January 21, 2015
My father was a writer. That was something I knew about him as I grew up—not from him, as he was gone. But my mother told me, as did a friend of the family, a man who’d grown up best friends with my dad.
This man was a lawyer. My dad, on the death of his own father when he was a young man of 17 or so, had to leave school and go to work to support his mother. It was the 1930s and that was just what you did. But for all of the rest of his life, this man remained a good friend to my dad, despite the differences in their educations, and vocations.
I recall, when I was about ten or so, seeing a small sample of his writing—just a half page, and I had never been able to recall what it was. As I grew older, I just assumed that nothing of what he’d written remained.
Fourteen years after his death at the age of 46 in 1962, my mother passed away—at the too young age of 57. I was married at the time, with one child. Yet I remember thinking that even though I was a wife and mother, I was also now an orphan.
I raised my kids and worked, and then, just as we were about to become “dinks”—double income with no kids—I had a heart attack. I was 48 at the time, and I survived. Three months later, I began to have angina attacks and it was determined I needed angioplasty. At the last minute, that turned into triple by-pass. I recovered, and was told by my beloved that I was now a “retired” person. Being idle isn’t me, and when I wondered aloud what I would do for the rest of my life, he told me to go after that dream of mine.
And I did.
My first taste of success was winning a short story contest hosted by the Canadian Writer’s Journal. This was a literary publication. I was so excited, of course I had to share the news with my big brother.
And that is when he gave me the most unexpected and precious of gifts: an envelope containing samples of my father’s work. It thrilled me even as it saddened me. My father stopped writing when he left school. He had to work, and I guess he considered it time to “put away childish things”.
These glimpses into my father’s writer’s soul were ink on paper, the paper yellowed with age. I transcribed what I found there, and put it on my computer, in a file I called Legacy, and distributed it to my family.
There were poems, mostly, and one short story. One poem in particular spoke to me—written in 1931, when he was a young man of 16. It was as if he knew that soon he’d join the work-a-day world. It’s called Childhood Play, and I’d like to share it with you:
When the little children play
Happy beings night and day
Grown up folks look sadly on
And think of childhood that has gone.
Just a little simple noise
Animates their very toys
A little motions fascination
The rest comes from imagination.
A piece of string, a little board
Some coloured glass oh what a hoard!
“Tis junk” the grown up people say
Tis treasure to a child at play.
A ditch with muddy water filled
Delights a little pilot skilled
Who, over rapids safely guides
His little bateaux through the tides.
And thus in early, joyful life
When yet each child has met no strife
Each simple article contains
Some hidden joy adults distain.
In childhood beauty reigns supreme
And innocence the only theme
Would God our thoughts would so remain
Tis true that thus we’d miss much pain.
His poems and story serve as an echo from an earlier time, and provide a connection—not from father to daughter, but from writer to writer.