Sunday, 15 June 2014

MY FATHER, MY HERO: GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN


MY FATHER AS A YOUNG MAN
circa late 1950s, and below, 
as a young father, circa 1964.

Some things never get easier. Learning to live without the father you idolized is one of them. It's been almost 20 years since I lost my dad, and I still remember being struck by how the world literally felt colder and emptier, how even the sky seemed shellshocked, the day he left it. "How will I be able to go on without my hero?" I remember thinking. It wasn't an exaggeration. He WAS my hero. As any father should be to his daughters. 

Most of you never knew my father, but take my word for it, he was a force to be reckoned with. Born in Brazil, he came to Canada to attend Queen's University, where he met my mom. (If you've ever met my mom, you'll know that once that happened, he wasn't going anywhere.) He lived the remaining chapters of his life in Canada, but the aura of worldly exoticism never left him. He was an intriguing mix of machismo and tenderness, fearlessness and kindness, fiery wit and quiet reflection. He prized decency and integrity and honesty, and he did not suffer fools gladly. If he didn't like you, you knew it. And you probably deserved it.

My earliest memory of my father is of him scooping me up after I'd nicked my foot on a piece of glass in a ditch. And then running full tilt for the entire three blocks between the ditch and our home. 
"This must be really bad!" I remember thinking. "I'd better start bawling to show my appreciation for all this effort he's putting into it." 

There were many variations on that theme as I grew up, with Dad always being there for me, larger than life, in any real or perceived crisis. Even when it wasn't easy, which it almost never is when you're dealing with a hormonal, eyeball-rolling, self-absorbed adolescent daughter. (And there is no other kind of adolescent daughter.)

As I write this, I realize that I'm trying to make you realize what an amazing man my father was, how much living and how much inimitable character he packed into his six short decades. But I can't. There's too much to say, and in the end all that matters anyway is that he loved his family with an unwavering ferocity. He would have given his life for us, and we knew it. 

I can never tell you enough stories or share enough photos to make you know my father for the man he was, but that's okay. The important thing is that we all think of our own stories and look at our own photos and above all, cherish our own father, today and every day. Because believe me, you never know when your last day with your father will come, but when it does, you won't be ready to let him go. You'll always wish you'd had one more chance to say "I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day."