This is something a little different. It is an excerpt of something I wrote for my father’s 75th Birthday. I hope you enjoy it.
This book is dedicated to my father. He was a man who guided us and tolerated us, a man who was our dad, our mentor and our friend. A man who is not so bad for an old guy!
Thanks dad, we love you.
Lectures my father gave and don’t tell your mother!
My father always has been and always will be a man of honour, integrity and stature. He is also human. He is a dad and subject to all the idiosyncrasies of that idyllic state. In simplest terms, he ain’t perfect. Of course growing up I just assumed he was perfect. Aren’t all fathers? We used to tease my father about his lectures. You know all the usual ones that fathers give their children – drive from point A to point B, no ‘parking’, look both ways before you date. As his children we would roll our eyes and say “Lecture 37” or “Lecture 210”. And we would all laugh. But we didn’t disobey. Or, at least not openly. Oops, I don’t think my father knew that bit. Father laid down the law in our family. Of course, laws were meant to be broken, or at least bent a little. I read that somewhere.
My father may be a distinguished looking man but appearances can be deceiving. Take the yearly trial of showing a beautiful but willful dog how to use the dog door. My father had installed a ‘dog door’ in the screen door off the kitchen to make it easier for Samantha (a brindle boxer) to come in and out at her leisure. In theory, as in practice, it was a wonderful idea. Of course, it was not used in the wintertime. So every spring Samantha was once again offered the opportunity to use her door. Here comes the good part. I don’t know if she really did have a fear about using the door for the first time or she just enjoyed the specter of my very distinguished father on his hands and knees crawling through that door, several times. I must admit my mother and I always made sure we were nearby. I wonder why I never took a picture?
Ask and the answer shall be…….
Children with curious minds ask questions. My parents never tried to dissuade or put off our questions and they always tried to tell the truth. The truth can sometimes be a bit bewildering to a ten year old. Like the time I asked my father why the sky was blue. He told me. Really. Scientifically. Reflection and refraction. I nodded my head and tried to look wise. I was ten years old! I wasn’t mature enough to know what wise was! Fifteen years later I understood what he meant when I took a lighting course at university that explained light reflection and refraction.
When mom is away dad will play
Then there is the time I came home to find my father painting the two story stair well in their house using a short ladder, a rope and a very old, very shaky side table. Of course he was tied to the second story banister if anything went wrong! When I pointed out that he would have a fit if I attempted such acrobatics he smiled his tolerant smile and said that he was the father and that made it different. I was also vehemently instructed not to tell my mother!
Or the time he fell off a ladder in the back yard. I wasn’t a witness, the neighbours were. Mom was out of town and I called to check up on my father. I knew something was wrong. When I inquired, he laughed. He did say it was a bit of a problem getting out of the middle of a bush. He was sore and a little bruised, but I was not allowed to tell my mother! Aaaaahhhhh!
My father is a man of the nineties. The eighteen nineties!
He just recently learned how to actually open the dishwasher. He knew where it was, he just wasn’t too sure what exactly it did. He really is becoming quite capable. He can vacuum and do the laundry. He can also cook bacon and eggs, and beans (from a can. Good on toast?). Dad retired and donned jeans (only in the backyard of course). We are still working on the t-shirt, but he is perhaps still a little young for that. My sister is trying to wean him from the white socks and brown shoes. A child’s work is never done.
Driving with my father is interesting. Actually it is an experience. My father is a very good driver, he’s been at it for more than a few decades. Well, we all learned early on that it is a better world when one is a passenger in my Dad’s car, not the driver. There was a time when my dear sweet father requested that I drive home from their boat. My parents and I had just spent a wonder weekend at the marina. Great weather, good food, good company. Unfortunately perhaps it had been too good. Dad wasn’t feeling well and he asked if I would mind driving home. He did look a little peaked. At first I said no, but I did relent with one proviso, he would lie down in the back of the car and not raise his head above the bottom of the back windows. I figured this way he would not be the proverbial back seat driver. After all, it was only an hour drive. Boy, did I ever underestimate the power of a father’s abilities. It started out okay. Before we had driven a few miles my father started. “What lane are you in?” “How fast are you going?” “Are you checking your rear view mirror?”. Ah Dad. I eventually told him that either he was quiet or I would pull off the road and he could drive, sick or not. It was at that point I heard my dear sweet father chuckling. The rat! He was needling me on purpose! He is just too smart for my own good.
These are just a few of the wonderful memories I have of a man who helped to make me who I am today. I think he did a good job!
James Edmund Marius Read
August 24, 1925 – January 3, 2007