This week is a little unusual for the blog. First, I was unexpectedly without Internet for several days, so I missed posting on Monday for just about the first time ever. Second, I’m taking time out from travel blogging for a special post.
This week is the anniversary of my father’s passing. He died ten years ago tomorrow, on March 14, 2003, after a short battle with cancer. I can’t believe it’s been that long already — it’s strange to realize how many experiences I’ve had that he never got to see. He never even knew that I moved to Toronto, and it’s been my home for years now.
I don’t think about him very often anymore. When I do, I have my favourite memories and impressions, the ones I go over and over, like a string of rosary beads. But he was more than those few memories, and if I don’t hold onto the rest, they’ll be lost. So here are a few more sides of my father to add to that string of beads…
He knew everybody. He was a pastor first, then a hospital chaplain and a trainer of other chaplains, so he met a lot of people. And he remembered them all, somehow. I wish I knew the trick. He used to take his children on long bike rides through the river valley trail system, and inevitably he would run into an acquaintance. They would stop and chat, and we would be annoyed and also a bit amazed. (Side note: I can’t talk anymore. A few weeks ago I visited the Taj Mahal, and guess what? Someone I knew came up and said hi!) At his funeral, the church was packed, and the entire front pew was full of pastors in robes, come to pay their respects.
He and I had our clashes. Sometimes my siblings and I would get too rowdy and he’d lose patience, which I always thought unfair. Other times, I would get hopelessly mired in indecision, which he also didn’t have patience for. And when my parents separated and later divorced, it took me a long time to forgive him. He wasn’t perfect — and that’s worth remembering too.
He loved movies. When my siblings and I were young, he took us to Disney movies at the Princess Theatre. I think we watched every Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, and Robin Williams movie that came out in the ’90s. Before he died, he had started showing me the classics he loved as a younger man. Afterwards, we’d have long conversations about why the characters did what they did, and whether they were right.
He was supposed to have a different name. Here’s the story, as he told it to me. When he was born, his mother named him Bruce. But a neighbour complained that the name wasn’t Norwegian enough (both my grandparents were Norwegian by ancestry, though living in Alberta). He got renamed to Harold Norman — just about as Scandinavian a name as it’s possible to find, I think, though he was always known as Hal. I wonder if his life would have been different if he had stayed a Bruce…..
He had a great sense of humour. I mentioned Robin Williams…I think the first of his films I ever saw was Mrs. Doubtfire, about a man whose estranged wife won’t let him see the kids so he resorts to drag and gets himself hired as a nanny. This wasn’t long after my parents’ separation, so you might have expected the subject material to hit too close to home, but my dad thought the movie was hilarious. He was a great teaser and joke-teller, too.
Your turn. Do you have any memories of a loved one that you’re afraid of losing and would like to share? If you knew my father, can you share a story about him that might be new to me?