Life is reel, but leaves a film.

I got digging around in the basement and came upon a box that I’d been meaning to look through. It contains 8mm film reels and upward of 500 35mm slides, all of which come from a time before (and slightly overlapping)  my own. I’ve seen the slides as a kid but I was too young to understand it or have the perspective that I do now. Looks like the oldest stuff is from 1965 or so.

You see, my dad was an avid photographer; I still have his camera from his young days but I’m not sure if it still works. Instead of the usual negatives and prints, dad shot slides.

I decided it’s time to digitize all this information, partly for preservation but also so that I have a means to watch the movies and look at the pictures. The 8mm transfer is pegged at $0.20 per foot, so this may not be a cheap venture but certainly necessary, however if I’m going to pay for slide digitization (haven’t gotten a price yet) then I’m going to pare down the selection a tad; do only slides that contain people I know or are pertinent to my life somehow. In the end, about half will not be digitized so I’m glad that I went through them from a financial perspective.

But something else happened in the process; I gained an interesting perspective on my parents’ life before kids came along. I see very much the same happiness, frolic and whimsy that I’ve enjoyed with my wife both before and during our offspring-tenure. Many of his pictures were candid, many of my mom when she was 18, a few cars, a vacation, even some familiar stuff like Niagara Falls, and some unfamiliar things like the house we had in Winnipeg where I was born. We moved out when I was 1 so there’s no way I’d remember it, but it’s nice to see. Maybe I’ll end up back there one day in my travels with work (one of my clients is in Manitoba).

It’s nice to see them young, happy and thin. It’s nice to know that there was a time before the fecal fan started blowing and oscillating, spraying their crap in all directions. It reminds me that they were human, fallible, young.

Seeing this AFTER knowing dad is like watching Pulp Fiction: you get the end before the beginning, bits and pieces are juxtaposed into a strange sort of book where the chapters have been rearranged. I found the first few chapters yesterday and am now looking forward to reading the 8mm section of their book. Maybe one day I can have a look through the 35mm print chapter again.



Yesterday, Liam caught me looking at a picture of Dad in his uniform. I’m not sure when it was taken but likely early 90’s or so. Anyway, he thought it was me; I had to explain to him that it was ‘grampa Lowe’. “Wearing his costume?” “No Liam, that’s his uniform. He was in the Air Force” without explaining Air Force Reserves to him. Then I showed him the picture of him NOT smiling, same pose and everything, likely taken a few seconds after the smiling picture. “That’s someone else now.” It didn’t look like me, he thought. Only the smiling picture. Interesting.

It occurs to me as I write this that I don’t have any video or audio of him talking; only vague/foggy memories. Every so often I say something in a particular inflection that I know is exactly how he sounded when he said it, but that’s it. I’ll have to dig through old videos to see if there’s anything..

Happy Birthday Dad, You Ass

Dad would have been 62 today. Happy birthday Dad. We weren’t entirely big on birthdays; we’d send an e-card and phone sometime during the day. That was fine by us. Today I thought I’d celebrate his birthday by getting a little treat at Dairy Queen, so I’m sitting here eating my ice cream trying not to fall apart.

It’s been 2 and a half years. I’m still as sad as I was 2 and a half months after he died. People talk about how time heals all wounds. Someone told me today it was more like a certain level of acceptance that we allow ourselves. Either way, it’s still really hard for me.

I remember the last time we saw each other. I was unemployed in the summer of 2008 so he asked me to help him out on a phone job at Yonge and Sheppard. We met at the office we were working on, but since we couldn’t do anything without Bell we decided to go for a walk to the Rona on Sheppard.

It was a lovely sunny morning. We walked and talked all the way there, wandered around the store, he bought a few things and we walked back. I enjoyed the hell out of it. It was the most time I’d spent with him one-on-one for a very long time. I drank it in, almost as though I knew it would be my last. We sat on a bench (since been removed) at the side of Sheppard, he said his back hurt, and we chatted a little longer.

After a while Bell still hadn’t shown up and Dad felt he had to go. Despite my protest he headed off to who knows where, and I finished the job on my own. I didn’t mind doing the work myself, I was sad/mad that my time with him was over for no tangible reason.

