My father’s birthday is Sunday; he would have been 78.
In 1980, on the Easter long-weekend, my parents told me he had cancer, and that he would be getting treatment but it was a terminal. Over the next several months he tried to fight it but he became sicker and sicker. The last time I saw him was later that year in the hospital was on his 40th birthday, November 11. Three weeks later he was gone.
Prior to my father’s death, I had an unconventional upbringing compared to most of my peers. Once I started school, for the majority of time my Mom worked outside the home, and often my Dad was home with me. This was still about a decade before the movie Mr. Mom made having your Dad at home part of popular culture. What it meant for me was plenty of one-on-one time with my Dad and many memories of him creating art.
Here are 3 things I learned in that decade of life with Dad:
Being an artist is part of your soul, and it’s a frugal life
From time to time Dad would take a job outside our home, usually when times were financially tight. Those short bursts when Dad worked outside our home were challenging. You could tell he was not as happy. The happiest times were when he could create. Of course this meant he also had to sell, either on consignment or by commissions. For a brief period, we had a business at our house, ‘The Brush and Knife”. We even had a sign cut in the shape of a palette at the end of our driveway. I have fond memories of those times, we didn’t have much but living in creative household was wonderful in so many other ways.
All rooms in the house pale in comparison to the space allotted for art
The studio space in our house was always of prime importance, and a spot I knew not to play in. The most interesting thing about the art studio is that it moved around the house, as though Dad was trying to find the perfect spot. There was one area of the house between the kitchen and bathroom that he decided would be the new studio space. This may have been alright but the space must have been too small to suit his needs once he moved there because he moved the wall between the studio and the bathroom, to increase the size of the studio. Naturally, it made the bathroom narrower. My aunts, who often came to visit from Ontario in the summer, had great fun teasing my Dad about how the bathroom dimension changed between visits and that in the end or our time in that house you had to slide along the bathroom wall to get to the toilet. I still can recall one aunt reenacting this by the campfire to the hilarity of all assembled.
Explore your world
Dad and I would spend all day, out with a picnic lunch, walking in fields, by streams, and down old country roads. He looking for some new subject to draw or paint, me just tagging along. These walks and drives in all seasons took us to many places in Southern New Brunswick that I still explore today. I often think of him, particularly in areas around Sussex’s covered bridges and homesteads, and along the Fundy coast in Alma, Martins Head, Big Salmon River, St. Martin’s, Hopewell Rocks, Chance Harbour, Dipper Harbour, and Maces Bay.
When I’m in these places, he is still with me.
Happy birthday Dad.