A white-collar shirt, a Scottish Hunting Stewart tie (from his days at the ‘dizzying heights of a Corporal’ in the Canadian Scottish Light Infantry) and a Free Mason medal for his 60 year membership hanging from the chest pocket of his 40 year old George Straith ‘Chester Barrie’ grey pin-striped suit.
Standing in front of his bedroom mirror, his cheek still swollen from the dentist, he uses his hands to comb down his few wild hairs.
In the kitchen, he asks my sister pointing at the medal.
– Is this too forward?
– Nah. You look sharp, Dad.
Arriving at the Empress Inn, it is immediately obvious that I am the only chaperone present at the ‘Class of 1949’ high school luncheon. In an effort to not get in the way of Dad’s entrance, I head for the washroom. Upon my return, I find him in a love-seat squished between two lovely ladies clearly enjoying the laughs and kisses of my old man.
Over halibut and a Caesar salad, a man beside me calls over to Dad:
– A flask on your hip, Sandy?
Inside jokes between old friends.
From across the table, Vi tells me how good Dad has been to her brothers over the years. She is one of ten children whose mother died at the age of 42. Her younger brothers, Al and Fred, were often in trouble but Dad put them to work and always bailed them out of jail.
Big Al still calls regularly to check in on Dad and apparently has breakfast with Vi every morning.
Eyes shining in full-life enjoyment, Vi and Bernice agree:
– Keep in touch with your friends.
A piece of paper circulates the tables. The latest list of those passed on. Paper in hand, Bernice recalls the son of Art’s Bakery who showed up on Grad night with a motorcycle. She winks and smiles remembering the ride he gave her that night.
A secret slips:
Like me, Dad never graduated from Vic High: him in 1949 and me in 1994. Like father, like daughter. No wonder he started his own business at 19.
Driving home, Dad muses at what good people they all are and says:
– I would never have had the nerve to kiss Bernice like that in high school.