Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Remembering Teunis (Tony) denBok

Today my father would have turned 80! It's hard to believe that he's been gone almost 18 years. I'm not normally one to remember dates, but this one I've been thinking about for a few days - not sure why. This blog post is likely irrelevant for almost everyone else, but I'll write it anyway.

There's an old chair that now sits in my mother's basement. It's been there pretty much since my Dad passed away and we found Mom the little house where she now lives. To most people it's just an old ugly chair, but to me it's a connection to my father. I remember him sitting in it reading the newspaper and watching the news until he fell asleep after supper. I would sit on the arm of the chair and we'd watch the Leafs lose, always hoping for better days (See picture above).

Some of my memories of Dad are starting to fade, and it bothers me, but I guess that comes with the passing of time. For years after he passed away I would see someone walking down the street wearing a fedora and look to see if it was him. I would see someone driving his make and model of car and do the same thing, feeling a twinge of sadness when I remembered that it couldn't be him after all. So today I'm writing down some of those memories I still have for my own sake.

I have my Dad's golf clubs - they worked better for him. He taught me how to play. I could outdrive him as long as I can remember, but his shots, though short, were usually straight. Mine went everywhere. I was still using those clubs until a couple of years ago. I took a swing with the driver and the end snapped off and flew down the fairway. It's shocking how bad that felt, I guess because I lost another piece of him.

My Dad was the kind of guy that everyone loved. He was usually happy and was a people person. He genuinely loved to help people. He called bingo at the Leisure Time Club in Collingwood where he was a volunteer. He served with the Lions for a while and the Kiwanis Club. I would go with him sometimes and we would sing for the Seniors in Sunset Manor.

He loved to sing. I remember songs like "Yellow Bird," sung with his Dutch accent and humming in the parts where he would inevitably forget the words. The little bit of Dutch that I know came from the Dutch songs that he and I would sing together from Heintje or Vader Abraham, like this one I just found on youtube!!! Bedankt Lieve Ouders. He would always laugh when I mispronounced the words.

He got me my first job - with Don Hawkey Construction - and his advice to me was to work hard and not stop until the job was done. It's good advice still today. He drove me to college all the way in Tennessee and my sister, Laurie, tells me he almost turned around and went back to get me. He and my mother did without a lot for me to stay in school. I don't think I ever said thanks.

I remember how he was with my kids. My oldest, Tony, was his namesake, and he would love to take him to get his hair cut. The only time I remember seeing my father cry was when he said goodbye to Tony as we were moving to Florida. He hugged him, told him he loved him and placed him in the car, then walked away wiping the tears away so we wouldn't see. But we saw, and it made me love him more. I'm still looking for the picture of Dad with my youngest son, Micah. It's the only one we have (he died the year Micah was born) and I can't find it anywhere.

My Dad wasn't good with expressing his feelings (something about being Dutch, I think). Over the years I've grown to understand him more, I believe. He was certainly not perfect, but he was my father, and I always loved him.

It's times like this when I'm so glad that there is a heaven. I look forward to having the conversations that we never got to have while he was alive. The yearning in my heart for that reunion is evidence to me that there will be one. As C.S. Lewis so aptly said it: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

I sang a song at his funeral called "We Believe." A lot of people still comment on it, probably because of the emotion I was feeling as I sang it. I was singing from my heart because it was and is what I truly believe. I do look forward to that day, but until then I'll continue to do my best, believing that he's proud of me. I think there's a longing in every son's heart for the approval of his father. I want to be sure that my sons know how proud I am of the men they've become and are becoming. And I don't ever want to forget my Dad. "'Til we meet again."

Related Articles:
Book Review: "The Book of Man - Readings on the Path to Manhood"
Looking Back
Thoughts on Fatherhood
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