Walkin’ in Dad’s Happiness.

“Hey Dad!  What’s made you happiest in life?”

“Not having to answer all your damned questions!” my father said knowing we’d laugh ’til our eyes teared.  His quick retort packed a punch; a “family thing”.  After forty plus years, Dad was still the one who best tickled the deepest pocket of my soul.   Phrases packed with meaning were as natural coming from him as the calls from the Canada Geese forming their “Vs” and loudly announcing the dawn of a new season.

Taken when Dad was close to my current age.  And I thought he was ancient.

The Thinker.                                                                                    Taken when Dad was close to my current age. And I thought he was ancient.  We seldom got a photo without the cap!

Conversations with our farm-raised, nature-loving, road-building father were a direct contrast to ones with our city-raised, erudite, intellectually-wise mother.   Dad’s earthy wisdom, often delivered in concepts original enough to be the envy of a creative writer, unrolled truth in manageable doses.  His messages stuck better than any lecture.

As I write, I can hear him saying, “Well…they only stuck when the trap door was kept closed long enough to keep the noise from slipping out,”  Eighteen years post-death and he stills gets the last word.

As a kid, my life meant enduring long periods of waiting for Dad to be home again.  Hearing his truck turn into the driveway transformed life into heaven.  When I was eleven Mom suggested I was too big to crash down the steps to fling myself into Dad’s arms.  She may as well have asked me to contain a house fire in a wood stove.

My siblings would each have different responses, but for me, Dad’s presence assured completeness.  The love, the fun, the seriousness and simple togetherness wrought a sense of the world being perfect.  Even through potentially fragile times – usually a good argument over some issue – there was safety and security.  No…that’s not quite true.  Dad’s attempt to hide left-over liver in the beef stew came close to eliminating peace and quiet from his life forever.

“Peace and quiet,” was Dad’s response whenever I asked him what he wanted for a present.  In fact, it was his response to my question about his happiness.

“Come on, Dad.  Tell me what made you really happy.”

Dad, the eldest in his family, had been brought to Canada from Eagle Ridge, Iowa as a baby.  His father and mother farmed and Dad ended up having many younger siblings.  Grandpa had the blacksmith shop in town which meant that Dad had even more responsibility than most young men his age.

He said, “I decided I needed to get away.  I wanted to see a bit more of the country.  So, in the late 1920s, I hopped on a train and headed out to the West Coast.  I ended up working in a lumber camp on Vancouver Island.”

“And that made you happy?!”

“It was good seeing the country, eating different food, and seeing people do things differently.  Compared to trees on the prairies, I couldn’t believe the size of those Cedars and Douglas Fir.  A guy could make a career out of just bringing down one of those giants.  Ya couldn’t believe how many yards of lumber one tree could hold.”

“If it made you happy, why didn’t you stay on the Coast?”

“The trouble with that kind of happiness is that it wears thin pretty fast.  Home starts to look good.  After I saved some money, I came back to Alberta, met your mom and after we were married, started lumbering in Alberta.”

“And cat-skinning”, I added.

“Yep.  Come to think of it, after 56 years of marriage and raising you kids, I’m wondering if I shoulda stuck with one of those wet, mossy ol’ Cedars.”  Only a man who knew the love of his family could safely make such a claim.

Out of the blue, this past weekend, another man who lives in my heart and touches the inner corners of my soul invited me for a wander through Cathedral Grove – the mystical home for the largest old growth trees in this part of Canada.  Although I’ve lived on the Coast for 35 years, I had only driven by the Park – on my way to the wild waters of the true West Coast.

On Sunday, at the end of a short ferry ride, Sefo picked me up and we headed north.  Being from Rotuma, a tiny Polynesian island 500 miles north of Fiji, Sefo loves to visit this Park.  As we drove the windy road that followed a lake mirroring its frame of nature, I remembered Dad telling me about his adventures as a West Coast lumberman.  Then it dawned on me.  His deathiversary is Wednesday – March 6th.

Suddenly, this trip was a date with my father’s happiness.

"Cathedral" was a well chosen word for this piece of heaven.

“Cathedral” was a well chosen word for this piece of heaven.

The mists of the mystical.

The mists of the mystical

Forever trees.  Like mountains and whales, it takes great photography to capture the hugeness.

Forever trees. Like mountains and whales, it takes great photography to capture the hugeness.

