Original publication date June 16, 2019
On this Father’s Day, I wanted to acknowledge my own father for giving me that which he never had as a child. Safety, security, a home; my fathers’ house was all these things to us, and more,,,, it wasn’t that way for him.
His youth was spent running with his family from the horrors of the 2nd World War. His ‘house’ was a series of bomb shelters, barns, train stations and temporary camps. He had few articles of clothing, one pair of shoes, and food was limited, but unlike many he had his family, and it is that which made him feel rich. From the time he was 9 years old war ravaged his homeland and he would be almost 30 before he felt the security of his own home again, on another continent.
As an adult he had a new life, a new wife, and three children. He had no education, thanks to the war, yet he managed to learn several new languages just to get by. He acquired skills (self taught) that would secure him a job and provide for his family. We had food, clothes, a car, all the basic necessities of life, but it didn’t stop there. He gave us so much more.
My father loved tradition, still does. Holidays were fun and festive. He made special foods. He loved to sing. He loved to dance and music was a staple in his house. He loved to read; had an astute mind and could carry on an educated debate, intelligently, and at the same time he could laugh deliriously at the antics of the Three Stooges or Bugs Bunny. He loved chocolate and red wine, and he taught us how to make traditional Pickled Herring for Christmas.
When we were children he would take his vacation from the factory he worked in to take a job as camp counsellor, so that we could go to summer camp. He couldn’t afford to pay for us and traded off his own labour so that we could attend.
He taught us how to skate and how to polka, and no one can tango like my dad.
He enjoyed our school friends and welcomed them to our home, always.
He played Santa on Christmas Eve much to the delight of his nine grandchildren and on every birthday, he sang the loudest (a little off key, but still, the loudest)
He had a green thumb, plants thrived under his care. He loved animals, all of them. In fact he had a tremendous respect for all living things.
He gave us many things, among them a safe and loving home in which to thrive, and for a man who had so little himself, he gave so much.
That my siblings and I are all established, independent and raising families of our own speaks to the value of his life lessons. He taught us to be honest, fair, and kind. He taught us to love, and to forgive. He taught us the importance of family and friendships. He taught us to work hard and play harder. He taught us to respect each other and most importantly to respect ourselves.
Finally, after 89 years he can relax and reap the benefits of his efforts. His was a long hard road and his life of tireless labour made our road so much easier. How do you acknowledge a lifetime of sacrifice in just one day a year? You can’t. We can only live our lives by his example. So we pass on his recipes to our children. We sing with them, we dance, and we make a point to get to know their friends. We even put on a DVD of Bugs Bunny every now and again, just to hear him laugh. We now do what he did, because he did it so well. My fathers’ house was a wonderful place, and he a wonderful man, deserving of so much more than one day a year.
Fast forward to February 2022
My Dad passed today, just 2 months shy of his 92nd birthday. His children and grandchildren, all of us, are so very grateful he was given a long and healthy life in this world. That said, it doesn’t lessen the devastation we feel at the loss. This is a man who truly made a difference in this world and our lives will never be quite the same. He lived a life of honesty, integrity, faith, and joy and his time here was a gift to many. We love you dad, always and forever and now finally after 80 years you can once again run freely through those Poppy filled fields in Lithuania, back into your mothers loving arms.
I think I can actually feel my heart breaking.