Reflections on the passing of my dad

28 Jul

My dad passed away on Saturday.


It’s been a crazy few days finding a cheap but well-timed flight to Canada, and making arrangements for my dogs. I am amazed and awed by all the people who offered some help, or wanted to but would be out-of-town. I am also thankful that I made it to 50 before losing a parent. So many of my peers didn’t.

In the same way that weddings make people think of romance, funerals make me reflective. Whether in words or deeds, I learned a lot from my dad and I’d like to share some of his lessons with you.

1. You can fix almost anything.  My dad had an amazing workroom. It was full of cool tools. I’m sure he knew this, but I loved to go in there and touch stuff I wasn’t supposed to. I grew up watching my dad fix almost everything around the house. I don’t think I ever saw a repairman come to the house when I was a kid. My dad built a playhouse for my twin sister and I and installed a working phone system.I don’t possess anywhere near his level of skill,  because of his example I have changed my own faucets, fixed my toilet,  installed new lighting systems and, just last week, repaired the handle I broke off my stove. I rely on Youtube for much of the instruction, but the inspiration is purely from my father.

2. Language is beautiful. When he heard people using foul languageI remember my dad saying, “There are so many beautiful words n the English language, why would you choose an ugly one?”. That’s not to say he didn’t curse or get angry. But I have funny memories of him calling people “turkey” in the 70’s and reading the poetry of Robert Burns. Maybe that’s where I get all this from.

3. History is cool.  Growing up, family vacation usually meant camping and visiting places of historical significance: Old Fort Henry, the Royal Ontario Museum, Quebec City, the historic jail in Goderich, any pioneer village. I’ve had my picture taken near a lot of cannons.I remember when he dropped me off for the first time at the University of Toronto and he saw the campus of Victoria College, he was impressed by the sense of history that was there. Maybe all this is part of why I majored in history.

4. Education is important. My dad never finished high school. That was normal for his time. But he read a lot and instilled in use the sense that doing well in school was important. Once,  inspired by a friend who got money for god grades, my twin sister and I suggested this to my parents. We were told that we wouldn’t be paid for grades, but were expected to do our best. If our best was an A, great. If it was a B or C great, as long as we worked as hard as we could. Even into grade 13, my parents went to back to school nights and conferences. In 1969, my parents bought a set of World Book Encyclopedia and had them into the new millennium. We learned to use them to look up anything we needed to know, whether for school, or because we were watching a movie and there was a reference to something from history that left us wondering. We Googled before it was Googling.

5. Offer help to those who need it.  My dad was a Freemason and the Master of his lodge. He often left early so he could drive and pick up an elderly gentleman who no longer drove. It wasn’t convenient for Dad, but it was worth it.

6. Be on time and have a sense of humor. I have funny memories of getting ready to go places. If the plan was to leave by 7:00, Dad, Andrea and I might be in the car early, ready to go and Mom would walk out the door right at 7:00. We knew this, but, we’d giggle and ask Dad to honk, to hurry her up. Sometimes he’d oblige us. Mom was very patient with us and Dad knew just how far he could take that joke.

7. Stand at attention when you hear the bagpipes. Gillespie is a Scottish surname and we learned to love the skirl of the bagpipe. My Dad loved all kinds of music, in addition to bagpipe music. He loved Linda Ronstadt. But I also learned about Nina Simone and classical music from Dad. He had an amazing record collection. When I was at the University of Toronto, he would sometimes ask me to go to Sam the Record Man to bring back something particular. I got to explore parts of that store I might not have ventured into on my own and discovered some things I might not have otherwise.

There’s more I could write, but these are some of the things that come to mind first. Dad’s funeral is on Saturday and there will be some Linda Ronstadt some Robbie Burns to send him off.

18 Responses to “Reflections on the passing of my dad”

  1. 3011mileswestofvt July 28, 2015 at 4:49 am #

    This is a beautiful tribute to your dad. I especially loved when there are so many beautiful words in the world, why wold you choose an ugly one. I am sorry for your loss and send you wishes of peace from Vermont.

  2. sallydonnelly11 July 28, 2015 at 5:04 am #

    I am so sorry for your loss. Your reflection on your dad is so clear. I feel like I have met him. I lost my dad at age 25 back in 1987 and I found myself thinking about my strong memories of him and all he taught me as I read your post. Thank you for that. Now that I blog, maybe I’ll make such a post. Thanks for the inspiration. And may your strong memories sustain you.