Sefo took a stab at photography.  I told him to stay away from my grouchy side.

Sefo took a stab at photography. I told him to stay away from my grouchy side.

And all the creatures thrive on a robust life cycle.

And all the creatures thrive on a robust life cycle.

Through the splinters of sun, colours would dazzle.Through the splinters of sun, colours would dazzle.

Look at the Dead Fall.  No wonder signs warn to get out of the Park if a big wind begins to blow.Look at the Dead Fall. No wonder signs warn to get out of the Park if a big wind begins to blow.

This huge log went on forever and ever into the forest, beyond view.

This huge log went on forever and ever into the forest, beyond view.

I climbed inside a burned out tree to take this photo inside - upwards.

I climbed inside a burned out tree to take this photo inside – upwards.

While waiting for me to wander one last part of the trail, Sefo greeted me with  jokes he found somewhere.

While waiting for me to wander one last part of the trail, Sefo greeted me with jokes he found somewhere.

Yes, it definitely fought off some fungus.

Yes, it definitely fought off some fungus.

"This tree has elephantiasis," Sefo points out.

“This tree has elephantiasis,” Sefo points out.

The tree watching the man watching the sunbeams.

The tree watching the man watching the sunbeams.

Seems CS Lewis has been here.  Or the Hobbit.

Seems CS Lewis has been here. Or the Hobbit.

Even the dead serves a purpose - including giving welcome visuals.

Even the dead serves a purpose – including giving welcome visuals.

From amongst the giant trees, flouncy ferns, giant rocks and shards of light, a simple brook ignores it all.

From amongst the giant trees, flouncy ferns, giant rocks and shards of light, a simple brook ignores it all.

An effective way to keep people from wandering off the trail.

An effective way to keep people from wandering off the trail.

After Sefo stuffed himself with Calamari and pulled Pork and after I packed up half of an abundant quesadilla, we shared a "Goodbye Sky" as I sailed home.

After Sefo stuffed himself with Calamari and pulled Pork and after I packed up half of an abundant quesadilla, we shared a “Goodbye Sky” as I sailed home.

So, Dad, for once I’m having the last word.  If you had asked about my happiest times , I’d have said, “Any minute with you.”

Like the minutes of this past Sunday, Dad.  We shared the majesty of old trees, hanging moss, mists rising from rich soil, sun streaks, quietness, smells of nature and your happiness.  I hope I stepped in one of your footprints.

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51 thoughts on “Walkin’ in Dad’s Happiness.

    • Thank you, Charles. I’m having a bit of a “hangover” after writing this post. Deathiversaries bring out unexpected emotions and, knowing that, I keep hoping I’ll be spared. My oldest brother, very much like Dad, is 10 years my senior and this memory brought his mortality to reality with an unwelcome grasp. In truth, it all brings our own mortality into focus – something that was a thousand years away in younger days. Good thing I have complete faith in our energy being alpha and omega.

    • You know, Joss, I somehow knew to thank both my mom and dad for all they gave me. I thanked each of them – a few times – for the significance of their teachings. I meant it and am so grateful that they gave me a life that warranted my respect and appreciation.

    • You’re right, Winsomebella- it was an awe-filled day. Pluse, Sefo and I talked about how easy it was – with no rush, no worry. Just a couple of good friends doing what we wanted when we wanted…just like kids.

  1. Amy — what an absolutely lovely post about your dad, memories and stunning trees. The size of them are the largest I’ve encountered. Wonderful day with fun had by all, including your dad. 🙂

    • I remember that you also had a wonderful relationship with your father, Becca. They filled an irreplaceable space didn’t they? Often when I’m trying to figure out how to fix something, I feel Dad’s presence and guidance. I learned from him to be as inventive as possible – like his father, the “smithy”, I presume.

      The feeling in the Park is unlike any I’ve experienced in our other parks. Every sense is profoundly affected. There were so few people around which was grand because I could really soak it all in.

  2. What wonderful ;pics and a beautiful story… I don’t have any memories like that, and yours make me realise what a gap there is… yet I know we all choose our lives to learn what we need from them….lovely post, Amy

    • Indeed, Valerie, I agree about learning. You probably had this type of experience in other lives. I used to bemoan the fact that I was not “domestic”. I was career minded and the homemaker role was not mine. I once went to an Irish psychic whose humour was worth the price. She said, “You’re to stop worrying about not being domestic. You’ve done all that. You’ve raised kids, grown gardens, sewn clothes, cooked, canned, cleaned in other lives….now it’s time for you to look at those hands and say, ‘These are meant to hold charge cards.'”

