|Painting by Norene Smiley|
Today is my birthday.
Ten years ago, I was celebrating with my friends, and my mother, in Ontario -- and my father was dying. May 13 is the anniversary of his death, three days after my birthday.
In a few days, it will be ten years since he died. Time for a story.
Shortly after my father passed away, around 5 o'clock on a Wednesday, I called my husband's cell phone to let him know. He was on the road, coming back from Pugwash, he said.
Turns out, this watercolour rendition of my favourite photo of my father and me was wrapped in brown craft paper and sitting on the passenger seat of his truck.
That photo was taken above the small harbour at Deep Cove, British Columbia. It was May 1999, the year my father came out to Vancouver by himself for a visit. It was during that visit he offered me money for a down payment on a condo, and said, "When I die..." and I interrupted him to say, "If you die, Dad..."
Three years later, he would be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
In February 2009, my husband asked for a copy of that photograph, to put on his desk at work, he said. I remember going into his office a month later and not seeing the photo, thinking of asking him if he wanted me to get him a frame, but at the time, we were trying to get me in for surgery on my herniated disc and I forgot about it.
I had the surgery, went home to Ontario for my annual visit a month later, was at my father's side when he died, then flew home with Dwayne a week later after the funeral.
That's when he gave me my belated birthday gift: this painting by Pugwash artist Norene Smiley -- that's why he'd wanted the photo in February, to have the painting done for my birthday.
He kept asking me if I liked it but I couldn't speak yet. When he said, "If you don't like it -- " I finally spoke.
"It's perfect. How could I not like it?" I said, incredulous that he would have any doubt. How could this not be the perfect gift at the perfect time? What made him, way back in February, think of doing this? What voice whispered the idea to him? Thank goodness he paid attention.