My Father died just before his 52nd birthday.
I was twenty-five, married, with a mortgage and a growing family and career.
It felt like I was just beginning to really know my Father. I was angry that he’d been snatched away from me so early.
The memories of my Father float in and out of my mind. Some are rich in detail, some, are foggy and difficult to recall.
Many of these memories bring me comfort, while others haunt me.
These are some of those memories…
My Father was born in the 1930’s and was a middle class corporate man by the time he was in his 20’s. An accountant by trade, he worked diligently to provide for his growing family. We lived in a moderate sized home in suburbia. My parents worked hard, saved money, and looked for ways to create income outside of their regular jobs.
My Dad fixed-up the homes we lived in and resold them to make extra money. He was a self-taught renovator, asking for help from family and friends when needed.
He was a man of few words. He was a doer. He let his actions speak for him.
If something needed to be done he did it: working longer hours, taking on renovations, driving us kids to activities, looking after us while Mom worked in the evenings, or doing yard work and gardening with her.
I never heard him complain. Ever.
I have a vivid memory when I was twelve of him breaking his wrist while we were playing tetherball. He mistimed a hit and slammed his wrist into the metal pole. He doubled over, clutching his arm. He walked away calling out to my Mom that he needed to go to the hospital.
He returned with a cast on his arm and never mentioned it again, other than when it got itchy.
He was that kind of man.
He was not one to share his accomplishments. He was humble.
When he changed jobs, got a promotion or pay raise, I recall my Mom initiating the celebration. Dad seemed to be a bit uncomfortable with the whole thing.
Dad had a calm demeanor and seemed content. He was one of the only men I saw get teary-eyed while watching a sad show. He smiled often and liked a good laugh. He genuinely seemed to enjoy life. I never saw him angry. I saw him upset a few times, but he never raised his voice or lashed out in any way.
He wasn’t physically active as a runner or an athlete. I wondered why he didn’t run around with us kids more as other Fathers did. He encouraged us in our schoolwork and activities, always showing interest in what we were up to, never judging, and always positive.
He was always there for us. He was a man of action, doing what needed to be done to provide for his family and make a better life for us. He did it without complaint.
I remember my Father as a Quiet Provider.
He was 48 years old when he was rushed to the hospital with heart failure.
He needed an artificial valve. It didn’t make sense, as he seemed perfectly healthy. That was until my Mom told us the story…
My Father had Rheumatic Fever twice in the space of two years as a child. There was significant damage to his heart. At the age of 20, the Doctor’s told him that he’d probably not live past his 30th birthday. In spite of this, my Father become a certified accountant, wed my Mother, and to the surprise of some in the medical community, he lived through their honeymoon, and helped raise four children.
I empathized with my parent’s decision to keep Dad’s medical situation to themselves. They didn’t want us to worry.
The revelation of my Father’s heart condition changed my perspective of him forever. I understood why he behaved the way he had. I was proud of him for how hard he worked to provide for his family. I was humbled by all that he’d done for us, getting up each day, knowing that it could be his last, and doing it all in an unassuming way, with integrity.
He died the morning of August 25th 1986 when his artificial heart valve failed.
I regret that I rarely told him how much I loved him, or how proud I was of him, and to be his son.
I believe he chose to make the best of his life, seeing everyday as a gift.
After he died, I vowed to be the best father and provider I could be for my family, modelling myself after my Dad who was my hero.
It took another twenty-five years for me to understand that I was not my Father. He was his own man, with his own set of life circumstances and experiences that shaped who he was.
I am a different man with a different path to follow. I no longer define myself by a ‘quiet provider’ persona.
I am grateful to my Father for the sacrifices he made and the resolve in which he lived his life.
It is my Fathers courage that I wish to aspire too. I want to face my challenges with my Father’s spirit. I choose to live knowing that each day could be my last and to make the best of every opportunity.
My Father was a quiet provider, but he was much more.
He was quietly courageous.
I love you Dad. I miss you. Thank you for being my Father.
A version of this article is here on The Good Men Project.