My dad, Robert Alexander Doorenbos, was born in Alexandria, Egypt November 17, 1928. He passed away August 20, 2002 in Winnipeg, Canada. It's been a little over 8 years since he died, but I still miss him. He wasn't a perfect man, nor a perfect father, but he was a good man who loved me. He loved my husband, and he loved my daughter. There are days when I think to myself, wow, I wish Dad was here because he'd really enjoy this movie, this book, this drive, this scenery, this weather, this meal, this celebration.
I haven't written too much about him because how do I encapsulate his life? I missed a lot of years from the time I was 16 until I married at 22. Those years were lost for many reasons. Reasons that I don't discuss publicly. Suffice to say that he contributed to the reasons as much, if not more, than I did. I understand why and I have forgiven him, too. And in the forgiveness, I bought back a lot of years. Years filled with good memories, fellowship, love. Years where I shared my grown up life with him. Years where he became a friend, a father-in-law, an Opa.
One paragraph in my dad's memoir, written in 1991, describes his personality really well. He'd just been released from a Japanese concentration camp and was finally able to reunite with his mother and sister. He'd been in an all male camp for quite some time and in Camp 7. He wrote:
Back in Camp 7 it was not as crowded as when I arrived a few months earlier. Approximately 800 men and 110 boys had died in those six months. Rations had been so poor that diabetics did not need their insulin and they could not get it anyway. I went to see mother and Hetty in Camp 6, four miles away, a long walk. That night, on my way back, I got a lift in a truck with Japanese soldiers. Standing between them was a weird experience. All I owned in the world was shorts and a shirt, both tattered. My head been shaven at one time and grew back in irregular patches due to malnutrition. I weighed maybe 90 pounds and was covered with infected sores as every scratch festered. My arms and legs were wrapped in old dirty bandages which made me look like something pulled out of an Egyptian tomb. I must have been an awful sight and mother fainted when she saw me. It did not bother me too much. I felt fine after a week of adequate rations and had not looked in the mirror for six months.
I guess you could say I get my ability to find the silly in the serious from my Dad.
So now, as a memorial to him, I'd like to share my impressions of Dad's life based on how we authors tag/brand ourselves. Here are some words that I believe best describe my Dad.
Robert Alexander Doorenbos.
Survivor, artist, calligrapher, painter, cross country skier, adventurer, bibliophile, intellectual, engineer, architect, explorer, traveler, photographer, writer, cook, baker, Mason, toastmaster, cat lover, loner, humble, curious, generous, gifted, husband, brother, son, uncle, father, father-in-law, friend, Opa, man
I miss my dad. I miss our talks, our trips to the museums, and our mutual curiosity about life. Most of all I miss all the memories I still want to make with him.
Happy Birthday Dad. May your room in Heaven have an easel, a map, and a walking stick.