Dad

Today being Wednesday, it was time to venture into London to hear folk music at the home of Christine and John.   “Acoustic Spotlight” is their creation.  The first set always features the piano majesty of Jake Levesque, and usually includes Jake accompanying the impeccable vocals of his dear wife Julia Webb.  I’m especially moved when she sings one of Jake’s songs.  Tonight these lyrics slipped from her lips:

The stars burn bright over this town tonight
And it sure feels good to be home

Home indeed, within a living room of music lovers.

Tonight’s feature act was Emily Garber, a singer-songwriter of vividly “real” compositions, and with an edginess that reminded me of Alanis Morissette.  Sitting on the couch right in front of Emily was her dad Nathan.  Once she pointed him out to us, I could see that we were in the presence of family.  It wasn’t similar looks.  It was the bond that stretched between their eyes.

“I wrote dad a song.”  Emily admitted that the two of them have often tangled but the love I felt between them filled the room.  She sang “Forty Years” to him, and to us.  Her eyes never left his face.  Emily wrote about long ago, when her tiny hand fit into his, and she felt safe.  And then recently, when her two young daughters did the same with Gramps.  Dad was melting on the couch.  I watched him closely, wishing that I too had been a father.

Half an hour later, Nathan came to the front and Emily took his seat.  As he sang and played guitar, their eyes were once more joined.  Stillness hung in the air.  Father and daughter share a love of the song, and so much more.  It was as if they were thanking each other all evening.

I’m not a dad.  I’ve often wished I was.  But as I sit at home tonight, having witnessed the tenderness stretching between two human beings, I feel myself relaxing into not being a father.  I’m nodding my head in recognition of there being no deficit.  My life has not been “less than” because I don’t have children.  I feel the richness of many relationships.  The fact that no one has ever called me dad brings an ache to my heart and also a smile to my face.  So bittersweet this life sometimes is.  May I embrace it all till my time here is done.

 

Dad

It’s a word that has never been sent my way.  Jody and I didn’t have any children.  That’s one of only two regrets I have in life:  Her early death at 54 is the other.

When I’m out there in the world, I often hear a kid call the man beside him or her “Dad”, and a little bit of me winces.  Oh, to sit on the couch with my son or daughter, watching TV, eating popcorn and chatting about the events of the day.  But it’s not to be (this time around anyway).

I love volunteering in the Grade 5/6 class and sometimes imagine that I’m dad (or more accurately grandpa).  I’ve had many fine conversations with kids, and I like to think that I’ve made an impact on many of them, but at the end of the day they go to their homes and I go to mine.  And that’s okay.  At least we get to talk some on the days when I show up at their school.

Yesterday, the class was on a field trip to a conservation area – a well-treed park surrounded by farmland.  We had fun, especially the geocaching experience, where we used our handheld GPS units to find spots in the woods where tiny treasures were hidden in Tupperware containers.  Our group found one about six feet above the ground in the crotch of a tree.

When it was time to get on the bus for the return trip to school, a Grade 5 kid asked me to sit with her.  I’ll call her Sarah.  We talked about the day we spent exploring both technology and nature.  We talked about the training I’m doing to get ready for my bicycle ride across Canada this summer.  Her assessment of the hours I spend on the elliptical at the gym?  “Crazy!”  Well, maybe I am, but I’m going to be fit enough to traverse my country, starting in June.

Sarah is a hockey player.  This winter, I’ve gone to a few games featuring kids from school, but I’d never seen her team play.  “Next year, I’ll come to a game of yours.”  She smiled.

Apparently, Jayne, the teacher, plays a game with the kids just before lunch every Friday.  Sarah asked me if I’d come to volunteer some Friday morning so I could play too.  I said yes, and was very pleased that she invited me.

Getting off the bus, Sarah wanted to know which car was mine.  “That red one over there – Scarlet.”  She seemed amused that I named my cars.  For me, it’s always felt like a natural thing to do.

These kids spend some time with me and then next year they’ll be off on new adventures.  Elementary school turns into high school turns into whatever’s next.  They’re building their lives, step by step.  Even though my time with them will be brief, I’m happy that I get to have moments like a simple bus ride back to school.

On last fall’s meditation retreat, one of the teachers said “When you’re in the presence of one of life’s wholesome moments … Don’t miss it!”  So true.  May we all be awake to the people who come our way, whether they’re 10 or 82.