Back in the saddle - sort of
I've been missing in action for a little while. My father, who'd been given a scary diagnosis in May after sixty-one years of excellent health, took a sudden turn and passed away on November 28. By way of explanation for my absence from this blog, I share the words that I wrote for his memorial, which was a great celebration of his wonderful character.
It's hard to believe that the time has arrived to articulate what our father meant to me. I adored Dad perhaps more than he realized. When I was a little girl, I was pretty much in love with him. I enjoyed contemplating fantastical situations like, "If I was stranded on a scary deserted island, who would I rather have with me: Dad or Arnold Schwarzenegger?" The answer was easily, "Dad." I genuinely believed he was the strongest and most handsome man in the world, and when I went to bed on nights my parents were entertaining, I found it comforting when the quiet murmur of conversation from the living room was punctuated by Dad's distinct, gregarious, unselfconscious laugh.
In addition to his warmth and humour, Dad has an enthusiasm that was boundless. If he liked doing something, he LOVED doing it. Anticipating the coming day on the slopes, he once famously posed for a photograph in his ski boots, hat, scarf, gloves, poles...and nothing else. We had the image in slide form, and it always seemed to find its way into the projector at the craziest times.
At Crimson Lake (near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta), he'd wake me at dawn and say, "Brandie, the lake is like glass. Let's go water skiing." Of course, we were the people who would disturb the peace for everyone else, but we didn't think about that.
Dad encouraged me to be brave, and to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. I remember walking out to check the heifers with him one night after dark. He didn't take the flashlight. "Your eyes will adjust," he'd say. And, of course, they would. Now I find myself saying the same thing to my son, Cameron, although it's street light — not starlight — filtering in through his window. Whether it was a horse that he made me get back on to "show her who's boss," or a clunky farm truck he taught me to drive at a very tender age, Dad nudged me away from being a complete, over-the-top girly girl.
Dad also encouraged the curiosity that, in part, inspired me to be a journalist. He once dissected a cow's eyeball with us on the kitchen table, and he was a font of information about the formation of the Rockies and other geological phenomena. He listened to the CBC and talked to us about how the world worked.
And he taught me not to fear change. His own successful life transitions from teacher to farmer to realtor, continue to make life's twists and turns just a little less scary for me. Although, right now, none of us can stand that we didn't get another 20 years or more with our father, husband, brother or friend, we go forward with hope, armed with lots of corny jokes, happy memories and inspiration to live life vigorously.
I love you, Dad.