More About Dad

This is the collaboration we put together for Dad’s memorial service.  After many many cuts, it’s still long.  We could have written a book.  There are just so many, many memories, and it’s impossible to reduce such a life to a few words. 

Dad was born in Saugeen Township in 1914, the 8th of 11 children.  When he was eight years old his mother died in childbirth along with his infant brother, leaving his Dad and older siblings to raise the younger ones.  His younger brother died at age 12 after he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle.  Dad left school in Grade 10 to help his dad farming.  His Dad died at the age of 53, leaving 20 year old Hank and younger brother Dave to fend for themselves, and once the farm sold, they were left with no home.  Dad survived 2 world wars, the dirty thirty’s, and his sadness with Mom when their first child, a daughter, was stillborn.  And yet out of all of these early hardships, came a man with a gentle spirit, a love of life, and a sense of humour that endeared him to everyone.

He married Margaret Scott in 1942 and they bought a farm on the 6th of Suageen.  In 1954 they moved to a farm om the 2nd of Arran Township where they lived until relocating to Port Elgin in 1997;  and finally to the Southampton Care Centre after dad suffered a stroke in 2003.

During his lifetime, he was a member of Junior Farmers and president of the Bruce County Federation of Agriculture.  He served on the Saugeen Township Council and was elected to the Arran Township council in 1961 where he served seven years as councillor and 5 years as Reeve.  He was a member of the Ontario Good Roads Association and a volunteer at fall fairs and for the Children’s Aid Society.  For all his many accomplishments, he was a very humble man.  He solemnly explained one day that he’d acquired a new duty overseeing the landfill, so he supposed his official new title was “Chairman of the Dump”.  One day in the 1990’s some of our family spent a few minutes standing on a bridge in Paisley while we waited to watch Kim act in a play. One of us said, “Hey!  Dad!  This bridge has your name on it!”  The bridge had been built about thirty years earlier when he was Reeve, and for all that time, he had not known that his name was on its plaque.  A typical politician would like that kind of tribute to himself, but Dad wasn’t that self-centered.  His reaction was, “Why in heck would they put MY name on a bridge?   Why not put the names of the guys who actually BUILT the thing?”  

Dad had many stories about his life experiences.    One that amazed us was his Dad buying a 1914 Model T Ford in which they made a yearly trip to Owen Sound.   But since there were so many children, only half of them got to go at a time, half one year and half the next. 

We all fondly remember Dad, the entertainer.  Without him, we would have missed hearing songs like There Ain’t No Sense Sitting on the Fence All By Yourself in the Moonlight.  He could recite lines he had learned decades ago – everything from “See my kitty Little Dot, very pretty, is she not?” to Wordsworth and Shakespeare.   Some of the rhymes weren’t quite that lofty, though.  One of his favourites was,   “Kaiser Bill went up the hill to take a look at France.  Kaiser Bill came down the hill with a bullet in his pants.”  Another favourite of his grandchildren was about a crust of bread that comes back in the night, crawling up from the foot of the bed to torment the person who left it uneaten.

Our Dad was blessed with a wonderful sense of humour.  He always had a joke to share or a story to tell.  He commented often that he was a farmer outstanding in his field. 

He had many other very wise and helpful expressions.  We learned that someone we thought good looking might only “pass with a push” in Dad’s eyes.  Or could also be deemed “Homelier than a Mud Fence”.  When a mini-crisis hit, we were soothed by him saying, “Tis only a scratch I’m glad to say, said sunny, cheery Mary”.  When we were going off to have a good time, he`d always advise us not to have any fun.  He also, many times over, said to every one of us, “You know, you kids should be very grateful that I married your mother.  Just think about that.   You’re lucky I got you a smart & pretty mother otherwise who knows how you might have turned out”.

Although Dad was very sociable, he did like some quiet time.  He would often retreat to his den to read, and he could keep reading, unfazed even while all kinds of household chaos raged around him.

