Dad

In early June I received news that my 89 year old-farther, who had been to that moment hale, hearty and robust, had had a massive heart attack and was in the Intensive Care Unit of his local hospital in Newfoundland, Canada. Although at one point his life expectancy was quite low, the good news is that although he remains frail, he continues to grow stronger each day.

The pictures are in black and white because I felt that way they more clearly portrayed a sense of my father’s dignity and strength.

If you are interested, here is a poem I wrote about visiting him in the hospital during that time: Free to fly.

Before viewing the photographs, I would also like to invite you to visit the poetry blog, the Book of Pain. Thank you for dropping by the Book of Bokeh.

 

When I arrived he was hooked up to a large number of gizmos, many of which are not even in this picture.

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This is one of the most characteristic gestures of my father, one I have seen thousands of times and which he uses to think deeply about something.

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For a person who had all his life shied away from the camera, during the time I was there, he was very straight forward about having a portrait taken.

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Here are two shots of my dad discussing with his doctor about making a decision on how far the staff should go to revive him if he has another heart attack. As would be the decision of someone as brave as my father, he went with a Do Not Resuscitate decision.

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You see an old man. I see the strong, vibrant, dedicated, honest, sincere and generous mountain of a man who filled my youth. This is a man who used to leave his job as an electrician at a pulp and paper mill and for his vacation (his vacation!) visit relatives along the coast so that he could go to sea in a small 16 foot open boat and haul in the fishing traps with them.

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Tea, heavens but does he love a good cup of strong tea!

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This is a man who fears nothing and is now only patient with his Lord. He lived a good life well and faces a wonderful reward justly earned.

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My last image of him was the most profound, his saying his rosary. My childhood is filled with him praying. As my sister says, He’s worn the knees from every pair of pants he has ever owned, praying for those he loves. And he loved everybody.

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All photographs and comments ©2014 by John Etheridge with all rights reserved; not to be used without the expressed written permission of the copyright owner.

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25 thoughts on “Dad

    • I will relate to dad that you are another of his growing fan club. And as to your family coming from Newfoundland, well now, see, that explains everything. In true Newfoundland tradition that is proof positive that we are, somehow, related. Frankly, it’s undeniable. There is only one blood on the Rock and we share it all.

      PS: but count yourself lucky that your sires moved away. Excepting some weeks in July and some others in August, with maybe a few in September, it has THE MOST miserable, cold, dank weather in the world, where the say it only snows twice a winter: once for 4 months and once for 3. 🙂

    • And thank you for dropping by. I must say that I am very, very jealous of your gray heron photos, not to mention your encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and flowers. As to that heron, I stalked a local blue heron up and down a local river (the images are not posted yet, but soon…) and know how hard it can be to get good ones. Yours are fantastic and much better than what I got! Can I ask what lens you use for your bird shots? And if your camera is full frame or APS-C? Anyway, happy shooting!

      • Thank you for visiting my page:) I don’t own a telephoto lens. If I have to zoom, like when I take bird pictures, I use my 70-200. Just have to hold my camera tight and stand still:) All my lenses are more or less middle range – from 24 to 200, it is all that I need for portraiture. Camera is Nikon D700. I am used to a hight shutter speed ( children are moving faster than I click). Heron is a very patient bird and a good poser:) but to take a picture of him taking off I use as high shutter speed as I can afford in given light conditions. Happy shooting to you too!:)

        • Well, first off the D700 is a great camera, congratulations on a good choice. I am amazed at how good your pictures are at 200mm (and especially with a 1.0 crop factor camera!) Well, well done! By the way, I just got around to posting my few heron shots. Hope you have a chance to drop by and see them.

    • I cherish the photos of my dad because they are the only really good ones I have ever got to take of him. But you are correct, I too, in particular, love that photo…it not only captured my dad but is a great statement of faith and strength in meekness.

  1. Mr. Etheridge is an amazing person. My husband and I met him in Thunder Bay While on a trip visiting Lucinda and Gord. No moss grew under his feet. He was always busy helping with a building project, knitting socks, having his delicious cup of tea all the while visiting and keeping us in awe with his stories.

    We had him for Boxing Day dinner and he is a colourful character. God keep him safe.

    • Bill and Lucille,

      Thank you very much. You reminded me that the one picture I do not have was one of him knitting a pair of socks. My mother was a great knitter too but she would always pass socks to dad for him to ‘turn the heel.’ Did you know that he learned sock knitting while serving on a Royal Navy signal ship crossing and re-crossing the North Atlantic, guiding convoys to England during World War II? It calmed the sailors down, kept them occupied and produced a much need commodity for the land troops. He was young for the service too: in fact he lied about his age to join up.

      That is my dad.

    • Thank you so much! My father is a wonderful person and my mom was an incredible force in her own right…I am lucky to have had two such wonderful parents. As to the portrait, I am very serious: he never liked having his picture taken much, and never just him alone. These sessions in the hospital were really very important to me.

  2. This is the most moving of words and images and how brave of both your dad and you to offer this up to us. Your love and respect for each other is in every picture and every word and shows a fearlessness so often missing in us.

    • Chris, I so wish to heaven that I, at least, really was as deserving of your kind words as much as my father is. To try and tell his story would take its own personal blog years to write. His humane courage and sense of integrity are some of the prime forces of my childhood. Just one example, if I can: growing up in Newfoundland in the 50’s and 60’s was like living in Belfast: there was a very strong Catholic vs. Protestant sentiment. My father (English Catholic) grew up across the street from my mother (Irish Protestant) and did not speak until they were both adults. Their marriage rocked both families, and in fact, both churches, but it never hurt their marriage, it gave it strength.

      • I do not have a faith but I believe in my heart that love is the greatest foe to all iniquities. Your father looks like a man at peace with himself at his end and that he had not fear at the end arriving. His belief in God will have held him in good stead at this time I am sure but I believe his strength was his own. I do hope that I have not offended you – we all have our interpretations of the world we live in and beyond but I see a lot of love in the piece you posted and the photographs and rest assured that they are images and recollections that I shall not easily forget.

        • Good heavens, no, not at all Chris. Nothing you have said was offensive and I cannot agree with you more, that love truly is the greatest base for faith, any true sense of faith, all true senses of faith. Faith should unite all peoples, not drive them apart or separate them. And your thoughts on my father are spot on. He is a fine gem of a man, one who came into the world rough but was cut, smoothed and shined by a hard life lived well.

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