Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week 11: How did he do it all so quietly, with so little fuss...

Dad and me - 1951

One day not too many years ago, I was thinking about my father and how much he might have enjoyed living north here with me. And I began to miss him very much indeed. I think you would have liked him; nearly everyone did. William Jackson was tall - well over 6 feet - lean and long boned - with great big eyes that sought foremost to connect with everyone he met. Raised in RipleyOntario by his widowed mother, Laura Albertha, and his three, at-the-time maiden, aunts - Edna, Irma and Arla - he acquired early on the old-world gentlemanliness and charm that became so embedded into his life-long character. I remember always he would walk curbside in the presence of women. It may be an historical etiquette now, a vestige of times when women were protected from such things as carriages and horses driving by and earlier still from the contents of chamber pots emptied out windows onto the streets of 16th century England, but with my father it never seemed out of place or anachronistic. It was just 'in him' to act this way. "In short he was a gentlemen", musician John Arpin would later say of him in his eulogy of my father.

Dad loved his garden.  It was there that he was at peace with that same kind of contemplative spirit in himself that has been my own constant companion all through life. He seemed to enjoy the quiet preoccupation of planting long lines of petunias and marigolds each spring edging our front lawn with colour, filling the old wooden flower boxes and planting round our lamp post. He would always seed the back garden with morning glories (something I do to this day) and sprinkle mixed 'old fashioneds'. When I got to be about 7 or 8 Dad started planting me a vegetable garden - I don't recall all that was in it except for this one thing: carrots.  To this day I can still taste them in my memory, smell the pungent leaves, and feel the damp earth loosely sticking to the roots. Dad built me a special kid-sized hoe from an old broom and I learned how to seed and hoe and water and I was such a proud young farmer. It was in the garden that Dad taught me the value of patience; perhaps not one of his successes though as this is something I have never been terribly blessed with but I remember HIS patience and him always saying dreamily, “We’ll see, we’ll see …”

Dad as a boy in Ripley, Ontario

Looking back it is the numerous little things we did together that just overwhelm me now when I begin connecting the dots in my memory.  How did he manage it all?  How did he do it all so quietly, with so little fuss and yet so memorably. How did he find the time and energy? The ball tossing and  jump-rope when he was just back home tired from work at night, the walks through Edward's Gardens and Serena Gundy Park, expeditions across the length of the Toronto Islands, watching Victoria Day Fireworks at Talbot Park, endless games of Hearts and teaching me - patiently - how to play bridge, making a movie shadow box for my Sunday School class at Bethel Baptist, reading to me about the story of 'Sam McGee' and a poem I shall never forget: "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree". We would visit the EX every year, eat candy floss and always look forward to the carved butter exhibit.  We saw Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in 1959 as they left Toronto Harbour on the Royal Yacht Britannia, we rode the subway together when it first opened to great excitement, visited the NEW City Hall when IT first opened.  And we walked and we walked so very many places.

Dad was a member of the old CCF Party and a huge Tommy Douglas fan.  He wasn’t one to talk about politics but he lived most sincerely what he quietly believed.  And that with a sense of  responsibility, generosity of spirit and giving, forgiveness and deep tolerance in every situation - not judging until all the facts were in - and with great compassion even then. These qualities were as much a part of him as his hazel eyes. And many times when I have been quick to judge, slow to show understanding, I have remembered how wonderful it felt to be on the receiving end of his compassion and understanding.

Sadly it has been 25 years since Dad died.  He’s missed for sure and not least by me.  There are so many questions I wish I could ask him now; so many things we didn’t get round to talking about or doing together. No one's life is all ice cream - I know Dad had demons to deal with in his life and some of them he fought to understand even in the hours before he died.  But he gave all that he possessed; loved everyone that let him into their lives. It’s taken me these many years to grasp all that is in my life that I can attribute to him.  The first day I really understood this, my knees buckled from under me. How could I have missed this, been so blind? And then I began filling up with the warmest gratitude.  Suddenly I knew that I didn't need to miss him any more, because having influenced me so greatly, shared so much with me in that deft manner of his - his spirit, humour, authenticity, wisdom and compassion - he remains here inside my very soul, still walking daily with me in the spirit of my life.  I think of him often now when I am out walking on the trails.  Thanks, Dad!  Thanks so very much.

And, thank you for allowing me to share these memories with you on Father's Day and, as always, for walking with me on my footpath this week...

NEW THIS WEEK:  Bracebridge Trails Map Page
WEEK 11 :: 12 PHOTOS:  You'll find them HERE.

BBPP Weekly Health Check:

Mind:  Work, work, WORK!  Having the evening/weekend walks and the blog to look forward to, definitely helped me get through a very hectic, nervy week.
Body:  The readings are all good this week. BP - still in a good range - systolic down to 130 and aimed to get better and better!  Taking the hills with more ease - even run up some of them now!
The Artist Soul:  I saw a beautiful fox this week while out on a trail.  It allowed me to watch it for a full 5 minutes.  The tail was just gorgeous.  He was totally unafraid of me and almost seemed to be saying - here I am, have a good look!  There is something incredibly truthful about connecting with animals - wild or domestic.