Saturday, January 14, 2012
Attending a Funeral Today
I knew my dad had cancer and was being treated for it. I didn't know that he was as sick as he was - few people had any idea - even those closest to him. When I got the message that he was pretty sick, I immediately made arrangements to come down and see him. I spoke to him on the phone and told him I was coming. We told each other we loved each other and I had a funny feeling that it might be the last time I talked to him. As he lay in his death bed he told me he felt lucky to have such good friends and family. The big trip down to Kerrville, Texas, to see my dad became a trip to attend his funeral, however, as he passed away the following day.
His funeral is later this afternoon and I'm thinking about what I want to say about him. I wasn't that close with my dad. He left when I was young and moved far away when I was 13. We stayed in touch and had visits every year or two. There was a time when I felt annoyed with how he'd been with me. A few years ago it used to bug me that he'd send me emails with baby animals or angels or good luck wishes or the dreaded How to Keep Your Wife Happy sort of lists. I used to think my dad didn't "get" me, he didn't appreciate me, he was just trying to bug me by sending those impersonal emails. It finally dawned on me that he was thinking of me. He did love me, and that's how he was showing it to me (one of the ways). Everything changed that day. Instead of feeling annoyed by the emails from my dad, I looked forward to them. I shared his sense of humour, I laughed at the jokes he was telling me, and more importantly, I accepted his love the way he was offering it.
The last few years I had with my dad were much lighter. We'd play Scrabulous on Facebook. We'd have phone calls more regularly (especially when I was doing Landmark Education's Introduction Leaders Program). He drove up to visit. That's a long drive, but he did it more than once. He sent birthday checks for Remmy - late, but he'd get it eventually. When he'd visit we'd bowl on the Wii or play real Scrabble. We sat next to each other and did crossword puzzles. We played Yahtzee.
But one of the things I did almost my whole life with my dad was ride in the car. I remember sitting on his lap when I was little and driving. He tried to teach me how to drive standard while I was a teenager on a visit to Calgary (it took me some years to get the hang of it). It's when we were on long drives together that we'd really talk. We couldn't read or play Scrabble while we were driving so we'd have long conversations. I remember that being in the car with my dad was really comfortable. He was a patient, good driver. My dad didn't have road rage and yell at other drivers - and although many people would say my dad was the most non-judgemental person they've ever met, I would say they hadn't really taken a drive with him. But even then he was gentle and patient in his irritation.
My dad traded cars with people and it seemed like he always had more than one car. I know there were times when his driveway seemed full of cars, vans and motorcycles. He went on to become a bus driver for schools, the city, tour busses and for a while, the LRT system in Calgary.
The last time he visited me in Ottawa I was driving him out to visit everybody in my car (which if you know me, you know I absolutely love) and he commented on my driving. He told me he thought I was a really good driver. I left lots of space, signalled when I changed lanes, and he said he felt really comfortable with me in the car. That meant a lot to me coming from him.
So even though he's gone, I know I will still find him on long drives. I'll hear him in corny emails, and feel him when I choose to take a step back and let others go first. His nickname for years was Trudge. He was never in a hurry to get anywhere and honestly took life one day at a time. Some days if you see me trudging along, taking it slower than usual, you may be catching me at a time when I'm connecting with my dad.
I'm still not sure what I'm going to say at the funeral, if I'm going to speak at all. He was a special man who meant a lot to a lot of people down here and there will be many people who will speak if I choose not to. But I think I will share a few words at this occasion, even if it doesn't make sense to anybody else...the funeral's not for a few more hours so I have time to think about it still...