He would pluck us out of the canoe and toss us overboard. “ These life jackets haven’t been tested yet, so.. you better swim.”
I always believed him, and would paddle in the middle of the freshwater lake like my pants were on fire.
His career in Parks gave us a life of wonder, living in and around wilderness.
It was magic, and among it all, we knew we were loved unconditionally, and protected by our parents. Our passions and independence were encouraged, our freedom given.
His career gave us the good parts, and he sheltered us from the rest. The politics and injustice, tirelessly fighting wildfires and looking for the lost. He broke trails in 40 below in bitterly cold Saskatchewan winters. He comforted the weary and stood up for those wronged, in all spectrums.
In his early career, he started youth outdoor programs, teaching wilderness skills to children often forgotten, left out of the circles of society at the time.
During an early post living on a Northern Reserve, he initiated home building projects for the village. He built a community dock, when the Indian Agent said he had no right to do so. “Everyone has a right to a home, a dock, To respect”, he said. In those years he would see the birth of his son, and form lasting friendships. He would witness injustice to those very friends, and come to their defence at great risk. It was the early 60’s, when so few stood against discrimination.
When he and my brother returned 50 years later, one of the houses still stood, and an Elder remembered him on sight. They embraced, recalling good memories.
In one southern Park we lived, a rule for all park cottagers/ residents was to halt at the Park gate and present your Park pass. A cottager with a fighting mean streak would breeze through and never stop. Some were afraid to report his misdoings. When Dad witnessed this, he confronted him, encouraging him to get in his car. He drove him thru the gate, with instructions, “This is how you stop appropriately and how you greet the park staff respectfully. Now do it.” He did, never flying through the gates again. He told other cottagers that my Dad, soft spoken and non- violent, “ a big strong man with steely blue eyes” commanded respect.
Dad has volunteered throughout his career, setting tracks for Winter fest dogsled races, serving on village council, playing music for those in nursing homes and hospitals. He performed 1000 shows between the ages of 70 & 80.
In his retirement, he came back full circle to the Indigenous, volunteering for CESO.
“ Economic reconciliation is at the heart of what we do at CESO. With over 50 years of experience working with Indigenous communities across Canada, we understand the complexity and diversity of their resources and needs. We work in partnership with Indigenous peoples to build human capacity to create environments where members of Indigenous communities can fully participate and benefit from economic growth.” Ceso website.
He has remained quietly steadfast. A man of few words, exhibiting actions often speak louder. He has never wavered in his commitment to humanity and nature, continuing to live a life of generosity, kindness, and gratitude.
At a medical appointment earlier this year, responding to a diagnosis, he took my hands in mine, “ Oh Dawn, I have such a good life, grateful to have lived this long without having any health issues. I never expected to go on forever.”
Well, I sort of did, I said. And we laughed and hugged.
What a wonder to have this amazing role model and great love in my life. What a gift he is.
Happy Father’s Day this Sunday to my dear Papa and all the amazing Dad’s.
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