Sunday, June 21, 2009

from my father's hands

Happy Father's Day to all you dads. I hope you are being spoiled absolutely senseless by adoring families who are tripping over themselves to fulfill your every whim.

I'd like to tell you a little bit about my dad, but if you know me, you'll know that I will use every opportunity to highjack the conversation into really being about myself
, so forgive because I am going to do so again.

Like most families, we weren't exactly Norman Rockwell models. I didn't have the easiest relationship with my dad. We did talk more after I started university, because then it seemed we had some interests in common (and I was probably less of an asshole by then), but I never really got past thinking of him as a curt, slightly scary, basically unavailable man. It wasn't until he died that I found out that he was so much more multi-faceted than the career soldier I had always assumed him to be.

I learned that he had been enrolled in law school when WWII broke out, which obviously changed his life and his aspirations forever. I had always appreciated that he had a love of words; he used to read our encyclopedia collection from cover to cover and he could not resist ordering several books every month. But I overlooked his creative side.

My father abhored waste and would reuse everything many times over, in many different incarnations. For example, he would hang shiny metal plates and old mirrors and such all around his huge garden, to keep the birds away. Now when I look around my own garden, it too is filled with found objects, less to keep the birds away and more because I like the way incongruous objects look amongst the greenery, but it still reminds me of Willi's garden.

It wasn't until recently that I realised that I probably inherited any sort of creativity that I may possess from my dad. After my mom's funeral I took home with me a set of wooden lamps, a couple of candle holders, and a bowl, all of which my dad had carved from a single tree that had been felled one year. They remind me of him, of course, but in addition, they make me understand how similar I am to my dad in my love of words, my appreciation of clean simple design, and my desire to transform found objects into new life.

The point I am trying to make, in my long-winded approach, is that my dad's handiwork have become some of my most treasured possessions. A while ago, the ever-inventive and reflective Sean posted most eloquently about the small treasures in our collections, those items that define our experiences, that ground us at the same time as they pique our imagination, expand our minds, and make our hearts swell. These things, which my dad made with his hands, are my precious treasures. They will never end up in an art gallery or anything, but they are quite lovely in their simplicity. They remind me of the father I wish I had appreciated more, and they make me aware of the sensibilities and the creative approach which we shared. To me that is precious.


Dale said...

What a sweet post Barbara. When I think ill of my parents, I try to temper that with thinking about how their sacrifices and experiences shaped them. Then I go right back to cursing them. But not today. Thank you.

Wandering Coyote said...

That's a really lovely tribute, Barbara.

Volly said...

It's never too late to "find" your parents again in your heart, and such a gratifying feeling when you do.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm sure that a few moments of reprise from their offsprings' scorn is all that parents expect and need, Dale. I know it's all that I'm going to look for.

It was overdue, Wandering Coyote, both in my realizing it and in acknowledging it.

I still wish I had been more appreciative years ago, Volly, but am taking a lesson from this to maintain a stronger bond with my own offspring.

Sean Wraight said...

What an absolutely terrific post Barbara. I envisioned you writing this post with a huge, beaming smile on your face. Exactly the result of the fond recollections you recalled.

It is so true about surrounding ourselves with subtle reminders and artifacts of the people we love. Those are the treasures that feed our souls, inspire us and give us hope.

Excellent post. You just made the beaming smile contagious.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh my, here we go with our simultaneous commenting again, Sean! Why am I not surprised?
It's true what you say about the power of surrounding ourselves with reminders of people we love. Every little glance at these tangible items brings memories and strength and comfort. It's a good thing I am not generally a collector or my house would be piled to the rafters with mementos.

Joe said...

That was really well done Barbara.

umbrellalady said...

Barb, your Dad was a wonderful, kind person. As the DIL, I saw how he was so very proud of all of you. I see a lot of him in all of you,in terms of how disciplined you are in your learning, how resourceful you are and especially in the wonderful,zany sense of humour your whole family has.

Allison said...

Wonderful post, Barb. As are those lamps! I can see how they would be one of your most treasured treasures. Its amazing how one object, or photograph can spring to life so many memories. Its no wonder we hold onto those the most.

Gifted Typist said...

Lovely post zombie, very reflective and generous and acknowledging. We give our parents such a hard time for what they do to us, but in the end there is "them" too. Being children we always look at them from our own vortex. I'm glad you have his stuff and treasure it.

I've managed to make amends with my dad and he's still alive. Long, difficult story with lots of unfinished little ends, but I decided that it was more important to resolve the relationship than to quibble over little stuff. He's done his bit to make amends too.

On Father's Day, we - three of his daughters and family had dinner at his apartment with his 3rd wife who is is really happy with, at last.

Will said...

That was sweet and lovely. I enjoyed reading it.

John Mutford said...

Did he ever carve a leg lamp?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Thanks, Bubs, that's very kind.

What a kind thing to say, Kathy, that means a lot. You and Willi always got along so well; I think he appreciated the fact that you stood up to him in those cut-throat Scrabble games.

Those lamps are pretty great, aren't they, Al? I wonder what my dad would think if he knew I was posting pix of his work online. Likely shake his head at that nonsense.

How wonderful that you and your dad have come to terms, Gifted. I can't imagine that it was easy, especially with those little loose ends out there, but the fact that you made the choice to put that aside just shows what a generous spirit you really have.

Thanks, Will, that's most kind of you to say.

I wish he had, John! A leg lamp is something that he would really appreciated the cultural significance of. Or maybe not, but damn it would have been funny.

Anonymous said...

Hey Barb,
We truely never know what we have until we do not have it anymore. Your post brought back a wave of emotions that have been eroded over time. Wonderful post. Thank you.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Thanks, Bruno. Do you know when I really notice he's gone? On his birthday. We always stick beer caps in our eyes and pretend it's a Canada Day custom.

Jas B said...

Such a lovely, sweet post Barb.
Reminds me of my grandfather who passed away in 2006...I still have all the letters he wrote to me and all the b'day and new year cards he sent my way over the years...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I imagine you will keep those always, Jas, to help you remember.