Then 3 months later he was dead. To wrap this up, it’s amazing what you learn about someone after they’ve died. Growing up, you believe your father is infallible, a pillar of strength, a force to be reckoned with. Probably the most devastating part about his death is learning that he’s still only human; fallible, not as strong as you thought, only human. It’s like much of what I came to believe about him wasn’t true.  That hurts. Still.

Happy birthday dad, you ass.

A year of firsts,

Everyone has to go through it in some way. First time this happened without that… In my context, first X without dad. Today’s my birthday, the first one without a call or e-card from dad. There have been other firsts; first Christmas, first Dad’s birthday, etc.. but this one seems somewhat poignant. The firsts seem to be worse than when I think ahead to seconds, thirds etc. It’s like the first hurdle, the first time you ride a bike, or the first day at kindergarten. Once you get the first out of the way, the rest will be easier.

I hope so.

Gone but not forgotten..

Yesterday on the dock at the cottage, Timmy’s in for a swim. He climbs up on the dock and proceeds to lay down and attempt to look underneath even though the dock is flush with the waterline. We prudently ask, “What are you looking for?” and Timmy proceeds to tell us about a football he had last year that went under the dock and then floated away.

Football? Under the dock? To get under there it would have had to be put there purposefully as there’s no way for a buoyant object to get under the wood of the dock of it’s own accord. We dismissed it as quickly as Timmy did and the day went on.

Until bedtime.

That’s when Timmy went all out, crying rather loudly about how his favorite football is lost, how he watched it float away. He wants to go back to the cottage and trawl the water’s edge along the lake looking for it. At this point I couldn’t even figure out what football he was talking about, but we discussed that it’s long gone now and a boat ride wouldn’t solve anything.

He explained the football was dark blue, with yellow letters and had a Canadian Flag on it… then it clicked: this football was given to us by the good folks at the Royal Canadian Armed Forces when we went and visited the HMCS Halifax last year. Recruiting paraphernalia. But I do remember the football, and I kinda remember his feelings toward it though having not heard anything about it nor seen hide nor hair of this football since last year I’d never have thought it would come to this.

I’ve since sent an email to the DND to see if we can procure another, and we might head to a toy store tonight to see if there’s anything comparable.

I had a hard time not drawing parallels with Timmy’s football and my dad, but footballs come and go.. Dad’s just go..


***Update – Mommy found the football in the backyard today. All is well.

Don’t put off to tomorrow..

This past Sunday I took it upon myself to cut the grass in my dad’s backyard, as it hasn’t been done in at least 6 months. It was very overgrown, to the point where grass gets so tall it starts to lie down, interspersed with 4-foot weeds and one 7-foot dandelion.

When one cuts the grass with the average mower, the blade travels parallel to the ground to cut grass that grows perpendicular. When grass is lying down, it’s ALSO parallel to the ground making the mower’s job that much more difficult. I raised up my trusty 3.5hp beast and took to it, only to be bogged in the first 5 feet. This stuff clogged the discharge, got caught between the edge of the blades and the deck, and generally just gummed everything up.

By the time I got done I was left with a yard full of hay that I didn’t have a rake for, and no time to get one. I doubt I’ll get back up there to run the mower around again after raking, but at least it’s not like it was.

The moral of the story: don’t put off to tomorrow what should have been done 6 months ago.

Bereavement Entitlement

The average company gives its employees 3 (MAYBE 5) days for bereavement when a close family member passes away. Is this honestly enough?

Let’s say one of your parents passes away (god forbid) on a Monday, you’re somehow supposed to put all that behind you and return to work for Thursday? Funeral arrangements, contacting family members, grieving, legal matters.. the list goes on and you get 3 whole days to handle it.

My dad passed away November 26 2008, and to this day not a day goes by where I don’t think of him. 3 days my ass, I’m getting up to a year where I still consider myself grieving! I can only hope the emotion gets less over time, and not the memories of daddy.

At what point do our employers realize this stuff is hard, and 3 days doesn’t cut it?