Sunday, 19 June 2011

Happy Father's Day!

It’s Father’s Day today, and sadly, my dad is no longer around to get the unwanted ties, tins of Tavner’s Fruit Drops and boxes of Black Magic that we got him every single year. He died in 2001, and I miss him a whole big bunch.

I’m sure my dad loved getting the gifts we gave him. But what he really wanted was stationery. Office supplies. Paper goods. I know this because after he died, and we were sorting through his stuff, we found a full 2 dresser drawers CRAMMED with pens, paper clips, felt pens, drafting pencils, highlighters, boxes of staples, various rulers, scissors, glue sticks, index cards, pencil leads, calligraphy sets (yes, sets. Plural), erasers (pink and white), pen refills, pencil sharpeners, loose-leaf re-enforcers, hole punches (single and for 2 and 3 ring binders), red wax pencils, white out, geometry kits, post-its, file folders and Exacto-knives. The paper (plain, graph, lined and coloured) was stored elsewhere. He had carbon paper, onion paper, pads of 2X3 note paper, ink wells, and tape dispenser refills.

It is important that you know that this is not an exaggeration.

He bought 90% of that stuff at Smith’s Stationery in Selkirk, Manitoba. You’re welcome, Ernie Smith. He also hoarded Mountie quarters and toilet paper. But who doesn’t really?

At least he hoarded something useful and was tidy about it. Some dads hoard rusty cars and store them in the front yard. My apologies if this is your dad. Wish him a Happy Father's Day, get him drunk and have that crap towed while he's passed out.

Dad in his kilt.

My dad was also a lover of comedy and had brilliant comic timing. He would sit on a joke, for months, if necessary, and wait for the perfect opportunity to let it loose. I wish I had that kind of restraint. Where some children were forced to learn Bible verses, I was encouraged to memorize entire episodes of Monty Python, sketch by sketch. I think I was probably a lot better off than the Bible kids, in the end. Actually, I know it. Here is one of our favourites.

He was church organist at the Selkirk United Church for over 50 years and played mostly by ear, although he sight read as well. He would make up the organ prelude and postlude music, sometimes his original music, sometimes Bach-ian versions of the theme music from Mr. Bean. At Christmas time, we’d watch the Mr Bean Christmas Special. Funny every time.

And then he’d sit in his Laz-y Boy and listen to Handel’s Messiah, close his eyes and conduct.

He was always called upon to accompany my parents’ friends’ sing-song parties. I liked going because there was chips.

He loved math and science (helpful, as he was a math and science teacher). He used a GPS unit, when they first became available to regular consumers, to plot and map out the exact location of an old dance hall that used to be near the Selkirk Park. After he died, we found 8 GPS units that he had had. You may add to that multiple CB radios, several stop watches and a dozen calculators. He had 5 telescopes. Five. He used to time lunar occultations –when a star goes behind the moon and send his findings into the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, of which he was a member. One of his telescopes had a barrel 5 feet long and he had it out in the yard one freezing winter night and showed me Saturn. You could see the rings.

He hated and feared those tent caterpillar worms that hang from threads in the trees in the late spring. Gave him the heebie jeebies. 

He would plot out elaborate ways to plug in electrical items using extension cords. Usually involved drilling a hole in the floor.

My dad had this ridiculous old 4-wheel drive truck, a hideous, HUGE green and silver army van from the 1950’s, I think. He loved that truck.

It was quite the machine. He would be out in it, in the worst blizzards, helping the tow trucks pull cars out of ditches, getting nurses to the hospital when they couldn’t get out of their own driveways. The best was when he’d take birthday party boat -loads of us, tumbled in the back, and go bumping and careening over the monkey trails in East Selkirk. We got a lot of bruises. But cheaper than Disneyland.

Dad always said he’d wanted to be buried in that truck. Sorry, Pa!

He loved Cagney and Lacey. Did math puzzle books in about 2 seconds flat. Once I wore one of his shirts (I did that a lot) and put a little heart pin in the collar. Dad didn’t notice and wore the shirt to work. He was pissed at me.

He made popcorn for me if I said “Please, Daddy Sir”.

We used to watch Carol Burnett together.

He used to peel concord grapes and stick the gooey inner green part just in his nostril and wait for someone to notice.

Best. Dad. Ever.


  1. Sounds like you had the most fantastic dad. I am positive he is here in spirit and smiling at your ode. He'd be proud :-)

  2. What a nice memoriam. I love your blog.

  3. Your dad was one of my most formative teachers. And I learned even more from him via you today! He was a comfort to me as he played organ at my mother's funeral. Thank you to the Reids in so many ways! Your favorite rocket scientist

  4. That is precious, Ellen. If I am ever having a crappy day..your posts sure do make me feel better and laugh with hysteria inside. I thought I was the only person in the world who liked Mr. Bean!

  5. Your dad had the best dead-pan delivery when telling jokes. Often, my dad would tell me Clyde went on for 5 minutes telling a story, winding his way through the tale, and until he got to the punch-line, no-one was absolutely certain it was a joke!
    They sure had a lot of laughs for 2 old guys drinking nothing but coffee. I miss them both, a lot.
    Thanks Ellen

  6. I had a few tears reading about your dad.. my dad was very special and I found as I grew older we could sit and drink several pots of coffee together at our favorite hangout and talk about anything and everything. My dad was warped and twisted and it is safe to say I follow in his footsteps. A day doesn't go by that I don't think of my dad and all his funny silliness.. one must carry on the family trait..LOL My dad passed October 11th 1999 and I miss him dearly. Mom passed on Jan 11th 20016. Both on the 11th day and a few months before their next birthday.It is great to have these memories.. this always helps when I have those days.. *hugs*


  7. I don't know what made me laugh harder, the grape story or Monty Python!! Your story telling makes my day missy.

  8. He was a great neighbour,lots of funny stories, he was my homeroom teacher.....I remember that green army truck, he use to take my Mum to work in snow storms @ SMHC.....RIP Mr Reid!

  9. Thanks for that, Ellen. I still remember the time he recited the entire Crunchy Frog sketch to an uncomprehending class of 8th grade science students, and Richard Seck and I were the only ones laughing. Or how he'd make the most hilarious, sarcastic remarks in such a deadpan way (often with his back turned writing page after page of notes on the chalkboard) that 9 out of 10 kids had no idea he was making fun of them. I also remember, years later, when I was subbing at Lockport School, him telling incredible tales of the prank wars between him and your mom. In particular, there was one story that involved a ketchup and alt sandwich. He was one of my favourites.

  10. Monty Python and Mr. bean. Clyde was easily my favorite teacher and one of the phunniest people I've met. I remember drooling over that big green monster when it was in the high school being repainted. What a ride!!! Play on Clyde, you'll never be forgotten. :>)

  11. i heart your blog, ellen. more, please. more!

  12. That is the BEST.!! Thanks for the cry and the laugh, Ell. What a great tribute and in a style he'd love.