Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Dad

I haven't been able to celebrate Father's Day with my Dad since he passed away in 1993. He was always uncomfortable being the center of attention anyway, so I'm sure he won't mind if I honor him this way this year.

Robert Andrew McCarthy was born on February 21, 1922, the first child of Duncan and Millicent McCarthy.

By the end of 1931 five more children were born, including one who lived only 6 months. Pictured above are Duncan, Edna, Robert, Evelyn, baby Marjorie and Millicent. Not yet born is Dad's brother, William.

Dad was very close to his father and remembers having scarlet fever when he was young, being quarantined in a hospital and his father visiting every day and talking to him through the window since he wasn't allowed in to visit him. It hit Dad very hard when his beloved father died suddenly when Dad was only 10 years old. He took his responsibilities as man of the family very seriously and helped his mother out as much as he could, taking jobs as they were available to help supplement the family income. As a child he enjoyed swimming and skating and playing hockey and baseball.

Dad had joined the army when he was 17 so when Canada entered World War 2 in 1939 he was ready to go. He spent the first year of the war in Halifax harbour manning the anti-submarine net across the mouth of the harbour. Before long he was overseas, training in England and then to Italy, France, Belgium and Holland.

When the war was finally over, he returned home to Halifax in 1945, and, having made friends with two of Mum's cousins and three brothers while overseas, he was soon introduced to Mum and they were married in August 1946.

Dad reinlisted in the Army and was transferred to Picton, Ontario, where I was born in May of 1948. My older sister was born in May of 1947.

Dad always loved babies so I think he was pleased to have a couple of his own. When I was 4 we adoped a 9 month old boy, Ken, who completed our family. He and Dad became very close as Ken grew up.

This is Dad with his two girls - I'm the little one with the doll. He used to love teasing and tormenting us and then turned us over to Mum to calm us down enough to go to bed.

Dad in 1958 - a handsome man.

This is his regiment in 1951. Dad is sitting second from the left.

Our family in 1965 at Wendy's high school graduation.

Dad was a good father, always there for us. It took me a while to learn to 'read' him so I could tell when he was kidding. Mum used to say "look at his eyes". When he was teasing us his eyebrows would twitch and he'd have that laugh in his eyes. He wasn't mean or stern but being a military man gave him an aura of authority that we didn't think to question. He had a keen, but low key sense of humor. He liked to play games and back when we were 8 or 9 he got a game of Lingo for us (a forerunner of Scrabble) and would play it with us and Mum in the evenings. He would also play cards with us, hearts, canasta, casino, rummoli, frustration, etc. It always felt so good on the rare occasions we were able to beat him. He never, ever would 'let' any of us beat him. He liked to win but more importantly he wanted us to feel good when we could beat him at a game...and he always smiled his eye twinkling smile when we managed to best him at a game.

When we were living in Germany where Dad was posted, Dad had his first heart attack at age 39. Because of that we were sent back to Canada before his tour of duty was over, and he retired. By the time he was 41 he had had 2 more 'minor' heart attacks. We then moved to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick, and he worked for Canada Post as a Postmaster for 22 years before retiring from work altogether. He always said that he considered each year after 50 a 'bonus' and enjoyed life in spite of developing diabetes in his early 60s. He took good care of himself, stayed active, golfed, walked, and enjoyed his family. I never heard him complain about his health or circumstances. He was a happy man.

Here he is in 1982 surrounded by his children, their spouses, and grandchildren. He enjoyed his family. I always felt special because I'm the only one of that group who is left-handed like Dad.

Even though he was busy with his own family, Dad was always aware of his siblings and took us back to Nova Scotia every summer to visit with them and Mum's family. As adults it was nice for us to see how much his brother and sisters loved and respected their older brother. Although he still enjoyed teasing and tormenting them in a brotherly way, he was always there for them when they needed him and very quietly gave funds to any of them who were in need of them.

Once we had moved back to Nova Scotia where his family was, they always got together for Dad's birthday. His sister, Evelyn, always made him a steak and kidney pie for the occasion, a dish he came to enjoy while in England during the war. We never asked him to share it with us - yuck! Pictured above are Dad and Will with Evelyn, Marjorie and Edna in front.

Dad loved being a grandfather. Our first six children were born in the West so he didn't get to know them as infants, so being a dutiful daughter, when Lloyd and I moved back to Nova Scotia I gave birth, at age 38, to our 7th baby, Emily. I really enjoyed seeing Dad with her. That's Emily and Dad in the picture above.

This is our family in 1982, right after Lloyd and I had moved to NS, and Wendy and Randy came to visit that summer. That's me sitting between Ken and Dad, and Wendy beside Mum.

We had a big party on their 40th anniversary because Dad always said he'd never live long enough to celebrate 50. He made it to 46 though.

This is the last picture I took of Mum and Dad together. They had driven out to Edmonton from Nova Scotia (nearly 3000 miles) to visit Wendy in Winnipeg and us in Edmonton over Christmas. They got back home in mid-January and on February 12, 9 days before his 71st birthday, Dad came in from shovelling snow, sat down in his chair, picked up the book he was reading, and died...just as he would have wanted to go...quickly and easily...of a massive heart attack.

It's hard not to miss him on special days like Father's Day and his birthday, and I think of him often. I am proud to be 'Bob's daughter'.