      Well, not playing the traditional female role has meant I haven’t pursued marriage the way most of my friends have. An older, divorced, retired businesswoman doesn’t automatically have a place in society even now. Neither men nor women are really sure about a friendship. Thankfully, walking is a good, safe and healthy visit. In my community efforts, I’m forever tripping over natural leadership skills that pop up. Repressing them is not healthy, but I no longer want the amount of responsibility that accompanies effective leadership. When I tell my women friends that a husband would probably bring balance into my energies, they just laugh at me. Then I hear hilarious stories… God bless marriage. It ain’t easy!

      If I could have a “seasoned” relationship now, I’d love it. The attraction of a relationship is to its deeply intimate, familiar and understood stuff that falls into a rhythm that both find comforting and loving. That doesn’t come for years usually…I think I’ve met the odd couple who have clicked this profoundly at the outset.

      Towards the end of Dad’s life, I now see he worried about me being too independent. He used to say things that I considered sexist, but now I realize he probably didn’t like to think of me being alone in old age. He’d been so independent himself and found it difficult dealing with the body’s aging. He said, “Who would have thought that even the dents and prangs all have pain in them now!”

      • Thank you for such a profound reply Amy… wish we could be face to face… I love your description of a seasoned relationship… I did have that, but now aging , deafness, frailty, near blindness, pain and personality changes have changed it all, and life is simply an endless looking after, communication has become fragmented, and difficult with misunderstandings and life rather a battle to hold things together.
        And most of my friends in my age group are up against the same things, as most of us tended to marry men older than ourselves. so in the end, life becomes lonely, but with lots of strings attached!!!
        Also with more insight, I look back and see that much of relationship is co-dependency, and now that I’ve let go so much of that it alters relationship anyway, especially if the other person does not change…I could go on but I won’t !!!
        Anyway, lovely to share our experiences… the moral of which seems to be no grass is really greener!!!!!

        • Yes, so much of the “attraction” claim is co-dependency in my eyes and it’s a turn-off. I certainly “hear” you, Valerie. My sweet aunts were widowed. They took up square dancing, all found new husbands and ended up nursing men who were really quite “new” in their hearts and lives. One even experienced abuse as her new husband’s dementia progressed. YUK!!

          Here on the island, I observe a woman my age who married her professor. He now looks and lives like her grandfather. Strain is written all over her face.

          Then I have a friend in Victoria who uses the old cry, “Nurse or a purse, I shall be neither.”

          So I’m back realizing that I may not have all the companionship I would cherish, but perhaps I am not able to live up to the accompanying demands.

          Tea, Valerie! We need a damned good cup of tea! 😀

  3. Beautiful. This is how you remember your loved ones – acknowledging that they’re all around you even when they’re gone from this earth.

    • Jean, I suspect your dad is celebrating not having to deal with remote controls with corn plasters on them! I can’t count the number of seniors I’ve given this great approach. Each time I think of you, your mom and dad which, to me, is a way to send blessings. It’s all in the intention… BTW – while I think of it, I love the picture of you on your blog.

      • Thank you, Amy. Yes, in Heaven, TV, if you watch it at all, comes on by thinking it. No more lousy remotes!

  4. Wow….. What an amazing bit of heaven on earth. The photos are just wonderful–the light is amazing. And I’m all teary as I read about your relationship with your dad. I’d like to think he’s smiling and tossing in that last word, yaknow?
    What a grand wander the two of you had–I’da been hard pressed to cooperatively LEAVE that little spot. (which I’ll investigate courtesy of the link you provided) It’s gorgeous! And it doesn’t surprise me that discovery happened 35 years later, near the anniversary–just at the right time, I think.
    WOW. Amazing.

    • The light was amazing, Mel. I was telling Sefo that I had my usual manual settings on the camera, but had the ISO set to adjust automatically. (I’m dyslexic and get it all backwards) I couldn’t believe the deep purples, the blues, and the shot of some bright colours that appeared on a number of shots. They look like I photoshopped them, but I didn’t. I had to brighten a few, but that’s the only “jiggling” I did.

