Joe's father, Joe, was a lovely man. Full of the love of life and with a generosity of spirit that was so natural to him that it had to be coded into his DNA. He had a harmonica, and could play. He loved to both tell a joke and hear a joke. He worked hard. He played hard. And, maybe most important of all, he loved his family. He was terrific around children and seemed to have a natural ability to know just what to do to make them laugh, just what to do to make them feel loved. A remarkable man.
Whenever he came to visit us, either in University when we were students, or to Toronto when we were first starting out, he'd look in our fridge and then go out and buy groceries for us. We didn't need him to do that, well maybe we did sometimes, but he did it because he wanted to, it made him happy. He liked to give in practical ways, love in concrete ways. I still remember him fondly. More than that, I remember him often. Probably because Joe is very much his son. Joe not only looks like his dad but he carries himself in a similar manner. Both easily moved to laughter. Both easily moved to generosity.
I think the thing that I learned from him that I value the most is the fact that it's possible to live a life in which you are remembered well and fondly. It's possible to set an example for how to simply 'be' in the world which will indelibly leave a mark on the heart of those you've touched. It's possible to be, in a way, immortal. I want this.
We don't actively think, when we are with the kids, about these things. Living in the past and living for the future are both dangerous things. Being in the present affects the past, because it becomes the past. Being in the the present affects the future because, in the present, direction is set. So, we try to be in the present as much as possible. This is particularly true when we are with Ruby and Sadie. It's so cool to simple be part of their life now - we get to become part of their past and be in on the development of the future. And we do this only, simply, by being with them.
Sadie, when she came out of day care and saw us in our car, pointed at us grinning saying 'Dough!' She doesn't watch the news so isn't familiar with Bennifer and Brangelinda and our penchant for combining names, she just naturally came up with 'Dough' as a combination of Dave and Joe. Her grin told us that she remembered the fun we've had in the past and that she anticipated more of the same. How nice. We went to one of those playland kind of places here in Ottawa and before even heading over to the games and the flashing lights she was up and into our arms for a huge Sadie hug.
On our way out of the grocery store, I stopped to buy some lottery tickets. Everyone needs a retirement plan after all. I got Ruby to pick the tickets. She had stayed back with me in the store while everyone else had gone to get the cars, it was cold and snowy. When the woman gave me the tickets she said, 'I hope you are lucky!' Ruby nodded, agreeing. I said to Ruby, 'But I'm already lucky, I get to know a girl named Ruby.' I thought the lottery ticket woman was going to melt when she saw Ruby get tears in her eyes. On the way out she put her hand on my arm and said, 'Is it OK if I remember you said that for a long time?'
I told her that if that was the only thing she remembered about me when she was all grown up, I'd be happy. Then the cars arrived and there was a swirl of activity. Ruby always rides with us when we are all together, Sadie still wants to be with Mom and Dad. Joe was loading the wheelchair into the trunk when Ruby piped up, she'd been thinking. 'I think I'll remember the wheelchair too, it's fun.'
Then we were all off to make the past and build the future. Just like Joe's Dad Joe did for us.