Today would have been my father’s birthday. Why am I posting a picture of Robert Redford with this post? Well, because my father looked exactly like Robert Redford. Well, I should say, Robert Redford looked exactly like my father -- exactly. When Dad was a young man, he had rather a lot of girlfriends, as my mother kept reminding him over the years. I especially used to hear about one girl named Phyllis, whose name kept cropping up, and I once saw a picture of her. She was beautiful – just like my mother.
Dad was trained as a Chartered Accountant, and he worked for the firm of Arthur Andersen in Toronto for a few years, but he didn’t like being “desk-bound”. He said wearing a suit and tie was not something he enjoyed, so he came back to British Columbia to work in the woods. Dad loved the outdoors, hiking, camping, fishing… My father was one of the first forgers of the rugged, world-famous, West Coast Trail along the coast of Vancouver Island. On their honeymoon, my mother and father spent their first night together in a farmer’s field on Vancouver Island, and they woke up with a bull staring at them. My father created a distraction while my mother sprinted for the fence surrounding the field. My mother always joked that her trousseau consisted of hiking boots and a back pack from the Army and Navy.
My father was extremely intellectual, and I loved having conversations with him. He was a bit of a philosopher, and our conversations about politics, religion, art, science, literature and music have formed so much of who I am today. Red could be opinionated, and if he disagreed with something he would holler, “Bunkum…!” I think bumkum and claptrap were two of his favourite words. There was no way you could pull the wool over Red’s eyes. He had the clearest vision of anyone I have ever known, and he was always right. Whenever my brothers and I had done something wrong, my Dad used to say, “You know when something is wrong. There is right and there is wrong, and you know when you have done something wrong…!” It’s true; we always did.
One of my favourite pictures is of my father and my oldest brother – who was about 18 months old at the time – sitting on the front porch. My Dad has his arm around my brother, and Dad has the sweetest, most tender look on his face. That photograph sums up who my father really was. He was very affectionate, but he did not always show it.
My Dad was multi-faceted and he played piano well, he painted, he loved to cook, and he had a wonderful library of books. When I was a teenager, I discovered so many great authors in my father’s library – W. Somerset Maugham, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Orson Welles, T.S. Elliott, James Thurber, Thomas Wolfe, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, A.L. Rowse … I could go on ...
Red was probably the most important person in my life, and I still think about him every day. Every once in a while when I see someone doing something that is wrong, I can hear my Dad’s voice saying, “That’s just not right…!” and it makes me chuckle
Happy Birthday, Red.