Somehow it seems appropriate that I find myself en route to a lakeside trunk show today, a few hours from home, to sell jewelry. Today marks the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. Also a passionate entrepreneur, no place was too far to make a sale. Like many of his generation, he preached the “in-person” sale - the firm hand shake and eye contact. My father was one of the first people to sell spring water in the sixties.
I sometimes wonder what my father would think about the fact that almost half of my Suetables’ sales happen online where I never meet or see my customer. I just googled my father for fun. I had to scroll past many Facebook and LinkedIn faces to get to a fundraiser he started - The Henderson Hoedown - https://wellspring.ca/birmingham/henderson-hoedown-raises-1-3-million-in...
Other than page 3 of Google, nothing comes up. And this from a guy who was Chapter one in 1990 in a book called - “The New Entrepreneurs - Canadian Success Stories” - by Allen Gould.
I have his yellow sticky notes on the desk/work bench where I hand stamp my jewelry. They are filled, aptly, with inspirational quotes about life and business. I have his paddle mounted on the wall of our farm.
It is engraved with, “Nothing in life was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
I can picture him sanding it down on an outdoor picnic table, while at age 11, I did the same with my own cherry wood paddle - the aroma of wood and warmth of the summer sun on my back.
Despite my awareness of my tendency to hang on to memorialized objects, letters full of teenage angst, postcards and people (and even the goodbye letter I wrote my father causing the nurses to fix his oxygen tubes from his tears it produced), I hang even more tightly to these memories and the light, smells and sounds of my father as they drift further from me with time. He was my idol. My anchor.
People liked having my Dad around: He never willingly wanted to embarrass anyone, wasn’t pushy and was a good listener with a ready laugh and an eager interest in my friends and, not surprisingly, entrepreneurs.
I recall my last overnight stay at the hospital - my sister, mother and I took turns so Dad would not die alone. I told him to blink twice if he could hear me. He did.
Even in his silence he commanded the room.
I played his favorite music, wet his drying lips and spoke to him even though everything was already said.
Two mornings later, at 54, he slipped away from us taking his last sharp breath with my mom holding him. My mother summoned us - calmly through tears. My mother, sister and I circled around his bed. Every moment demanded my full attention, which I figure is why I felt so alive. As a final goodbye and almost an after thought, I took his family signet ring off his finger and put it onto mine.
That day our Dad taught us what it was like to lose something permanent.
From that lesson, we have learned so much about living and loving. It has been 20 years since we have heard his voice and laughter and, in that time, he has not stopped teaching us.