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Remembering my father

William Fernuik, my father.

I had forgotten what day it was today. Today was just another day, one of many.  Then I read a friend’s Saint Patrick’s’ day greeting on facebook this morning, and I remembered today is March 17th. Today is the day my father died fifteen years ago.

The Saskatchewan Prairie was still covered with snow  the day my father died. Yesterday it snowed in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania. When I look out my window as I type, I see snow on the ground, and I remember the drive to the hospital at three in the morning on March 17th, 1998.  The nurse wouldn’t tell me on the phone if my father had died.

She just said, “Come back.”

My father flew to visit me in Tokyo when I lived in an eight tatami mat apartment, in the early 80’s. I found his photograph album from his trip after he died. I didn’t know he had made an album.

When I think of my father, I don’t think of him as he lay dead on his hospital bed, his mouth open, his soul gone. I think of my father walking in deep snow checking his trap line, laughing when he told a joke, serious when he read his poetry, showing me how to skin a coyote, on the Saskatchewan river in his riverboat, walking with me in Tokyo,  looking for the first sign of spring, a crocus.

A robin came early, the spring he died, to the field in front of his hospital room.

Today I am looking for a robin.

I don’t see one yet.



About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • [email protected]

    Today as I was leaving school, I noticed something on the sign of the church across the street. There were two fat and sassy robins. Both were red-breasted robins. I thought of you , of your dad, of this writing.

    And I thought of my dad. He died July 31, 1974. He was only 45, and I was 21. I had been married less than a year. I remember my husband coming home from work early, struggling with the words to tell me the news. And then driving through the night from Georgia to Indiana to get home, even though it was too late to see Dad, alie, one more time.

    • I am so sorry you didn’t get to see your dad alive, one more time. Thank you for remembering my story when you saw the fat and sassy robins.

  • Paul (birdsandtreesofthemind)

    It would be easy to turn this into a list of abstract personality traits, or to write just for your private world. But this is concrete and vivid and real. We see it and feel it.

    It’s been snowing up here close to Saskatchewan for days. Spring feels like it’s a million years away, after being so close. But it’s not. The warmth will come, the snow will melt, and we will start to breathe and live again.

    Best wishes, friend.

    • The warmth will come, the snow will melt, and we will start to breathe and live again.

      I am going to put that on my wall. I love it.
      Thank you Paul.

  • Crystal Robertson

    Your piece is so touching. Loosing someone you love so dearly is difficult beyond words. The way you speak of your father expresses the love and admiration. A tribute. He is proud and honored. I send a prayer that you saw your robin today.

    • Thank you Crystal. I am still looking for a Robin.

  • AJF

    Your post brings chills to my spine and reminds me of the great love that all fathers and daughters have. Your dad sounds a lot like you….spree of spirit and full of life.

  • This year is the first year that I have lived more than half my life without my dad. Glad that you still hold the good memories!

    • I am sorry your dad died. Dad’s leave a big empty space when they are gone.

  • I’m sorry for your loss. Your dad, in the picture, looks like Ernest Hemingway or Jack London, so dynamic and manly. You were blessed to have such an interesting dad. I pray that God will comfort you today as you remember him.

    • Thank you Kathleen for your prayers. My dad was very interesting. He taught me how to make something if I needed it, how to skin animals, set a trap line, and how to shoot a gun. He was quite a character.

  • Thank you for sharing this. I lost my dad about a year ago, and can relate to everything you said – especially how the change of seasons trigger those memories in startling abundance…

    • Mike, I am so sorry your father died last year. Sometimes when I see a Cabela’s catalog, I think, “Hey, my dad would like this.” and then I remember I don’t have to buy him presents anymore.

  • I saw seven robins on my way to church today (one threw itself in front of my car, to make sure I noticed it) and I thought how early it seemed for robins. Now I know why there are so many so early this day.

    • Diane, I cried when I read your comment. The bird jumping in front of your car, so you would tell me you saw him, made me laugh and cry at the same time.

  • What a beautiful reflection on the relationship between you and your father. I’ve never had the kind of relationship with a father that you speak of: not between my real father or my adoptive father. I can just imagine the stories you could write about him.

    • I am sorry you never a relationship with your real or adoptive father Shelley. God made you special and He loves you very much. I do too.

  • mardie teach

    You look like your dad, you know. I feel I know him a wee bit from your beautiful description. My dad passed away last Feb and the wounds are still fresh, open. I can hear that in your piece, even 15 years later. A father’s love is like no other. I hope your robin comes today.

    • Mardie, I think about your father when I fill my bird feeder with seed. I still remember the story you wrote about your dad last year. I didn’t see a robin today, but I will keep looking.

  • You capture your dad with so many gorgeous details. I love the paragraph that starts “When I think of my father…” That’s true for me, too. I don’t want to remember my father in a hospital bed, instead, I want to remember him at his happiest– coming off the golf course, laughing with his friends, etc. And the robin is so perfect. I haven’t seen robins yet this morning, but spring is definitely on the way. I will be thinking of you. Hope you do something that fills you with joy and peace today…

    • Hello Wilcox. Thank you for kind words. I am sorry your father was ill. I am happy you have good memories of him.

  • Darlene Mitchell

    I am having some difficulty posting, and not sure whether my last comment posted. I just want to let you know that he post about your father touches me deeply. I hope and pray that you will see a robin today. Thank you for sharing your father with us….

    • Thank you for your prayers Darlene. I didn’t see a Robin, but we had more birds than usual at our feeder.

  • Elsie

    Fathers and daughters are an interesting dynamic in a family. You remind me to appreciate my father more while he is still with me. Thank you. i know I will see a robin today. I will say a prayer for you.

    • Thank you Elsie. Give your father an extra hug today from me. Thank you for your prayers.

  • I hope you see a robin. Thanks for a little peek into things you fondly remember about him. And yet, I know you hold so many other memories. Thanks for sharing, Pamela.

    • I hope I see a robin today too. Thank you for reading my story Anne and for caring.

  • I haven’t had a parent die yet. I don’t know how I will handle it when one does. I’m praying for you to find peace amidst the sorrow on this day, Pamela

  • Mariaselke

    The “big” anniversaries are often the hardest, for some reason. It’s just a few weeks since the 10th anniversary of my brother’s death… and that one hit really hard. I’ll look for a robin today for you.

    • Thank you Maria. I didn’t think I had any tears left after fifteen years. But today, I have enough to fill and ocean.