Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For My Father

Four years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's and at the age of 70, my father died on January 22. Some of the best messages of condolences I received came from people who have also lost a parent. A friend of mine said, "even when you know it's going to happen, it's still a shock." I was surprised by my reaction. I thought, since I've been helping to take care of him these past four years and had seen him get worse over time, that I would be prepared. Maybe "fine" is the wrong word, but I just thought I would be more at peace with it all. I guess it's hard to know how anyone will react at such a time.

I am saddened by the finality of it all. What bugs me is the fact I can't just pick up the phone and call him or go visit him, but I know I will heal and get better with time. Usually I give advice in this blog, but I don't really have any yet to give since I'm still working through this process. What I want to do though is post the eulogy I gave, as a tribute to him. So here it is:

My father was a tall and imposing man. He walked tall and with purpose. He was a man of few words, but when he did speak, his words were well chosen. He was a man who could lecture – and I remember him making me stand and listen to him lecture about how I shouldn't run into the street or set things on fire or whatever other naughty nonsense my sister and I would get into. He was strict, but he never laid a hand on me. He scared boys who called the house. I remember his deep voice on the phone, “you want to speak to my daughter? Why? Who are you?!”

But all of it was out of a very fierce desire to protect us, his girls, and it was out of love. And I got to see the softer side sometimes.

I remember him sitting on the edge of my bed at night – I made him stay there. It was to protect me from “the monsters” I heard creaking around in the dark. I would start to fall asleep and he would ask if the monsters were gone, if he could go back into his own bed. I'd say no and he'd continue sitting there. I think he learned how to sleep sitting up.

I remember when he stopped going up north to Frobisher Bay to work, he said because, “you cry whenever I leave and I don't want you girls to cry anymore.”

I remember him teaching me to ride a bike, to throw a baseball, and more practical things like how to snake a bathtub drain and how all the parts of the car work – knowledge that has stayed with me. I know more about the inner workings of cars than some men!

I remember him making us lunch and feeling compelled to stick some aspect of all five food groups into one meal, making for some very interesting creations.

I remember him holding me and telling me not to cry when my highschool sweetheart broke up with me.

I remember him just about jumping for joy when I passed my driver's test and him later telling me how grateful he was I was able to drive when he got Parkinson's and needed help getting around.

In his last few days, the fullness came back into his cheeks, and his voice was stronger and clearer. It's almost as if he was being restored. He was making jokes and talking about his childhood. He was still, as he always was, more concerned about how me and my sister were than he was about himself. He went quietly and peacefully, without causing any drama or trouble for anyone. But most of all, he went with dignity. I'm sure he stood tall as he walked up to the gates of heaven, walking purposefully, head held high and maybe even giving God a little fright.

Rest in Peace, Daddy.