June 1, 2015 § 3 Comments
Tuesday would have been my father’s 93rd birthday. He’s been gone for 26 years but a surprise reminder occurred when my older brother, Bob Jr., delivered our dad’s rolltop desk from Canmore, Alberta, recently.
The old piece of furniture has endured a tough life. When I first grew up, it remained at the old farmhouse where my father was raised in North Rolla, B.C. It was moved into Dawson Creek, thankfully, before vandals burned down all the buildings at the farm.
Once at our house, the desk, probably more than 100 years old, proved to be a landing spot for my father’s paperwork. I think I inherited my lack of filing prowess from him.
My father willed the desk to Bob and I snapped up the opportunity to take it when my brother began downsizing.
I remember always being fascinated with the desk – its many cubby holes, the deep drawers, the handiwork behind the rolltop, and the solid oak structure.
The arrival of the desk was an opportunity to connect with Bob, my sister-in-law, Louise, and their son, Logan. I hadn’t seen my nephew in a few years and memories of my dad rushed back into my head.
I’ve been without my father almost as long as I had him – I was 28 when he passed away.
The desk is a reminder of my father, beyond its physical presence. It is strong. It has character. Its dark stain makes it appear stoic. My father had an enduring quality, though he passed away much too young at age 66.
Although it needs some tender loving care, the desk is reminiscent of my dad’s relentless drive to excel as a highways foreman, a position in which he rarely missed a day’s work, even when seriously ill.
Dad might have been called a workaholic though that term wasn’t used widely in his generation.
I believe we share a lot of the same qualities – caring, compassion, generosity, a sense of fairness and justice, and a wry sense of humour. He was shy until he got to know people. I am the same, though my career choice has found me coming to grips with public speaking and schmoozing upon occasion.
He preferred talking one-on-one to people, often workmates about a project. Through practice, I have learned to be comfortable in crowds, though I like smaller groups, talking about shared interests like sports or music.
I gained my work ethic from Dad but also learned the value of playing hard, something he was just figuring out how to do when he passed away.
Ironically, he died on the way home after watching his first NHL hockey game in person. I have been to many professional sporting events live along with going to numerous concerts, another love of mine.
Dad’s idea of going on vacation was to get from points A to B as fast as possible. I enjoy compiling hordes of information and then plotting out a general plan, with room to be spontaneous.
I’m thrilled the arrival of the desk provided a new opportunity to think about my father.
Happy Birthday, Dad. We’ll take good care of your desk and continue thinking of you often.
June 11, 2012 § 4 Comments
We’re approaching that day on the calendar when we honour Dads. My own father has been gone for 23 years now but I still think of him. Actually, a lot lately. You see, he would have been 90 on June 2.
He was also on my mind again a few days later when someone at work asked me to describe, in a few words, someone I admire. I immediately thought of my Dad. He was a salt-of-the-earth type you would want to model yourself after.
Bob Olinger Sr. was that go-to kind of guy if you needed advice. He was generous, a hard worker who devoted his life to making a living and making sure he left something behind for his family, loyal and dependable, and just an all-round decent man.
I think most people he knew him would see a likeness in me – except that Dad managed to maintain his jet black hair right up to the end where I am getting balder by the day and the few tresses I have left are what I refer to as Arctic Blond (grey).
Looking back, I find it interesting that Dad loved to read and recite poetry. That form of writing has never really appealed to me. There is a commonality, though. I’m known for using song lyrics to articulate ideas and feelings.
I can’t hear the Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics without thinking of Dad.
I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say
I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years
Like singer Mike Rutherford, my own son, Peter, was born the same year as my father died.
What could I have told Dad if he’d been around for his 90th birthday or if I could look to the heavens and speak with him?
I’m a writer, perhaps a poet in a certain way, so a note might work best:
It’s been a while since we’ve chatted. I’m glad you’re in a comfortable place among the angels. I would rather you’d have stayed among us longer.
You were just learning how to enjoy yourself, leaving us just after attending your first NHL game. One of the great passions we shared was hockey and a love for the Montreal Canadiens. It seems the Habs have missed your cheering for them. They’ve only won the Cup once since you left.
I never told you how much I appreciated that you were always there for me, mostly by phone and letters. Somehow, we just didn’t manage to get together a lot in your later years, though I know you planned to visit when Peter was born.
I’m grateful you passed along your work ethic, though I’ve managed to become less of a workaholic than you by taking in a lot of concerts and sporting events, including seeing a Canadiens’ home game. There’s no doubt you could have been less of a workaholic – though attending your retirement dinner I know how much you savoured your employment – had you been able to enjoy a better home life.
In truth, we no doubt would have connected more in the later years had it not been for that. You’ll be delighted to know that I recently celebrated 26 years of happy marriage to Joyce and Peter is now 23.
You taught me to be passionate about much more than hockey, to care about others. I took on your political leanings and have invested a lot of spare time in volunteering.
You were non-confrontational. I’ve inherited that though you did teach me to stand up for what I believe in. You were bound by religious convictions. I am more of a spiritual person.
You enjoyed a few close friendships. Same here. You relished a good rousing debate. Me, too.
I have turned out a bit different from you. You spent much of your work life with the Department of Highways whereas my career has seen me in a progression of roles within the communications field across the country. You played it safe whereas I found myself expanding my horizons.
Of course, it helped that you left some inheritance. In the end, I would have liked to have had less flexibility in exchange for more time with you.
A couple of things I wish you hadn’t passed along are diabetes and your cataracts. On the other hand, these provide a constant reminder that as much as we can plan for the future, living in the moment is important.
I’m constantly striving for balance in all things.
Speaking of which, Dad, I have to go. I’m combining attendance at a conference with a vacation on Vancouver Island.
I think of you often.