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.