      It made me realize that I use about 1/50 of my camera’s potential. But I’ll continue being Mrs. Magoo and fall on the odd shot that delights me. The best part is coming home and downloading the shots so I really SEE what was there. While I’m taking the photos, I’m so focussed on settings, light, composition and all the things that I usually bungle. Doesn’t stop me from loving my camera.

  5. Lots of great stuff in the post, Amy. Your dad…ancient at the age you are now. Isn’t that a ripper? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my mom’s relative age. I always thought she was OLD. She was nearly 40 when she had me, so she always looked like a grandmother rather than a mom. But I keep reflecting on my age now and what she was doing at the same age. It really stands me on my head.

    I bet your urban mom and your working dad had to negotiate some challenges.Such different life styles, backgrounds, expectations. Glad they made it work.

    And, I find it interesting that you live on the west coast now, considering your dad’s early experiences there. Do you suppose he “guided” you west without you ever realizing it? Loved the pics. (All of them! 😉 I could almost smell that rich grove.

    • My parents were 40 when I was born, too, Linda, so I understand thinking your parents were “grandparent-ish”. However, when I stayed with friends whose parents were half the age of mine, I’d realize I was better off. My parents gave me ‘space’ and helped me make my own decisions. My older siblings said they weren’t like that with them, but I think time and experience is a great factor in relaxing the parenting bids and phobias. When I hear about helicopter parents, I cringe.

      Mom and Dad both wondered if retirement would have been easier for them if they’d lived together all those married years. It was a big adjustment to be together 24/7. Every once in a while, Mom would pack up her bags, call a cab and go stay in a hotel for a few days. If she stayed away too long, Dad would call – all worried – and say, “You’d better go pick up your Mom. She’s been away long enough.” I’d have to reassure him she was okay. The longest she stayed was about a week.

      They both read voraciously – different types of literature of course – and enjoyed road trips. But when Mom needed to really venture out, for example for something more cultural or to go on a cruise, she went with a woman friend.

      In the part of Alberta where they lived for a good chunk of time, they are still remembered by people of various ages. I’m humbled by the respect I hear when people talk about their memories of my parents. I don’t know how often, but Mother did teach 3 generations of some families.

      Guiding me West? Actually, my husband and I moved here and, in their 70s, Mom and Dad left Calgary and followed us. Mom, especially, wanted to get out of the bitter winters and snow. Once here, I saw that Dad knew how to prepare Prawns and Crab for cooking, I was astonished. He had learned that during his sojourn with the Cedars.

      Dad would have been happier retiring to an old folks residence at the old home area in Alberta where his old friends resided. Mom couldn’t bear the idea. So, their different backgrounds did loom up throughout their marriage, but I loved the good mix of heart and brain!

  6. Gorgeous photographs, Amy. The one taken looking up inside the tree is amazing. I’m glad you got to spend such important time with your good friend — and with memories of your Dad.

    I especially loved this: “When I was eleven Mom suggested I was too big to crash down the steps to fling myself into Dad’s arms. She may as well have asked me to contain a house fire in a wood stove.”

  7. HI Amy .. I’d have loved to have had that sort of relationship with my parents – the last years with my mother helped .. and I was able to ‘analyse’ a few things .. and try and understand/comprehend their lives and different parts – the 6 years of hospital and spending time with my uncle – opened my eyes and helped me think things through.

    I loved being on VI .. and we went up to Tofino – Mum and I were left with a hire car … so I drove back down to Duncan – and I’m sure we stopped on the way … Next time I go back to stay with Jenny (Mum’s cousin) … I’ll go back up to Qualicum and Tofino … as we were completely dropped in it and hadn’t expected to left to our own devices!

    Wonderful part of the world though … and your islands always sound fabulous.

    Great memories of your father and the recent meeting with Sefo … loved the post and the photos .. cheers Hilary

    • Tofino is a favoured dichotomy – in winter, we go there for an intimate and peaceful time to grow memories – whether with family, a group of friends or one special person. We relish the winter sun, beach combing, long walks, deep talks and very few people. Yet we rave about the times wild waters roar in during winter storms. The chaos of crashing waves and sizzling surf cause us to grab our gear, hit the blast and clutch our rain gear while hair is tossed in every direction. AAAAHHH!

      A video recently circulated showing several Orca chasing surfers inland during a good blow in Tofino. I’ve never heard of an Orca attacking a human, but as they were herding their catch, they could have inadvertently sent a surfer flying simply to get him/her out of the way of their fish!

