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Happy Father’s Day, Dad, or why stories matter

Comic credit: Bill Watterson – please go buy his books! 

It’s Father’s Day today in Canada.

Across the country, people are thinking of their dads and hopefully celebrating (at least those who are able). I’m fortunate enough to be spending the day with my Dad, so this is actually a scheduled post (thank you, blog bot for posting on my behalf!).

My dad in his father’s arms, with his mom (my Granny). He lost his father during the war.

My Dad has always had an insatiable curiosity about life. No matter where he goes, or more importantly, who he meets, my father will ask questions. As a History and Geography teacher for high school students, he’s spent his life learning and teaching about the history of everything. To this day, he wants to know the story of the guy who’s brought in the corn, fresh from the farm, to sell at market. He will spend a moment with the lady behind the counter at the bakery, asking how her son is  doing at university. He knows the names of everyone who works at the local coffee shop, and they know him – heck, he might have even been their teacher and they are happy to spend a minute with him, updating him on their lives.

As a child, this would bother my brothers and I. We would sigh loudly and shift our feet, muttering “Daa-aad!” in hopes that he would take the hint and wrap it up so that we could move on to other more interesting things. More times than not he would glance our way, and with a single hand gesture, tell us to “Wait. Be patient. I’ll be a few minutes more.” We’d sigh again, and stand there beside him, until it became too much to bear and we’d start the muttering all over again. Once back in the car with him, he would share what he had learned. “Isn’t that great?!” he’d exclaim. “That man’s father used to smuggle moonshine right into Prince Edward County! I know exactly where he used to land, too – you kids do too. Remember that tiny peninsula….” and he’d be off. Once a teacher, always a teacher, but sometimes we wished he had a new topic. Why did we always have to be learning something, anyway?

He still does this. Travelling overseas, both with my mother and on his own, my father

Where my love of reading started (not pictured: my mother with twenty more books at hand).

was the man that everyone wanted to sit next to at dinner or on the train. He was always the one to draw out that fascinating story about your own life that you didn’t realize you had to tell, and to encourage you to tell it better than you ever had before. He’s excellent at remembering details, and would ask you intelligent questions about your experiences until he a fully detailed memory of events that he could share. Often, he’s receive small mementoes from people as reminders of their stories. That sharp knife you used to cut your pear? Why, that’s an Argentinian ceremonial knife, given to my father by an exchange student buddy of his. That ginger jar on the mantle? That’s from the neatest little antiques store in the Cotswolds. There are very few pieces in my parents’ house that don’t come with a story, so every time you move or use something, be prepared for the tale that accompanies it.

They don’t travel much now – as I’ve mentioned before on this site, my father’s Parkinson’s makes travel that much more difficult, and as a result, the world of contacts and information for my father has shrunken considerable. He still loves learning about the world and the people who explore it, but he has fewer opportunities to go out to explore it himself. The unspoken fear in all of us – my father included – is for that day when this horrible condition will deny him the ability to ask the questions or tell the stories that enrich his life so greatly. That day is coming … but it’s not here yet.

Mom and Dad

So, for this Father’s Day, I wish for my Dad, and for all of you, the joy of stories – those of the past, the present and those yet to come of the people around you. Take the time to stop and to listen, to ask questions and to explore the possibilities. You never know what joys you will discover if you do so.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  I love you.

Credit: Bill Watterson. My dad told great bedtime stories. Although I think “The Raven” may have been overkill.

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