Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad

Today is my Dad's birthday. Or was. My Dad died 12 years ago. This is for you Dad.

I grew up in what I thought was a relatively normal family. I know no one is normal, but whatever. Dad worked, Mom stayed home, I went to school. Dad was caught with another woman. My parents divorced.  You know, the usual. It was only when I got older I realized what a character my Dad was. He lived his life by his own rules. He could have written the song I Did It My Way.

Dad was born in Glasgow, Scotland November 11, 1926, the oldest of four children and from what I hear the apple of his mother's eye. I don't know the year he came to Canada,I know it was in the 50's. The circumstances under which he left Scotland I won't divulge, as some people could have their feelings hurt, and I am not sure the information I have is 100% accurate anyway. I have two half brothers from Dad's first marriage, that we know of anyway. There could be siblings scattered throughout Scotland as well, one of my aunts has seen younger men (younger than her anyway) that look remarkably like my Dad. Both of his sons (my half brothers) bear a striking resemblance to him. One aunt upon meeting one of my brothers, announced "clearly a DNA test isn't required ".

Before I was born, Dad and his good friend G were working in a camp in northern BC and when the camp closed for the summer (due to fire hazard) they went to Alaska (this is before it was a state), they had full wallets and a thirst for alcohol. I don't know what they did, but they got kicked out of Alaska. It is really hard to get kicked out of Alaska. Really. Really. Hard. Even now. They were escorted on the only direct flight to Canada from Anchorage, it went to Toronto. Apparently the bender continued and somehow or other they ended up back in Glasgow, Scotland where apparently the bender ended. They didn't have enough money to get back to Canada for several years. There are other stories that I would love to tell but can`t as people's feelings could be hurt.

Mom told me some stories about when her and Dad were dating. When they met he drove logging trucks in logging camps on the coast of BC. Most, if not all logging camps are very remote and only accessible by sea plane or boat. My Dad was in camp and he would phone Mom and always ask her to call him. So one time she did, and he responded by asking "what do you want?". This apparently annoyed Mom, and she reacted in a perfectly normal manner. She moved, changed her phone number and didn't tell any of their friends where she lived. When Dad couldn't find her or or where she was, he behaved in a perfectly normal manner too. He quit his job, came to Vancouver, and sat in the lobby of the BC Telephone Company building where Mom worked, for four days, until she showed up for work. At that time he took her purse, her keys and her coat so she couldn't sneak out, and waited for her to get off work.

Another time, when Mom was living with one of her sisters, her and Dad had had a big fight, he came to the apartment building to see her, she wouldn't let him in, so he kicked in the window (it was a ground floor suite), climbed in and carried her out to the bar, where she had to stay because she had no shoes, purse, coat etc. Aunt M and Mom were evicted from the apartment.

Dad was only 5'7", but very broad and muscular. One of his friends we will refer to as R, was big. Well over 6 feet tall and even broader than Dad. The two of them got into a drunken fight once, they put each other in the hospital. Broken ribs, noses, concussions etc. The hospital staff made a big error in judgement and put them in the same room, so when they woke up they started fighting all over again. The point of this story is, Dad gave as good as he got in a fight between him and a much larger man. When he was older, if you slapped his face, his nose would break, because it had been broken so many times.

Sometime after I was born, Dad became a lineman/electrician, he worked on building the transmission power lines all over the province. He was never home for dinner every night, every weekend if we were lucky. Usually he would come home Friday night, usually under the influence, one time he came home and he had been drinking (like always) and had had an accident. He was bleeding all over the place. Mom, as usual kept calm, asking "was there anyone else involved?" He said no. She replied, "good, stop bleeding on the carpet," and then "Elle, go to bed".

After the divorce, Dad moved to Washington State. He continued to be a lineman/electrician. It was after the split from Mom that Dad began to develop even stranger habits. He stopped dressing like a grown up, would only wear jeans, cowboy boots and t-shirts. He got too lazy to shave, so he grew a beard, which he never trimmed that I could see. He didn't like driving, so when he had to drive long distances he would pick up hitch hikers and make them drive. This still makes me laugh, I mean really, who does this?

