Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 10, 2002
Take time to honour thy Father
A real Dad knows raising fine citizens is his best legacy
By LISA PETSCHE
Special to the WCR
Father's Day is a time of mixed emotions in our family.
Part of it involves sombre reflection. That's because my husband's father died on Father's Day following post-surgical complications ten years ago.
It was a crisis that seemed unreal. My husband, his mother and his sister kept vigil at the intensive care unit over a painfully long, four-day period as hope gradually faded.
I cared for our firstborn infant daughter at home and handled phone calls from relatives and friends.
As a new mother, I felt the timing couldn't be much worse.
But in retrospect, being on maternity leave allowed me to be more available to my in-laws during a difficult time, binding us closer together that summer and fall.
And our precious baby provided my husband and me with a much-needed diversion that helped keep us grounded. But at the time, it felt strange, and lonely, not being at the hospital with the rest of the family.
My husband assured me I was where I needed to be.
Praying throughout the day became my primary means of helping, and brought me comfort.
A pivotal moment happened during a phone conversation with my husband shortly before midnight on Saturday.
Dad was in and out of consciousness - mostly the latter - in poor condition but stable. The family was exhausted, ready to come home for a short break.
As he was about to end the call, I suddenly realized Father's Day was minutes away. I was overcome with an inexplicable feeling of urgency.
Go visit your dad once more before you leave, I pleaded. So my husband went back before heading home.
Three hours later, the dreaded call woke us. "Your father has taken a turn for the worse." Before anyone could get to the hospital, he quietly slipped away.
I like to think he held on until Father's Day in order to express how much parenthood meant to him, since he was no longer able to speak.
Ironically, his last Father's Day was my husband's first - one that never did get celebrated.
In the weeks that followed, we were grateful for the many, often humourous reminiscences shared by fellow mourners. Some of the stories were new, not only to me, but to my husband as well. We tell them now to our three children.
Although we're sad they didn't get the chance to know their Poppa, we focus on the positive - he lived long enough to see his son become a father. That means a lot to my husband.
Thankfully, my own father remains very much a part of our lives - one of the reasons there's still joy on Father's Day.
A home renovation contractor by vocation, Dad is known to my kids as "the fixer" who can repair anything, from a broken toy to backed-up plumbing and anything in between.
He has always been there for my sisters and me, regularly helping us out in all kinds of situations, often without our even having to ask. He's also a wonderful example of a practicing Catholic, deeply involved in his parish community and beyond.
The other Father's Day honouree in our family, my husband, is best described as a hands-on dad, typical of his generation. He was present for the birth of our children, has changed countless diapers and gives as many hugs as I do.
Less typical, though, is the transformation he recently underwent from a commuter who headed off to work at dawn and returned, stressed and tired, just as the children were going to bed, to someone who accompanies his children to and from school each day, makes their lunches, helps with homework and attends their soccer games.
After his company downsized him, he started a home-based business that would allow him more time with family. Now he can't imagine life any other way.
Of course, fathers - like mothers - are a diverse group consisting of many different personality types, with varied skills, life experiences and philosophies.
What the best ones have in common, though, is this perspective: that putting a good person out into the world is the most important thing they will ever do.
(Lisa Petsche is a mother of three, social worker and freelance writer in Stoney Creek, Ont.)