  3. laduchessederat July 28, 2015 at 5:14 am #

    I am so sorry for your loss. You text is a beautiful hommage to a man who seemed to stand up from the ordinary and shine by his wisdom and kindness. Reading yur words, I felt like he wiuld get along very well with my grandfather who passed away a long time ago but oh too soon. His memory will always warm your heart. Than you for this beautiful slice of life.

  4. Laura LA July 28, 2015 at 5:18 am #

    So sorry for your loss. I appreciate your gratitude that you had him with you at least until you reached 50 but, as you are finding out, no age is old enough to lose a parent.
    Telling stories is such a powerful way to remember and survive the sorrow. It was gracious of you to share your stories.

  5. Annette Rochelle Aben July 28, 2015 at 6:07 am #

    I was smiling as I read your most touching post, this shows me the meaning of the word LOVE and I am convinced that if your father is looking back on his life right now and wondering if he did right by you and your siblings, this post is the proof! God Bless you for sharing your heart and your father with us! ❤

  6. Vesta Wynkoop July 28, 2015 at 7:37 am #

    Adrienne, this is a beautiful tribute to your dad. One can surely feel the love you have for each other. As I read it, I kept thinking how your tribute to your dad could be about my dad. They led by example, valued learning and were life long learners even though it wasn’t in the classroom. People often refer to the relationships between a dad and his children as, “like father like son” or “daddy’s little girl/princess”. After reading your post I want to share part of a poem that describes the relationship about my dad and me, because I get the feeling it could possibly describe you and your dad too.

    Even though he’s gone
    I’ll stand and continue on
    I may stumble I may fall
    May even get hurt along the way
    But I’ll pick myself back up
    I’ll dust myself off and stand tall
    I’m honored and proud to say
    I’m my Dad made over

    One more observation, we both lovingly refer to our dads as “dad” in lieu of “father”. May the beautiful memories of your dad continue to be your guiding light.

    With love and deepest sympathy,


    • Adrienne July 28, 2015 at 7:41 am #

      Thanks for sharing that poem, Vesta! It definitely describes my dad.

  7. jarhartz July 28, 2015 at 7:45 am #

    I am so sorry Adrienne. Your reflection is beautiful. Something he would have been proud of and I suspect honored to have said about him. Hugs to you.

  8. arjeha July 28, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    Lovely post. So sorry for your loss. These are wonderful lessons that we all can learn from. Thank you for sharing his wisdom.

  9. Lisa Keeler July 28, 2015 at 7:51 am #

    I am so sorry about your dad. Yes you are lucky to get to 50 before losing him, but no matter when, it is hard. What a wonderful legacy he left though- so many wise lessons for you to remember and pass on.

  10. Joanne Toft July 28, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    So many nice memories but also just wonderful advise on life. He has taught you and others so much – it is so easy to see. So sorry for your loss. Thinking of you and your family!

  11. Bill Armstrong July 28, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    God Bless your Dad. I’m sure he has a “special” place in Heaven. My dad had to leave also, Sunday was the 10th anniversary of his passing. Please accept our condolences on his passing. Sad woofs, Janie Anne & Siobhan (all Basset ears hanging low in sadness and respect) and Bill Date: Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:28:48 +0000 To:

  12. debfrazier July 28, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    Your words are beautiful, your dad would be proud. Your memories of your dad have touched you greatly and now have rippled out to us all. The next time I hear foul language I will think of your dads remark of all the beautiful words why would you choose an ugly one. Hang on tight to those memories and keep sharing them as they ripple out to others and keep your fathers spirit in the world. (Susan Dee’s (@literacydocent) post really touched me today and I feel a connetion between these two post.)

  13. Tara Smith July 28, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    Your father was a wise man. Thank you for sharing these memories of him, you were lucky to have had a dad like him.

  14. joann hulquist July 28, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    Thank you for sharing such special memories.



    Sent from my iPhone

    • Adrienne July 28, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

      Thanks Joann. I know you understand how this all feels.

  15. newtreemom July 28, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

    Wonderful memories, wonderfully told. Such a loss, cherish your memories, cling to that legacy.

  16. Katie B July 28, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

    That was special to read. Thank you for sharing. I’m left inspired….lessons number five and seven are lovely.

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