Poppies for Father's Day

My dad painted this still life of poppies back in 1954, the year after arriving in Canada . . . the year I was born. I’m hoping to someday recreate this painting with a real-life photograph. I’ve got a couple of poppy plants growing in the garden . . . but haven’t been graced with seven beautiful blossoms—not yet. 

Every six years I get to share my birthday with Father’s Day and it’s a great way to remember my dad. He’d turn 101 this year if he was still around, but he died twenty-six years ago. I can easily remember how long he’s been gone, because my youngest was still a babe in arms. He was a great grandpa . . . but for too short a time. 

Instead, Dad was many other things. Short, humble, funny, tough. He could fix anything. Being my dad was only one of his many roles. Now as I get older I’m beginning to appreciate the complexities of the man I called Papi. 

He was eighteen when he joined the Luftwaffe. Twenty when he married his first wife. Two children soon followed, but neither the marriage or the two boys survived the war.  

There was a plane crash. There were five years in a Soviet prisoner of war camp outside of Moscow. There was the home-coming to a home that no longer existed.  There was the divorce. 

Then there was my mom . . . a new wife. Soon after that, a ship to a new country. New children. New job. He was a busy man. And yet . . . he had time to paint poppies, to read fat books (which I’m trying to read). He had time to grow tomatoes, to go fishing and boating. He had time to not just buy a cottage, but to build a cottage, and even, to decorate the mocha tortes he was famous for.  

This was my father. Happy Father’s Day. For you, I grow the poppies. 


Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing.
Rosemary Vogt

MaryLou Driedger said...

I loved this story about your Dad Gabe. What a multi-talented man he was. From your writing, I feel like I have come to know your Mom a bit, but this was a lovely glimpse into your father's life.

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