Thursday, August 10, 2017

See You Later Old Man

How do you sum up a life in just a few words?  There were so many more things I could say about my dad, so many more stories I could tell. I hope I did him justice.

Shortly after Dad was diagnosed with cancer, I asked him what his funeral wishes were when the time came. I knew Dad well, and I knew I had to approach it like one of his long term projects.

Short and sweet was his response.

 “Kind of like me,” I said.

He looked at me with that little smirk of his. “No, I never said that.”

Of course, I’m sure he knew if I was speaking, it was unlikely to be either short or sweet.

To his oldest and dearest he was Bobby. To many he was Bob. To his grandchildren, he was affectionately (and appropriately) Grumpy. To my brothers and me, he was Dad. And to our mother, he was Robert, especially when he annoyed her, and he seemed to have a real knack for that. Of course, he’d had fifty-seven years of practice.

Bobby was the youngest of five and the only boy.

From the minute he was born, his sisters were told to “take care of Bobby, don’t hurt Bobby. He’s special.”

That really explains so much about Dad.

Little Bobby often terrorized his sisters and had them in tears, but somehow they were always the ones to get in trouble. Never him. Of course not, Little Bobby could do no wrong.

When he was younger, Dad’s favourite cohort in crime was his cousin Roseanne, who was just a few years younger than him. She was more like his twin than his cousin. They were always getting into mischief and blaming it on their poor cousin Garnet.

Dad never lost that mischievousness and was always teasing or tormenting someone, usually mom or me or one of my girls.

Dad was an understated man. Always in blue jeans and a flannel shirt, and an ever present cup of coffee. Day or not, he was always drinking coffee.

An introvert, he was never really comfortable in large crowds. He was a bit of a recluse, especially as his hearing got worse. It’s not that he didn’t like people, he was very friendly and kind, but he usually liked them in small doses and on his terms. If he liked you, he liked you. And if he didn’t, well, you’re probably not here today. 

He didn’t have a lot of time for foolish people—they “walk amongst us” he would lament, shaking his head. If only common sense were more common.

Of course, Dad was always up for a good argument— of which we had our fair share.

 He loved to be right, “You’re just like your mother,” he’d tell me when I disagreed with him.

To which I would reply, “Yes, and a little bit like my father too.” 

That would usually end the discussion; even he couldn’t argue with that one.

But when he was right, he was gleeful, “I told you so,” he would boast as he wagged his finger at you. Yes Dad, you certainly did. Many times, in fact.

Dad was most comfortable in his basement with his tools and his machines, of which he had many. I’m not sure how, but somehow he still managed to cram more junk down there.

“I’m cleaning it out,” he would say.

He’d been saying that for twenty years and it is no emptier now than it was then. Apparently, it was a work in progress. You can’t rush these things. 

And besides, the trouble was “you just never know, you might need that tomorrow.”

He could fix or build just about anything he put his mind to.  He was always fixing stuff for his family and friends; he never minded helping anyone out—he was quite generous that way.

He certainly had his own unique way of doing things. There was the easy way, and then there was “Bob’s way.” And he did like to do things his way. The more complicated, the better; which drove my poor brother’s crazy.  Partially he did this to keep them occupied, but also so they would learn to look at things differently and figure it out for themselves. Because that’s the way he learned—by doing, and by dreaming.

He would start a project and then halfway through he would move on to the next. The challenge to Dad was in figuring out how to build it or do it—once he knew that, well then it wasn’t so exciting anymore, so he’d move on to the next project. And that is why there is a half-finished windmill in their backyard. Yes, a windmill.

He recently told Shawn he could get that windmill running. Shawn told him he didn’t think he was smart enough to do that without Dad here to help him.

Dad responded “I’m not that smart, I just sat down with a little determination and figured it out. Anyone can do that.”

 Shawn disagreed, “You’re the smartest man I know.”

“Well, you don’t know many men then.”

He wasn’t just the smartest man we knew, but one of the funniest. You honestly never knew what he would come out with.

One day my girls noticed a broom on the roof of the garage.

“Hey Grumpy, why do you have a broom on the roof of the garage?”

Without missing a beat he replied, “That’s your Grandmother’s. She overshot the driveway one night when she was coming home.” 

Mom didn’t find that nearly as amusing as we did.

And that is what we will most remember about Dad, his humour and his determination. He held on to both until the very end. He was so determined to hang on—for himself, for our mother, and for us. He couldn’t bear the thought of leaving us.

“I worry about your mother,” he would say over and over. I promised him she would be well taken care of, and she will.

As much as they loved to bicker, what old married couple doesn’t, he would have been lost without Hazel, who rarely left his side these last few months.

Dad’s greatest treasure was us—his family. We were his pride and joy. He was so proud of all of us, his children and his grandchildren, and our accomplishments. He loved us all fiercely and ferociously, and even though he might not have said it when we were younger, we always knew. And we always knew he was there, waiting for us whenever we needed him.

He was always a shoulder to lean on.

And now that shoulder is gone.

But Dad gave us all the tools we need to go on without him-- his strength, determination, stubbornness, and his sense of humour.

“Don’t ever stop laughing,” he would say. “You have to keep laughing.”

That we will Dad,  that we will.

“And where we go you can be sure,
In spirit, you shall never be alone.
For where you are is what matters most to us,
Because to us that will always be home.”

We’ll see you later Old Man.

We love you.

1 comment

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