Father’s Day. Although I haven’t fathered any children, I’m a grampa and our granddaughter spent the day with us, as did my wife’s younger sister. I enjoy cooking so I celebrated the day by preparing barbecued t-bone steaks, fried onions and mushrooms seasoned with cumin as well as salt and pepper, baked potatoes, and steamed carrots. Delicious. My steak was just on the rare side of medium rare, while the others chose to have theirs medium-well.
My sister phoned to talk while I was peeling carrots. She lives a sixteen hour drive away, so we don’t see each other often anymore. She called because she was missing our dad, who died about five-and-a-half years ago. I’d been thinking about phoning her for the same reason. We had a good long chat, catching up on things.
Later in the evening, after my wife went to bed, I was thinking about my dad. During the recent hockey playoffs, from time to time I’d have an emotional twinge. I was wishing my dad could have been alive to witness this playoff run for the Canucks. Of course, it’s just as well that he wasn’t around to see the stupidity that followed Vancouver’s loss in game seven of the finals. Still, it hurts a little that it wasn’t possible for me to share with him any of the excitement of watching those games.
As often happens when I think of my father, my mind went back to the last conversation he and I had. My parents were living in my sister’s basement suite, so I wasn’t seeing them often, either.
It was obvious that he didn’t have long to live and I think Dad and I both knew that that visit would probably be the last time we’d see each other. It was the evening before my wife and I would leave there for home and he wanted to talk. I had not yet come out to my parents about being an atheist but they were aware that I was not involved with any church and so he was trying to encourage me to give church another chance. I didn’t see any point in burdening a dying, devout, conservative Christian man with the fact that his son had rejected all belief in the Divine — why make any of his few remaining days more unpleasant? — so I simply explained to him gently that I feel strongly that being part of a church has nothing to offer me.
After a short discussion, he appeared to accept what I was telling him. He paused, then he said, “Well, you’ve always been an individualist” — and he smiled. I think that, of all the likely outcomes of such a conversation, that about the best I could have expected.
When thinking of my dad, that’s one of the memories I treasure. Another is the time that he decided that he needed a new guitar. This must have been about 1974. I had begun learning to play and I’m afraid that my enthusiastic dedication to strumming and chording had been pretty hard on his old guitar. He brought me along to the music shop and invited me to help him pick out his new instrument. After a while, we settled on a sunburst Yamaha acoustic — very pretty to look at, not hard to play, sounded pretty good.
After he died, I got his old cowboy belt buckle, his stetson hat, some nice cuff links, a pair of boxing gloves that belonged to one of his brothers, his harmonicas, and the one thing of his that I really wanted to keep in remembrance, that old Yamaha.
That patch next to the pick guard where the surface wood is worn away — that was me.
My father and I disagreed about many things but we came to respect one another and I came to love him. He always loved me.
As I was coming of age and later in my adulthood, he was willing to help when I needed it but he really wanted me to learn to be independent and to take responsibility for myself, which I believe is what every good parent should want. I think I’m doing okay in that department. Benjamin Reddekopp did a good job.