Father. That single word can elicit a host of responses and feelings, both good and bad. For those who were fortunate to grow up in a wholesome – dare I say – Christian home, chances are that you have fond memories of your father.
On the other hand, if your reflections are based on mostly bad experiences, then your picture of a father may be distorted. I consider myself as being in the former camp, where I learned important and valuable traits from my own father. Dad was a product of an earlier generation, one where men showed little affection and worked long hours to provide for their families.
I recall my father, on more than one occasion, coming home after supper, having forfeited a home-cooked meal so he could devote a few more hours to that special project at work. By profession an electrical engineer, Dad demonstrated a strong work ethic. He was dedicated to his employer (Atomic Energy of Canada), was punctual, and above all a perfectionist.
He modelled these traits not just in word, but by his selfless example, first to his sons, and second to his co-workers. Where some may have left work projects unfinished so they could go on that summer vacation, Dad, on at least one occasion, postponed his summer holiday. That way his completed design could be approved and implemented, ready for field testing by the scientific community.
As my brother and I were growing up, it became easy to emulate his practical and simple regimen, unknowingly molding us into responsible, hard-working young men. Still, our father ensured that there was ample time to help us with homework, build that model airplane, or practice our backyard soccer skills.
Perhaps a vital element missing today is that phrase of encouragement, “I’m proud of you.” Whether it was Dad cheering me on at the local hockey rink, finding that elusive answer to a math problem, or a pat on the back for delivering the Saturday morning newspapers in our home town, his smile, hug, or a ‘well done’ went a long way in building up a young man’s psyche.
What’s more is that hearing my father recount some of his old war stories – they really were war stories, from WWII – encouraged me more than I realized. It spurred me on to do better, work harder, and not take life’s opportunities for granted. Dad was no quitter and truly led by example.
One of his attributes that stood out for me, and I suppose our whole community, was his congenial nature and faith in his fellow man. In today’s harried society, many people take offence at the smallest comment or Facebook post. But not my father. He stood by his principles, and it was his integrity, not misplaced anger, that won out.
Even though some people looked down on him because of his difficult to pronounce name or his Eastern European accent, Dad never took it personally. If truth be known, he endured many hardships, even imprisonment in a German Stalag. While much of Western Europe was celebrating the end of the war, many families in the Eastern Block had to endure repressive communist regimes. I recall Dad retelling a number of stories where he was being hounded by members of the Secret police. The reason? He refused to join the communist party. In turn he was rebuffed, even threatened with punishment and relocation to forced-labour camps.
So, a few misplaced comments by insensitive individuals weren’t going to get him worked up. He exhibited a strong drive and was determined to make his new Canadian home his own, no matter what the naysayers said behind his back.
Dad loved his family and that’s all that mattered to him.