Remember When….

remember When….
you were strong and brave,
I felt so safe and confident around you,
remember when…
your eyes twinkled as your laughter filled the room,
how you loved to laugh and enjoy life to the fullest,
remember when…
you lifted me up when I felt insecure
and scared for the future,
you assured me with your strength and grace,
since you’ve been gone,
I feel emptiness and sadness,
as time goes from days, to months, to years;
I feel your presence as I remember you,
you taught me so much,
I am forever grateful,
I feel blessed I was able to be strong for you in your
time of pain and suffering,
and help lift you to a world of peace,
returning what you gave to me,
a life of love and commitment,
lessons I won’t soon forget,
but mostly I will remember,
you taught me how to live.

dedicated to Fred and his daughters

Johanne Fraser

MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER

Sitting on the concrete stairs, sipping coffee and smoking a cigarette, he said, “I hope you never come to understand that kind of hate.”

As I grew to become a young woman and now a wife and mother, I’ve come to understand just how much my relationship with my father has shaped me into the woman I am today. My father was always somewhat mysterious to me and I learned to accept that mysterious quality as a part of him and a part of our relationship. He left our family when I was a young girl and I wrote about that period of my life in “sins of thy father”.  It was a confusing time for both my father and I, but somehow we were able to salvage what little time we had and spent quality time during the remaining years of my father’s life.  My hometown was Montreal, Quebec where my father resided until his death, and I had moved across the country to British Columbia living with my mother as we journeyed through our new family life that she created. We moved to BC when I was fifteen and every year my brother and I would hop on a plane and visit my father for a minimum of two weeks.  My favourite memories of my father was our time sitting on the concrete stairs at the front of the house.  I would get up early in the morning, grab my smokes, my coffee and join him on the concrete steps to steal some alone time as we talked about anything and everything(memories).

My father served in the Canadian Navy during the second world war.  Growing up I understood that his time in the war was a major part of his life, but not something I really thought about until I learned of the atrocities during the second world war in school.  At the age of seventeen my father was itching to go to Europe and offer his services to combat the evil that was growing overseas. My grandparents gave my father their blessings and off to war he went.  He was part of the Canadian Navy convoy that protected allied supply ships going to Europe that held men, equipment, weapons, food, medical supplies, and so much more, to the front lines.  He saw many things and the vintage pictures he had in his possession, depicted his naval life and the men he served with in various European locations, had an eery silence to them and my father added to that mystery and silence by never talking about the war.

I found out by eavesdropping on my father’s conversations that he did talk about the war to certain people, but never to his daughter.  Once a friend of ours dropped by to visit and while sitting over coffee in the kitchen, my father and his friend suddenly started conversing in french. I was not completely versed in the french language and I think my father figured I would not be able to understand what the two men were talking about.  I knew enough french to understand that they were talking about my father’s time during the war.  The story I picked up was about the men he served with when a German ship was blown out of the water and what happened when the ship he was on picked up the survivors.  I’d rather not share the story, but I was shocked because I always thought that the Canadians were the good guys. Listening to his story, I immediately realized that there were some things that I could not possibly understand.

The next day during our morning coffee, smoke and concrete stair routine, I asked my father if I understood the story correctly.  He was surprised that I understood that much and told me that essentially I had the story correct.  I shared my disgust for the story and he said to me, “honey, there are things you don’t understand and war is one of them.”  “What do you think would happen right now if your whole family was blown to bits, how do you think that would change you?”  I told him, I couldn’t imagine that happening in this country and told him that I thought the Canadians were the good guys.  “The war did terrible things and watching ships blown out of the water by the enemy, knowing our brothers were on those ships brings hate to good men and makes men do and think things that they thought they would never do.”  “I hope you never come to understand that kind of hate and I hope your children’s children never understand that kind of hate either.”

Sitting on those stairs that morning, I came to understand my father’s mysterious ways and why he was the way he was.  A good friend of his once told me that he loved my father because he was a loyal friend and would give you the shirt off his back, but God help you, he said, if you crossed him. A trait of my father’s I’ve learned to curb over the years. I’ve learned the hard way that not all friends or family have your back and some go out of their way to betray. I’ve learned to forgive and move on, but true to my father, I never forget. My father was the first man I trusted to bare my soul to and I could tell him the good, the bad and the ugly.  He always listened, never judged and all these years after his death, some of those conversations still come back to me. As I age, I realize that the short time my father was on this earth and in my life, shaped me into the type of woman I am today. I crave for more time on the concrete steps to reconnect with my father who truly understood me.

BRINGING ME BACK..

