Remembering a wonderful dad

Father’s Day is this coming Sunday—an occasion someone put on a calendar that has children buying golf balls and fishing hooks, tracing around their hands, and trying to do jobs that are too big.
When I was eight, I found a broken barn board in the granary and I hammered lids from glass jars on to the board. Then I filled the jars with screws and bolts.
I tried to even the ends of the board with the handsaw, but only got through half of one end.
My father hung that board up in the granary—complete with its jagged end.
Mostly on Father’s Day I ache; ache along with everyone else who lost an extraordinary father before it was time. It’s never time, though, not if we’re 10 or 19 or 50.
Today I want to curl up on his knee, climb up to the safe place where I tuck inside the circle of his arms and press my ear against his chest and listen to the rhythm of his heart, and close my eyes tight so that the whole world disappears and all that surrounds me is him, where I am safe.
I am safe from the disappointment of having lived too long without him, safe from the world and its fall from grace, safe from the ache that tells me most days I am not good enough, safe from me.
I’m too old for climbing into his lap, so instead I remember. I remember how his laugh meant all was well, no matter from how far away I heard it.
I remember his hands, a bit like a paw with hair on his fingers. And though the skin was rough and ruddy, his touch was gentle and careful.
I remember his blue eyes—blue like a robin’s egg and sometimes watery and sad. I remember his voice, its texture not its sound, for the sound has slipped into places I can’t get at.
I remember that he could play a whole song on the piano just using the black keys. I remember his patience and passion to teach me to be more than anyone thought a girl should be.
I remember the profound and innate respect I felt for his courage to have been a squadron leader of a fleet of Liberators in the Second World War, a Burma Bomber, and how he chose to cling to the comradeship—the links that endured from that horrific adventure rather than the anguish.
I remember how he could back the car into tiny spaces while I cheered from the back seat, holding my breath, my hand over my mouth ready to applaud.
I remember his certainty, his trust that he knew what to do; integrity and honour his armour.
I remember loving him so much it hurt. I remember his death, so permanent and final, so sudden and terrible. For many years I remembered his death more clearly than I remembered him, but that has moved aside and though the longing on many days is suffocating, I am his legacy—the one who keeps remembering, who knows he once carried me when I was tired, applauded when I succeeded, encouraged when I failed.
Though I had him for a mere 19 years, they were extraordinary years, just like him.
So on Father’s Day, and every day, I celebrate this man, this wondrous and lucky circumstance in my life and I sigh, realizing that many days it seems too cruel to live without him, but then I try harder.
I wonder if the ache will ever stop. Then it does, for moments and sometimes those moments stretch on for days. I feel him at my shoulder saying, “Go on, you can do it,” my mantra, and I utter the words thank you, to the air, for the wind to carry away—words that slip off my lips and comfort me.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
wendistewart@live.ca

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