Father's Day

My father died at 100 years of age.  In my mind he lived in the generation that witnessed the greatest number of changes. He was born in a First Nations' village near Alaska in 1921. His father was the local doctor and his mother the head nurse. The stories of those early days in such a remote setting are worth a book all on its own. Dad lived through the Depression. Later, still a young man, he fought in WW2 as a gunner in the Canadian Airforce. Throughout his life he experienced rapid changes in technology. He witnessed the advancements in radio, telephone, automobiles, airplane travel, space travel, computers and medicine to name only a few.

Dad was a true athlete and a top-notch soccer player. He said his life’s highlight was scoring the winning goal against Manchester United in Los Angeles with his own father in the stands. He was also very proud to have made the US Olympic soccer team. Sadly for Dad, at the last minute, when the coach discovered that in fact he was Canadian, he was told he could not participate. An athlete through and through, he also loved to swim and dive, waterski and golf. He loved sports in general, enjoying the competition, the thrill of honing a skill, the fun of a game.

To earn a living after the war, Dad opened and operated a beautiful furniture store in West Vancouver. The building itself contained an old church and small teahouse that he and Mom bought and joined together. It was incredibly unusual and completely charming. He built wood burning fireplaces using recycled bricks in two of the showrooms. On all but the hottest days, he had the fires crackling away. Every inch of his store was cozy and welcoming. Anyone walking in felt like they were already home. In my life I have never been in any store as enchanting as his was.

For several decades Dad didn't simply sell furniture, he helped a multitude of people create beautiful homes for themselves. He had fantastic taste and a real gift for helping others find their style. In our own home Dad, along with Mom were dedicated home decorators.  Mom had a great eye too, but Dad could create at the speed of lightning. This of course could drive Mom to distraction, “Henry, you can’t make decisions so quickly” was often heard.

Dad also loved to garden and had a real “green thumb”. He was an incredibly hard worker and was constantly busy doing something. The world he created for our community and family was beautiful and memorable.

 Dad loved adventure and was an avid world traveler. I still remember, in his nineties Dad called me to announce he simply had to stand on the Great Wall of China before he died. I asked him if he planned on dying any time soon. He said “No, but at my age you never know!” Two weeks later he was off trekking around China alone. Upon his return he brought for every member of our family a cashmere sweater. He managed to get each person the right size and suitable colour. He was still a gifted shopper at 90+. Full of passion and curiosity he explored the world until he was nearly 100.

Dad always said to me that he had seen it all. When Covid came along and the world as we know it basically shut down, he said again and finally, “NOW I can say I’ve seen it all”. We always felt like he had truly had.

The hardest part of Covid for me, personally, was that my dad who I loved to spend time with, was in a senior’s home and we were unable to enter the building. I would go over to where he lived and we would put our hands up to the glass, hands together with the window separating us. We would just look in each other’s eyes and simply cry. It was so heart wrenching to not be able to go inside and sit on the couch and share a good long cuddle. All Dad wanted was to sit with his family, share a cup of tea and watch a movie, snuggling under a warm blanket. At the end of his life that was his one big wish. He lived through a lot of ups and downs in his life but said to me that dealing with the loneliness of Covid times was far harder than anything else he had endured in his long and eventful life.

It has been two years now since Dad has passed away. I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I was able to share over 60 years with this person that was such a guiding light for myself and the whole family. Some times he inspired us and others times he could be infuriating, but always he was a force to be reckoned with. When I think back over my life with my dad, the thing that stands out the most is him constantly saying to me that I should never forget how to live. "Learn how to live Suzanne!"  he often said, "Grab every opportunity that comes your way.  Whatever it is that you love to do, do it with passion and joy. Have fun but work hard." When mistakes were made, Dad would say to just move on, “Don’t look back, that’s not where you are going”. I hear his words ring in my ears almost every day. So, as you can imagine on June 16 when we celebrate Fathers, I know I will be raising a glass to salute my dad, the unforgettable, inimitable and supremely memorable, Henry.

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