Tuesday, July 12, 2011

100 in August, 2011

1911 was a busy year around the world.

In France, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. 

The first International Women's Day was celebrated.

Here in Canada, Robert Borden became Prime Minister, defeating Sir Wilfred Laurier.

The Dominion Parks Branch (now Parks Canada), the first national park service in the world, was established.

Closer to home in New Brunswick, James Flemming became provincial Premier, defeating Sir John Hazen.

And, on August 5th, my father was born.

 A victim of infantile glaucoma, he lost his sight completely at the age of 10 in a childhood accident. He was sent to the School for the Blind in Halifax, NS, where he became both a piano tuner and an accomplished pianist.

Returning to New Brunswick, he eventually settled in Saint John, married my mother and together, they adopted me. That was no small feat considering that my Dad's blindness was considered a serious handicap at that time AND both he and my mother were self-employed! But, they succeeded.

Over the years I think he tuned pianos for just about everyone in southern New Brunswick as well as numerous famous musicians and entertainers who came to Saint John to perform. Some liked his work so well that they would not allow anyone else to tune for their performances.

Never one to feel sorry for himself, Dad saw his blindness more as an inconvenience than anything. He was a warm and friendly man whose customers both liked and respected him. To me, he was a loving father, caregiver and frequent playmate. No matter how tired at the end of long days dismantling and reassembling pianos, he was always willing to answer my pleas to "play horsey" with a resounding 'yes' - dropping to his hands and knees so I could ride on his back.

When I was growing up he never missed an opportunity to come and listen to me play either the violin or piano in the music festival or to attend performances of what was then the fledgling NB Youth Orchestra for which I was the initial concert mistress.

Throughout my life there were only three times I ever saw Dad express real regret at the loss of his vision: when I was 20 and married David's father, Ian, and he couldn't see how I looked as a young bride; when David was born and Dad had to wait to 'meet' him after we came home from the hospital - unable to 'see' him through the glass in the hospital nursery window; and much later, when my mother was hospitalized and dying, and he was unable to see, for himself, what her condition was.

But other than that, he was a fiercely independent, self sufficient person who lived a full life with dignity and integrity.

He passed away in 1999 just short of the millenium. I wonder what he'd say today, looking back on a century of change and growth?

Happy Birthday a little early, Dad! I miss you.

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