There was a post on Facebook last week that asked if you could sit on a bench overlooking the ocean for an hour and talk to one person, alive or dead, who would it be. The first person that popped into my head was my father. This surprised me, what about Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Elizabeth I, Joan of Arc, wouldn’t I love to spend an hour listening to any one of these amazing women, why my father?
A little background – my father died in 1993 at the age of 73 of complications from a stroke, actually several of them over a period of time. He wasn’t supposed to die that young – he wasn’t supposed to die before I really got to know him!
At the time I had two young children, a new job, I was going to school part time and I lived 400 miles from where my parents retired in Ontario. However a busy life and distance aren’t the reasons I never really knew him.
My father was a quiet man. He came from a poor background and never finished high school, but he was very bright and determined. He enlisted in the Canadian Air Force before he was 18 and despite his lack of education he became a pilot, radio operator, and trained other pilots throughout the war. He met my mother in Montreal and when he came home from Europe they married. After the war he started working with my grandfather in the family lumber business and eventually took over the business. My parents had seven children (a son first, followed by 6 daughters) and my father provided very well for us.
Education was a big deal to him and he not only encouraged us in school but made sure we were comfortable in different social settings. He could be stern, sarcastic, and impatient. He traveled a lot for work so he wasn’t around much and when he was we were on our best behavior. I guess few kids really know their parents when they’re young, they’re just dad and mom – not real people. Maybe because there were so many of us, maybe because men didn’t talk about the war, and his upbringing wasn’t anything to be nostalgic about, but my dad and I never really had a personal conversation.
I’ve gleaned bits and pieces of his background from my mom over the years but the real shocker came after my father’s funeral. Many of his golf buddies, people from their small Ontario town, business associates, and friends from Montreal, came back to my parent’s house after the service. As I walked around passing out food and filling glasses I heard all these Ken stories being told. Lots of laughing and joking –stories about golf games, parties, and trips. Stories about his kind and gentle nature, who knew! I was finally learning something about the man that was my father and now had a million questions. That’s why if I had the chance to speak to anyone, alive of dead, for an hour it would be my father.