This piece is by Andrea Landry, an Aboriginal rights advocate and freelance writer who lives at Poundmaker Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. For more information on CBC’s First Person Stories, please see our FAQ.
My father did his best in life.
He did his best in my childhood. As we get older, he does his best in his teenage and adult years.
Sometimes he struggled.
He was the kind of dad who would have loaded us into the car when my mom’s anger benefited her. He was taking us to the beach to look for fish. The winding roads have distracted us from the wrath of the nation. He filled that car with love to get over my mom’s wrath.
He was a hardworking and calm man. I think he’s carrying a lot more than we’ve ever known, as are many parents.
Sometimes he struggled.
He was the kind of dad who would quietly follow me on his bike while I was hiking the Trans-Canada Highway in my early twenties. “A lot of bad things happen to women,” he would tell me, following from afar. He knew how to make me feel safe.
He was the type to buy food for whoever needed it, even if it meant he had no money left for himself.
Sometimes he struggled.
Vice alcohol was.
He was vigilant for 20 years between my childhood and adult years. Then life happened.
For the past few years, he’d openly admit to me that he’s been drinking again and has been struggling. He admitted to having drinks before bed. I would like to listen.
His honesty was heartbreaking, but it was beautiful.
He knew my attitude to alcohol. He knew that I would not allow this in my life or in the lives of my children because of the problems I had caused in my childhood.
Even knowing that, he was still honest with me. Because he loved me.
When the conflict stopped, and he made up for the chaos in his life, he told me his life plans.
He wanted to get close to me to watch his grandchildren grow up. He wanted to watch all his grandchildren grow up. He wanted to be witty. He wanted to be close so we could always have each other.
“I’ll take care of you when you’re old and gray,” I told him over the phone.
“I know,” he laughed.
We made countless plans for things to do together. life adventures. Then he hit another bump in life.
He’d tell me, “I had a few drinks this weekend, and life isn’t going well.” I heard the constant shame in his tone. inhale.
I took a deep breath and replied, “I love you anyway.”
He remained silent for a few moments while taking my word for it, then said, “I know. I can always count on you.”
He expressed more joy in the last few months of his life. Laugh a lot and share more gratitude for the small, simple moments. He told me about new friends and how he was reviving relationships with his sister and the rest of his family. He told me how much he loved the people in his life, how much they helped him and what they meant for him. He told me he no longer drinks.
He no longer tells me about his drinks. He was enjoying life.
During one evening phone call, he paused in the middle of his updates.
“If there is anything you want to tell me that you are still upset about as a child, you can tell me,” he said.
I replied, “I know.”
I think he worried that I was holding on to old wounds. But my old wounds would never outgrow the love I had for him.
While we were talking, I was out with my daughter River Jackson. We were looking for bugs.
“I remember you girls doing this when I was little,” he recalls.
“I remember that too.” I smiled.
He said, “I want you to know that I love you very much. I love you very much.” I vividly remember him saying it twice. He usually only said it once. “You have a great evening. I’m going to eat pizza and see a movie tonight.”
Those were his last words. I was grateful that he was happy and relaxed.
At some point that night, my father had a strange accident on a staircase. He did not survive the fall. He was only 61 years old.
He was working to be fully alert. He has finally found his joy. He was learning how to fall in love with life. He’s finally opened up to a beautiful, healthy, family-based support system. the life it deserves.
Sadness hurts. Memories abound.
I hate alcohol, but it never made me stop loving my parents.
I will always remember a kind hearted man who gave so much to others, loved others deeply, and always knew how to take care of those I love.
I will remember a man who finally found his happiness and was recovering, in the months before his death.
My father did his best in life, but he faced his own suffering.
Those struggles taught me a powerful lesson after he left.
Forgive your parents, if you can and if it is safe to do so.
Forgive them when they are alive, if you can.
Forgive them if they are gone, if you can.
Take care of them, if you can, in small and big ways.
Because our parents did their best. This is the greatest gift I could ask for.
My father did his best for as long as possible. My love for him will always rise.
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