Gone Coastal

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dear Dad,

Dear Dad,
As you know, a little over 9 months ago, my life changed. Some of those changes began for me in the 9 months previous, as our little girl grew within me. But for her dad, the changes that came with her arrival were a bit more of a shock to the system, as they likely were for you some thirty-five years ago. I was your second child, so you had some idea what was coming, but you and mom had been in a new country for barely a couple of years.
In the years since, I've collected many memories that come to mind when I think about you, but as I've looked back over them with the eyes of a new parent, I've seen many of them in a new light. For Father's Day today, I'd like to share with you some of what I see in those memories today.
Most of the memories, of course, were from weekends-with-Dad. I was always conscious of the limits of our relationship, but I've come to appreciate the efforts it must have taken to fill those weekends with experiences. How do you concentrate the things you want to share into a bite-sized package? I think you found some great ways.
You broadened my horizons, taking us to cultural events around town, from the Powell Street Festival, to matinees at the Vancouver Playhouse, to the Folk Fest, Children's Fests, Jazz Fest and even Expo. My interest in understanding how other people view things and how their stories shape them was fed regularly.
Along the way you also developed my palate. You've always had a remarkable knack for finding hole-in-the-wall eateries with authentic tastes from around the world. Tastes I wouldn't otherwise have encountered. And you were always ahead of the wave, like when you introduced us to Korean BBQ well before it became trendy (and a little less authentic). In turn I've expanded the tastes of that consummate bachelor I married (he's become a bit of a gourmet lately), and hope to do the same for our girl.
You showed me the world. As you followed the work to different places, we visited you at both ends of the gold rush trail, in San Fran and the Yukon, taking backroads and detours along the way. You taught me to look beyond the tourist brochure and seek out the true life in the places we visited. My first whirlwind tour of Europe was with you, and I treasure having climbed the leaning tower (though I recall it took some whining persuasion on my part), my first view of glass being fired and blown in Venice, and of course, the many variations on the toilet theme.
You fostered a love of the outdoors, and taught me it was okay, even healthy, to step beyond my comfort zone and take a few risks. Walking the trails up to the Lions and cross country skiing at Cypress when it was still free. The overnight hike up Black Tusk to see snow in July. Later the West Coast Trail, including a lunch of fresh mussels while we waited for our ride across the river, and a world of exciting life in the tidal pools. Even hitching a ride back to the origin of the trail. On the boat I spent far too much time below deck for your taste, but I really did love sailing into all those familiar coves and harbours, encountering the wildlife, and standing up across the deck in a hard wind, gunwales dipping into the waves. All that time sailing and exploring probably has a lot to do with my attachment to the coast.
A few of the earliest memories have become more vivid of late. In Lions Bay the house you built was across the street from the new school . I still remember when they were putting in the playground at the bottom of the lot, you were helping out. I followed you for what must have been hours as you took load after load of mulch on the path down the hill, and I so kindly hitched a ride back up the hill each time in the 'empty' wheelbarrow. I remember asking you to do those push-ups with the clap in the middle in the mornings because you were so strong. And I remember one day, after I was old enough to go to that same school, I tripped on the way down the driveway. I'd tripped once about a week before and got a couple of little scratches and you had shepherded me on to class, so I plucked myself up, a little bloodier this time, and began to shuffle on. You came out the front door and called me back up to the house where you cleaned me up properly and made sure everything was patched up.
These are some of the moments that capture how you've shaped me and cared for me as I grew up. I hope our little girl will have a chance for a few of her own adventures with her Opa. Maybe in the spring?


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