This quiet, soft spoken man was sometimes known to become the anti-Hank at his grandchildren’s sporting events, when his voice boomed & echoed throughout the arena to cheer them on!

 Linda and Ann went through a phase of pretending to star in their own television cooking show, mixing eggs, chop, hay and various vegetables from the garden in their sand pails, and then feeding it to the pigs.  When our McCarrel cousins made their frequent visits to our farm, we would jump from one of the beams in the barn into a pile of hay below.  When that got boring, we decided to make it a little more exciting by burying eggs in the hay!  His only comment on these activities was to remark that he’d never become a rich man selling eggs anyway.

 When we were young, Dad was the one who always felt that the consequences of our actions were sufficient discipline.  When each of his daughters took a turn at filling the car up with diesel fuel from the farm tanks instead of gas, and he had to rescue the stranded drivers, he never said a word as he towed us home with the tractor.  He knew our disappointment at an interrupted trip would make us much more careful the next time.  However, when Dad did reprimand us for something, we certainly sat up and paid attention – mostly feeling ashamed that we had disappointed him.

A good education was very important to dad, and he contributed to ours by constantly interrupting us to correct our pronunciation or our grammar.  We didn`t just milk cows, we were drilled on our multiplication tables at the same time. He is the reason we all love reading.  He’s the one who taught us how to ace memory work and understand division.  He’s the reason Verna got an A+ on a science project on weeds and wildflowers in grade six, because he walked with her through the fields, gathering samples and correctly naming them for her without looking anything up in a book.  He would have been an excellent teacher, not only because he was great with kids, but because he was a natural philosopher, good at observing, reflecting, and questioning.  

He was almost a magician when it came to playing cards, defeating his frustrated opponents with the most unlikely hands.  With his little reckless streak in euchre he’d go it alone on four nines and a ten and somehow win.  It was infuriating and funny at the same time.  Yet if anyone else played crazily, he’d say “ ….according to Hoyle….”  but his Hoyle must have been a distant cousin of the original, as Dad seemed to break all the rules and beat the odds to almost always come out on top! If you wanted to win at euchre, you picked Dad as your partner.

He regularly shared his views on politics and religion with us and Mom.  He was not one to settle for the mediocre or to sit back  without questioning the rightness of things, or without expressing his distaste at some of our political leaders.  He had strong views on those who “stole from the poor to give to the rich”.  But it was never an argument.  Rather it was what mom would call a “lively discussion”.  

Dad always quietly went about his business, avoiding a lot of fuss.  When he discovered at age 88 that his driver’s license had expired, he chose a day when Mom was out, drove to Walkerton, took his test, and came back with his license. There really wasn’t much she could say after the fact!

Dad had a profound love for not just his own children and grandchildren, but for every child he knew.  He has our greatest love and respect for his honesty, his gentle spirit, his humility, his kindness to his fellow man, his patience, his wisdom and his love and respect for every one of us as individuals. 

When Verna was five or six, she had nightmares about death.  Night after night, she woke up crying and calling for him.  And night after night, he patiently came in to sit on the edge of her bed and reassure her.  She tried to get him to promise that he would never die.  He could have made it easy on himself by just telling her what she wanted to hear so that he could get back to sleep.  But he didn’t lie to her.  He said, “I will die someday, but I have no intentions of doing it for a long, long time.  I promise I’ll try to be around for a very long time.”   He lived up to that promise, but it still seems too soon.

In these last several months, he has missed Mom terribly.  He now is where he wanted to be, with her again, and released from the limitations and challenges he faced over the past 5 years.  

As we honour his life today, the tears we shed are not so much in sadness for the end of his life, but in sorrow for the great loss in OUR lives of our wonderful dad and grandpa. 

We will miss him very much.

 

Dad

Has it really been four or five days since my last rambling post?  A few days can change your world.  Yesterday afternoon my dad passed away at the age of 94.  A mere five months (155 days) (why did I feel the need to actually sit down and count that out….) after mom left this world.  We are so incredibly lucky to have had our parents with us for such a long and beautiful time – but nothing makes it easy to say goodbye.  That it might be bearable is perhaps as much as we can hope for.  

