Friday, June 19, 2009

A Man of Habit – Memories of Dad

Dad is a quiet, bookish sort of man. When I reached adulthood, it occurred to me, does Dad laugh? I called my siblings and asked, “Do you know what Dad’s laugh sounds like?” They thought and said, as a matter of fact, I am not sure. They were surprised. How could we have all reached adulthood and never noticed his laugh. Of course, by this point I already knew the answer to my question. It does not happen too often, but I realized when Dad thinks something is funny, he raises his chin, spreads out his grin and lets out an “Oohn, that’s a good one.” It’s not a boisterous sound. It’s almost like a loud sigh.

My dad gets up early, oftentimes before the sun. He reads the paper, does morning chores and eats his breakfast. This habit began as a boy in Chinchilla, Australia. He would get up early, before the family, and ride his bike to the neighboring pasture to milk their cow. Throughout his life there has always been a reason to get up early.

When I was a kid, he would wake up all of us children and feed us breakfast—usually oatmeal. After breakfast, we were left to dress ourselves no matter how young we were. Then he would drive us to school—come rain or shine. Once he dropped us off in three feet of snow and school was canceled. My sister and I had to hike one and half blocks in the snow, which was nearly up to our shoulders, to the convent (the nuns were our teachers) to use their phone to call our Mum. She never got up in the morning to get us ready and take us to school, because she’s a night owl. She was shocked to be getting a call, the nuns were shocked as well that we had been left. Dad will never live it down—this story will certainly outlive him—the day he left two little girls ages six and eight stranded in the snow. But, for all the years you took us to school, even when it was to get us to 6:00 a.m. sports practice, thanks.

The greatest benefit to my dad growing up was his vast knowledge. In all our years of school, there was never a homework question he did not know. I studied French in school and even though Dad had taken three less years of French in school than I, he knew more and remembered it well. When my little brother won his school geography bee, my dad decided to make him a champion at geography. Dad asked for all study materials he could possibly get from National Geographic. He found a complete collection of National Geographic magazines from 1950 in the local library discard pile. Then he sat with my brother before and after school everyday and asked him question after question. They studied the materials together, so Dad knew all the answers too. My brother won the state championship twice and came fourteenth in the national bee. It is always great fun to tap Dad’s knowledge well.

Dad, I hope you have a very fine Father’s Day. Watch some golf, enjoy some fine food and get out of the house for some “quiet time.”

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