By Vanessa Dueck
I’m visiting my parents house as an adult. My dad is sitting on his reclining chair watching TV. I’m at the kitchen table and look over at him. “Dad,” I say, “Want to play crib?” Without hesitation he turns off the TV and comes to share the simple game with me that we have played so many times through my childhood years. We still say the same old phrases as we count points, “Fifteen two, fifteen four, the rest don’t mix and the rest don’t score.” He still laughs when I have to count the points on my fingers instead of in my head. When I get excited about a good hand and start trash talking, I see him exchange an amused look with my mom who’s in the kitchen. I don’t fully understand this look, but it’s a nice look – a memory filled look. It makes me feel loved.
My dad and I are in downtown Vancouver. I don’t remember why we are here. I’m a teenager. My dad isn’t one to spend money he doesn’t need to spend. It starts to rain. We walk by a theatre and he asks me if I’d like to go in and watch a movie. I can not believe my good fortune. We sit together, just the two of us in the dark theater and laugh at Jack Black.
I’m sitting in the family room on a Sunday morning with lots of time to kill and nothing much to do. I see my dad through the French door in the living room, pacing, reading lines. He’s doing a skit in church today and he wants to do a good job. I watch him practice. He seems unnatural, but in the most endearing way possible. He’s doing his best to read with feeling. He was always confident, never hesitant to call up a friend, make a joke, or sing loudly. Right now he looks vulnerable, nervous, almost childlike. Seeing my dad this way gives me a warm, comforting feeling. I like that even though he’s unsure of himself, he agreed to do it anyway. I make a note of this and tuck it away.
My dad and I are out for breakfast at Cookie’s Grill. I’ve been married about a year and my car needs a new tire. After we eat, he says “Let’s pop over to the tire place.” I feel relieved that he says this because I don’t know anything about cars. The used replacement tire costs $50. Back then, when my husband was still in school, this was a lot of money for us. He puts his arm around me and tells me he’s going to pay for it. I give him a hug.
My dad is biking beside me at the Vedder River while I run. The bike he’s using has a flat tire and he’s struggling to keep up. It’s cold outside. He says that either I’ve gotten really fast since my last visit or he’s terribly out of shape. I tell him something is probably wrong with the bike – we go on anyway. He tells me on the ride that in his life sometimes he’s felt like he just wants to get in the car and drive and keep on driving. I tell him I feel that way sometimes, too. In fact, I feel that way a lot. He tells me he thinks it’s normal and not to feel bad for it.
We are at my dad’s fathers funeral just a few days before my dad turns 61. He’s stoic, yet his expression is full of meaning, sorrow, perhaps some relief. I don’t often see my dad like this. Seeing his expression fills me with a grief so heavy I feel it sinking like a weight in my stomach. His own father, gone – just like that.
When my Opa was sick, my dad faithfully visited him several times a week – sometimes it was painful, always it was a sacrifice.
That’s just who my dad is.
Without a second thought he will spend time with those he loves. It’s a simple, unselfish expression of care. It’s all a child needs, really. Reflecting on remembrances of my dad, the same current runs through each snapshot: unselfish time spent. Rarely were there ‘aha’ moments, taught lessons, or lectures. I don’t even think he knew most of my friends or boyfriends names through the years. What he did know was how to be there, and I am forever grateful for his unwavering gift of time.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
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