This passing is not the heartbreaking kind.  Dad always said that category was reserved for the very young and the tragically accidental.   If someone had a good and long and happy life, it’s really not so sad.  And even less so if the person had reached the point of longing for an end to physical or emotional suffering.  That’s when you know it’s all for the best.  It’s part of life.  So why is it so hard to let go? 

I fly out tomorrow to join my siblings and help with the closure or whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing and calling this process.  I take comfort in imagining that he is now reunited with his Margaret, and that when she sees him again she’ll say “Hank!  What took you so long?”  Dad would have found that scenario hilariously funny.  And that’s how I’ll remember him, laughing at the strangest, silliest things.

An ACTUAL Shocking Development Sort of.

I’m a little embarrassed by my previous rant because there’s a lot more behind it than I bothered to explain.  I just jump right into these solitary discussions with both feet, never mind bothering to explain a lot of the background stuff because you’re just supposed to read my mind for the filler.  Sorry if you can’t do that.  It’s not all that interesting anyway.  The thing that bugs me the most is not WHO got all the votes, but more the fact that the whole thing was so ridiculously predictable that even thinking about it now puts me to sleep.  Could we not have some kind of change PUL-EASE!!  When 27 out of 28 seats in this province go conservative and the one lonely NDP candidate who upsets a conservative gets front page coverage – does no one see anything just a little bit WHACKED about that? 

But enough about boring things that I don’t understand.  A few days ago we had our truck stolen off the parking lot where it’s been sitting since May with a ‘for sale’ sign on it.  W. was not willing to “give it away”, so it’s kind of funny that that’s sort of what happened anyway.  We were about ready to just chalk that one up to a bad experience, thinking by now it had probably been smashed all to hell or taken to pieces for parts and never to be seen again.  But, last night, W. came across it abandoned in another city parking lot, missing the canopy and with a broken steering column, but with everything else, including tires, intact!   So after reporting it stolen to the RCMP, he then had to call them again and report it found.  The officer took away a cigarette butt as evidence.  We are also expecting absolutely nothing more to come of this intense investigation. 

I’m thinking now the truck might get sold with a little less dickering over the price.  Something is always preferable to nothing when it comes to dollars.  It’s okay to have an unpleasant experience if it all gets sorted out in the end and you can learn something from it, right?  And if you never had bad things happen, you wouldn’t appreciate the fact of it when they aren’t happening to you, or at least not nearly as much. Or something astute like that.  Read my mind.  It will make you appreciate your own SO much more.

Shocking Development (Not)

It’s a mystery to me why I think I have to knock myself out getting to the polls to cast my vote in this province that has been and always will be solidly conservative no matter what kind of idiot presents him or herself as a candidate for “THE PARTY”.  How long it will take for the representatives to ALL be complete morons is anybody’s guess, but man, it’s got to be getting close to that point by now.  If you want to be a member of parliament it’s a pretty simple procedure.  Move here.  Call yourself a conservative.  Get yourself nominated by people who don’t even have to be Canadian citizens.  Keep a low profile, except for posting ten bazillion roadside signs with the correct spelling of your name on it and the fact that you are the conservative candidate.  That’s pretty much it.  Then just sit back and wait for the votes to pour in.

I’ve always wondered why democracy is touted as such a great system, when only about half the elligible people across the country bother to vote.  And of those that do vote, around 60% of them cast their ballot for parties or people OTHER THAN the one that ends up in ‘power’.  We have way too many alternatives, and I’ve always felt that the vote splitting kills the democratic process in the long run.  (Along with the apathy, of course.)  If it was set up so that people here (and across the country) could vote either ‘conservative’ or ‘not even remotely conservative’, the latter would win!  Too bad we’d all be united in a negative way, but hey.  It would be a start at getting ourselves out of our huge self-induced conservative rut. 

