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Part VI: Papa Can You Hear Me?

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No, this entry in my autobiography is not about the influence Yentl and Barbra Streisand have had on my life. Jun's recent blog post on her father reminded me that I haven't posted to my autobiography in a little while. So, as a self-identified trend following conformist, this entry will address my father.

My father was born in South Eastern rural Quebec, a little bit North of the Vermont border, sometime in the 1940s. He grew up on a large dairy farm, on land my family had owned for around 200 years. When he was 16 my father dropped out of high school, jumped on a train and headed out West. He ended up working as a coal miner in Saskatchewan for a few years. Eventually, he got a job working for the Canadian Pacific Railroad in Northern Manitoba, in Churchill to be specific. My father is obsessed with trains, he loves them to an extent that I never quite understood. We frequently go to see old trains and museums, where my father can talk for hours about the engines, designs, and uses of the trains. Last summer we went out to see a steam locomotive near Ottawa.

Through CPR he received his high school diploma and became a plumber, eventually ending up with a stable job at CPRs offices and rail yards in Montreal. Sometime in the 70s he met my mother and they got married. My father used to have long ginger hair, and if pictures are any indication, he's had the same mustache for 40 odd years. As far back as I could remember, my father's hair has always been grey.

Another defining feature of my father is his dyslexia. A constant problem for him, I don't think he's ever spelled my name properly. He's remarkably good at math and has a great memory for an eclectic amount of trivia. I'm sure he was failed by the education system. He's not a stupid man, but he wasn't able to finish high school because of the limitations of special education at the time.

As to his personality, my father has the gift of the gab. All my life, he's embarrassed me by engaging complete strangers in conversation, my mother attributes this to him being a country bumpkin. Personally, I share almost no interest with my father apart from hockey and politics, so that's what we discuss. My father is a union man, progressive to the core, which we have in common. Likewise, the Habs have always brought the entire family together.

When I was younger I was a total ******* to my father. I have to admit I disliked him a lot when I was young. I hated being dragged to hockey practice every week, I hated his cheesy jokes, I hated how distant he was, and I just hated him in general. This was probably partly the result of my mother's influence.

There's one memory that sticks with me from when I was around 8 or 9 and I saw my father shoplift something, and I remember being very disappointed. Honestly, that's typical of my father, he lies and cheats, but at least he always came home.

It wasn't all conflict between us though. We would go camping and fishing, and I think we were happy doing that. Pretty sure my father would have been happier with a more outdoorsy son instead of the queer bookworm biologist, but you can't have everything can you.

As I got older my opinion of my father has mellowed a bit. I've grown to appreciate his standoffish behavior for the tolerance that extends from it. My mother can't help but get her fingers into every little thing I do, but I can rely on my father's support without the interference. My father is flawed, but I think he can be counted on to do the right thing. I appreciate how hard he worked, when he would leave at 6 in the morning and return after 9 at night. He'll go out of his way to help you if you ask for it. Often he's over at the neighbours houses fixing up their broken junk.

Anyway, we can always get together these days and talk about the Habs or complain about what the Tories are up to. My father has been a stable rock, I don't have any exceptional complaints, he's a good man even if we've always been a bit distant from each other.

edit: Oh and here's the only picture of us together I have on my computer, not a great one.

Updated 07-22-2010 at 02:52 AM by OrphanPip

An Autobiography (with many omissions)


  1. JuniperWoolf's Avatar
    I like him, he's got that quiet, coal-miner, lame joke thing that I'm very, very familiar with. Shame about the dyslexia, schools were probably pretty unsuitable for that in the 60's (my uncle was dyslexic too, he "failed" grade two in the eighties).
  2. qimissung's Avatar
    The silence of the dads-what's up with that? My dad was a quiet guy, and although I knew he loved me and vice versa, we rarely conversed.

    I'm glad you feel that you have more of a connection to him now. He sounds like a nice guy. He has the main attribute I associate with dads; stability.

    I'm sorry about the dyslexia; we have neighbors whose daughter cannot attend college because she can't pass the math test due to her dyslexia. So it's still difficult for schools to deal with.
  3. Paulclem's Avatar
    I said it in Juniper's post already but people are interesting. We only get to appreciate our parents when we're older. Good post.
  4. Virgil's Avatar
    We're all flawed O-P, and it takes one to at least reach around forty to realize our own flaws. As to the dyslexia, I'm not sure they understood it back then. The education system wasn't probably geared to deal with it. I enjoyed reading this.