The Acorn & the Mighty Oak
When you were just an acorn, you fought hard for the light and water to grow. Your roots began in Africa, born and raised in Kenya you spent your formative years in boarding schools, experienced wealth and then loss when everything was taken away. In your school days the teachers beat you for wrong answers on tests, you ran miles to evade school bullies, sold candy in the school yard saving a small fortune which you then gave selflessly when it was needed. Every day, every year you fought and found light to grow.
When you left school you joined the army, you became an elite paratrooper with nothing to lose, you set eyes on Mom and you knew she was the one. As the story goes you asked her out everyday for weeks until she finally out of sheer exasperation she said yes, and on that first date you said; “you are the woman I am going to marry”.
Just as you pursued Mom, you went after all your dreams relentlessly. I’m not sure you ever took no for an answer.
Moving to Canada to have a chance at a better life, you and Mom lived on canned potatoes using wooden crates as furniture as mom put you through flying school.
You wanted a better life and you made it happen through sheer determination. When no one in the airline business was hiring you went to an Airline head office and asked to speak with the man in charge. When the secretary said no, he wasn’t available, you said you’d wait. When she left her desk for a moment she came back to an empty waiting room as you had snuck down the hallway and knocked on the head honcho’s door… His name was Toby. You introduced yourself and said you needed a job. You told him if he hired you, you would name your first born child after him… he liked your tenacity.
When you knocked on that closed door and opened it with your determination you also opened a world of opportunity for our family and not only decided the fate of my brothers name that day but also put into motion years of adventures, stories and good times.
Most days when I think of you there is a touch of pain with the memory. A loss I still feel. Not just for losing you but also for my lack of understanding so many aspects of who you were until it was too late.
The loss I felt when you passed was like nothing I have ever felt before, perhaps only comparing it to being hit by something large, that hit leaving a gaping hole.
Near the end, everyone but me knew you were dying, I suppose deep down somewhere I must have known too. But far deeper than that was the belief that you could never die. You were too big an Oak to fall, too strong in life, too big a character, your stories and laughter boomed in rooms. When you left, that hole you left, well, let’s just say I had not realized you had taken up so much space in who I was and how I defined myself.
Of course people said, this will get easier and now so many years later it has. It has softened. In some ways losing you has been a painful gift, like a sapling under the shade of the mighty oak who cannot receive enough light to fully grow, your passing has somehow helped me to let more light in and grow faster and stronger.
You used to laugh when I was a teenager and say; “one day you will have teens of your own and you will understand”. Well Dad. I get it. You have probably been laughing pretty hard for a few years now.
You wanted the best for us. You loved us and disciplined us in your extreme ways. When I was younger I thought I was nothing like you.
Near the end, by the river when you were still well enough go for a walk in the sun, you apologized to me for your extreme parenting. Apologized to me and I would not accept it. I told you there was no need for an apology. I loved everything about my childhood and wouldn’t change a thing. But if you can hear me Dad, I get it. I accept your apology and I still wouldn’t change a thing.
You were passionate in living a good life, a life full of adventure and excitement. You took us all with you. You wanted the best for us. You took us up mountains, through valleys, onto beaches, into deserts, on islands, and to countries all over the world. You showed us all this life has to offer and you said go for it. You gave us a head start and wanted so badly for us to take advantage of all of the privileges you worked so hard for.
I was so hard on you. I thought you were so hard on me. Now, with two teens in the house and a husband who works hard like you did, I wish more than anything I could go back in time and give myself a little more understanding and openness, fully comprehend that you the mighty oak had always let enough light in for me to grow, that the sheer immensity of your size and strength weathered me from many storms and mighty winds. That the ironic mind bending truth which I am only fully grasping in my 40's, is that this acorn didn’t fall far from the tree.