Tomorrow my youngest son goes off for three days on an overnight retreat with his school.  He’s in grade seven and the school hosts the retreat to promote bonding and relationships amongst the class.  Matthew is really excited and he’s looking forward to all of the activities; archery, horseback riding, hiking, swimming and just having fun.  Matthew has never been on a horse and he was talking about riding a horse when all of a sudden he said “mom didn’t you tell me you use to ride horses?”  “Yes I did, many moons ago.”  “Didn’t you use to ride English style and you have the helmet?”    My brain scrambled because I haven’t thought about that period in my life in so long.  When I was a little girl, I loved horses and wanted to ride with all of my heart and soul.   I’ve mentioned before that my parents divorced when I was eight and there weren’t any funds for activities, especially horseback riding.  I don’t remember if I pestered my father or not but I remember visiting him on one of our Saturday visits and he said he had a surprise.  We got in the car and we left Pierrefonds and drove into the country where the mystery tour ended in Hudson, Quebec.  He had arranged horse back riding lessons for me and my stepsister.  I was beyond excited, I was ecstatic.  I was fully aware that he could not afford the lessons never mind the helmet, crop and boots.  He had the whole outfit ready for me, all I had to do was pick the horse I wanted to ride.  The instructor took me to the barn and she asked the stable crew to bring out a few horses that she felt were appropriate for me and told me to pick one.  I didn’t realize how big horses were until I found myself looking up at the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.  Once I picked my horse my instructor showed me how to saddle  and reign the horse and then she told me to climb on and go.   Once I was on the horse I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do.  I belonged on that horse and it really didn’t take me long to learn to ride.  Every Saturday,  first thing in the morning,  I went riding and I can remember focusing on my breath as I posted to the rhythm of my horse’s trot.  I thought of nothing else, school, home, parents fighting or kids being mean.  It was just me and the horse riding in circles in the training field.

The memories came flooding back when Matthew said “can I take your riding helmet with me to the retreat.”  “Gosh Matt, I don’t even know where  I put that helmet, it’s been years.”   We went up to my room and a search in my closet found the helmet.  It’s really the only thing that I have left to remind me of my father.   The helmet doesn’t fit my son and I was relieved, I don’t want him to lose the helmet as it really is my prized possession.  He tried to force the helmet to fit because he thinks the helmet is really cool and wants to wear it so badly.  I told him that my father sacrificed his time and money to make sure I was able to ride and this helmet is the only thing that I have left from my father’s  loving and selfless gesture.   I also told him that horseback riding was one of the few times I can remember my father and I united as one, away from all the hustle and bustle and problems of our lives.   Matt looked at the helmet again and then gave it back to me.  “It’s alright mom, I don’t think I want to wear it now, it should really stay safe in your closet.”  Then he said something to me that created a stir from within that I haven’t felt in years, he said “mom, you should start riding again, I bet you were good at it.”

PicMonkey Collage horses

SINS OF THY FATHER!

I decided to dedicate this post to my father.  I never really talk about my father because some of the memories surrounding him are hurtful.  My  father died of a heart attack when I was 18 years old.  To say I miss him is an understatement, unfortunately, I have spent most of my life missing him.    Today I was at a memorial service for a young girl who passed away this past weekend.   As I watched her parents I wondered to myself “how do you say goodbye to your child?”  As happens quite often in times of death, we reminisce about our own lives or people we have lost.  My father crossed my mind today.

My parents were divorced when I was eight years old and I can still remember the day he walked out the door, I was devastated.  I absolutely adored my father and I couldn’t understand why he was leaving.  As I grew up I came to understand that my father had committed a cardinal sin, he had an affair with another woman.  My mother found out about this affair and my father broke up with the other woman and was determined to make it right with his family.  He couldn’t do it; he once told me that he loved this other woman so much and he couldn’t pretend at home anymore.  He started to see the other woman again and my mother gave him a choice – “me, the children or the door,” he chose the door.  My adoration for my father was replaced with utter confusion.  I still adored him and loved him very much, but everyone around me was furious with my father and it seemed like not one person liked him.  To voice my love for him felt wrong to me because it meant hurting my mother, so I remained silent.  Finally after much confusion my father was granted visiting rights  He could come and pick up my younger brother and I every Saturday from 8:00 am and we had to be home by 8:00 pm .  Not 8:10 pm, 8:30 pm or Sunday, every Saturday from 8 – 8 and there were no exceptions.  Looking back I know this was not enough time and I felt that way as a child.   There were two older siblings from the marriage and they could not be forced to visit him.

As I grew up life moved on and my mother, stepfather, younger brother and myself moved across the country.  My brother and I flew east to see Dad once a year for two weeks.  Not a lot of time when you think about it, but we always had a good visit.   As we neared toward the end of our visits, a great sadness always came over my father.  As we drove to the airport he would be very quiet in the car.  We would get to the checkout and gate for us to leave and it was here that I realized how much my father loved us.  When I hugged him to say goodbye it seemed like he held onto me forever and he would sob into my shoulder.  Then through his tears he would say “I love you more than you will ever know.”  I can remember thinking everyone is looking at us because this grown man is just sobbing his heart out – he didn’t care he wanted us to know how much he loved us.  This is why my father came to mind today – he couldn’t bear to say goodbye to his children.  Every time we left that airport to fly home for another year, a part of him died.

My father wanted to be happy but couldn’t because he was torn about his children.  Right or wrong he was a father, a father who loved his children more than they knew.  Now as I look at my own children I can only imagine his pain driving home from that  airport and knowing he wouldn’t see his flesh and blood for another year and this daughter loves her father more than he ever knew!

Mom and dad before any of us!

I’m the little one holding my mother’s hand and staring at my Father.

First picture – my older brother and sister with my dad at Christmas – a year before I was born!