Eye care

COLUMN: Sharing memories together offers chance to learn to love my dad in new ways – Abbotsford News

Sometimes I wonder if drinking beer with my 83-year-old hard-of-hearing, nearly blind, wheelchair-bound father is such a good idea.

He only ever has a pint or two of his favourite IPA, but a darker side emerges.

Since restrictions loosened we’ve resumed our weekly ritual of sharing a pint at the neighbourhood pub. The trip eases his anxiety and the conversation is definitely more lively, if not enlightening.

On one of our recent outings, my mind was wandering about work, parenting and/or the million details of life that tend to drown out actually being connected in a conversation.

We sat down, I pulled out my phone, answered a few emails, and made a few chess moves before my attention drifted towards the basketball game on the TV.

That’s when he punk’d me.

“I am having suicidal thoughts,” he said in a low voice barely audible tone above the din of the crowd.

It took a second for the gravity of the statement to sink in. My head veered back to him, I looked him in the eye and said: “what?”

His eyes sparkled, the corners of his mouth stretched into a smile and he said “Got you!”

He then burst into laughter, real belly laughs like the ones you have as a kid.

“So much for being in the now,” he mocked between gasps of laughter.

He got me.

I then laughed too, but not as hard as him.

It’s been a few years since my mom passed and these moments at the pub have been some of the deepest connections I have ever had with my dad.

It’s made up for a lot of what I call our lost years. We weren’t that close when I was growing up. I didn’t care for his view of the world. It seemed dated, as dated I am sure mine is to my son’s.

However, these moments have opened new conversations, like the loneliness he felt this year after his “close friend” neighbour at the care home passed away five days before Christmas.

During the pandemic when they were confined to their rooms for more than three months without visitors, they would call each other multiple times every day. They would watch Jeopardy every night separately and compare notes about who got more right answers. His face still grimaces when he talks about her.

He’s also fond of reminiscing. We both have our perspectives about the memories we share, such as the time he plunged into the water at Cultus Lake after my head slipped below the surface for the third time.

The image of him charging into the lake as my mind flooded with dread and my body flailed with panic will always be seared in my memory.

He also never lets me forget that he ruined a good pack of cigarettes that day.

I am learning that the importance of these moments really provides the meaning of life we have created together. These little connections when we are actually focusing and paying attention to one another are the treasures that are enriching our relationship.

It’s the kind of relationship I hope to have with my son.

Sometimes it takes blundering through conversations with waning attention to really understand the importance of the focused time we spend together.

I’ve learned to love my dad in new ways, and even appreciate his sense of humour – even when it comes at my expense.

Dean Broughton was a journalist for 28 years and is the editor of www.yourlivinglegacy.org.

ColumnistFather’s Day

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