American writer Clarence Budington Kelland said of his Dad, “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
On Father’s day this year I am reflecting on how powerfully one person can influence others with the incredible witness of actions over words. Bob George is living witness to the fact that you teach more by what you do than what you say. Now, I’m not suggesting that Dad never had anything to say. Rather, his most powerful impact on all of us was watching his fine example. I wish I could be there to tell him just how much of an impact he has had.
I look at our family and I see seven hard working children, with tonnes of hard working children and grandchildren of their own. As children we had a powerful witness of what work is all about and how hard work and dedicated service is to be admired and revered. Dad would say, “why put off to tomorrow what you can do today?” He might start singing the old swanky hymn, “Work for the night is coming” but what instilled that message of honest work in us was watching him give all of himself to whatever job he started. That was true when he was working, and it remains true into today and his retirement years. Everything he starts he finishes and he takes great pride in. Work is good for soul, I am convinced and I witnessed it in my Dad’s great example.
We love to tell stories and have a laugh in our family. Again, No mistake there either. What supper is complete at the house without a tale of danger, love, sex, money or religion…and all of the stories that Dad continues to tell are ‘as true as the light is shining.’ The great mystery to me is that once in a blue moon a new story pops up. While visiting this past May long weekend we were treated to the story of an explosion in the garage where he returned his tractor in the lumber woods which left him burned and in hospital for 32 days. That story was told, as so many are, over the comfort and nurture of our mother’s meals.
There is a Serbian proverb that says something like, “A greedy father has thieves for children.” I can see the truth in that. For me, I have learned the art of giving through my father, and I would say my mother. Our family should know well the joy in being generous and helpful where possible to others. There were times in life when we did not have a lot, but we were raised to share what we had. I can recall one day when we were troutin’ and had walked for over an hour to get to one of dad’s favourite fishing holes. We stopped for what we call ‘a spell’ in Newfoundland. We had a little lunch packed. So while taking our respite we decided we would have a bite. There were a couple of sets of Purity Cream Crackers (the best biscuit to ever be made) for each of us, all buttered up with Eversweet Butter (Margarine). My appetite was a strong then as it is now, if not stronger. I finished mine off right there and then. (Surprise, surprise!) The only draw back was that when we put in a fire and had ‘a boil-up’ later in the day, I had not Cream Crackers. I was stressed over this after eating all of mine. I thought about it more than once as we fished along the gullies that morning. I need not have worried. My father decided that he did not need his when it came time to eat and passed them on to me. I did not even ask. He just knew! I am certain that he would not even remember this episode as it was natural for him and it was one among many instances of self sacrifice. As insignificant and small as that may seem to some of you who are reading this, it was a big deal to me and I never forgot it. It was not the first or the last time that Dad went without something so that me and my siblings and my Mother could have what we needed or even in some cases wanted. If I have a giving bone in my body today, it is because of watching Dad make so many sacrifices for others. He has always and still does sacrifice for his church, his neighbours, and his friends and of course his family.
Then we have the whole idea of honouring others by keeping their stories alive. I know a whole ‘communion of saints’ from Whiteway who I never got to meet as they were dead before I was born. Among them are my Grandfather Charles and My Grandmother Annie, who dad and mom cared for in their elder years. There is Uncle Bob, who fell into the brook and was rescued when Uncle Mose jumped onto the cuddy of the boat and flung young Bob into the air safe to dry land. Who could forget Art Rowe who was such a fantastic skater that he would cross Jimmy Rowe’s pond with three strides. The was Uncle Leander Drover, and Frank Drover, and Philemon Burgess, and Uncle Nat Rowe. The list is too long to make but suffice to say I have learned of people who live as larger than life characters in my mind because of the stories that my Father continues to share of them. Each time he tells their story he reminds us all of the importance of passing on our collective story, of keeping alive our ancestors who have in many ways shaped us. Thich Nhat Hanh the great Buddhist monk writes that, “If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” Dad may be a Buddhist at heart and not even know it! There is no doubt in my mind that these people are not just legend, but are very much alive in the person of my Father who keeps their story alive.
While we may not have sat and had many heart to hearts about girls, and drugs, and all the stuff that the TV ads say parents should talk over with their kids today, we did have a strong, caring and compassionate witness to love in action in my Father. Today I celebrate who he is and how great he has been for all of us and to the world for almost 92 years now. Dad you are well loved! I miss you today; I wish I could be there to hear a story or two. Perhaps you can tell whoever is with you today that one about you know who, whom you caught doing you know what, when you were hiding in the bushes listening….how is it that story finishes now — “Bob, I’ve got a bone to pick with you!” and your reply, “Well …Jane Doe…You already picked that bone…” You can finish the rest of the Story Dad, I’ll just get the details all wrong…then tell the story about the Goat!
Thanks for everything Dad!
Thanks for letting me watch you live.
I have learned a lot.
I Love you!