      Going to a place once is not enough for me, either. The first trip is filled with learning the basic lay of the land and too much is missed. I like figuring out what it takes to blend into the fabric of the people.

      For example, when I was in Cape Town, after being with the same 24 tourists for 2 weeks, I had two extra days, on my own, to kick back and be with South Africans. I booked into an Anglican Guest House, right downtown, and began helping the ladies who manage it. I ended up stuffing 500 chocolate treats into tiny silk satchels. They were going to seniors in Homes and Hospitals. One of the women had diligently sewn these 500 silk satchels. What a humungous task! She included a pull string!
      I loved their chatter, gossip, humour and wisdom.

      It was mid-week, but they told me the cathedral had an early morning service. I arose early and went. Again, I was warmly greeted by a handful of South Africans -comfortable with a lone Canadian who joined them in prayer.

  8. I enjoyed every word and photo of this post. I live mere minutes from this well-known grove. Next time you’re on the west coast, check out the Rain Forest trail, or the boardwalk through to Schooner Cove……magnificent trees in there as well.

    • Well Sherry! I knew you were West Coast, but you are the REAL thing! 🙂 Some people from my island have taken various parts of the Park’s trails. They loved it and were so impressed with the incredible work that’s gone into their ease and maintenance. When I’ve gone to Long Beach, I’ve usually spent endless hours on the beach. Took my bicycle one time and loved it because your roads were such a welcome change from our narrow, windy, hilly terrain. (In fact not many islanders ride bike on my island…biking accidents usually involve tourists – cyclists and/or drivers not used to our roads.)

      I just peeked at sites for your trails. They make me drool. It’s an over-nighter for us so…maybe you’d like to come here and make sure my cat gets his twice daily thyroid pill?! 🙂 These beloved pets…!!

  9. Lovely post! I enjoyed the photos of the trees, and this was a beautiful way to remember your dad. My dad is gone too, but I have good memories of him and find joy in many of the interests we shared. The older I get, the more I realize how grounding it has been to have parents who were stable and nurturing. Sounds like you were fortunate to experience that too! ~ Sheila

    • I agree about the grounding, Sheila. In a psych course, I remember learning that older parents (as mine were) offer reliability and predictability which contribute to the growth of healthy self-esteem. I grew up being able to anticipate where my parents were and what they’d be doing. It meant I could venture off into the world knowing where and what my anchor was.

      Yes those trees…I took a contract to go North to Yukon for three years. After coastal mountains and our rainforest, I wondered if I would ever be able to appreciate the small trees. I wondered if I’d find beauty in its endless endlessness. I was there for 3 years and fell in love with all it offered. I still thrill over photos that people share today. Nature and beauty are simply inseparable. The partnership is as reliable as my parents were! 🙂

      • Funny, I had almost the opposite experience when I moved to Alaska. We moved from the front range of the Colorado Rockies, Denver area, with evergreen trees everywhere, to the tundra above the Arctic Circle, Kotzebue. It was an empty nest adventure, and not meant to be a lengthy stay. We did two years, and although I can appreciate the wide open space of the tundra, I never realized how much I value trees until I lived without them. I had just taken that feature of nature more or less for granted. Now, living in SE Alaskan rainforest, trees are again a prominent feature of the landscape, and I’m happy to see them every day…everything from the evergreens to the towering cedars, and all the lush green undergrowth. ~ Sheila

    • Likely, Bela, our parents WERE a lot older than we are at the same age. I never remember mom and dad considering what they needed to do for themselves. They fell into “old and tired” routines – as though the plan was to sit down and just age away. So when Mom and Dad were my age, they were sedentary and seizing up. I’ve told my Doc – I don’t know about living a long time, but I want to live a healthy time.

  10. What a wonderful memory of your Dad. You know you wrote this with feeling and love when it causes another, like me, to miss her own Dad. These photos are fantastic, of the trees. I’ve not ever visited anything like that.

    • Nothing can replace the Dad spot in a woman’s heart. Thankfully, mine is filled with Love and it sounds like it’s the same for you.

      If you come my way, Leslie, I’ll take you to the enchanted forest! And if you’re feeling fit, we’ll “climb” one of our local mountains where we’ll discover fairy doors on the trail. Someone went to a lot of work…teeny miniatures of flower boxes, chairs, etc. outside wee, ornate and unique fairy doors.

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