1. It’s been seven years already since he died.
When Dad died two days after Father’s Day in 2008, I thought, “Great. Now every June will be an onslaught of painful reminders that I don’t have a father anymore.” The first year was a nightmare, but since then I’ve learned to see Father’s Day as an invitation to ponder everything I haven’t lost. Seven years, and Dad still talks to me as if he never left. Of course, for him to do that, I have to talk to him the same way. This means we laugh a lot.
2. He never liked his name.
I don’t mean his surname, which he changed from Prpich to Perpick in 1965, not because he didn’t like it, but because he didn’t want prospective clients to have trouble pronouncing his name when he opened his real estate agency.
No, it was his first name, Joe, that he didn’t like, and none of us ever suspected it until the night he announced it at dinner. He was 75, give or take a couple of years, and in all that time he had never mentioned that he hated his name. I was so taken aback that I forgot to ask him why, but I guess it had something to do with “Joe Blow” or “your average Joe.” I did, however, ask him what he would like to be called instead. “Bu-u-u-d,” he drawled.
3. He enrolled in swimming lessons when he was 40.
It’s probably not surprising that my dad never learned to swim, having grown up on a landlocked prairie farm in the dirty thirties. What was more of a shock was when he decided in the 1970s that if he was going to buy a boat to go fishing down the Alberni Canal, he wanted to know how to swim. With one leg stunted by polio when he was 2, it was no small decision for Dad to let himself be seen in a bathing suit at the local pool. He’d spent a lifetime being self-conscious about his leg, but he doggedly showed up twice a week in plaid boxer trunks for his lessons.
4. His parents tried to arrange his marriage.
If Anton and Eva Prpich had had their way, Dad would have married Gloria Miletich, the daughter of their good friends. But Dad and Gloria refused—as first-generation Canadians, they intended to choose their own spouses. Strangely, they both named their eldest daughter Leslie. When I was a kid, I used to wonder which Leslie I would have been if they had married each other.
5. Long before medical marijuana was legal in BC, he carried a doctor’s note in his wallet stating that he was entitled to use it.
He never had to produce that note for the police, which was lucky because it had no legal basis whatsoever. Still, it made him feel bullet proof.
6. His favourite movie was Days of Wine and Roses.
My father was an alcoholic, and I think Jack Lemmon’s character, Joe Clay, reminded him of himself. (Plus he thought Lee Remick was hot.) Joe Clay quit drinking in the movie and, eventually, so did Dad. Mind you, he never completely got clean and sober (see #5).
7. He felt unloved.
I suppose it’s not surprising that a person would grow up feeling unloved when they’re born into a family with so many children. His mother, Eva, gave birth to fourteen babies; ten survived, nine of them to adulthood. As a farm wife during the depression, she had almost no time to give her children. That doesn’t mean she didn’t love them, though. It just meant there wasn’t enough of her love to go around.
Dad grew up hungry for love and attention. I see all of his lifelong struggles coming out of that emptiness. His father was not a loving man. In fact, by some accounts, he was a brute. I suspect that his cold roughness had a lot to do with Dad feeling unloved. The saddest part is that Dad was deeply loved by many people, yet he was never able to experience the joy of feeling their love.
My hope is that he feels it now.