When I think about my late grandfather, images of him come quickly and vividly to my mind. I see him sitting on the front porch of my grandparent’s home – surrounded by potted annuals – a cigarette between his fingers and an ashtray on the table beside him. I see him on another occasion leaning over me on that front porch as I painted the floor in typical front porch grey – he was a housepainter by trade, so there was advice concerning my technique. I remember him standing at his painting easel, also. If he was a house painter by trade, he was an artist at heart. I see him walking through the greenhouses that he and my two uncles owned and operated together, never doing much better than breaking even. I remember sitting beside him on his hospital bed, thin and weak, not too many days before he died.
My grandparents immigrated to Canada from The Netherlands, with many others, in the post World War II context. In 1951 they came as a family, my mom a 14 –year-old young woman at the time.
Whenever I think about my grandfather – whenever I think about his life and identity – there are so many rich memories. But when I think about him today I also do so in the light of words spoken about him at his funeral in 1989 – words spoken by my dad at that time. An important aspect of my grandfather’s life and identity was that he was never really at home here in Canada. From these shores he looked back on his life in The Netherlands, and there was so much he missed: Continue reading
We’ve all had that feeling of disorientation at some point.
Perhaps you are staying in a hotel somewhere, or visiting family for a few days. You wake up in the middle of the night and don’t know where you are. The room is unfamiliar. You feel lost. You look for points of familiarity to locate yourself. It takes a few moments to happen. Then, clarity! You remember where you are – are able to locate yourself in time and space – the unease passes quickly. You understand what has happened.
I recently had an experience that was both similar to this and different.
It was a weekday evening, and I had gone to bed at around 11:30 pm. – probably a little later than usual. Another variable was that my wife was staying up later than me, working on an assignment for one of her master’s degree courses. That, also, is out of our ordinary routine.
About an hour after going to bed, around 12:30 a.m., I woke up with a feeling that something was wrong. I had a good sense of where I was, and I registered that Becky was not in bed. But I also had a deep sense that someone was missing. It was late at night and someone who was supposed to be there wasn’t there. My sense was that it was dad who was missing.
As I sat up on the edge of the bed, I wasn’t picturing or thinking about my own father, who lives some 6 hours away. I was just thinking about some “dad” whose identity I didn’t really understand – I was very confused and at a loss, both as to who this missing person was and as to why he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Continue reading