My father was an impatient man. He was not what I would call an angry person; he lost his temper on occasion like anyone does but in general my father’s temperament was quite sweet. However, he didn’t like to be kept waiting. Often he would stand by the door, his face red and shaking a bit, and sing, “Where is everybody?”
Dad was a great whistler; his whistle was almost of the quality that you hear in songs with a bona fide tremolo. He must have been a very content person because I heard my father whistle a lot while growing up. If he wasn’t whistling full-blown, he was humming a tune to himself. My father was a simple man whose contentments could reach transcendental levels. When he enjoyed something, he really enjoyed, and you did, too, just watching him.
Dad was very at-home at the piano; he was able to play popular tunes quite comfortably. If he heard a tune he could play the melody; even if he was only hearing it for the first time, such was his perfect ear for music. He recently told me self-deprecatingly that his talent was less impressive due to the fact that all the songs he played were in the key of F. I still think — and the many residents at Westmount One who had the good fortune to see him play the grand piano in the lobby would agree – that this was a minor shortcoming, if at all. From Sinatra to Burt Bacharach to Gershwin, to innumerable show tunes, my father could play any melody that he could hum or whistle to using a sophisticated chord sequence. He was confident there, my dad was, and I loved to sit by his side on the piano bench as a kid and watch him play. He might be waiting for my mother as they were preparing to go out to a party, his scotch on the rocks sitting on the Chickering while he played his favorite songs. No impatience at times like this, just utter contentment.
Of course my memories will differ from Marlene’s and Deboragh’s. Marlene will tell you what a great grandfather to her two daughters my father was. Deboragh’s relationship with her father is so close that it borders on the mystical. But for me, it is not difficult to draw on many wonderful memories. I’ve mentioned sitting by his side watching him play piano. I also went fishing with him many times growing up. My dad never suffered from the squeamishness I’m famous for; he could gut and fillet a fish with ease or put a hook through a worm, no problem. If a hook ever got caught deep in a fish’s gullet, again Dad was efficient and calm in pulling it out. He was a smart fisherman and when we returned from a fishing trip the vast majority of the fish we brought home were caught using a special fishing technique he perfected and which I failed to really learn no matter how many times he tried to teach me.
But, outweighing all of his fishing skills was the strong energy Dad gave off of complete contentment while fishing. He’d whistle and hum a tune between his teeth and keep himself busy somehow. We kids might get bored by the inactivity, especially if no fish were biting, but for me, dad’s contentment was always very contagious and we’d enjoy ourselves even if very few words were exchanged.
People may not know what my hard-working father did in his career. He took over the jewellery store that his parents had started and for four decades at least Berkeley Jewellers was a fixture on Sainte-Catherine Street. There weren’t that many jewelry stores of that size on Sainte-Catherine Street and his sweet soft-sell was quite successful.
There were 32 years between the time he retired and the day he passed away. Thirty-two years is a long time; in that period he had to deal with the shock of my mother’s death and a lingering chronic depression. It took some time, but during the 1990’s he managed to create a very good life for himself: in the condo that he loved, in meeting his soul-mate Shirley. Dad’s life became truly happy.
But it is not only his happy moments which we remember him by. It is the sweetness of his soul and his big heart. Even having to deal with an enormous change of life in 2007 when he came to Westmount One, Dad became a well-liked loner; he was never a great socialiser on his own; and he could be uncommunicative and shy. And we won’t pretend that he was happy. The last few years of his life were not fulfilled as he struggled with the loss of his independence and the ability to do the few things which gave him pleasure. But his basic sweetness could not be concealed even in his darkest times. I could never take personally for very long his grumpiness and his sending me out of his room after just a few minutes visiting him. No one holds it against dad that he couldn’t adapt well to this overwhelming and basically unwanted change in this life.
Our family wishes to thank the staff of Westmount One for the hard work they put into on a daily basis to make life easier for my father. To his caregivers Regina and especially Lucy: you have been nothing less than remarkable with Dad. Your love and strength, skill and patience are truly impressive and our family thanks you sincerely for everything you did to bring out dad’s inherent contentment during a difficult part of his life.
It is to his credit that all the love that we feel for him comes so easily. The good memories as well. Goodbye Dad, we’ll miss you. As Marlene said to you after you passed, while we stayed with you at the hospital, “You’ll live in our hearts forever.”