Saturday, June 18, 2011

Joseph Z. Ouellette, Jr.

Tomorrow is another day on the calendar I am not fond of: Father’s Day. Both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day seem so odd to me because I never truly know how to respond or what to feel on those days. Today, I happen to notice that I have never written anything about my Father on my blog.

I really don’t know if I can even put into words the type of relationship my Father and I had. I was his firstborn son and although he gave me his first name I am not really anything like him.

My father was mild-mannered and slow to anger. He was kind and friendly to everyone he met. My Dad knew everyone within a two block radius of my parent’s home. Everyone liked my Father. We often joked that my Dad would retire and work as a Walmart greater until he died just so he would be able to talk and shake hands all day. He would have loved it.

He was also very emotional. My Father could never tell me he loved me or that he was proud of me without crying. He was very patient. Many times he was too patient with me. Often times I mistook his patience for apathy and his emotionalism for weakness. I can remember times in church where he would testify or speak and be overcome with emotion. It took me years not to lower my face in shame and disgust.

My Father wanted the very best for my brothers and I. He was never too proud to do a job so that our family could have things a little easier, a little better. I can remember despising him at times for his effort. I will never forget one day he showed up at school for a meeting with a counselor right in the middle of his work. The meeting was unexpected, he had no time to run home and change out of his work cloths, yet he showed up anyway out of concern for me. I refused to even look at him in the meeting. Whenever I answered a question, I did so spitefully. My Mom later told me that my behavior in the meeting had caused him to recount the story to her in tears while they were alone. I felt so ashamed.

Emotions are not something I really understand nor am I very successful in dealing with them. Unbreakable walls; pride; strength; emotionless resistance; holding back your hand so that no one knows what you’ve really got; these are the things that I have always valued above all others. My Father seemed to posses none of these and for that our relationship was always a little uneasy.

I never seemed to understand him. One of his favorite pastimes was fishing. He loved the opportunity to participate in a relaxing activity where the most pressing issue of the day was guessing the weather and other small talk. I despise fishing to this day... and I detest small talk.

The day before my Father died he went on a trip with the men from the church. All of my brothers went except me. He wanted me to go but he knew I wouldn’t. I told myself I wasn’t going because I hated fishing and hunting and I knew the trip would be all about those activities. The real reason was that I hated small talk. I hated being with a group of people and waisting a whole day doing nothing but ‘shooting the breeze’ about meaningless stuff that didn’t matter to me anyway. I didn’t go.

My life had the appearance of being so busy. Conversation with my Father was always longer than I wanted it be. The pauses were always too much for me. It always seemed to drag on far too long. In the days before that trip I had not seen nor spoken to my Father. Although I have desperately tried the last six years, I will live the rest of my life not even remembering the last conversation we had before he died. The last time I remember taking the time to speak to him he was laying lifeless.

Now that my Father’s gone I see things a little differently. His patience wasn’t apathy it was the knowledge that I was young, unlearned, and too head strong to learn anything from any teacher other than life herself.

His emotions were not weakness. They were his inner strength. The inner strength he used to provide for his family, love them, support them, and lead them in difficult times. His ‘small talk’ and ‘shooting the breeze’ were his ways of spending time with the people he cared for, the people he loved.

I know my Father loved me. He told me more times than I can count. I just hope he knows how much I loved him. I never knew how much he carried until he was gone and in his absence I had to carry the burden for our family in his place. I hope he knows that it changed me forever and now I see things a little differently.

Most of all, I hope he knows that tomorrow morning there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to wake up a little early, purchase a Sunday paper, go by the donut store, sit down at their kitchen table, and enjoy having ‘small talk’ with him.


Keith and Carla said...

Your father was a WONDERFUL man! Keith and I both have talked about him on several different occasions, and it was always about how encouraging he was to others. In fact, on a visit to WF shortly before your father's death, he came up to Keith and gave him some very encouraging words. Little did he know what we were going through at the time, but his words gave us strength to keep going. He will always be fondly remembered in the Clark household. We love you and your family dearly!

Joseph James said...

Thank you for your comment... he was an encourager to a lot of people!

Toka said...

"His patience wasn’t apathy it was the knowledge that I was young, unlearned, and too head strong to learn anything from any teacher other than life herself" I loved this part.
I'm sure your dad was a great person and would be very proud to read those words.
Beautifully written!