My father passed away in the middle of a huge ice storm here in Ontario. Being a geographer, he was always fascinated by climate and weather and so it seemed appropriate that there would be some noteworthy weather event happening when he left this world.
Just about the time I began this blog, four years ago, cancer started growing in my father. I haven't mentioned my father's illness on my blog as this is my happy place, but with my Dad having passed away two days before Christmas he is constantly in my thoughts and that is where my heart is.
Although the cancer had spread from his colon to his liver and lungs and finally to his brain and he had two major surgeries, the cancer hardly slowed him down until just the past few months.
It is amazing that as recently as this past March when we went to New York City he walked 10-15 kilometers every day. When my parents were camping in Florida this past winter, they went for long bike rides, sometimes just to get the daily newspaper. He hiked up mountains in Arizona two winters ago.
Even when he was no longer able to walk very far and didn't have much energy, he never lost his kind and gentle personality, his interest in other people, and his gratefulness whenever someone did something for him.
It is hard to pull my thoughts together to reflect on his life, so here is a collection of photographs and some more or less random thoughts about him.
|Skiing near Smithers, BC in 1947 (Dad is on the right, 18 years of age)|
|Traveling home from Nigeria where we lived for two years (that is me standing in front of my father), 1967|
|Brushing Kate's hair, 1994|
|Dad in Smithers, BC with the Hudson Bay Mountains in the background, 2009|
|The Prairie on the Hudson Bay Mountain near Smithers, BC|
|Mom and Dad on Hudson Bay Mountain, Smithers, BC, 2009|
|Hiking on the Hudson Bay Mountain, Smithers, BC, 2009|
|Getting water from the lake at the cottage, March 2010|
|With my parents in Nova Scotia, August 2012|
|With my parents at the Guggenheim, NYC, March 2013|
|Eating street food on the steps to the Met, NYC, March 2013|
- My Dad and Mom were married for almost 60 years and had one of the happiest marriages I have known. They had a similar outlook on life and a mutual respect and love for each other that was lovely to witness. They met in university and were married just ten months later. They knew right from the start they were a team. Their relationship had an awkward beginning, however. Dad, being the friendly sort he was, invited another fellow along on their first date; the other fellow happened to be Mom's old boyfriend!
|Having breakfast in the screened porch he built|
- Dad's cottage diary consisted of two things: the weather, and a record of who was visiting.
- He loved his home town of Smithers in northern British Columbia. When we went back to visit Smithers together in 2009 for his 80th birthday he proudly told anyone who would listen that he grew up there. He subscribed to his home town's newspaper, the Interior News, and loved to tell us local tid bits, such as a moose had walked down the main street of town, that sort of thing. All his life he loved to hike and ski. He started early, in his youth, in the mountains around Smithers. At the top of the list of his favourite places on earth was the mountain meadow, "the Prairie", on the Hudson Bay Mountain beside Smithers.
- Besides hiking and skiing, he loved to swim, and just generally being outdoors. Without fail, he and my Mom went for daily walks, which I'm sure accounted for the good health my father enjoyed for so many years and which made him so tough even up to the end.
- He was a high school geography teacher, so our family trips in the summer involved lessons on lateral moraines and glaciers and rock formations and things. Until I grew up, I thought everyone knew that stuff.
- He was a wonderful carpenter. He designed and built the cottage our extended family enjoys on Georgian Bay, and he re-designed and rebuilt the cottage in Haliburton that my parents bought about 25 years ago. His favourite thing to do was to plan and build improvements at the cottage. As late as this past spring he completed the siding on the cottage and helped me build (well, to tell the truth, I helped him build) a railing for the stairs up to the cottage's parking lot.
- He had a crazy worn-out hat that he wore when he was building things. It had patches on patches and was frayed and worn out. The best part, though, was the strip of tape he would put along the back to catch those annoying horse and deer flies that buzz around your head that are an unavoidable part of cottage life.
|Dad at his workshop at the cottage - doing what he loved to do - plan and build things|
- He loved to travel and was always planning a trip or two. He and my Mom traveled all around the world and went to every continent except South America and Antarctica. They traveled across North America so many times that Dad knew where every bake shop, picnic stop, and liquor store was (he loved a glass of wine with dinner or a bottle of beer on a hot day).
- His love for traveling and his love for building meant he was perfectly suited for working on Habitat for Humanity builds, which he and my Mom did all over North America. They both even worked at an all-women's build - Dad was the only male allowed because they knew he wouldn't boss anyone around.
|My parents' truck camper - they traveled all around North America in it for many years.|
- He was very egalitarian in his views on gender roles. He cooked all the bread we ate when I was growing up. He did all the grocery shopping for the family. Always. And he supported my mother when she became a United Church minister.
- He led a very organized disciplined life and always went to bed and got up at about the same time and definitely ate at the same times every day. When it was 6:00 it was dinner time! He always made sure the dishes were dried and put away, not just washed, and he took out the garbage and recycling every night. Every evening he read the newspaper (the Toronto Star has just lost their most dedicated reader) and played a few games of Sudoku.
- Despite leading such an organized life, he could not keep his desk tidy for love nor money. All through my childhood his desk had huge piles on it so that he barely had room to work. On the top of the desk's top shelf he had an ancient radio that he listened to when he did school work at night. Classical music and a little Tia Maria got him through marking school papers.
- Even the animals knew he was a kind soul. One summer he made friends with a rock bass fish who lived under our dock at the cottage. He would stroke its fins and could even gently lift it out of the water and put it back in again.
Dad, you were a good man. I love you and I miss you.