Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A birthday tribute to my dad

Above is the MacBain Clan Crest, with the words "Touch not the cat but a targe (glove--be wary when dealing with MacBains) and the clan crest and a bit of the everyday plaid.
My mother hooked the wall hanging; my oldest son and daughter-in-law put together the plaid-and-grey quilt with the crest in the center.
Today is my dad's birthday. Richard Norman MacBain was born in 1897 in Ontario, the son of a minister in the church of England. He served in the British Army in WWI and then came to the States to study osteopathic medicine. Eventually he became president of his osteopathic college, administrator of the associated hospital and, during my early years, maintained a part-time private practice. He shaped me, and I took away many things from him.
He was a Scot and proud of it, rarely mentioning that his mom was Irish. I too am a proud Scot, a member of Clan MacBain. Dad became interested in genealogy late in life, even visited the MacBain Memorial Garden outside Inverness. I've been there too and nearly wept at the Culloden Battlefield. Someday I'd love to write a novel incorporating Scottish history.
Dad's Anglophile tendencies led him to be proper and dignified, and he used to say you always used  your best manners on your family. He was a stickler about table manners, and my brother and I have inherited that and put it into effect with our children and now the grandchildren. No elbows on the table, use the right utensil, don't butter your bread in the air (that one used to get me). But I truly appreciate good manners and a certain grace about dining, though I'm mostly given to casual entertaining. I didn't come away with his Anglophile food tastes--meat and potatoes (we ate a lot of lamb as I grew up and I loved it). Mom loved fish and seafood and when they visited Boston she'd drag him to seafood restaurant and then hide her face when he ordered roast beef.
I also got a strong work ethic from my father. He worked hard, believed in treating all people fairly and doing the best honest job he could. I went to work in his office at fourteen and by the time I moved away at twenty-one, I was his executive secretary (not a pc term today). I'd still make a damn good executive secretary. Before anyone thinks cushy job working for your father, you'd have to know Dad. He was harder on me than any other employee (except maybe my brother who briefly worked in maintenance), and he's the reason that I am today, in retirement, compulsively at work on lots of projects.
I can remember in the evenings that Mom and Dad sat in their chairs by the fireplace and read, each with a book, but they kept interrupting each other to read an irresistible passage aloud. They took turns reading the works of Will and Ariel Durant aloud. No wonder I have a houseful of books.
Like my dad, I am most comfortable if church is a regular part of my life--there have been periods I let it slip away, and I was sorry. Dad and I used to sing hymns, loudly and off key, and I love the hymns, the ritual of the Methodist or Christian church. On Sunday evenings, Dad would play the piano, and we'd sing together--sometimes Scottish songs, though his specialty was "Redwing" and I still hear that melody going through my head.
There are things I didn't take from Dad, one being his love of gardening. It was his avocation, and he spent weekends on his knees, in disreputable clothes, digging in the dirt. We owned the lot next to our house, and it was Dad's garden, beautiful to behold. Then in the summer evenings, he and Mom would sit out there and have a drink. Today I like a lovely garden, but I don't like doing the work...and these days my aging back won't let me.
There are of course facets to me that come from my mom and some that sprang up to surprise them and me. But so much of me is my dad come to life again--I even look like a MacBain. So, thanks, Dad,and Happy Birthday.


LD Masterson said...

A lovely tribute to your dad. I'm a bit of a Scot myself. My mom was a McLellan.

Judy Alter said...

LD, somehow I overlook the German heritage from my mom and focus on the Scottish. She even hated sauerkraut, never talked about it the way Dad did.