NO SONG FOR DAD

Original essay (non-fiction)
By Kathryn J. Foster

At choir practice, we were remarking that few songs have been written to commemorate "Father's Day" as compared to numerous melodies composed to honor mothers on their special day.Well, my own father was just not the sort of man to inspire tender songs of praise. But he did infuse many worthwhile thoughts and feelings into his children.

One section of Dad's blacksmith shop was set up for carpentry, and when not nailing shoes on the horses in our small community of Green Mountain, (also, the many workhorses from surrounding settlements) he labored away making many useful things such as ax handles, peaveys, pulp hooks, tongs for lifting red-hot iron from the forge, tables, rolling pins, combined step-ladder and ironing boards, bob-sleds and numerous other items.

Mom always warned us not to bother Dad in the shop. She said, "Your father works very hard and can't be looking out for kids." Lesson one to my young child's thinking was that it is admirable to work by the sweat of the brow to earn shelter, clothing and daily bread for the family.

Because of the potentially dangerous tools scattered about, (not to mention the nuisance it would be) Dad seldom allowed his brood of five small children into the shop. But what a thrill it was on those rare occasions when granted the privilege of spending a precious hour of playtime inside that most interesting of buildings with him. How vivid still is the memory of the hammering of nails as Dad's muscular bare arms pounded away in a strong measured beat. I will never forget the acrid fumes from the bellows mingled with sweet-smelling fresh wood shavings.

Compared to the modern father my Dad never paid much attention to us as kids. A recent letter from my daughter in Ottawa told of how our three grandchildren there are the central focus of their attention every waking moment. She and their father had just spent a not unusual day with their youngsters. It included a visit to a park, restaurant, movie then playing games before bedtime with special stories and other entertainment. The children were still not satisfied and whined for something more.

About the only individual attention I recall my Dad giving to me was when he teased. He had a twinkle in his eyes when he took notice of me. I took it as a show of affection because Dad never teased people he disliked. When we were sick he showed great concern and caring. He was always there in times of need. Lesson two was to be dependable.

Dad was not adept as most of today's fathers are at tending to the personal needs of his children. I doubt he ever changed a soiled diaper or wiped a runny nose. He did not believe in spoiling kids with the frills of life. Closest to that would be that after haying season if we had worked diligently, he took us with him in the hired car to go to town for winter supplies. We were treated to whatever movie happened to be playing on that day. Seems it was always a cowboy show. But when you've raked, pitched and stacked hay for weeks in the hot sun and hotter barn, even Roy Rogers and Dale Evans exuded the intrigue and romance of Anthony and Cleopatra. Lesson three; enjoy the simple things of life.How as a child did I know that Dad loved me, since he never said the words? Perhaps the essence of self-esteem is the ability to feel love, in the absence of spoken affirmations and outward demonstrations.

Although I have no song for Dad, I would not have changed one thing about him. In spite of obvious shortcomings, never would I have traded him for an "up to date" type either. I believe we loved each other. What else matters?

Published in "Summer Tapestry" 2008 by the Poetry Institute of Canada