I am mindful, on this Father’s Day, that I do not have many photographs of Thomas Arnold (“Arnie”) Chaplin. (The additional ones I do have are wedding party shots with people who might not wish to be published.) However my memory informs me of many more, in safe-keeping with Mom, from the honeymoon phase, the beginnings of our family, and so on – and more of them in colour! However, due to the limitations of our cameras of that time (not to mention the cruelty of those large adhesive photo album pages of the 1970s) some colours have faded or been peeled off entirely. I hope to, however, do my level best to increase my scanned, uploaded collection in future visits with Mom.
The four pictures up top are of Dad on his wagon in Glen Tay, Bathurst Township, Lanark County, Ontario (just west of the Town of Perth), followed by Dad holding my sister Lynn (and a wide-eyed Craig on his right), Dad (at my sister’s age in the previous photo) held in the arms of my grandmother on the farm with older members of his family, and in the fourth picture I am in Dad’s right arm, Lynn in his left, and Craig with the obviously rosy-cheeked grin on the right.
Not pictured is the devoted, hard-working guy I grew up with whose daily routine was almost like clockwork.
He was the first up in the morning (7:10) and, therefore, the first to use our bathroom – so tiny by today’s standards with exactly enough room for a toilet, sink and tub. Before I was of school age I remember standing on the toilet watching him shave in the mirror. By 7:25 or so he was eating breakfast with the rest of us in a kitchen-dinette which, again, used every inch of space optimally. At 7:50 Dad was at the car-port door with Mom, a wet-sounding peck was exchanged along with the daily farewell, “Toodle-oo” (No wonder spell-check has trouble with that.) I don’t know how that word entered their vernacular – I must remember to ask Mom.
Dad was fortunate to live about ten or fifteen minutes from work and, as a result, he never failed to drive home at lunch. This was great when I was in elementary school since we also came home for lunch. After he ate he laid down on the sofa where, without napping, he managed to have a rest that most working nowadays, and many then, would envy.
At 12:50 Mom and Dad repeated their morning good-bye ritual and Dad was gone until about 5:10 when his 1959 Ford Fairlane, 1968 Buick Special or 1973 Impala drove up the slight incline of our driveway.
Not pictured is the father who, without the perks of a company dental plan, managed to pay for trips to Montreal for Craig and me for braces, in Craig’s case, and then braces – and a whole lot more – for me when I smashed my mouth on the cement foundation of school playground equipment. (Mom’s income as a piano teacher helped, too, I know.) Together they also put all four kids through university or college.
Not pictured is the Dad who – together with Mom – calmly accepted, with no outward signs of difficulty, both his sons disclosing that we were gay (four years apart, just like our ages) AND, no more than ten years later, that we were HIV-positive.
“‘Unconditional love is what we have to offer,’
says (Dad), looking surprised there could be any alternative.”
Dad (quoted above) took part with Mom in a magazine article, which I am too-generously credited with having co-written, for The United Church Observer in May of 1996. That would be courageous even now, more than fifteen years later, but they’ve always brushed aside any sentiments of courage when it comes to the complete acceptance of their kids. (Mom still can’t believe the ever-changing varieties of parents’ rejection of their children.)
Not pictured, indeed, is Dad’s very best friend for well over fifty years who continues to bless us just by being herself.
Not pictured, finally, is my Dad who lived only long enough to see his first grandchild reach eight months old. He had suffered a slight, non-debilitating stroke and so it was really important as a family to gather in celebration of his seventy-fifth birthday on April 1, 2002. Just a month later, May 4, 2002, he collapsed and died in the garden he so loved (and he kept one wherever we lived).
I picture Dad, alive and vibrant, on the back step with a handful of onions, leaf lettuce or beets or a couple of Mom’s favourite yellow roses. But mostly I picture him in his garden.