Friday, June 17, 2011

Fathers and Sons and Daughters

My old man is of a generation that grew up before television and computers and video games and as a result he is adept at many things. He can play the guitar and rebuild an engine and handle a boat. He knows plumbing and electrical and he can build a camp and sauna from the ground up. He can fire a rifle and skin a partridge and dress a moose and in his day he was a hell of an athlete (he's still a good golfer and an excellent curler). He grew up the eldest of six and his favourite hockey player was Max Bentley and his favourite ball player was Stan Musial.

Like the guy in the beer commercial he has done things that are larger than life. He has old man strength. When he was a young man he trekked through the wilds of Newfoundland prospecting, accompanied by a young Inuit. With three pals from his hometown he spent a winter in northern Saskatchewan in Uranium City. After he was married he left his job in the mines of Elliot Lake, taking a job which offered half the pay and twice the work in order to get above ground and with a company that might offer him a bright future and he made his way to that bright future.

Dad's flaws and sins are the type that are easily forgiven and his strengths are both those of his generation (the work ethic, the moral grounding, the inability to complain about one's lot) and his family and upbringing (the enthusiasm for life, the appreciation for nature and solitude, the optimism). He is a good man and he is a good father. He never raised his hand against us. For that matter he never raised his voice. He was patient and calm and his advice was always given with restraint - in the end the choice was ours to make, not his.

As the years have marched on we've become closer and closer. Dad is pushing eighty, he will be seventy nine on Sunday. He's slowing down somewhat, although not too much. Mom had a tough go of it last year and while she has rebounded quite a bit its now up to Dad to run the house and he has added some caregiving to his daily routine. He bears the extra work with a grin and a shrug and far more patience than I would think was possible and when we call or visit he has more enthusiasm and energy for his grandchildren then you would think possible. I worry about him and Mom quite a bit. Its no easy thing watching your parents age.

My old man.

The day I found out I was going to be a father for the first time I burst into tears and I did the same when our third and last child was born and I realized that it was over, that we had three healthy children now and Jenn had made it through childbirth three times.

If you're a Dad the right way and there is no other way to be a Dad, by the way, then it means giving up a lot. Its not the end of your old world but its certainly pretty close but of course its all worth it, the sleeplessness, the shitty diapers and tantrums and snotty noses.

Father's Day at our house will be a quiet affair. We will go to the park or the little ravine near our house, barbeque some steaks and go for ice cream. I'll sleep in and I will probably run out for a quick pint or two midafternoon and I may even get Father's Day sex. It will be a good day but these days and pretty well every day since September of 2003 has been a good day. Being a father is a challenge and it will be until the day I'm done. You teach them and take care of them and you do your best to protect them. You are overwhelmed by the knowledge that you would kill for them and by the fear that something could happen to them. I listen to our youngest chatter away in a rapidfire stream of consciousness monologue and sit and read with my son and talk with my oldest and revel in her smile and enthusiasm and I marvel at all of it and how I ended up so lucky.

Not a thing in the world better than being a father, better than all the tea in China. Enjoy the day whether you are a Dad or you are celebrating your old man.


Steve said...

Well said, my father sounded a lot like yours he passed at 52 almost 8 years ago, while it's no easy thing seeing your parents age, I assure you it's much tougher not being able to, kudos for the kind words and many more years with him.

Spot on on the whole being a father thing too.

Anonymous said...

That was lovely! Happy Father's Day to you.

Max Powers said...

That was a killer read Mr. McLean. I read all your articles but comment on very few. Very well written.

one24 said...

it realy very lovely.Happy father's day and thank you all