Yesterday was my dad’s birthday. I was out of sorts and didn’t do a thing to acknowledge the day but today it feels appropriate today to do something, now 5 days before the anniversary of his death.
How to explain my dad. He was born in Hollywood to immigrant parents from Canada. French Canada to be specific. I never knew my grandfather but I knew my dad’s mother and her sister and they spoke French far better them English. My dad didn’t speak French or if he did he would not admit it. He rejected their Catholicism jus as thoroughly walking away from his Catholic high school on the day of graduation to become a life long atheist.
As a child he would be brought to poker games by his bookie father and would hold the pot in the center of the table. At the same time he worked in Hollywood, primarily as a stand in for a child stars. He would standing in place under hot lights while cameras were placed and then the star would be brought in. It gave him a look into the world of stars and turned his back to it.
Dad was fascinated by geology and archeology. As soon as he could drive he headed in to the desert. He was always reckless, venturing into places that were dangerous. He was already a compulsive collector, something that grew worse over the years. My mum helped control that urge somewhat. After college, dad was drafted into the army. With his education he could have been an officer. He refused. It would have added a year to his service and he did not want to be in the army and he connived his way into a shortened service. One of his proudest accomplishments from his service. He was not good with rules or authority. Despite his reluctance and even as a private his education was recognized, needed, and used. He told a story that I didn’t find out the real details until my dad’s real memorial. As a private he sat in a room full of general’s and straight out told them that their invasion plan would get soldiers killed. Turns out that invasion advice was given during the Bay of Pigs. Dad never told more than a vague tale of that but that was my dad he was very selective about what he would tell us about his life.
Dad never wanted to admit that he was bi-polar. His try at medication was short-lived and before I was born. I loved my dad the way any little girl wants to love her father but I was also terrified. The father I wanted could disappear in front of your eyes, fading into a man just short of a monster. His yelling tirades were curse filled and could last for what felt like hours. Those were followed by the silences.
The man he was could not bear the rules. When we were hiking he could not stay on the path. He was looking for something new, something more. The world couldn’t give him the highs that he needed. It couldn’t take away the lows. I spent a lifetime trying to help him find a balance. That little girl rarely found that father. He could be there on that rare time when she had a broken heart and he told me to come home. Those rare times when he would let me into me into his world. I miss that man. The father I wanted. The father I lost.