My Father is…

Dad1991

…up long before dawn, deep winter, 40 below, helping a neighbour jump-start his truck;

…in a darkened farm shed bent over a steel disc, shocks of light coming from a 7018 welding rod collide with shafts of sun angling in through chinks in the log walls;

…in the plywood-sided bin by the slough, dust balloons out the door, dirt in the creases of his forehead, rivulets of sweat run down under his cap, down the side of his face, shirt stuck to his back as he shovels the last of the barley into the auger hopper;

…at the back of the general store, leaning back in his chair, beside him, a shin-high stack of newspapers and magazines, he’s reading the Western Producer, talking to mom, hopeful about Canadian Wheat Board;

…standing at the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool calendar in the kitchen, noting yesterday’s rainfall amount in that acre of space beside each date;

…half a mile away from the house, singing above the roar of the 1550 Cockshutt tractor, singing, It Is Well With My Soul;

…at our cousins, telling the only off-colour joke we’ve heard him tell, about the farmer who found a whistle in a manure pile: What did he do with it? He blew the shit out of it! All the kids roar. Dad too. Aunt Nettie and Uncle Harold not quite as much;

…stuck in a drift on the way to the Riverside Farm, thick black wavy hair sprouts from underneath a toque that has climbed up the back of his head while he lays up a laser-straight row of snow beside the red and white Ford half-ton;

…raising pigs, raising a thousand turkeys that will die from some disease in the space of a few days, raising hundreds of laying hens; then he’s a general store owner, a public school trustee, a Co-op board president, bus driver, deacon, a Gideon;

…reading the Daily Bread at the kitchen table and I secretly thank him as he pretends not to notice the scent of tobacco after I come back from smoking a rollie behind the barn;

…wearing that robins-egg-blue suit of his, drapes the blazer over the back of the chair at the head of the dark-wood dinning-room table, we gather for Sunday dinner: grace, roast beef and a surreptitious interview: a son, a daughter, has brought home a date;

…building a bonfire in the tractor-rim fire pit, grandkids are gathering around, some scout for wiener sticks in the bush behind the old cabin, which was once the warehouse attached to the store in town, now retired, re-purposed, rebuilt on the farm, rooted in memories;

…up long before dawn, at his narrow desk, 40-watt bulb casts warm yellow light over his open King James bible, folded hands, propped elbows, bowed head;

…rhapsodizing at his 50th wedding anniversary, two months before his death: pride in his voice as he names his five kids, recounts the good each one did (edits well). His kids are listening, smiling, happy in the way all father’s want their kids to be happy.

Mom&dadcourting2

23 Comments

  1. Thank you Steve ..for reviving memories ..reflecting on our heritage
    ..pausing to remember. .and being so grateful for our father
    Thank you

    1. This triggers many memories for me too. One is that he always had piles of scrap paper around. He’d sketch plans, take notes while studying the Bible and do calculations on them. We grandkids were free to draw, write and make paper airplanes with them.

  2. This is lovely…my dad and my husband’s dad have died, but they “live” on…again, this is lovely…!

  3. Touched again by these memories and so grateful for our heritage. Beautiful – thank you Steve. And Happy Father’s Day !

  4. This is beautiful, such lovely memories. Many reminded me of my childhood, but my memory of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration (paid for and organised by my sister and I) were very different: my dad said of his three children how disappointed he was in us all, that he’d obviously failed as a father, because none of us go to church. He did not edit, nor did he say anything kind about us. Alas, I love him anyway. He did his best. Thanks for sharing, Stephen.

  5. Thank you for a view of that face that you saw and described on the other side of the tractor when you were preparing to do the obligatory summer fallow on a fine day that had opportunities for more enticing activity.

  6. Thanks, Steve – a very moving reminder of the kind of Dad we had. In spite of likely sharing the theology of Corinne’s dad (as described above), he had the ability to love more inclusively. It has served our family well…..
    (Nice to see Dr. B. show up in this list of comments…)

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