Passage Penrhyn to Hawaii - Day 14 - Father's Day Part 1
13 June 2013
FATHER'S DAY - A SON'S MUSINGS - Part 1
Today's message comes from Norm.
We will arrive in Hawaii on Sunday, which is Father's Day. I just sent my Dad a note to let him know he is well loved and that I would be home soon to see him. His name is Bill. He is 90 years old; an impressive feat. I missed his big birthday party, unfortunately. It's one of the downsides of being away at sea. He lives in a care home in Vancouver where he is a treasure to all the staff. He calls it the Institute and he calls himself an Inmate. This name is not really fair. It is said tongue in cheek. Indeed, he is well cared for at the care home. Not just by the staff but also by his devoted wife, Valerie. He was lucky enough to find love again after my mom died. He was 80 at the time. Yes, another impressive feat. She visits him every day. Such devotion. If not for her I'm not sure we would be out here sailing. She makes being away possible.
At 90 years of age certain systems just pack it in. They have given good service but are simply worn out. Dad's hearing is not so good anymore. Ditto for his vision but things like the cat climbing in and out of his bedroom window still catch his attention. He responds more to touch these days, ever happy to sit and hold your hand. He no longer speaks much. But he listens well. He was always a good listener. Now, when you tell him a story, at the appropriate moment, the funny moment, he smiles knowingly. He always had a great sense of humor. With those responsive smiles, just like a gentle squeeze of his hand, communication is easily established. It is clear to me, despite the loss of some senses and silent demeanor, his mind, his quite excellent mind, is still ticking along quite nicely.
Dad came from Winnipeg. His father died young of complications from being gassed during WWI. His mother was a tiny woman with a great musical talent. In fact she played the piano at silent movie theaters. I guess that's where Dad got his talent. He could play the piano by ear. Not just Christmas carols but things like Moonlight Sonata, note by note. We had a big upright piano. One day for reasons unknown he painted it powder blue, even though he never really played the blues. But his boogie woogie was pretty good. Atop the piano sat an aquarium capped with a plywood canopy with a light bulb inside. It too was painted powder blue. He evidently liked a certain amount of orderliness. Or was there just leftover paint? Our jet black cat, Mirrow, would sit on the aquarium canopy, basking in the heat of the light bulb below radiating through the lid. From time to time she would peer down at the fish rubbing their noses along the glass but otherwise was content to just sprawl and listen to Dad play the powder blue piano quite beautifully, as did we all in the household.
Dad was one of the few positive results of WWII. He enlisted at a young age just to get out of the house. He was not keen on his stepfather. So he joined the Canadian Air Force. Aptitude tests directed him to training in electronics. Soon he was in England fixing radios in airplanes that had been shot to pieces by the Luftwaffe. He thrived in this occupation and upon return to Canada he enrolled at the University of Manitoba to study electrical engineering, courtesy of the Canadian government as a returning serviceman. This was one of the most brilliant government investments ever made. There he met the woman who would become my mom, Joan, a nurse at Winnipeg General Hospital. He fell in love and they were soon married. A family followed. My sister, Allison, was the first to arrive. Then I came along three years later. And so my growing up, my early and most precious remembrances of Dad began.
TO BE CONTINUED - PART 2 TOMORROW