Thursday, July 11, 2013

Travelling and Waiting

Travelling and Waiting

“We are only waiting, aren’t we?”
“Pretty much” I reply, noticing
but not commenting on the
loud irony of his question.

Late afternoon,  sun streaming in
making every thing gold and warm
and strangely safe.

An old man on the couch who has stopped trying
to pretend  that he wants supper
                  that he will sleep soundly tonight
                  that the golf on TV is important
                  that tomorrow will be better
                  that he remembers my name

Decades dissolve into the tenderness of just touching his hand

My father is here.   We are both here.
But also far from here
Travelling along that golden light
To the place where we stop waiting

And he moves on ahead.
                                              ~ Dianne

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Granddaughter's Tribute

When my grandmother passed away I talked a lot about how her stories had defined a large part of who I am and how they would remain my compass. My grandfather was also someone with many stories and life lessons to share - and he was apt at telling them with a theatrical sense of humor. My mother's on going blog represents this in a wonderful way.

I have been told that among all the great things that my grandfather did in life, not shockingly, he also made mistakes. In fact he made many and some of them with consequences to others. At first that was a very hard thing for me to hear- as I had in many respects placed him on a pedestal. The reason being that my grandfather spent my life making me feel like a literal diamond in the rough. He always lit up when I entered the room as if a magnificent bright surprise had come into his life and after my grandmother passed it felt sometimes as though he saw her in me. 

As sad as it may sound- no one in the world has ever lit up quite the same way upon seeing me. He accepted my every decision no matter how far away it took me or how out of the realm of his comprehension it was, he encouraged me as if there was no better path to take. He trusted and loved me completely and we relished in each other’s experiences and sense of humor. He taught me exactly what love should look like, what it should feel like and most importantly what it means. I knew he worried and fretted over the possibilities when faced with my fears or questions, but he swallowed his own to lift me higher than I ever thought I could go, to make me bigger than I ever thought I could be. 

So though I enjoyed his stories and treasure them as the most precious gift I shall ever posses, the greatest lesson he leaves behind is that no matter the mistakes you make in life, no matter the consequences of your choices or things you may regret, you only exist by how you make others feel - and if you make even one person feel strong and brave, precious and purely loved then that's enough. That's enough to make up for any wrongs you may have committed or mistakes you may have made. Because even one person is a greater success than many experiences in a life time .....  and though I am willing to bet he succeeded with many more than just me, I am so happy to be proof of his love, his generosity and his life. He was my hero, the kind that every girl should have. And the lose of him has left such a whole in my heart I can never explain or hope to fill with anything but the memory of our Sundays together. He taught me the bravery to forge ahead in uncertain times and unfamiliar places; my grandmother remains my compass, but my grandfather is my confidence.

I would like to close with this. When a person is about to die in the Ismaili community the entire congregation recites his name and Mah-F-Che to forgive that person of any wrongs they may have ever committed toward them and thank them for being in their life. This allows people to let go of the negativity they hold onto and remember people at their best.  It allows the person passing to leave this world free and those they leave behind to feel free. I would like to ask that we take a moment of silence to bow our heads and say this quietly to ourselves in memory of Peter Warren Neufeld. To forgive him and thank him.   Thank you.
~ Ashlee Conery

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Palisade Drive Neighbours

Peter, Clare and Cathy.

Peter and Clare were our neighbors on Palisade Drive for 43 years. They were our example of perfect neighbors,never obtrusive, always helpful ,friendly and caring. We lived side by side all those years in complete harmony. Being in the car business, combined with Peter's generous nature was helpful to us.When John went back to U.B.C to take his M.B.A.We had one car,and three small children.Peter phoned and said he had a '63 Chev for a good price that he thought we could use. When John finished two years later, Peter bought it back for the same price!

We also able to buy a Chevelle, that Clare was trading for a newer one. We drove that car for many years and and so did our three  children. When our son was in the market for  his first car,Peter was able to suggest a suitable one. He also was instrumental in providing a summer job  at Dueck  for that same son. 

Peter and John had many backyard neighborly conversations. In later years Peter would be on his deck and John would be below, in our yard and they would have to shout back and forth! 

We were always impressed that Peter was  able to remain on Palisde Drive, and have been full of admiration for the way that Dianne has cared for both her parents. Our whole family will remember them with love,respect and good memories. Good peaceful rest, Peter.

John, Cathy, Dean, Wendy and Arni Johannson 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Horn of Plenty

Thirty plus years of working, acquiring, finding his place produced a lot of comfort and some wonderful relationships with co-workers and neighbors.  I remember refugees and violinists, airline attendants and real estate brokers, jewelers and carpenters, and lots and lots of housewives.   I don’t know if all the neighbors’ moms’ were into politics, fashion, music, poker, German lessons and giant dahlias the size of your head.  I do know that my Dad invented, innovated, created, crafted and ‘gerry rigged’ anything necessary for Mom to have her home and her grand hospitality look and operate the best way.   He was a trial and error, self-taught kind of fix it person.   Sometimes that wasn’t very efficient but he was determined and full of confidence all the time.   Actually he shared with me recently that he wasn’t always full of confidence but he knew how to put on his game face.

He told a story about trying to make a special table for one of mother’s big plants (she had an enormous green thumb).  He went to the senior’s centre to use the tools there, but didn’t like the attitude of the manager (“The guy must have been 90!” he said.) so he went to Carson Graham high school, found the shop teacher who showed him how to do what he wanted.  A rare occasion of Peter Neufeld seeking help and advice.