He always worked on contract, so once when his contract was up and he had no work on the horizon, he decided he wanted to go to Hawaii. A normal person would see a travel agent and book the plane ticket, hotel room and rental car. Oh god no, not my Dad. He got up in the morning, packed his suitcase and drove to the airport, and walked around till he found the next available flight and bought his ticket. He rented a car in Hawaii, drove around the island, found some kids living on the beach drinking wine and smoking pot and hung out with them for a few days. They were probably scared of him.

When I was visiting him, I noticed he had an award from the governor of the State of Washington for saving someone's life. I asked him about it and all he said was and I quote "Aw, I hate the bugger I should have let him fry". I found out what happened after he died. There was a bunch of men working on the tower, it was hot and the hot wire had been tied down. Somehow it came loose and charged the tower. Doing so, it threw everyone (including my Dad) off the tower and one man was still in contact with the charged tower. A good friend of Dad's told me the story at his funeral. He too, was thrown off the tower. He was unable to get up and watched my Dad get up over and over again.  It seems it took three tries, but my Dad eventually pulled the man off the tower, and the man made a complete recovery. This is something that all the experts say you should never do, as you run the risk of killing yourself. When the award was given at an annual dinner by the Governor, Dad wouldn't go to the dinner, he got someone else to go and accept it for him, he couldn't be bothered to get dressed up to go.

Dad and I had a difficult relationship, I always knew he loved me, but he was never emotionally supportive or available. I don`t think he knew how to be there for someone else. He was always very generous with money however, if he had it and I needed something, there never an issue, I always got it. Period. He was very giving with Mom as well, even after they were divorced. I remember one winter, he was in town and thought Mom's winter coat wasn't warm enough, so he gave her $200 to buy a new one. This was in the 70's and that was more than a months rent. Like I said, he was generous. He did what he could.

He had a very quick tongue and never hesitated to speak his mind. Once when I was in high school, I was visiting him, and he took a good look at me and said "Jesus Christ you're getting fat". I replied, after having a good look at him said "well I come by it honestly, don't I"?  He wasn't too pleased with me over that comment. Keep in mind at that point I was 16, 5'8" tall and weighed 125 pounds, definitely not fat, he just liked keeping people off balance and defensive. It pissed him off no end when it didn't work.

He had a lot of vices, drinking to excess (he could put away a dozen beers by noon and not even appear to be drunk), smoking to excess, gambling to excess (I heard about one weekend in Vegas-he lost $10,000), chasing women (probably to excess, he was married four times and I know he lived with at least two women as well), eventually smoking killed him, he died from emphysema. Because of his death, I quit smoking. Ten years now. Thanks Dad, I would likely have emphysema by now if not for you.

My Dad was a veteran of WWII. He lied about his age, joined the Green Berets and parachuted into France. He was shot and captured, then escaped by killing a German soldier. I only found out about this after he died. He never talked about the war. At least not to me.

Rest in peace Dad. Love you.

© 2012 Elle C Sews


  1. What a beautiful post. It's a wonderful, amusing post to a great character.

  2. So much larger than life! Or, maybe proof that we underestimate how large life can get? Great post.

  3. Larger than life, indeed. I shall raise a toast to the memory of your dad. Thanks for the story!

    1. Make it a very old single malt or a budweiser-he would like that!

  4. A beautifully written post. Thanks for sharing :)

  5. Thank you for such a heartfelt story. I read every word with a (somewhat wry) smile on my face, probably since my own father was, I think, a tamer version of yours.

    1. I think Charlie Sheen is a tamer version of my Dad...well, maybe not. 8-)

  6. I live a very tame life, but love reading about people who lived a very full life. It sounds as though your dad lived his to the fullest! I especially love the idea of picking up hitch-hikers and then making them drive :)

  7. Elle, I enjoyed your story about your dad. He sounds quite the character!