He joined the Airforce, met my Mom and had a family, never really knowing what he was doing. He tried hard but always his lack of self love reached out, out of control and encompassing everything around him. There were times during my teenage years when I hated my Dad so much. I wanted to be anywhere else in the world rather than in the same room with him. I never saw the scared little boy nor did I have the ability to help him. But there were times in his cloud filled life that he said things that made sense to me and I tucked them away in my heart to call on later. I remember he told me once that I was like a swimmer in the huge ocean of life and it was his job to tell me when there were sharks in the water and help me swim away from them. Now that I have kids of my own, this is my rule for their teenage years; I can't drive the boat but I can be thier lookout and hopefully they listen to me.
In 1992, one month before I got married, my Dad had an accident. We will never know what happened but I suspect a car hit him. He wound up in the hospital in a coma, his brain swelling and close to death. When he woke up, he was a different man. He didn't know what year it was, or where he was or even who we all were. He had a severe brain injury and had to learn how to walk, and eat, and drink like a baby having to develope all his skills once more. My Mom stayed by his side, my oldest sister took on the task of caring for both of them and I got married and started a family of my own. During the next 18 years the little boy that my Dad was never able to be, came out. He was always happy now, he wondered at everything from the airplane flying overhead to my daughter fitting in a puzzle piece. He made a point of saying good morning to everyone and smiling a smile that let you know everything was going to be okay. He had no prejudices, no hatred, no idea what self esteem was. He was alive and full of wonder and joy; every breath he took was a gift from himself. I learned more about my Dad in those 18 years than I ever had before. His soul had become pure and I bathed in its glow and I became a better person. I finally knew the love inside of him and was grateful he no longer hid it. This is the person he was always meant to be.
In 2010 my Dad, now with dimentia, lost a brief battle with cancer and on June 22 left this world to go to another. I remember the last time I saw him, he lay in the hospital bed and I held his hand. He wanted to speak to me so I leaned down to look in his steel blue eyes.
"You know I've loved you for so long," he said and I smiled and said, "Me too."
My Mom phoned me in the morning to let me know that he had passed and I had to hurry to pack up to drive the 200 kilometers to Edmonton. On my way to the store to grab some last minute things a new song came over the radio and tears came to my eyes as I listened to VV Brown sing 'Sharks in the Water'.
My Dad was a very talented man who could draw beautifully and write with passion and wisdom. Below is a poem that he wrote many years ago. As my Father's Day gift to him I wanted to share it. Back then it was the only way he could express his love of this world.
by Nelson Bernard
Right now I go on bended knee
So I can speak to thee
I’ve heard the ocean roar
Kiddies footsteps on the floor
I’ve heard the raindrops in the spring
Heard the itty bitty birdies sing
Heard the hum of the busy little bees
Heard the wind rustling in the trees
I’ve heard the warble of a hidden grouse
Interrupted by the sigh of a tired old house
For all these melodies that are so dear
Thank you my Lord because they are here.
Let me continue my Lord to pray
Because there is so very much to say
I’ve seen the mountains so bold and strong
Watched a river flow along
Seen the soil when it’s black with rain
Knowing that soon it will grow golden grain
Watched with wonder at the fiery crimson fingers
Of sunlight reached in the sky to pull the light of day
Knowing the moon would soon weave its silvery way