Our father died on May 1st 2008.
Murray, Neale and I instinctively remember him today. We each remember him frequently all through the year but on this day a couple of years ago, we said goodbye. It seemed at times he would always be here. Decade after decade in spite of aging, he was here. Even when Mom was no longer coherent and required the care of a nursing facility, Dad remained in his apartment looking after his own needs.
Our Dad was a small man and he raised big boys – too big right now. Thirty pounds too large. I speak for myself.
Dad gained a grade eleven education in the small prairie town of Hepburn, Saskatchewan. Then he worked. He worked at many jobs and hard work did not worry him. He married his sweetheart when he was 26. Their love took them contentedly through 66 years until Mom passed away. In his twenties he owned a gas station ) filling station it was called) and he an Mom set up a coffee shop. He enlisted in the Canadian Air Force for the conflict of WWII, an uncommon act in a town of Mennonite pacifists. When the war was settled Dad moved Mom and me to Ontario for the advertised job opportunities. I was four years of age. Factory jobs were available and he tried several, finally landing with Anthes Imperial, a furnace manufacturing company. He stayed with this company for forty years. He was always on the assembly line, never in management. I remember that he often came home tired and hot. He would clean up and settle down with his newspaper, sometimes draped over his face as he napped on the sofa. He modeled a commendable work ethic that instructed his three boys for our passage through adulthood. Well into our own manhood one day, we asked him why he stayed at such difficult work for so long. A six word reply revealed the man. “I did it for my boys.”
Dad never took a leadership position at church. If he was asked to be on committees or boards he declined. He knew his strengths and limitations. He enjoyed serving but he chose service in the areas of his comfort and competence. Smart man. Private man. Honorable man.
We miss him so much. He was 93 years of age when he died. He had been without his sweetheart for six months. I am sure his heart could not take the loneliness any longer. But as always he didn't show his emotions. He never complained. Oh perhaps he complained occasionally about the imaginary neighbours above him who made unnecessary noise and the imaginary boys whom he saw climbing trees in the back yards four floors beneath his apartment in the dead of winter. But we didn't fault him for these wanderings. In fact I have been hearing neighbour noise and seeing unusual events for some time now myself.
In fact right now I see you Dad.
“Five years between each one of your three sons means that we each have differing memories of you at different stages of your life. But you were unchanging so there is much that we recall that is the same. You did stuff with us, whether it was baiting fish hooks or walking through a forest or taking us on a road trip. Dad, you loved the ladies each of us chose to be our wives. You treated each one as though she was your own daughter. You were proud of us and what we were able to accomplish in life. You let us talk and you listened to us. You had a wonderful natural sense of humor that enabled you to say a comedic line so dryly to crack us up. You laughed with us. You remembered each one of our children by name and you inquired about them – even the ones you never saw in real life because of your years, frailty and distance. We loved the lady you chose to marry too. It broke our hearts when she had to go. But you were strong. We will never forget you as standing beside her then, you said, “Good bye sweetheart. I'll be seeing you soon.” Through the years we always paid attention to what you said and we trusted your word. On this occasion you were right again. 'Soon' came too selfishly soon for us, but really, we know the timing was good and gracious for you. How we loved you Dad. We love you still.
EDWARD RICHARD UNRUH, HUSBAND OF TINA; FATHER OF RON, MURRAY AND NEALE; LOVER OF GOD.
(See Murray's comment below)