One of my earliest memories of my dad is of him cutting out freehand a chain of paper animals. With a piece of white paper folded into sections, he would cut out horses, cows, cats, dogs, farm animals. I thought he was amazing!
I would hang these paper chains on my bed frame and the wall. Sometimes colour them or separate the animals and stick them on cardboard so they could stand up, or attempt too. This simple gesture of his provided a great deal of pleasure.
As a young child I was fascinated with cutting paper. My mom would bring me stacks of old paper and I would try to cut out little animals or people, always freehand like Dad. I never mastered the animals but I was great with trees! Stacks of plain paper, a pair of scissors and the Eaton’s catalogue were some of my favourite toys. My parents would give me a budget for shopping and I browsed the catalogue pages adding up prices to get to that amount. Then they would make adjustments so subtracting was called for. A fun way to practise math skills.
One year Dad travelled to Montreal, this time on his own, though mostly I went with him. He brought me back a little figurine of a blond girl with pig tails, just like me, with a piece of paper in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. That little Hummel figurine became so precious to me and was always by my bedside throughout my youth. Somewhere in one of many moves I have lost it. Finding one like it is often on my mind when in gift shops, flea markets or second-hand shops.
When I think of my father it is mostly of times when I was on a trip with him. My mother was very outgoing and my father quiet, her I fondly think of at parties or dinner. With Dad, it is on the train for our annual trips to Montreal, cooking, working in the garden, helping him milk cows and riding the tractor. He would let me drive, and kids love to drive tractors or cars sitting on their parent’s lap. As a young teen I would go to him with my problems and we would sit or walk and search for solutions.
When we moved into town, our school allowed you to walk home for lunch. I found sitting in a classroom all day a real challenge. I loved school but sitting still was difficult for me, still is. Sometimes my father would let me skip out. I would say I had a tummy ache, he would pretend it was true and let me stay home. We would watch the afternoon movie together — Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Bob Hope, Cary Grant, wonderful black and white movies that I still enjoy and think of him. He would sit in his chair and I would lay on the couch, nicely tucked in with a cup of hot cocoa. Life was sweet.
Dad was retired for medical reasons when we moved into town and I was nine. Selling the farm was very difficult for him and we moved to an acreage on the fringe of town so he could still have a big garden with chickens and game roosters. He died by the time I was 16 and I still miss him every day.
The way I see it the greatest gift a father can give their children is time. Conversations, time shared with activities whether fun or chores, projects, camping, hiking, driving, crafting, farming, sports, music, being present in their lives. Togetherness is the greatest gift. That’s what makes us smile or yearn for with tears, or warms our heart or gets us through the tough times. “What would Dad say?” can be a guiding thought.
My sons’ wonderful father died as well. He was young, 39, and they were three and one. Gord was a smoker and it killed him. Watching my young sons watch other children with their dads was heart breaking. I was glad when my darling came into their lives and we are grateful for his fatherly role.
Dads, please look after your health, and know how important you are to your children, no matter their ages.
Make a commitment to yourself to enjoy this Father’s Day and all the other unofficial Father’s Days that lie ahead. Take great care. You are very important.
Michele Blais has worked with families and children in the North Okanagan for the past 29 years. She is a longtime columnist for The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.