Today my father turned 96. He is still in hospital, hanging in there (for which I am thankful). But it seems strange to me not to be able to call his home to wish him Happy Birthday. So I arranged to call my sister when she visited him this evening after she left work.
He was born in 1915 in London, England, and anyone who meets him for the first time immediately knows that he is British even before he has spoken. When he does speak, I don’t hear an accent, although my friends claim that they can.
Before World War II was officially declared, he joined the British Army then transferred to the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1938. He told me once that, while it broke his heart to be told his eyesight wasn’t good enough to become a pilot, being assigned to ground crew probably saved his life.
He came to Canada in February of 1942 (it was 55 below F when he arrived in Carberry, MB) as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. He met my mother at a Valentine’s Day party and she knew that she wouldn’t date him because he was too short! (She once shared with me that before she met Dad, she only dated tall men.)
They married in June of 1943 and honeymooned in Kenora, ON at a place called Parklands Campgrounds. They ended up being lifelong friends of the Roses who owned the place on Longbow Lake. Growing up, my sister and I spent two to three weeks of our summer holiday there.
He worked first at TCA (Trans-Canada Air Lines) and then when it became Air Canada in the Engine Shop as part of their maintenance crew. Throughout our childhood and teen years, and even after my sister and I left home, our dad held two jobs; he worked as a relief projectionist in the theatres in Winnipeg. When he “retired” he became the full-time projectionist at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
There is so much more that I can write about him, such as he was a hobby photographer; was involved with the 177 Air Canada Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron for many years; and took us on annual trips to England to visit our British aunts, uncles and cousins.
Life is Like That
I can barely hear him on speaker phone; it’s more breath than voice, but in reply to my hearty “Happy Birthday, Dad!” he says “Hi there.” After throwing more words into the air, hoping they reach his mind and heart, I have to be content with those two faint words – my father says nothing else, not even goodbye for the remainder of the conversation. But I manage to tell him all of the important stuff: he’s in my thoughts and prayers and that I love him.