Christmas Day, and I took my boyfriend to meet my family. The two bottles of Cold Duck had been in and out of Tom’s 1961 Triumph TR3 sports car half a dozen times. We sat around a table overloaded with turkey and all the trimmings. Tom opened the first bottle and the wine exploded. It hit the cottage’s low ceiling and in the sudden silence, we sat there as it dripped down on the plates and silverware, turkey, two types of stuffing, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, bacon-wrapped sausages, peas, carrots, gravy, and us.
Straight-faced, Dad raised his glass, in which a dribble of the stuff had landed. I can’t remember what he said, but I know it was very droll.
He teased Tom about everything during that meal. The way he didn’t speak “proper English,” how he didn’t know how to use a knife and fork – properly. But not in a mean way. Dad was never mean and he took an instant liking to Tom. At his funeral service in 1999, his eulogy began: Roger was a kind and gentle man. He was a countryman, he loved the country life. . . .
That was my dad.
He worked as a gardener, groom, long-distance lorry driver. But his heart belonged to the English countryside. His dad wanted him to be a mechanic, so he became a mechanic – on a farm. He finally found his niche as a gamekeeper.
Dad was talented. He tried his hand at soapstone sculpting, wood carving, glass etching, thatching, wood burning, angling, deep-see fishing. He won awards in Archery. His unique carved walking sticks and fire screens are treasured by family and village friends. His photographs of wild flowers are stunning.
He told totally inappropriate jokes during totally inappropriate occasions.
He was famous in the village as the man who used a homemade spear to harpoon the giant pike nobody else could catch.
Friends told him he was crazy to bring his aging gun-dog into the house, a dog that until then lived outside in a kennel. That old girl did not do one inappropriate thing in the house or even the garden. I believe she died happy, with the man she loved.
He never owned a house, and didn’t own a car until the 1980s when the elderly lady mum worked for died and left Dad a car in her will. He couldn’t afford the insurance and upkeep, so he did a straight exchange for a little red car.
He and Mum were on the way to collect some new chickens, when a big truck transporting frozen food took a bend too fast, tipped over, and crushed that little red car. Crushed. The Jaws of Life were needed to get them out. Dad died from his injuries hours later, in the hospital.
I know you’re still here, Dad. I know it each time I go home and walk the paths you loved to walk and stare at the vistas you gazed over. I see you beneath the trees, on the river bank, striding up the rough road to the Ranges with your binoculars and walking cane. I see you on your favorite end of the sofa with your little dog on your knees.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
I give you this
One thought to keep.
I am with you still,
I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken
In the morning’s hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone.
I am with you still
In each new dawn
Mi’kmaq Native Indian Prayer