He’s in the room me and my brothers used to shared. He’s putting together the bed that he made from scratch, the one he built in his workshop, and I walk into the room. “Dad, you’re… you’re alive.” This is what I usually stammer out before he laughes, smiles and says “Well, I certainly feel alive!” Then the brothers are there, and mom shows up, and we’re all in the room I grew up in, laughing like we used to, laughing like nothing has happened.
Then I wake up.
I’ve had this dream a number of times now. It’s not a pleasant dream, it’s not a dream where I wake up feeling better about life. It feels like my father was taken away from our family again. Without Dad, every holiday feels emptier, every birthday feels like something is missing, and every Father’s day is a reminder not everyone still has their father in their lives. I’ve got no one to give a gift or a manly handshake to, so instead the only way I know how to honour my father is to talk about him.
My father is from IOCO, Port Moody, on the lower mainland. IOCO’s a weird little place, as it wasn’t really a municipality as it was an old oil refinery. It stands for Imperial Oil Company, and there was a little hamlet that was close by that took on the same name. My Dad was one of six children, and has an identical twin brother, my uncle Lee (If you were ever curious as to why I was named Sandy Lee Charlton, well, there’s your answer).
My father, like any intelligent person, despised working. He worked for CP Rail, and worked as a train conductor. When presented with the opportunity to work more on the road and make a lot of money, or stay in the Golden train yard closer to home, he took the job closer to home. To say that he didn’t particularly enjoy working at his job didn’t mean he wasn’t a hard worker. He instead, with my mom, invested in property around town and eventually outside of town. He was always painting or plumbing or repairing a number of houses around Golden.
He also had a massive workshop that he was constantly tinkering around in. The beds me and my brothers slept in were built in his workshop. There was a number of wooden toys we had that my father built, and not little tiny toys, massive toys planes we could ride on. He was also a skilled electrician. It wasn’t unusual for a neighbor or a friend to drop off a television or a VCR, stating my Dad could have it because it no longer worked. Usually after an hour or two of doing repairs, we’d have another television in the house. At one point, there was fourteen televisions, six VCRs, and no cable. So there was fourteen televisions all playing the CBC at any given moment.
My father was also involved in the community quite a bit, going to meetings, volunteering to lend a hand. He also helped do a number of peoples taxes, insisting he do it for free. I learned after his death that he actually won a civic award for doing so. He was an amateur actor, and had a great deal of influence on both me and my brother (we both swept best actor for every year in high school. There’s ten years of Charlton on the trophies at Golden Secondary).
Out of all the memories of my father, from building stuff in the woodshop to getting on stage with him in a play, my fondest memories were of getting fire wood for the stove, and having to go to the dentist in Canmore. Getting fire wood was a pretty big ritual, it involved getting up at five, throwing together a quick lunch, then searching the backwoods for fallen trees you could cut up. Our home was heated by the fore stove, so it was necessary to gather wood for winter. The biggest was definitely Canmore. I had a weird mouth growing up, and it required a lot of hardware to straighten out my teeth. The only person qualitfied to work on me was in Canmore, so it required a two hour drive to and from the dentist. So that meant me and Dad were stuck in the car, chatting for four hours once a month. We got to know each other pretty well.
My Dad with me and Kelly. Sorry for the potato quality
If you’re old man is still alive, and you’re on good terms, take him out for lunch and give him a hug. My father isn’t around fortunately, but he left a legacy of helping his community, being a loving husband, and raising three kickass sons. He was a better man than most, and he’ll be sorely missed.
To my father, Laurence B. Charlton. I miss you every day and I love you tons.
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. The upside to him not being around is I don’t have to buy him a gift today. That means I get to save like five bucks!
p.s.s. My father would have found that funny.