Friday, June 8, 2012

Happy birthday Dad

Today is my Dad's 69th birthday.  It's funny how perspective changes over the years.  When I was a kid, I would have thought that was pretty old.  I remember one year when we were kids, Candace I bought Mom and Dad piggy banks that were shaped like old people and said 'retirement savings' on them.  What were we thinking?  They were only in their 30's at the time.  They never said anything, but looking back, I wonder what they thought.  Last week, a young guy at work made a comment that something stunk like 40-year old sweaty man.  I said, 'Pardon me?!'  As I turn 40 this summer, it seemed a little offensive that that was his definition of old.  Anyway, 69 seems pretty young to me now. 

I hope when I'm 69, my kids have the same kinds of memories that I have of my Dad. 

He was always there for us.  We all played hockey, and when it was -30 outside, the temperature in some of those small town rinks was the same.  I remember coming off the ice almost in tears because my toes were so frozen.  He would take my skates off, blow in them, and put my feet in his armpits as he crouched down in front of me.  That was the warmest spot for cold feet, he said.

He had a couple of pieces of advice too.  One was, "Don't ever start a fight, but if you get into one, make sure you finish it."  I guess being a good Mennonite, I took the first part of that to heart pretty well, because I never have been in a fight.  Another was, "When you are at someone else's house, you eat what's on the table."  I've done a pretty good job of this over the years as well.  There was one time I remember I couldn't do it.  Dad used to do some custom bailing for some old bachelor farmers and I would help sometimes and occasionally we went in for a meal.  One day we went in and there were two large pieces of tomato on my plate.  (I HATE tomatoes.)  I looked at the plate with terror in my eyes.  I gave it a real effort.  I made it through the first chunk with a lot of whatever there was to drink and stuffing some other food in my mouth at the same time.  Eventually I couldn't take it anymore.  I gagged a little bit.  I didn't think I was going to make it.  It was at that point a fork came over, stabbed the remaining culprit on my plate and it disappeared into Dad's mouth.  You wouldn't believe the relief that came over me.

He used to recite random song lyrics at times too, and then chuckle.  I never knew the songs, but as I've gotten older, I think I've identified them all.  He used to say, "I drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry."  I didn't know what a levee was or what song it was from, but it always made him laugh when he said it.  Imagine my surprise the first time I heard American Pie.  Another was, "I Got Stripes - Stripes Around My Shoulders, I Got Chains - Chains Around My Feet."  Again, I had no idea that was Johnny Cash until much later in my life.  I find myself singing song lyrics from my youth to the kids too.  I hope that before they think I'm weird, they get some good memories out of it.

His work ethic always amazed me too.  From the barn to the field to the bush, he always led by example.  Growing up in the city, my kids will never have to experience the same kind of work I had to, but I hope I can still instill the same values in them.  Always give it your all.  If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right.  Finish what you start.  We spent a lot of hours together in the barn and cutting wood to burn in the wood stove.  I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed every minute of it at the time, but looking back, they were good times.  I also learned that certain language that was not acceptable in the house, was okay in the barn. 

One of Dad's favourite ways to escape is to fish.  He used to get away once a year with my uncle and some friends.  I remember the first year I was old enough to come along.  We were in the boat and I went to cast.  The whole rod, reel and line came right out of my hand an went straight into the lake.  I was surprised how fast a fishing rod sinks.  I was devastated, but Dad just looked at me, smiled and said, "Don't worry about it.  We're fishing."  That was one place to just forget about everything and relax.  I got the chance to fish with him and my brother one weekend last summer.  We didn't have a boat and we didn't catch anything, but it didn't matter.
Happy birthday Dad.  I love you.  Later. 

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