One of the outward manifestations of their success was the purchase of recreational property at Green Lake in the Caribou.  Mom and I watched from the cold-beer-sunset- deck position as Dad fixed things.  We often pondered from our sewing, measuring and measuring again experience that geometry was pretty much the same for fabric and wood.   As you can imagine though, he was having none of our well-meaning advice about carpentry. That place was the scene of many interesting adventures, including the launching of my Uncle Boulter’s rowboat.  He built it in his basement and had no idea how to get it to water.  So Dad hauled it to the Caribou, along with a couple of brothers.  They fished and told stories and shared in the fruits of Dad’s success.   He was proud and happy about that.  Told that story several times in the last few years.

Going to Hawaii, Phoenix, Birch Bay and one African camera safari were the extent of his travels.  He said that after you spend a few years in North Africa trying to stay out of the way (of the bullets), one didn’t really need to explore much.  Home seemed like the best place.

I once unwittingly insulted him by writing an essay for a Sociology class at UBC.  His career journey fit some kind of theory or formula.  I failed to see how unique he felt.

He always had a great car, and so did Clare.  I always had something I could afford and didn’t think much about it.   Cars were everywhere in our lives and dinner conversations were all about the deals made that day.  It wasn’t till later that I realized it wasn’t like this for everybody.  Because he could, he did.  Get people cars in a pinch, give their children jobs, bail them out of jail, give them refuge, and manage their wills.  He was willing to help, shy to ask for it in later life, very grateful for it when it came unbidden and generously.  I think his wonderful neighbors on Palisade Drive including Linda, Bob, Dana, Bruce, Jeff, Sandy, Monica, John, Kathy and all the others who came before them made him feel cared for.  He was wealthy then, right to the end.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Haircut

In the month before my Father’s passing, he was very interested in getting a haircut, but not so interested in mustering the strength and courage that it would take to endure the journey to the barber and being stuck in the chair.  I thought we could solve this problem du jour by inviting a barber to come to the house and give him a haircut.   I asked my hair stylist, Alison Alexander Heyes if she could recommend someone and she promptly volunteered herself.   I have known Alison almost 10 years now and have discussed many personal and family transitions of  big and small import but in that time, she never asked me this question: “What did your father do?”   Until today.

As we know, this question was no small thing to men of my father’s generation.  Their identity was often completely tied to their occupation.  My Dad’s career journey was impressive I think because he created all of his own luck, with enthusiastic pushes from behind from my mom.

He tells the story of working as a mechanic for Dueck on Broadway and musing about taking his natural skills to the sales floor in the used car department.  Co-workers did not encourage this sort of breaking ranks, but Dad had done some diesel yacht repair favors for the vice president and he told my mother that when his suit was missing from the closet, then he had gone to ask for an interview.

Long story, shorter, he made that jump and was extremely successful at sales during a time when car dealerships were very high profile in Vancouver and everybody needed a car.  We are talking the 50’s and everyone was ‘movin’ up’.  Dad had no way of predicting, and felt that most of his family was surprised, when he retired as vice president of Duecks in his 60’s.  His departure was abrupt.  He took offence to someone’s joke about him becoming ‘long in the tooth’ and that was it.  Out the door.   Quite in character.  I can see it in my mind but was totally unaware of the drama at the time, already distracted by my own career in the 80’s.

The picture below shows the typical over the top design of the dealerships of the day.  In that stretch of Broadway, there were other big contenders with Bow Mac and  Lawson Oates  among them and right across the street from Dueck.

Back to the haircut.  Pete’s last haircut never happened, I am sorry to say,  and one of my last memories will be brushing his hair on the night we said goodbye.  Around Christmas time his good days and Alison’s schedule just never came together.  He died with his long white locks.

Today, in the chair at the hair salon getting my own hair cut, I discover that Alison is the daughter of John Lawson Oates from the dealership across the road.  He married the receptionist from Dueck on Broadway, Louise Eperson.   We are the children of that
crazy competitive time.  What a conversation his haircut would have produced!  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Becoming a Veteran: Served in the Royal Navy 1942 - 1945

In the last years of Dad’s life, Veterans Affairs Canada became a very important benefactor.  They paid for all kinds of services, gear and medications that would have been cash out of pocket to people with civilian status.  They were bureaucratic, difficult to communicate with sometimes and slow but very, very generous.  We often marveled at the quality of life he was able to lead with their support in keeping him in his house.

So it was all because he sweated out the war in the engine room of diesel fuelled landing craft, keeping the vessels going in various ports in North Africa in preparation for the assault on Italy.  They had arrived at Gibraltar in one of those craft, after crossing the Atlantic, from Virginia I think, – 25 of them bouncing around with no military escort.  It was an experiment to see if it was possible, rather than sending the vessels in parts to be assembled.  These men were expendable I guess but lived through it only to be stalled by the King’s ship that had just docked! So the bullets were not coming straight at him, he had a skill that kept him safe, and served him well in later years in the auto industry.

 Military records state that he served as a stoker 1st class motor mechanic and demobilized as a leading stoker with 578 days on the high seas.  He talked about ports with exotic names like Djeli and Bougi and the perils of the British 8th army combined operations.

His brothers Dave, Hank and Bill were all in the army.  He said he wanted to sail over and save them!  There is collection of medals that he was very proud of celebrating that mission.

The ships had great names like “Dinosaur”, “Copra”, “Peregrine”,”Naden” and “Discovery”

When he returned, he entertained his sisters by teaching them the ‘North African Shuffle’, a dance he totally made up.   He also remembers playing pool with brother Bill and exchanging war stories.  Bill was in the trenches in France and the battle at Dieppe – quite a different perspective that seeing it from the ocean!