I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately. I think much of it has to do with how the schedule for sports has played out. Like the Indy 500 running uncharacteristically late in the season so the memory is fresh. Then there’s the Stanley Cup playoffs that are on right now. We would watch these events together and he’d always cheer for the team I wasn’t pulling for, just to keep things interesting. We should be anticipating the new season—not waiting for the previous one to finish up. But that’s how things are.
I would have loved to talk about all these things with my dad. We had the best talks. Faith, politics, current events, sports, school—it didn’t matter the topic. And we both read books by the stack, especially in the summer. We always went camping in the Okanagan and on the first day of vacation we’d go to a store in Summerland to buy flip flops, beach balls and floating mattresses for the beach, and then on to the second hand book store where we were allowed to select as many books as we wanted. Hours were spent relaxing in lawn chairs (or a hammock he often put up) just enjoying reading. My dad set such a good example in that for me.
The other likely reason my thoughts have been turning to him is the fact that September 17 would have been his birthday. Then came the realization that as of this year he has been gone exactly twice as long as he was with me. Twice as long.
Despite the length of time since he passed away, many memories are so vivid. Like the one I recently shared with my family on a drive to Swift Current, one of the places I lived growing up. My house, which was a parsonage next to the church where my dad was the pastor, is gone and the lot has been paved. The church needed a parking lot. (cue the Joni Mitchell music).
My favorite stop was at one of the city parks where I was reminded of the day my dad put the canoe in the water after a BBQ we shared with family friends. There was room and lifejackets for the two dads and two kids, and I was sure I’d be asked if I wanted to go along. But I wasn’t. My younger sister and my friend were invited on the adventure.
When they returned, it was obvious they had really enjoyed themselves and talked excitedly about having to “shoot the rabbits.” I asked what that meant and they just giggled and said they didn’t know. For what seemed like weeks afterwards they would laugh about shooting the rabbits and I got increasingly annoyed at being left out of the joke. I finally asked my dad about it. He smiled and explained that to add a bit of excitement they pretended they were on rough water and shouted “let’s shoot the rapids!”
I still smile at that memory because it reminds me of my dad’s eagerness to have fun. I also realized he wanted to share the activity with those who hadn’t had the chance previously, and I had been given ample opportunities. It totally made sense who went along that day. That makes me smile, too.
He’s been gone twice as long as he was in my life. That’s what the math says. But I think there is a different equation at work here. Memories plus time equals unbounded gratitude. So it is with smiles and laughter that I will remember him on his birthday. By the way, we took our girls white water rafting in the Kootenay’s when they were young. We had a blast shooting big-time rapids. He would have loved it. That’s my outlook.