Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I Think I Caught His Spirit

Today is my father's birthday. It would have been. How is that supposed to be stated anyway? Okay, so he passed away a couple of years ago, but today is technically still his birthday. Today is still a day I celebrate in my heart.

I've always attributed the fact that I enjoy mornings to my father, who was the fellow who woke up the rooster each morning -- well, for 65 years at least. Without realizing it, he quietly taught me to appreciate the subtle beauty of the pre-dawn hours. I often think that I have him to thank for helping me discover this very magical time of day. I tend to do my best writing in the early morning hours -- and now that my father is no longer around, it also tends to be a time I associate with him -- I can almost feel his presence. And if I don't turn around to check, I can fool myself into believing he's standing there, looking out the window, like I often witnessed him doing, just taking in the beautiful quiet stillness of the morning. Despite the fact that he was a large and well-nourished man, he could be as still and move as quietly as a ninja. He'd move through the house without even causing the floor boards to creak. This was likely something he picked up over years of hunting and fishing.

Fran tells me that I also picked up other traits from him -- things I hadn't considered. My work ethic, for example. Regardless of the time or date, he could easily be found doing work -- I have countless memories of heading down to check out the high school on Christmas Eve or on New Year's Eve with him (he was the chief custodian at Levack District High School). He never claimed those hours or asked for overtime. A few years before he retired, he also took on two jobs for the price of one. They had him overseeing not only the high school, but also Levack Public School -- instead of replacing that school's chief custodian, they simply added it to my father's responsibility and forced him to split his days. I never heard him complain about getting the shaft, and, of course, it was foreshadowing for how a similar fate would befall me in my own career several times. (Although, unlike my father, I can't say I never complained)

One of the saddest things about losing my father was that he never got a chance to meet Alexander. While I've never been a great fisherman, I'd been looking forward to having my father teach Alexander the joys of fishing, and also of hunting. And if he didn't enjoy these pastimes on their own, perhaps my son would, like me, just enjoy hanging out with the old man, taking in all the glorious splendour of nature. I sure didn't like putting hooks through worms or firing my rifle at anything living, but man, did I ever love sitting in the boat across from my father, listening to him talk about different animals or birds we spotted, or trying to emulate the way he stalked through the forest making nary a sound.

Oh yeah, the love and respect for nature and the outdoors. That's another thing he taught me.

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