My Father the Family Historian

-an article for the June 2003 Deep Cove Crier

Father’s Day has been celebrated non-stop for the last ninety-three years!  In 1910 at the suggestion of Mrs. John Bruce Dodd, the third Sunday of June was set aside to pay tribute to fathers by the Ministerial Society of Spokane, Washington. This was just 3 years after the kickoff of the enormously popular Mother's Day.

One of my father’s gifts to me has been his fascination with history.  My father loves to read, research, and learn. ‘Like Father, like Son’ is true is so many unexpected ways.  Like my father, I want to keep learning and growing until I leave this planet earth.  I believe that we either grow or shrink. You can’t remain static.

Like my dad, I have become involved in the area of writing and journalism.  My father was a writer and then the editor of the Telecom Advisor for over 15 years.  Since 1988, I have been privileged over the past 14 years to write over 160 articles for the Deep Cove Crier, and more recently to help co-ordinate the ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column for the North Shore News.

It is wonderful to have a father who models helpful skills.  Whether it was helping my father to cut wood with his skillsaw or to cut the grass, my dad has always been a coach, a mentor, and an equipper who loves to help me discover new abilities.  If my dad is excited about a new book or a new movie, he eagerly shares his enthusiasm and invites our participation.  I also find myself being that way with my own three sons!

One of my father’s trademarks is that whenever the family gathers for holidays or birthdays, out comes his video camera!  In the early days, video cameras required painfully bright backdrop lights.  We would all groan when the bright lights came out, but later be thrilled by the immortalized visual memories.

My family and my father are wonderful gifts that I appreciate more and more as I become older.  Family for me is inextricably connected with thousands of unforgettable and often hilarious memories.  It is also connected with times of great sorrow and loss, great joy and celebration.  Family is birthdays, weddings, funerals, baptisms, anniversaries, graduations, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and yes, Father’s Day.  My life would be much less rich without the gift of my family and my father.

One of my father’s most memorable projects has been his family memoirs.  The term ‘memoir’ comes from the French ‘memoire’ for memory.  We as Canadians are a nation that often suffers from cultural and spiritual amnesia.  We so quickly forget the wonderful stories of our pioneering ancestors who helped make Canada what it is today.  My dad often comments how he wished that he had listened more closely as a teenager when his now deceased aunts and uncles would talk about family history.

So far my Dad has written seventeen chapters totaling 185 pages, covering from his birth up to 1986.  This only gives him seventeen more years to go in order to catch up to the year 2003!  Just like the famous Afro-American ‘Roots’ Book & TV –mini-series, my father’s memoirs are helping me understand better who I am and where I have come from.  My Dad, as an electrical engineer, loves anything to do with computers and telecommunications.  Through the use of a scanner and PhotoShop, my Dad has incorporated in his memoirs over a hundred pictures that capture the essence of our family life.

So much family history functions as oral tradition that can easily be lost or muddled within one generation.  Much of Canada’s rich Christian heritage is being lost precisely that way.  Psalm 102 says: ‘Let this be written for a future generation…’.  By my father’s writing down his memoirs, I will be able to pass this gift of history onto my children and future grandchildren.  They too will be able to learn the exploits of their grandfather being raised in a coal-mining town outside of Edmonton, helping his blacksmith father shoe horses, serving as an Air Force WWII ham radio operator in the Queen Charlotte Islands, becoming an electrical Engineer at UBC, becoming President of Lenkurt Electric, before becoming a hi-tech communications consultant.  The inspiring thing about my father is that he has always been able to ‘re-invent’ himself.  When one door closed in his life, he would always find another door that would open.  Like my hero Winston Churchill, my father never, never, ever gives up!  He also hasn’t given up on writing his memoirs.  I hear that Chapter 18 is just around the corner!

The Good Book says: ‘What we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us, we will not hide them from our children; we will tell the next generation…’ (Psalm 78).  My Father Day prayer for fathers reading this article is that each of us will have the courage to never give up, and the wisdom to transmit the cultural and spiritual gifts of our family history to the emerging generation.

The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church

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North Vancouver, B.C.