I'd like to dedicate this entry to dads everywhere and to my dad who has been my inspiration throughout my life. I'm so lucky to have had a dad for so many years as there are some who haven't had that privilege. My son in law was only 31 when his dad passed away and that was too early for both of them.
Dad was immortalized by Mom as Max in her Delitta Belle stories published in the Canadian Hereford Digest and later in a collection of short stories entitled The Jingle Belle. I might add that Dad is also known as Max in my own Coffee Row series as I have chosen to carry on the tradition in honor of Mom.
Dad--Mark Stringam--was born in Glenwood, Alberta in April of 1925. The youngest of eleven children, Dad learned very early in life that if he wanted to eat he had to be the first one to the trough or he'd have to go without. He was often the victim of a job being dumped on him by one of his siblings but that also taught him a myriad of skills. In my lifetime I've never met anyone who could build fence, frame a building, shingle a roof, shoe a horse, treat sick animals, dig a trench, lay out a water line, herd cattle, and teach me how to tie a necktie; not to mention teaching me some particular surgical procedures at branding time.
My wife and kids think he's the most wonderful person they ever met. "Such a dear sweet old man," to paraphrase some of the comments. Of course I'm quick to point out that the man they now know has got to be an imposter as this can't be the same man I grew up with.
He was never the most patient man throughout my childhood years; if he was ready to go, he was ready to go. And the entire household knew that--many times. He'd give a wake-up call when it was time to get up, and that was followed by a second one a few minutes later. The next thing I would be aware of was the sound of leather clearing belt loops at the door to my room; I never failed to jump right out of bed and be dressed in double quick time.
He was a disciplinarian and mostly fair but there were times when he exacted justice before all the facts became known. There was the odd time when I felt the side of one of his Number Elevens on my backside or that third finger brain-duster on top of my head before he found out that I was innocent of the crime. Of course he didn't hesitate to apologize for getting out of line but also quickly added that the unwarranted discipline was for the times I got away with something.
And he was right...
Sometimes I thought of him as a taskmaster. So many times I came home from school, full of ideas of what I was going to do in the shop but only to find a list, outlining the chores that needed to be done that evening. Those loathsome tasks often kept me busy until nearly bedtime, however they got done and I was often stupid enough to ask if there was anything more.
There was always something more to do on the ranch...
But Dad was a loving husband and father. He would go out of his way to help out one of us kids. Maybe not always smiling but he would do it because he was--Dad!
Dad started to learn patience when Mom's health started to slip. The Parkinson's began to take its toll on Mom ten years before she passed away, and Dad was able to step in and take over, learning along the way. Sure, sometimes Dad had interests of his own, like building clocks or larger projects but Mom was his priority after us kids were on our own; the other things would have to wait.
The day finally came when the Lord called Mom home and Dad was there to kiss her goodbye before she passed through the veil. Dad misses her badly but he has his pet projects, and his kids and grandkids to keep in touch.
Through the years Dad has evolved from being the dutiful parent and bread winner to becoming friend and confidante as well. I meet with Dad for lunch at least once a week and we talk about everything from life in the old home town, to life on the ranch, to Mom, to what my siblings are up to, my own family life and even throwing in politics. I look forwards to our visits and dread the day when those will come to an end.
One day Dad will pass through that same veil that Mom went through. I'm sure he'll be glad to make that journey because he knows that Mom will be waiting on the other side. Of course I and others won't be so enthusiastic as we want him to stick around. But until then I want to spend as much time as we can together.
Dad, you've been a parent, teacher, taskmaster, disciplinarian, co-worker and friend but most of all, you've been Dad. You're an example to us all and you've taught me how to be a dad, and a granddad. and a friend. So on this special weekend we all wish you the best.
Happy Father's Day, and may there be many more...