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A Tribute to Dad on his 90th Birthday

Dad grew up on a prairie homesteading and didn't get much of an education. He attended a one-room country schoolhouse for nearly 8 years, and learned to read and write, and to do a rather stumbling math. His education was mostly in riding as a cowboy, and in fixing machinery in his father's little workshop shed on the farm.

So no, my Dad was not used to sending valentines, or giving gifts, and expressing his affection. But that didn't bother me any more like it used to in my teens and as a young adult.

He did sometimes make something useful and give it away, but in an incidental style. Dad just didn't understand the etiquette of relationships.

That doesn't mean, I've discovered, that Dad any inclination to give or be kind. He simple didn't know how to do it in conventional ways. But he is very interested in people, and especially things he could make with his hands. I used to be ashamed of my father's limitations, lowly jobs, and ignorance about worldly things. I came to appreciate and even love him for who he was since I went home to care for my parents in September of 1983.

After Mom died in 1997, I stayed here to look after Dad's practical needs. Sure, it was humbling in some ways. Enough time has passed though, so that I can see some benefits.

Dad was a storyteller, especially more in his old age, much as his father was, and though he sometimes mixed up the details when he retold them, his stories showed what is really important, and going on in his heart and mind.

A couple of bearded old men once came to talk of old times with Dad. I don't recall what set him off, but he began to lecture them about something from his grasp of theology, and he sounded like a preacher. This amused me a bit, because I knew Dad couldn't really pull off a sermon, but as I thought about it, I recognized that his thoughts were often on spiritual things.

With age he was losing his grasp on non-concrete concepts, but that evening it was clear that he was committed to believing and honouring God; and his heart was on guard against evil and lies - the best Dad knews how.

He actually had quite a creative, engineering mind, as became obvious when he puttered away in his workshop. When I first moved home to be the live-in caregiver, there was one time when Dad was fixing somebody's tall white boot with a soft vinyl upper part like a long sock. He sat and studied for for a while, and then he found a way to fix it. I remarked, "Boy, Dad, you really are creative!"

"Are you swearing at me?" he asked defensively.

I quickly explained what "being creative" meant, reassuring him that it was a compliment.

Over his years of work, Dad had sheared sheep (the story he told most often the last year or so), herded cattle as a cowboy, worked as a farm hand, a service station mechanic fixing farm machinery most often, but also delivering new and used combines to farmers. He owned and operated a Dray business in Rosthern and Hague for some years. It still had that name because deliveries from the train station to the stores and homes were originally done by horses with a big flat wagon. By the time he got into it, horses were no longer involved.

Instead he used a small tractor with a flatbed wagon, and a rickety old truck. The job included the pick up of garbage once a week, and the unloading of a train car full of lumber and delivering it to the lumberyard with a deadline of 48 hours. (I remember having to help hand out the sappy boards and 2x4s, and then riding on top of the load to the lumberyard to hand them down).

My sister Elsie remembers having to go along for the gathering of garbage, and how Dad sorted the recycle -ables from the waste on the truck box. He was into recycling long before it became popular in it's present form.

Dad's last job before retirement was seven years spent in a tire shop, changing tires of all sizes. It was hard physical work, but it provided a regular pay-check, something that self-employment could not guarantee.

When he retired, my brother Ernie brought him a shoe repair sewing machine and a metal last on a stand, and other odds and ends. Word got around and for the next 25 years or so, Dad did various shoe and leather repair jobs - when people brought them to the door and asked. He didn't know how to do any bookkeeping, nor did he charge enough for his work, but it gave Dad a sense that he still had work to do.

He'd always been interested in puttering with small motors, talking them apart, and re-building them, and in gardening, and in working with raw wool. So between the repair jobs, and the odd wool-carding job for others, when he'd had his afternoon nap, Dad usually found something to do.

There were times I saw his problem-solving in action, creating something that solved a problem, but didn't exist before. Inventing. Sometimes I wonder what he could have done if he'd had a chance at an education beyond grade eight.

For many years he went on long morning walks and collected discarded bottles and pop cans as he went. A couple of times a year, he'd hint that he needed to go to the brewery to sell his empties. He would load up the trunk of the car and the back seat, and I'd take him there. Usually he cleared from $30 to $50.

However, over the last few years he'd begun to ease gradually into less walks and work and more naps, morning, afternoon, and evening as necessary Partly because his knees felt weak and unreliable. Partly because he had a sleep apia which meant he woke himself often at night by his snoring. He simply needed to make up his sleep hours with some in the daytime too.

In the weeks before he turned 90 he'd had some teeth pulled in stages to prepare for dentures. This meant he was only eating soft foods, and the dietary changes were chasing his blood sugars up, so we were more aware of his age-onset diabetes.

However, Dad was not ready to lie down and be old yet. Between his naps he liked to get up and do things. Last year he started making cross necklaces out of horseshoe nails, and he really enjoyed that. I had to order supplies for him, and take him around to stores to see if they will carry them on consignment; he accepted that.

He loved to go shopping or to meet people. So long as I was nearby to make sure he found his way out again. He did get lost more easily by then.

Which brings me to the acceptance of him that I had to learn. In fact, I made up my mind to learn this way back when I first moved home, and though I've had to remind myself of it occasionally, the fact was, I had to resolve not to be ashamed of Dad in public like I was as a teen. Sure he said and did embarrassing things at times, but what was that in the light of eternity?

In return the Lord gave Dad liberty towards me so I could run my online business ventures right here from the living room, while I kept him company. I'm very grateful that he allowed me the freedom to spend my days on the computer looking after a business he cannot understand to reap rewards he cannot see. Nor did he complain when the house only got cleaned on Saturdays, and the meals were quickly slapped together. We were really quite compatible with one another. This was divinely coordinated, for sure!

For his 90th birthday I granted his simple wish to go visit an alpaca ranch south of Saskatoon. We got chilled hands and feet standing in the pens, but the owner was very gracious to us, and explained many things, and then gave Dad a big bag of fibre as a birthday present.This thrilled him to piecess. He has big plans to spin and knit up that material.

There are long-livers in Dad's family tree. His parents both reached over 90 when they died, and they were sickly. He was not. His uncle John got to be 104 in a nursing home. Dad's not ready for a nursing home yet! So if the Lord tarries, he may easily be here another 10 or more years.

Age 90 was a special milestone and I'm paying Dad a special tribute with this profile of him.

That visit to an alpaca farm was very special to Dad. It kept him busy with a new project for the next year. Four days after his 91st birthday he was gone.

Dad, I love you and thank God for you!

Arbour Pages: Photos of My Parents ~ Dad at 90 ~~ Day of Dad's Funeral ~~ New Author Pics (2005-2006) ~~ Friendship - About Helping Your Friend Succeed ~~ Defining Mentor or Merea ~~ Let me learn English and READ! ~~ What it Takes to Write for Kids ~~ Writing Tips ~~ Publishing Tips for Do-It-Yourself-ers ~~ Successful Goal setting Spiritual Retreat ~~ Come Tour Hague, my Hometown~~ Arbour Index

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Ruth Marlene Friesen

Ruth Marlene Friesen
The Responsible One

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