Sunday evenings, he always called me but not last Sunday. Now he will never call me again.
Change is hard for us human beings. We get into a habit and we stay there. It becomes comfortable for us. We do not easily shift from it, we enjoy the familiar and we resist change.
But death is not something we can resist. It is part of life, regardless of whether we want to acknowledge it or not. And it changes everything. My Father is survived by his brother, my Uncle, who was his youngest brother. After that, I am the oldest in my Family. Change is upon me.
No more Sunday phone calls from my Dad.
I did know that change was coming. My Dad was ill and had been ill for just under a year. He had been in and out of the hospital with pneumonia before Christmas and then over New Year's. But last Sunday he had seemed well, in good spirits and we had a better talk than we have had for a while. That was January 5th. I will never talk to him again, so I am happy we had a last conversation that was worthy of the relationship we had both worked to rebuild over the last 11 years.
My Father was one of those people who did not stop growing and learning. I once realized that my Father taught me three important lessons – lessons that changed my life.
My Father was young once and he was always a social person. When he was young that meant parties and often an overindulgence in alcohol. As a child, I grew to hate and fear parties and the drinking that went with them. The lesson I learned was about how one's foolishness impacts on others. It was a valuable lesson and I have never forgotten it. It kept me from straying too far from my path, when the temptation to do so grew great and it still guides me through difficult times, like the one I am in at the moment.
As my Father got a bit older, when I was about seven years old, he decided to take his Chartered Accountancy at night. My Father had graduated high school with his senior matriculation (grade 12), He had worked different jobs, sometimes two at a time but had been unable to get ahead. I watched with fascination as my Father worked steadily each night after working all day and in due time got a piece of paper that bettered our living situation in a very short time.
That lesson had an immediate impact on my life. I had an abundance of energy as a child. If we had had the term, it might have been labelled ADHD. It was enormously difficult to sit and concentrate in school, even with the threat of corporal punishment. But after I saw how studying changed the family fortunes, I forced myself to sit and to learn. I made myself pay attention and I learned how to get good grades.
It was the second lesson I learned from him, education is worth the time and can help you immensely. I worked my way through university and hold three degrees. I have success in my chosen career partially due to this lesson I learned from my Dad.
Once my Father had his C.A., he worked hard. Other men, with more education, were able to precede him and get promotions faster but my Dad kept working and he never gave up. He persisted and got to the position he wanted, advancing steadily over the years. I learned that hard work and persistence pay off. Sometimes it takes time for your employer to see your worth but giving up is not an option. I learned to follow my Father's example and have been rewarded with the position I have wanted.
Those three lessons would easily have been enough to assure my success but not my happiness. At one time those three lessons were all I had from my Father.
There had been a parting of the ways, at my insistence, while my son was young, due to the difficulties I experienced in my childhood. It had been a necessary part of my healing and for many years I was estranged from my family. I needed the time and I do not regret taking it.
When I reached out to my Father, at first I did not get a response. I had sent him a Father's Day card many years before I moved west. The next year I sent another and so on for many years. When I moved out west, I sent a letter before I sent the card. That year my Father responded. It was a short response but a positive one and so began a written correspondence. After a few years of electronic and “snail” mail, I went on a trip back east. During that trip I visited my Father and his wife
The visit was only a day. It was a day that was a watershed. It marked a change in the relationship. After that day, my Father's last lesson or it could be called a gift began to occur. At first I barely perceived it. I told my Father about the book I was publishing and I sent him a copy. When I was younger there was never any support for my artistic endeavours, so I did not expect any now. I was wrong. My Father was encouraging and told me he had read the book and particularly enjoyed some of the stories. He shared my other book with his grandchildren. He asked about me showing my art at the gallery or my adventures in sustainability. He followed my career with interest and encouraged me with that also, especially through the disappointments of the last few years.
I found acceptance, which was far different from what I had experienced before the separation from my family. I felt approved of and loved. My Father never ended any conversation without being sure to say “I love you, you know.” And unlike the time before the visit, I knew he meant it and I felt loved and cared for in a way that healed my heart and freed my soul.
As I write this, I can only feel great admiration and love for my Father. He was a real person and like all of us, his inner pain drove him to make mistakes. He continued to learn and grow, he reflected on the past throughout his life and ended up being someone, who not only experienced the success and financial recompense of all his hard work during his career but also experienced a closeness with his family and friends because he knew how to give and receive love and kindness. Was he perfect? Of course not. He could be abrupt or not listen on occasion and he had always been stubborn. But no successful person alive is not stubborn.
My Father grew to be a good man, someone worth knowing and someone whose love and life have shaped my own. My Father made a difference to me. I know that I am not the only one who can say that today.
Thank you, Dad! I love you, you know. And I will miss you.