hear him. Lost my dad when I was 35. I miss him still, 32 years later. Dad once, when I was telling him he was WRONG, Gawd dammit... said, "Your mother and I always raised you to be individuals and think for yourselves. I just never thought that would mean you might think differently from me. Gawd dammit." My friend, my mentor. Human. My dad. Thank you for sharing yours with us. take care.

Brenda said...

Oh...I love the photo you chose here, and your memories really touched me. I was just talking to my daughter the other day about my Dad. Don't you just wish you could have one more day with them sometimes...only in our memories though.

Owen said...

This is simply one of the most beautiful and touching of tributes I've seen anywhere in a long long while... and beautifully written. Sounds like quite a guy Jo, I think you were lucky to have known him for those 30 odd years at least...

Nancy said...

I know exactly how you feel, Jo. I had a very similar relationship with my Dad. He died when I was 33, and only had a few years with my oldest, his first grandchild. A light goes out, doesn't it? My thoughts are with you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I see nothing strange in such a strong connection lasting a lifetime. You were very blessed to have such a marvelous man for a father, and also that he liked as well as loved you, approved of you, and considered your thoughts important. In many ways, he really did make you the wonderful person you are.

It seems to me that this anniversary is a good time to celebrate his life instead of mourning his death, even though it was much too soon.

My father died when I was 25, and I wish I had known him after I became confident enough to stop fearing him. I like to think we might have finally become friends.

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Jo said...

Alissa, thank you. You're very lucky you still have him. :-)

Ruth, thank you.

Michelle, yes, I can understand how your life changed.

Sunny, the connection is always there, isn't it?

JoJo, thank you. :-) Red heads are rather special, aren't they?

Linda, oh, yes, the connection is never broken.

Hilary, yes, it doesn't get easier as you get older.

LovelyPrism, thank you. :-)

John, you know I have my father's wallet too, and inside it was a picture of me when I was seven years old! :-)

Sarah, oh, gosh, thank you! :-)

Firefly, oh, yes, there are so many things to ask them, aren't there?

Mark, how beautifully stated! And yes, I agree completely.

Nomore, oh, goodness, thank you. :-)

Momcat, oh, I agree -- it's never easy at any age, is it?

Carla, oh, gosh, I'm sorry! It's an awful shock, isn't it?

Nicole, thank you. He was a huge influence in my life.

The Bug, yes, I sometimes find myself saying things he said. It's funny.

Alane, that's so true, isn't it? I had never thought of it that way. Our parents live on in our memories.

DUTA, yes, their DNA is passed on to us, and from us to other generations. Very true!

Philip, oh, yes, I can almost guarantee your daughters feel the same way about you. Definitely!

TheChicGeek, thank you! When we are children, sometimes we don't realize how lucky we are, until we look back in hindsight.

A.M. thank you! But you can make sure your little girl has that kind of relationship with her daddy. :-)

Sinnlighet, thank you for visiting! Come back again. :-)

Pam, my daughter's father died when she was only four, so I can understand how you feel.

Jeanette, what a cute story. I love it. My father said something similar to me once, too. :-)

Brenda, did you ever see the movie "Peggy Sue Got Married" where she spent an evening with her grandparents? It was so sweet.

Owen, thank you. And yes, he was quite a guy. He was a character!

Nancy, yes, a light does go out. My father adored his grandchildren, but he didn't have much time with them.

Hearts, oh goodness, how sad that you feared your father. I think some people have to get to know their fathers when they become adults, and sadly you didn't have that change.

Paula Slade said...

That's a beautiful remembrance Jo, thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

What do you do when your father dies when you are four years old?