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My dad’s friend is 100 today

A letter from my father

My mom called me tonight.

“Pamela, Dr. Sinclair’s birthday is today. He is one hundred. Would you like to call him?”

“Yes, I would mom. That would be nice.”

“They are having a small party for him. His son Jim, will probably answer the phone.”

My mom gave me Dr. Sinclair’s telephone number in North Carolina with an admonition to call soon, as he might go to bed early because of his age.

“Hello, this is Pamela Fernuik, my mom called you a few minutes ago, Berdeane. My dad, Bill,use to go hunting with Dr. Sinclair. I wanted to wish him a happy birthday.”

I heard Jim talking to his father,
“Dad, it is Bill Fernuik’s daughter on the phone. You use to hunt with Bill. Would you like to say hello?”

Jim handed the  phone to his father, and Dr. Sinclair said, “Hello.”

“Happy birthday, Dr. Sinclair. I remember when you came to our house and hunted with my dad. Those were some of my best memories.”

I couldn’t understand what he said to me. His speech was not clear.

But, I thought he could probably hear me.

“Dr. Sinclair. I hope you have a nice birthday. You were a good friend to my father. I love you.”

He said something else to me, and then his son got back on the phone.

“Thank you for calling. Bye now,” and he hung up the phone.

I hung up the phone and started to cry.

My father has been dead for fifteen years. He died when he was 69 and 58 days old. My father’s doctor said, “Bill has a strong heart. He would live forever if  he didn’t have cancer.”

But he did have cancer, and he did die.

And Dr. Sinclair is one hundred years old today.

I found a letter my brother sent me dated Sept. 12, 1985, “Dad’s leaving tomorrow for about 2 weeks then down to North Carolina to visit Doc Sinclair.”

I didn’t expect to cry. Crying wasn’t on my mind, I don’t know where the tears came from. Maybe I wanted to call so I could ask Dr. Sinclair to tell me stories about my Dad. Or maybe it was a connection to years gone by, when two doctors flew down, or up to Saskatoon Saskatchewan from North Carolina to meet Bill Fernuik, the hunter and trapper who would take them hunting for Elk and Moose in northern Saskatchewan. My father, the professional hunting guide, the poet, the man who taught me how to shoot a deer and skin animals.

Today as I was driving home from church in the rain. I thought about how Christmas is not just softly falling snow and crisp icicles and cute candy canes. Christmas is also rain. And sometimes Christmas is tears and sadness.

Driving in the rain

Sometimes people die and they are not there for Christmas anymore.

Joy will come in the morning, but tonight there are tears.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:4-5

I went in the basement to look for a photograph of my dad for this story. I found a stack of letters he mailed me when I lived in Fuiji-so, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan from 1983- 1990.

Letters to Japan from my father

And in the pile of letters I found a  poem he wrote me on December 17th, 1983.

I will share the poem and not a photograph. Because a photograph is a just a picture of someone. But this paper my father wrote on. His hands touched this paper. It is more real to me than his likeness on a piece of paper.


You are in
a far-off land
for the purpose
of your life
while I am here
home fire
thinking about you
and sending you
my love wanes
to keep you strong
and warm
with comfort
that tells you
I love you
beyond the reaches
of stars
and morning-glory

Dec 17/83

Beyond the reaches of stars I send my love to my dad.

And I send love to my step-father Ed, and my Baba and Gido, and Grandpa Oliver and Granny Mary, and my Auntie Isabelle who died on December 16th this year, and my Uncle Miro and Uncle Roman and Auntie Ollie, and Uncle Walter, and to my friends Mother who died too young. And I send my love to my friend’s daughter who should still be riding horses.

And I send my love to my friends who have tears at Christmas as they remember.


Would you like to leave a comment? I would love to talk to you.

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

  • Oh Pamela, I have tears in my eyes. For Helen and your dad and you. Thank you for that lovely poem written by your dad. He was a special human being. At Helen’s funeral we played this song by Bryan Adams; ‘This is where I belong’. I still cannot listen to this song. Like Joan, I’m sending my love to you today.
    Now I know why I feel so sad – Joy will come in the morning, but tonight there are tears.

    • Good Morning Patricia,
      Today there is joy. I pray joy for you today. I pray for sunshine and warm winds and nice calm walks on the beach with your husband.

  • This is beautiful. You know, I’m thankful for the tears because they are evidence of our love for those who have departed this life. Sending love back to you, and to your Dad and my parents.

    • Hello Joan,
      I send love to you Joan as you remember your parents. Thank you for sharing your parents with me.

  • La McCoy


  • Robn Patrick

    I see where you got your writing gene from. You father sounds like a wonderful man.

    No matter how the conversation with your father’s friend ended or how it made you feel, know that you did a good thing and probably made the man realize someone thought about him – and the son realize people still cared for his father. Who knows how that changed their day.

    • Robin,
      Thank you for your kind words. Yes, who knows how what we do and say effects others. I am glad I called. The biggest surprise was the tears after the phone call.

  • “I love you beyond the reaches of stars and morning-glory.” That is absolutely beautiful.

    • Thank you Eva. My dad could weave words like paintings.

  • Thank you for the love you sent my mom. I can imagine she is enjoying this Christmas with my brother Steve. She only knew him for seven years. You are such a tenderhearted person. Your dad would be very proud of you.

    • You are welcome Anne. What a nice thought, your mom being with your brother Steve. He was so young when she died.
      And thank you Anne.

      • Yes Pamela the thought of Steve being with mom is a nice one. Steve is also with his two week old son. They’re finally getting to know each other.