Sunday, August 11, 2013

Father's Day

"I wept when I reread his shaky scrawl, not for the father I missed, but for the father I missed having."

In this excerpt from my Acts of Surrender memoir, I recall the day my father died: 45 years ago today...

By August 1968, my father had been a full-time resident of Montreal’s Grace Dart Convalescent Hospital for several years. Just about every Sunday through that time, my mother, my sister and I would make the 90-minute, three-bus trek out to the city's east end to visit him. The Sunday that would turn out to be his last, August 11, I stubbornly refused to accompany them, a surprising stance, given my generally compliant nature.

There was a rare argument, but I would not be moved. Eventually, my mother and sister left, and I walked the two blocks to my best friend Gary's house.

A few hours later, a mysterious phone call had me shuttled up the street from Gary's house to my cousin's. A few hours after that, my mother and sister pulled up in a car, one of my uncles’, their eyes puffy and red.

"Daddy died," my mother said and took me in her arms, grateful that I hadn’t been present for his fatal heart attack.

For a long time, I felt guilty that I hadn’t been there for my father. It never occurred to me to question why I would need to be present for a man who had never been present for me.

Many years later, when I was preparing to move to Nova Scotia, I found a letter that my father had written to me when I had been at summer camp. I would have been 11 or 12 at the time. The letter wasn’t signed with "love." Rather, it ended with, “Kind regards, Daddy.” I wept when I reread his shaky scrawl, not for the father I missed, but for the father I missed having.

Read more about my relationship with my father, including a 1997 "ghostly" reconciliation on another anniversary of his death, in Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir. Get your copy today in the Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBook stores for your e-reader, tablet, computer and smartphone. And watch me read "Fatherhood," an Acts of Surrender excerpt about both my fathers at

Photos: #1 ~ A Gerson family gathering before I was born. My father is in the lower left foreground; my mother, in the right foreground. #2 ~ The Grace Dart Hospital. #3 ~ Another Gerson family gathering, with my father on the far side of the table in the center.

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