Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Birthday Wishes and Memories of My Dad

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.


Ellen Brickley said...

This is a beautiful post, Christine, thank you for sharing. Your dad sounds like a remarkable man.

Sometimes the relationships that have their troubles and their 'lost years' end up being deeper and more profound than the ones that just tick over nicely. They force us to think, and to analyse, and to know the other person better, and that can lead to amazing insight and beauty.

Thinking of you and the family today.

Kieran said...

What a lovely, LOVING tribute to your father, Christine. And you're so wise understanding that he was human, too. We all make our mistakes, but love is bigger than the pain those mistakes create. Love is the only thing that lasts forever. You and your dad will always be connected by that love you shared.

Christine said...

Hi Ellen: Thank you for your insights. I think you're right. By working through our issues, we had a deeper relationship. He was a genuinely curious and interesting man. I think of him a lot. One of the saddest things for me is that I can't share my writing pursuits with him. I didn't write my first novel till after he had passed away. But today I will celebrate his life and the gifts he gave to me by honoring the creative spirit he did nurture within me.

Christine said...

Thank you Kieran. I believe in the power of love. And not just the HEA kind, but the big kind that fills this universe and flows through us if we open our hearts to it.

PS--I am enjoying your book WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY!! So good :-)

Melissa said...

Oh, what a beautiful post! Special memories are truly gifts we should cherish. Thanks for sharing. May your day be filled with laughter and joy as you celebrate his life. :)

Christine said...

Hi Melissa. Thank you--I'm making a special dinner and doing what I love today in honor of him.

Laura Pauling said...

What a beautiful post! I think people most always regret unforgiveness. I'm glad you forgave and had time with your dad.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Beautiful post, Christine. Thanks for sharing your memories and thoughts on this difficult day. *hugs*

Anne Gallagher said...

What a lovely thing to say about your dad. I'm sorry he's gone. Love the memories you have. *hugs*

Christine said...

Hi Gwen: *hugs* back--I'm going to make this day a great day by doing the things I know my Dad would enjoy doing. It's a beautiful, sunny day so first on the list is browsing at Barnes & Noble and a coffee from their Starbucks.

Christine said...

Hi Anna: Dad was an interesting man. I always enjoyed our "intellectual discussions." Whenever he'd visit us in DC, he and I would go to the National Art Gallery (cause he was an artist, too) and check out the exhibits. Afterward we'd go for a lovely lunch at the fountain restaurant where we'd also enjoy a glass of wine. He had an explorer's heart and a philosopher's mind.

Today I am exploring Madison and Huntsville as a way of honoring his memory.


Katherine Bone said...

Christine, your blog was a great memorial to your dad's memory today. I lost my father 2 1/2 years ago. In my dreams he is as real as you and I. The dreams are so vivid that I hate to wake up in the morning because I know they will end and he will fade away again.

Time passes and just as the seasons, people come and go. But the differences made in our lives assures us we are alive, that we're loved, that we're worth every wonderful memory given.

Blessings to you on this day and may your father's memory bring joy to you every day to come. ;)

Christine said...

Katherine: I'm sorry you lost your dad, too. I know what you mean about the dreams--they seem so real, don't they? I had a great day celebrating his birthday. We ate a lovely dinner in the dining room and read passages from Dad's life and hard times memoir. Of course, there were sections that I'd forgotten which made me curious to find out more about them.

Patricia Preston said...

Such a beautiful tribute! My father passed away 11 years ago and he was a POW in Germany. He never talked much about the war and now I wished I has asked him more. I remember he said after the Russians freed the American prisoners, they rode bicycles from Germany to Moscow and averaged a hundred miles a day.

Christine said...

Hi Patricia: Thank you for sharing your father's story. The bike ride to Moscow sounds grueling especially after being in POW camp. The only reason I know anything at all is because my Dad wrote this little memoir in 1991. We read through more pages after dinner on Wednesday. Now I am even more curious about those events.

The best part of the celebration day was in finding all these little signs that reminded me of Dad and reading through the memoir with my daughter sitting at the dining room table (a rarity as she is a busy teenager).