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?