In so many ways, my father was a study in contrasts.
He was a conservative man with liberal sensibilities; a man of refinement who proudly boughts suits at discount bazaars; a lover of fine automobiles who would never buy one unless he negotiated the very best deal–and I mean, the VERY best deal.
He wasn’t a man inclined toward effusive displays of affection, but his love and devotion to family was beyond question.
He was calmly analytical and quietly thoughtful, taking several minutes to articulate a point or make a decision because everything you did ought to be done correctly. I have so many memories of him starting to speak, then stop to light his pipe, then puff on it for an indeterminable amount of time, while you waited impatiently to hear what he would say next.
My father’s exacting standards were sometimes hard to live up to–even for him. He would labour FOREVER over the smallest detail of a task, impervious to everyone, until he got whatever he was working on just right.
He had four daughters whose strong will and tenacity matched his own. This made for some tense moments growing up, but also for some great conversation. I have so many memories of whiling way the hours with him, sitting by the fire in our old house, chatting until the wee hours of the morning to the steady, reassuring tick of the grandfather clock in the living room.
My father loved to tease his daughters and found our misadventures particularly hilarious (even if we didn’t). He saw humour in most things and most of all, in his own foibles. He never took himself too seriously, although he was whipsmart and most often right.
As much as my father’s high standards and pursuit of excellence tried our patience at times, we knew that any broken thing we owned, or any car problem we had, would be fixed better than new. We knew that he would never like us settling for second best, not in the things we possessed, the careers we pursued, the relationships we had, or in the lives we chose. That’s a valuable lesson to teach your children, but an especially valuable lesson to teach your daughters.
He was a man of integrity, who by his example taught us lessons about equality and fairness. He was a man of patience and intelligence, who taught us about forbearance and tolerance. He was a man of great wit, who demonstrated the importance of humour, especially in the face of hardship.
If I possess any of these qualities, just a little, I owe that to him.
I will love him and miss him forever.
Jim, at his 95th birthday party.