Lessons From My Father

You know the saying — that people must be ready to reinvent themselves and adapt in order to survive in these competitive times.

My father had that covered long before the concepts of “recession” and “self-publishing” were everywhere.

In his first life, he was a farmer. He grew up on a mixed cattle and grain farm in Alberta, driving tractors and combines. Old red barn, falling-down granaries, sloughs, windbreaks, fields of grain, hay bales stacked up in long rows, one-room schoolhouse, all of that. (You can see photos of the farm at McKinney Photography.) Even when he left the farm, he worked with his hands for a while, surveying, fixing cars, on his way to a blue-collar life.

Except that’s not where he ended up. He went to seminary and became a pastor, then a pastoral counsellor and a teacher of other counsellors. By this time he was living in a big city, a father of three. Growing up, I was struck by the physical contrast between him and my uncle who took over the farm — one comfortable in suits and ties, the other weather-beaten and fond of plaid, yet with faces so similar they were almost doppelgangers. He took us into nature when he could — vegetables in the garden, hikes and bicycle rides, camping trips in the Rockies — but he had become a city boy.

But that’s not the whole story either. When his marriage to my mother ended, my father moved to a small town. He kept on the same career track and made sure to see his children as often as he possibly could, but otherwise his life changed completely. He remarried, and got acquainted with everyone in town. His new house backed onto a stand of trees that occasionally hosted deer. He cycled to work along quiet trails, then went out for long rides on the highways outside of town. Not only did he start a new vegetable garden, he became an expert in composting. In some ways, he had come full circle.

Of course, it wasn’t a full circle. To say that would deny the hardships he faced along the way, and underestimate the peace he was finally able to claim.

He was a thinker, a teaser, an outdoorsman, a keen observer of details, a teacher, a storyteller, and a wonderful father.

Today is the ninth anniversary of his death. He had only a few short years in the last iteration of his life. But I’m grateful he had them.

I hope to face the changes in my own life with the same adaptive spirit and resilience as my father had. After all, the prairie runs in my blood too.

If you liked this post, I’ve also written about my mother (who is very much alive) on the Turtleduck Press blog at My Mother, My Hero, and about the lessons I learned from my mother’s mother: My Grandmother’s Legacy.

If you’d like to read about love and loss in rural Alberta, check out my (free) short story Lonesome Hearts, also at Turtleduck Press.

What lessons have you taken from your parents’ lives?

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6 responses to “Lessons From My Father

  1. oh Siri, you have made me cry….. not just cry, but sob. I have tears streaming down my face. How very touching! It was always very evident to me how much your dad loved nature and how he tried to share that with you. I remember him taking you guys camping in the mountains and camping at the farm! I also remember how much you adored him (and still do). I was not cognizant of the fact that today is the anniversary of his untimely death. I am sending hugs and prayers your way.

  2. Thank you, Naomi! It means a lot to hear that I moved you, and to read your memories. Seeing your beautiful photos of the farm brings back memories for me, too. I don’t think I’m done writing about him yet….

  3. Sylvia Colleton

    Very , very special — Your writings of both parents give me good feelings that you are coping well with good understanding of Life and the journeys
    made. Thank you for sharing. Siri you are a good writer.
    I miss Hal very much. Had very little connection with him after I left Ponoka, married and involved with Career, new friends, new family connections and
    on and on life goes. Hugs to all who are missing Hal and others in the ‘Paulson’ families. Sylvia

  4. Thank you for the comment and the compliments, Sylvia! Life does have a way of moving on. Caught up in daily living, I don’t think of him often, so I was glad to have had an opportunity to reflect and remember.

  5. *gives quiet hugs*

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