My Mom and my Dad, who turns 80 today, met a couple of young(ish) RCMP officers on Parliament Hill a few years ago, who were astounded to learn that Dad’s regimental number was 19229. That means, roughly, that he was the 19,229th RCMP officer in Canada. The force was well into the 55 000s at that point, and these particular members had never met someone with such an early number. They exclaimed and fussed and fawned a bit over my Dad. Which he would have enjoyed.
When I heard this story on the weekend, it got me thinking about how special my Dad is, and not just, of course, because of his RCMP number. I watched him dance a little jig (an actual jig) this weekend in front of his wood stove — the main way the log house they built and still live in full time is heated — because my mother gave him permission to build a small fire to take the chill off. I watched him cavort with his great, great nieces and nephew, down on his hands and knees, being funny. I watched him work at a Christmas craft sale because he is the guy who helps with everything that needs to be done in his small community.
I listened to my sister talk about what a fortress of strength he has been for her through the years, and that has been true as she has faced particularly huge and painful challenges. And my Dad spent a lot of time listening to me talk about my life and work and kids, and about the MFA I’m enrolled in and the writing I am doing. Even the details of a research paper I just submitted. He asked good questions. My Dad wanted to know. And that for me has been one of the most special things about 19229 over the years. He cares. He’s interested. He reads my books and articles (and when you’re a writer, someone can love you very, very much and never, ever take the time to do that). Dad is an encourager. When I was 9 he told me I could do anything I set my mind to. He would still say that to me, and to anyone else who needed to hear it.
This weekend we drove to and from Truro, in that special Nova Scotia mist, talking the whole way back and forth like old friends. And one of the most beautiful things about having a Dad like mine who is 80, is that you do have a very special, and quite funny, old friend.