My traditional Father’s Day post
My dad wasn’t perfect. We didn’t always agree.
He was a product of his times; a conservative, traditionally religious man where I think of myself differently.
This doesn’t mean that I didn’t love him with all my heart and soul. This doesn’t mean that I rejected the things he taught me in his life or looked at him as backwards in his thinking.
For a regular church goer, he truly believed what he believed. He wasn’t in anyway false or phony about him and growing up in a small town, you did see people who were.
Looking back on it, my dad was a sea of contradictions.
He didn’t want my sister and me playing hockey or being in the barn, but that wasn’t because he believed it wasn’t our place. He just didn’t want us to get hurt. He was a battered man, my dad. Broken and missing fingers, hip and knee replacements from hockey and farming. He never wanted us girls to go through that. With my brothers, that was their right of passage as men, I guess. My oldest brother has terrible knees. Another reason for this was that my grandmother had died of breast cancer when dad was in his twenties and, being a product of an age before cancer was truly understood, he believed cancer came from breast trauma. He never wanted his daughters to go through what his mother went through.
No matter our “position” on the farm, dad always pushed all his kids to be educated. No one can take your education away from you, he always said.
As for himself, he dropped out of school in Grade 8, having a mother who was dying of breast cancer and a father who was busy taking care of her. Being the oldest, the farm became his responsibility. School had to wait and it waited for 50 years.
He finally got his GED when he was in his early sixties. By being denied an education, he understood the importance of it. He made sure his kids understood it too. Long before he got his GED, he encouraged us to do well in school, to study hard, to read, to go to University, and become educated.
He may have not had a formal education but he was the smartest man I knew. He was full of farming knowledge passed down from the rural landscapes of his Hungarian ancestry over the Atlantic through his grandparents in the mid-20s. He knew about the spread of animal and plant diseases as he watched the fields and gardens of his Saskatchewan land or over his herd of pigs as they milled about their pens or muddy pastures. He knew how to wean and castrate piglets, which pigs were the best breading stock, field rotation and planting, and the environmental impacts of manure spreading, which he utilized frequently instead of fertilizer (I think).
Farming wasn’t prosperous or fun by the time I made it to High School, but he loved his life, his farm, his kids and his wife, and that was enough for him. He was proud of what he did and he produced, and said many times that there was no greater feeling than see a field of wheat you planted yourself or a new litter of pigs in the barn. Whether it was farming or hockey, his marriage or his kids, he threw himself completely into everything in his life.
Seeing what he did everyday without fail, no paid vacations or health insurance, we knew everything from the farm contained the blood, sweet and tears of our father.
Like I said, there was nothing phony about my dad. He genuinely cared about people and the community and pitched in wherever he could, whether it was in church, the school, or sporting events. If there was something going on, he was there with a smile on his face. He made sure his kids were there too, encouraging us to volunteer, play sports, get involved with things and get to know people. He coached and played hockey and softball, always pushing his players to give 100%. By how broken he was on the day of his funeral, I know he always gave more. Being his daughter, this is always my excuse for pushing myself as hard as I can, even when I am broken and bruised.
My dad had a weird sense of positivity about him, which I see more and more in myself. Even when the barns were emptied, there being no money in pigs anymore, he was left with very little to do with his time. My mom, in a desperate attempt to keep him busy, had started him cross-stitching with her). Being the person that he was, he picked himself up and moved on. He worked for local businesses and other farmers, kept doing farming type work; even though it was for someone else, and he started woodworking. When my parents had to move off the farm, a place where he work hard for 60 years of his life, he was hurt and disappointed but he was optimistic. This was his chance to make a new life for himself and my mom. Thinking about it now, I draw comfort in the fact that he never let that event in his life change his marriage or his relationship with his kids. He never let depression, fear or anger take over his life, he just plainly moved on to the next thing with a smile on his face. He met new people, found more work and just kept going.
When it came to belief, he was a devout Catholic but kept it to himself. He didn’t push it on anyone, except his kids for a time, and accepted people for who they were, not what he wanted them to be. He took the Golden Rule exactly as it was meant, he treated others the way he wanted to be treated and taught us to be the same.
Looking back, I do realize that there wasn’t a lot of diversity in my hometown so there wasn’t a lot of instances where racism or bigotry could be put into practice. When he moved off the farm and into a town where the local factory had brought in people from the Philippines to work, he never treated them any different than if they were white, the dominate colour of rural Saskatchewan, even to this day. He never liked racism and told people so. When my sister went off to University and met new faces and different people, gay people included, his mentality was the same, treat others the way you’d want to be treated.
I never talked with my dad about his views on homosexuality but that never changed how he treated people. I’m sure that if any of my siblings had come out to dad, that wouldn’t have changed the way he treated them either.
He gave that gift to me. Unconditional love, acceptance and positivity. For that, I am deeply thankful.