My father passed away suddenly on Monday, Jan. 23. At about 4 a.m., the morning before his funeral, I sat down and wrote this.
When my parents bought their home in Douglastown, some 26 years ago, my mother was horrified to find their new yard a happy home to many garter snakes.
Mom could hardly bare to enjoy her new property, with the thought of so many slithering beasts hiding in the grass. My father could not abide that.
Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. Patrick Joseph Lynch drove the snakes out of Douglastown.
Painstakingly, over the course of many weeks and months and years, my Dad captured each and every snake he spotted in the yard and transported it into the woods and across the creek—with the assurance that a narrow stream of rushing water would keep us separated from the serpentine terrors.
In the interest of creating a truly snake-free environment, snake removal was, on at least one occasion, a service Dad also provided to the neighbourhood. When next-door neighbour Dewey, a little queasy about snakes himself, found one curled up under the hood of the truck he was working on, it was Dad he talked to and Dad who relocated it to its new home across the creek.
And sure enough, Dad’s perseverance, stubbornness and his pure labour of love to make his bride happy in their new home succeeded. Snakes are now a rare sight at their home on William Street.
Except for the occasional one hiding in the woodpile…
It was a summer day many years ago. Chris and Dad were piling our winter’s store of wood in the basement. Mom and I were upstairs. We must have been cleaning or baking – that part we can’t remember.
What does live in our memories is the sound of Chris and Dad’s voices from the basement rising up through the vents in the floor. Strands of a conversation.
The topic? A snake had been spotted and was now hiding in the woodpile.
Chris and Dad’s solution? Don’t tell the girls.
What harm could it do, they said.
Surely it couldn’t get upstairs, they reasoned.
Mom and I marched down and busted up their plan. The four of us moved every single stick they had piled: two of us carrying wood from one pile to another, two of us standing guard with brooms.
We found the snake. Hiding in the last stick of wood, of course. And much to the satisfaction of my mother and me, Dad quickly vanquished the intruder.
Some of the snakes in the neighbourhood were much less terrifying.
Last summer, our neighbour Dewey – the one who shared my and mom’s aversion to all things slithery—returned home from work. Heading toward the house, he spotted a snake sunning itself by the corner of his garage.
In an act of bravery, Dewey went to the shed, grabbed a shovel, and quickly beheaded the snake.
My father watched all of this gleefully from our window across the street.
The snake, of course, was a rubber one Dad had found in my old stuff. He laughed heartily when he told me the story of how he had planted it in Dewey’s yard as a prank. He was, in ways like this, just a big kid.
In so many other ways, he was the measure of a man.
My father worked hard his entire life. He was generous of his time and spirit. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for those he cared about. And while he never expected anything in return, it’s a testament to the caring relationships he nurtured that his generosity was so regularly and so fully reciprocated. His neighbours became friends and his friends were like family.
Since my mom and my dad retired, thankfully, they both had the chance to work a little less hard. They marveled at the life they got to enjoy. Long quiet mornings reading, cooking supper together, putting their feet up in the evening. They felt and practiced pure gratitude for their many blessings.
Nothing made my father feel more blessed than family. One of his greatest joys was when Chris, Nicholas and I visited home for a weekend. Nothing was better than the five of us gathered on the porch or around the kitchen table or the dartboard, sharing good conversation and many laughs.
Nothing was better than that—except maybe sharing that warmth with anyone who stopped by the house. He was always quick with an invitation to share a meal or a drink.
I know my father was so proud of us. He joked often about how the buttons on his shirt were going to pop off because his chest was so puffed up with pride.
These last few days, hearing so many stories about the man my father was—strong, principled, stubborn as all get-out, sure, but loving, neighbourly, caring. Well Dad, it’s my turn to be button-popping proud.
I’m so proud to have had you as my father. I’m so proud to be your daughter. I love you.