father’s day

I took my dad to the grocery store a few weeks ago. He needed to pick up vegetables–a cucumber, and some red onion–for a big salad he was making.

“Rachel Ray says ‘Make it big!'” he told me on the way there, “That way there’s lots of leftovers.”

My memories of my dad are stretched across my youth, and adolescence, and early adulthood; each one a mile marker for one thing or another.

He worked night shifts at the Edmonton Journal when I was a kid. He’s a millwright/machinist, so his job, as I understood it, was to maintain the huge printing presses as they churned out the daily, overnight.

Every night when he left for work he’d pick me up and rub his stubbly cheek against my smooth one. Scratch scratch scratch.

He kissed my cheek when we rang in the Millennium as I watched the fireworks explode on our old Sony TV in the living room of the Old House. And I hugged him good night every night before bed until I was a teenager.

Summers are punctuated with evening swims, tinted pink by the setting sun, and fishing trips in his aluminum boat, where we lost lures and caught fish and let the B.C. sun bake our shoulders into the same golden tan.

On Father’s Day, I can’t help but think of this awful wooden craft I made for him in elementary school. It was a wooden moon attached to a wooden rectangle that we were allowed to paint and decorate in any way we chose.

I didn’t know when to say when with mine, and it ended up as this over-painted, over-decorated, over-everything monstrosity. But somewhere beneath the artfully splattered dark blue paint were the words “Happy Father’s Day”. And he left that on his bedside table for a long, long time.

Now, I never know what to get my dad as a gift because he has everything, and anything he doesn’t have he buys himself. Over the years I’ve gotten him stuff–fishing stuff, camping stuff, car stuff. I don’t know where any of that stuff is now–shoved in a Rubbermaid tote in the basement of the New House, or stored under a tarp at the trailer, maybe.

But the conversations, and the evening swims, and fishing trips, and the scratch scratch scratch of his scruffy beard, those are all left over.