This Sunday, yes April Fools Day, would have been my father’s eighty-fifth birthday.
I last saw him when the whole family gathered in Perth to mark his seventy-fifth, within months of his first stroke.
It was a very happy occasion, given the warning scare we had experienced when he was sick briefly earlier in the new year.
His first grand-daughter, Kailey, was a toddler born the previous August. She and her younger brother now only know “Grandpa with the glasses”, as they used to refer to him, through photos and a treasured home video in which Dad hammed it up to continuing rave reviews.
He was born Thomas “Arnold” Chaplin on his parents’ farm in Glen Tay, a healthy long walk west of Perth in Bathurst Township of Lanark County in eastern Ontario.
He’s pictured here being held by his mother out in the back garden:
When he and Mom were married in Perth in 1952, they lived in improvised quarters with my maternal grandmother who had been widowed the previous year.
Dad’s company left Perth, not too long after Craig was born in 1955, which is how I and my two sisters came to be born near Valleyfield, Québec.
This picture is of Craig and Dad, who is holding either me or my sister:
I knew this photo, taken at Dad’s 75th birthday party, would have special significance far too soon.
Dad grew up in the simplest of surroundings during the tough years of the Great Depression. Much to the chagrin of his parents he quit school in order to begin work, as was common in those days, but remained a life-long learner doggedly pursuing French as a second language, for example, during the days following the Quiet Revolution. For that, even with dubious success, he was exceedingly well respected by the Québecois(e) with whom he worked until his retirement and his return to Perth with Mom to the same old home across from the Court House. (With the proceeds from the sale of their Valleyfield home, Mom and Dad built an addition to the back, tastefully tucked in so as not to be seen from the street where they could have their dream of a fireplace and living room to spare.)
Happy birthday Dad. The white birch we planted in your honour, close to where you died in the back yard in 2002, looked very beautiful last December!