My Dad, Doug Powell
My dad didn’t tell me how to live a life of courage and integrity. He showed me, in how he lived his.
When I was nine, and my siblings four and fourteen, he left the appliance service company he worked for to go into business for himself. With a wife and three kids to support, it took a lot of guts to forego a predictably steady income to branch out on his own, but he thought he could make a success of it and he did. He loved fixing appliances, but he wouldn’t do it evenings or weekends. Those times were for his family. He ran “Powell Appliance Service” out of our station wagon, with my stay-at-home mom acting as his answering service. He earned his customers’ loyalty by dealing with them honestly and with respect. He could have earned more than he did on the calls he made to their homes, but he wasn’t about making as much money as possible, just doing the best job he could (of everything he undertook to do), and he earned enough to provide his family with a good home, a cottage, and opportunities for a little travel.
My dad’s example helped give me the courage to make a go of living the financially unpredictable but independent life as a freelance writer. His area is things mechanical and mine words, but his example of learning by doing – some I witnessed and some I heard about in the stories he told of his life before I came along – taught me that I could do that too, learn by doing. So I could say that he’s at least partly responsible for the fact that my body of work spans many genres.
My dad was handy around the house when we were growing up, and after my sister and I married men who were not, he continued doing odd jobs for us: fixing our appliances, of course, or a leaky tap, installing a dimmer switch, or building a deck. He still takes being a helpful dad seriously. Just the other day, he came to my house and replaced a kitchen tap. He’ll be 84 years old this spring, but there he was, on his back with his head under my sink, reaching up into the dark with his tools while I held the flashlight. If only my ability to write could be of some use to my kids! (Well, they have been featured in some of my books; perhaps that’s something?)
Still living independently, my dad volunteers for the Red Cross, delivering Meals on Wheels to shut-ins twice a week, sometimes three times a week when they need someone to fill in on short notice. He has been doing that for thirteen years. Golf season is about to start up soon and he’s keen to get back out on the course. I hope that when I’m in my eighties, I’ll be as resourceful, active, and as unselfish as he is.
Part of his being a good dad to me and my sibs was being a good husband to our mother. In one of my favourite photos of them together, they are dancing and laughing. (Was it on the occasion of my brother’s wedding, when I didn’t know yet that I was expecting my first child, and their first grandchild, who would later be born on my father’s birthday? I think so.) When my mother’s health began to fail, he took care of her in their home for as long as he could. She lived in a chronic care facility for the last seven years of her life, most of them in a private room. This meant, for my dad, living pretty frugally and eventual concern about whether his savings would support him through his old age, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
After my mom died, my dad had the good fortune to have a wonderful friend and companion to share his days with, a lovely Scottish woman who made him laugh again and kept him young. Sadly, he lost her to cancer last year, but he was her best friend and he kept her company on her long and difficult journey. He faced that loss, too, with courage because “you have to”.
It seems I have not inherited my dad’s patience with the frail or ailing, but I am hoping, still, to learn it from his example. And I hope that as I face more and more the loss of loved ones, that I can do it with the same strength of spirit that helps my dad go on living his life.
I used to think my dad would live forever. I began to face the reality that he won’t three years ago, when he had his first small stroke. He has lived and is still living a good life, a life he can be proud of. He embraces life fully each day, especially on days when the morning sun streams into his apartment, but the thought of passing in his sleep does not frighten him. I wish for my dad a peaceful passing when his time comes, but I hope his health will hold and he’ll be with me for a good long time yet. I take comfort in knowing that in some ways, he will be with me always.
Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.
What a great picture! And a beautiful tribute! I'm jealous as my own dad died when he was only 65 (I was 43). Hope you'll have a chance to create lots more memories together – nice visual re the plumbing/flashlight.
Thanks Jan. The pic was taken about 20 years ago. I'm lucky to be able to see my dad pretty regularly and we're looking forward to some more time at PJ this summer. I'm sorry you lost your dad when he was so young, and hope my post reminded you of some of your fondest memories of him.
Lovely portrait of a loving family man.
Thank you, Sharon.
Love to you, Kathy, as you begin this next stage of life without your dad present on earth. This story of admiration and appreciation reveals the love you and your dad shared. This beacon of being that he lived and modelled to you and your siblings is an amazing guide, and look at how he has tremendously influenced you! Thank you for telling this story of your dad, your family, as it provides encouragement and a reminder of how magnificently profound, yet simple, being kind and having loving kindness for self and others is, to relating and being a decent human being. Beautiful tribute to your father.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, Sandy, and for your lovely comment. Thanks. All best to you.
This is a lovely tribute to your dad. How lucky you have been to have your father in your life for so long. I was only 26 when I lost mine Kathy. The memories remain strong today just as they will for you too. May I offer my condolences for your loss! Your gift is painting pictures with your words. Cherish them!!
Thank you for taking the time to read this, Hilde. I’m glad to know your memories of your dad remain strong, even after so many years without his physical presence in your life. And thank you for your kind words too. All best to you.
A beautiful tribute. thinking of you.
Thank you for reading it, Allan, and for your thoughts.
Dear Kathy, you have given us all beautiful moments with your father. You speak of his teaching by doing, and I think you have taught us the same way. I send you lots of love in this difficult time.
Peggy, thank you for reading and responding as you have. What you’ve said means a lot to me.
My deepest sympathy to you and your family, Kathy. This is a wonderful tribute. Your father’s courage and patience are inspiring.
Indeed they are. Thank you, Sarah.
I see I commented originally, all those years ago, but I enjoyed this even more with your dad’s recent passing. I still tear up thinking about my dad, 15 years later. Fathers are so important to daughters! Hope you and Peter are well.
Thanks for reading this again, Jan. I’m glad you still think of your dad. I know mine will be with me too, for years to come, even in his absence.
He sounds like a very special father. I’m sorry for your loss, Kathy.
Thank you Zoom. (I wonder who you really are. I have a feeling I should know.)