Since I’m normally one of those truly apathetic Canadians I was just ranting about, I’ll now quietly slip back to my normal state of political oblivion and let myself be represented by ‘what’s his name’.  Whom I know nothing about and have never met and who’s beliefs are a mystery to me.  Next rant – next election.  Or not.  Perhaps there’s just no point.

A Vintage Thanksgiving Day

So that’s all she wrote for another Thanksgiving Day. Ours was nice and quiet and I did my honest to goodness best to not cook enough food for sixteen starving families this year.  D. was still able to cart home a lot of leftovers even though the turkey was the smallest one I could find.  Perhaps one day my grandaughter will look back on this day as a kind of vintage celebration, if she remembers it at all.  We had Christmas crackers featuring the ‘thanksgiving reindeer’.  That in itself should be memorable.  She ate brussels sprouts, perhaps still too young to realize that kids are supposed to hate those things.  I cooked the turkey upside down in honor of my mother, and the whole thing was super moist, just like hers always was when she plopped it into the roaster breast side down.  The stuffing I did in the crock pot, where it turns out just as yummy with WAY less mess than trying to dig it out of the poor bird later in a big soggy blob.  I’m very big on no mess.  Although looking at my kitchen this afternoon you’d never guess that.

And speaking of poor birds – the vintage Thanksgiving pictures, which people used to send to eachother on post cards way back in the day, are enough to make you totally rethink your main course.  About 99% of them feature a freaked out turkey fleeing for it’s life from a crazed axe weilding madman.  Underneath a beautifully scripted and pleasant enough greeting, but still.

 

And then there’s this rather disturbing theme, where children harnessed up giant turkeys and rode around on monster pumpkins, some of them dangerously armed with over sized blunt cutlery. That gives you a whole different kind of nightmare.

So let’s all be thankful that this kind of thing no longer happens, shall we? And that most people these days don’t even own an axe.

A joyful day to you.

Thanksgiving

Here I am, dropping by like I promised, as if anyone remembers that or cares, to do a little  Happy Thanksgiving blog.  And to announce to the world that I have finished reading The Anansi Boys and that it was ridiculous fun.  Also I am getting crazily good at anagrams!!  Those last two statements should be big clues in solving the mystery of how much (or how little, depending on your point of view)  I accomplished on this first day of the long holiday weekend.  And I am very thankful for today – everyone should be lucky enough to have a day like this one every once in a blue moon.  It’s been kind of like sitting in a pumpkin patch anticipating the possibility of greatness, or imagining something that probably hasn’t a hope in hell of ever really happening;  but enjoying the ‘sitting there waiting’ just the same.

PHV 3

It’s been three weeks since I saw the dietician!  In that time I have been able to break quite a few of her rules while religiously incorporating my own.  I know for a fact that the high carb/low fat combination (which she follows and therefore writes down for everyone else to follow) does not work for me.  Maybe if I ran a marathon twice a day there would be some slight chance of success.  (Half a tablespoon of peanut butter a day??  Come on.)  I also know for a fact that the low carb/high protein thing has worked for me in the past, even without a whole lot of physical exercise.  It’s just a little harder to follow because the world is so full of low fat (read high sugar) products.  Seriously, everywhere you look there’s low fat no fat everything.  I try to avoid those like the plague, just on principle.  And bread and noodles and breaded noodles in every disguise imaginable.  So I’m trying to combine all the things I know into a plan that makes sense for me and that I can live with comfortably and not think about all the time.  And especially not TALK about all the time, because nothing drives people more crazy than hearing about somebody’s diet 24/7.  

