My dad once told me to remember where I come from.
He said those ‘last words’ to me as I climbed into my purple 90s-era Ford Escort, ready to drive myself westward along the Trans Canada Highway, destination: Banff, Alberta.
They were his last words to me at the time, as I was striking out on my own. But we were fairly sure we’d see each other again. We just couldn’t be completely sure. But he was letting me go freely and wasn’t trying to stop me. He’d known for two decades that this moment would arrive someday.
Here I sit at his graveside. I have never sat here and written before. In front of me, I have a picture of us together in 1979. I was a toddler, sitting on a tiny chair he had made for me, at a tiny table. He is sitting on the other side of the tiny table, on the other tiny chair, looking at me with anticipatory joy. Because it is Christmas and there is a tree in the background, a real one, decorated and sitting in the corner of the living room.
Behind us is a collection of photos on display – the most recent of which is of the three of us, but soon to be four, as my mother is very pregnant. Two weeks after this photo is taken, the first of my two younger brothers is born. (I imagine this photo was a church directory photo. Otherwise I don’t think they would have gone for family photos prior to the next baby being born. I’d imagine they’d have waited until he was visible to the world.)
The moment he said those words to me: “remember where you come from” as his voice cracked and I joyfully bounded into my car and peeled outta there, kicking up dust as I wheeled away from the farm I’d been raised on – that moment has run in my memory forever since.
It reverberated in my mind as I drove down that country road. I was at a crossroads, venturing into adulthood with no idea what I was doing.
I’m a bit of a literal person. I don’t think either of us knew I’d take those words so to heart. To wonder eternally “where DO I come from?”
He was intelligent. Curious. Content. He listened well. I like to think I take after him in these ways. (I certainly inherited his forehead wrinkles which my mother has told me are genetic – I was born with them, just like my dad was. The moment she pointed this out, I ceased hating them and began loving them.)
I’m sitting here looking at the stone that marks my father’s grave. It reminds me that June is a potent month for remembering my father.
He and my mother were married in June.
He died in June.
Father’s Day is in June.
It’s not a great month for being contemplative. Here in Manitoba the summer nights are short and the days are long. Sunset and sunrise last forever. Festivals are plentiful. I am annoyed with how distracted I can be.
Yet as the grass grows aggressively in this month, and hedges overtake sidewalks, I am reminded how nature reclaims. And in this I am reminded of mortality. I am reminded of what I have lost. And of how temporary everything we think we have, really is.
I think that’s probably the most important lesson. I think it’s served me well. It allows me to realize that nothing lasts – not the bad things, so don’t worry. Not the good things either – so recognize them as they’re happening and fully appreciate them for what they are.
What I’m not sure if I’ve ever written a Father’s Day post.
IS this a Father’s Day post?
I sure wish my dad was around to celebrate and honour. He was the best father. It really sucks that he passed away. It’s been a long time now, but the sorrow does not go away. However, I am grateful for my sorrow. Because it means I had a very good dad. Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone has been given this gift – the gift of having had a dad whom you miss very much. Who passed away far too young, far too soon.
He loved being alive. And I think the best way I can honour him is to also love being alive. And, I do.