My father was an editor and publisher of commercial literature, but in his spare time he wrote non-fiction. I would wander into his study as a child so I could smell his books and pipe tobacco.
The walls were lined with philosophy and history books, dictionaries, thesauruses, an edition of Bartlett’s Famous Quotations, and of course, The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr, which now sits on my bookshelf.
My father never seemed to mind being interrupted while he wrote. He would lean back in his chair, smile at me and scratch the back of his head.
The manuscript he toiled on year after year was called The Ultimate Society, a book on utopian philosophy, but he didn’t live to finish or publish it. I still have his handwritten notes and typewritten manuscript.
The eldest of seven children, my father escaped an abusive family life and the poverty of Verdun (Montreal), joining the Navy at 18 years of age. He loved the sea, and in later years enjoyed sailing as a hobby. He also loved sports cars, acquiring a vintage MGB and a brand new Alfa Romeo.
He played the piano by ear and as a youth dreamed of being a concert pianist, but couldn’t read music. Yet he played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Debussy’s Clair du Lune beautifully. He also dreamed of becoming a sheep farmer and living on a commune.
He was introspective and probably would have ended up a recluse were it not for my mother, who loved to have parties. But he had a great sense of humor and the ability to laugh at himself. We laughed at him too, especially when he tried to fix things around the house. A world-class klutz, he could curse up a storm. His favorite adjectives for other people were ‘bonehead’ and ‘fathead’.
One of his pet peeves was when fellow pedestrians didn’t share the sidewalk. You know those people who walk right in the middle and don’t move over to give you room to pass? It’s one of my pet peeves too. I wonder if pet peeves are inherited?
His hair was very curly, and he had a habit of sticking out his tongue while concentrating. My curly haired grandson does the same thing. To see glimpses of my father in him brings tears to my eyes.
My father died in May 2005 of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.
Thinking of you today, Dad. I miss you =)