Tuesday, April 28, 2009


My father is graduating in a month and a half. I can't remember there being a time when Dad wasn't taking some course, trying to earn certification in something or other. When I was in high school, I would be typing up my English or History assignments on the computer in the den, while he would work at another computer on the desk beside mine. At that time, he was making his way through the material for certification as a computer technician. It was just "normal" for the two of us to be in the den, each tinkering away at our own assignments. But oh the drama that erupted when I would find that Dad had made some mistake while trying to install something on my computer, and the sixteen-page essay that I had worked so hard on had disappeared. Tears and pouts and hissy-fits did nothing to bring my essay back. And Dad, ever non-chalant, would merely ask, "Why didn't you back up your files?" I would love to say that it was a hard lesson to learn, and that I learned it quickly; however, the same scenario replayed itself at least three times during my last two years of high school.

Sometime after being certified as a computer technician, Dad went back to college again. This time, it was to become a real-estate agent. He toiled away at daytime courses. The evenings, he spent at his regular full-time job. I went to his graduation at the college those years ago, held at a large church. I remember the sun streaming through the glass that day. As Dad's name was called and he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, something akin to parental pride welled up inside of me. Except I was not the parent here; I was the daughter.

A few years ago, Dad decided he wanted a Bachelor's degree in Business. On June 4th, he'll finally be receiving his degree. I'm sad that I won't be there to take in the pomp and circumstance, to fish my dinky digital camera out of my purse and mozy up by the stage to take photos. Part of me wants to buy that plane ticket home, take a few days off work, and be there. But, it's just not realistic. I've looked it up on the collective agreement, and I'm only allowed to take one day's leave to attend a graduation, my own. There's absolutely no stipulation about attending a parent's graduation ceremony.

As I look forward to pursuing my Master's, I must admit that I've never had the same persistence and dedication as Dad, and probably never will. Dad hoards education and soaks in as much as he can possibly get. He never graduated from high school, but entered the workforce at age fifteen to help his single stepmother raise his younger siblings. He was the second oldest boy in the family, the middle child of five, and the two youngest ones were to stay in school and pursue their dreams while the eldest kids willingly sacrificed their own educations. After working as a carpenter's apprentice for a few years, Dad took his high school equivalency and was accepted into university. Although he graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature, I think that a part of him always felt that he had missed out.

Dad worked for the same newspaper company from the time he finished university to his retirement just last year. He started off as a reporter and photographer, and slowly worked his way up, eventually becoming the managing editor. All the while, he would take his courses in the daytime. So, did he ever work as a computer technician after earning his certification? No. Or as a realtor? No. Yet he carried on, getting up early in the morning to go to school, studying for exams, and working full-time in the evening. I bet his professors never understood why he seemed so tired at times, to the point of dozing off for minutes at a time; or why he might have had to leave his exams early even if he hadn't quite finished, in order to make it to work on time.

Growing up as my father's daughter, I had gone through the stages of being "Daddy's girl," idolizing his every move, to seeing him as human, with his ambitions and imperfections, strengths and weaknesses. But, I'll always value what he has shown me through the years -- the importance of learning. As summer sweeps through Fox Creek that early June day a month and a half from now, my thoughts will be in Vancouver, with Dad, as he marches up onto the stage and grins out into the audience, grasping that piece of paper that marks the years of hard work, the achievement of a once-lofty goal, the next piece of his big dream-plan.

And no, that's not the end. Dad is already registering for another set of courses, to work toward being a Certified General Accountant. There's nothing like a father to make a daughter feel lazy -- lazy, but oh-so-proud.

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