So I’ll try to make this brief and close to painless.  I eat my high carb, high fiber, fruit, cereal, skim milk, calcium supplements stuff for breakfast.  It is good to have breakfast.  Everybody agrees on that one. I am also now not taking my extra vitamin medications (B12, vitamin D) on an empty stomach and getting that mid morning nauseous feeling.  For lunch I eat raw vegetables with dip (a chock full of fat dip, because there has to be fat to absorb the nutrients in vegetables – seriously, I read that somewhere and quite liked the notion) and some kind of protein over dose, like an entire can of tuna.  Or hard boiled eggs, or cheese, or left over roast beef or a pork chop or some kind of combination of all of the above.  At night I am surprisingly not all that hungry!  So I am able to eat a normal balanced meal of salad, vegetables and meat, and even the occasional potato, and very rarely ever crave any kind of a snack before bed.  Amazing.  This is my lifestyle change and I really really really want it to be a permanent one.  My most serious rule of all is that nothing goes into my mouth that does not have some kind of medium to high nutritional value.  Well, except for water. 

The results so far are that I’m feeling better, not so tired, and of course extremely self righteous and snooty about it all, tsk-tsking when my co-workers stoop to devouring chocolate for a quick pick-me-up.  Or W. comes home with all that breaded chinese food and little pots of sugary sauce.  Next on the agenda is getting more active, but right now I’m taking it one step at a time and trying to get this regular eating thing down pat first.  Then hopefully I’ll have the energy to do the physical stuff without collapsing from exhaustion and giving up in frustration.  And that’s all the PHV blather I’ve got for now.  Huge sighs of relief all around.

Oktober Pumpkin Beer

That’s not something I’d choose from a cocktail menu, it’s just the names of a few random ‘fests’.   Obviously, you can have a fest for just about any reason, although this month seems to be more popular for them than, say, January for instance. 

The very strangest things crack me up.

And now I’m staging my own fest, which I’ll call the Nufloor Fest because nobody can say that one fifteen times really fast without floundering.  The floor is DONE!!  Now I get to move all the furniture back onto it without ONE SINGLE SCRATCH happening.  And then the party begins.  All guests must swear a solemn oath at the door that they will not spill anything.  And that they will not upchuck any of that pumpkin beer unless they leave the room first.  Those strike me as being very good party rules.  I should put up a sign.

The Pursuit of Rocket Speed Sudoku

There is something very satisfying and almost therapeutic about doing those damned number puzzles, maybe because they make the mind focus on them completely, to the exclusion of all other intrusive worrying thoughts that human beings are very good at dreaming up in their spare time to fill their vacuous heads.  On the “basic” sudoku level of my DS brain age games I am often up to airplane speed.  That’s pretty impressive for an old lady, doncha think?  (On intermediate I’m a tad less magnificent.)   When I do the same puzzles on paper I don’t care if it takes me three days, or if there’s a dumb mistake somewhere so that it can’t be finished.  Into the paper recycle bin and better luck next time.  But when it’s all recorded and electronic,  and there’s a cute little green check mark and a triumphant little musical blurb every time you do something right – well it just keeps me hooked and playing until I can’t even see straight anymore. 

And yeah, that’s what I did last night.  Of COURSE there are many other more productive things I could have been doing, but after three straight days of work I need some serious down time.  I love my work schedule, by the way.  Three days on, two off, two and a half days on, two off;  three on, one off, repeat.  It’s a two week rotation with every other weekend off.  Only one Monday morning every two weeks.  Who could not live with that?  And never more than three days in a row.  Because we all found out the hard way that on day four I might as well have stayed at home and saved everybody the grief of having to listen to me complain for eight hours straight. 

Today and perhaps tomorrow I will be more or less relegated to living in the basement while the new living room/dining area/hallway floor is being installed – which is happening as we speak.  A little oriental guy is up there right now banging and scraping away. So it’s a perfect opportunity to strive for that elusive rocket speed sudoku game that I can just FEEL in my bones is right there within my reach.  If I don’t make it, I’ll just blame it on all this distracting noise and commotion going on over my head.  And if I do, I’ll try to resist the urge to go screaming up the stairs to share my triumph.  In case it makes him go screaming out the door before his work is finished. 

Right now I need more coffee.  Which is just an excuse to see what’s going on up there.  And maybe I should bring down a book or two in case my eyes go crossed from looking at little number squares.  And take a bathroom break, and then fold some laundry.  Man, this just beats “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” all to hell, doesn’t it??