He was tall, with long white hair pulled into a pony tail that dipped well into his middle back. I liked him immediately because he wore a black cowboy hat.
My father always wears a black cowboy hat. The similarity made me smile.
He smiled at me and shook my hand, his calloused fingers wrapping around my own. The corner of his watery blue eyes crinkled with humour and as I made eye contact for the first time with him I was surprised to see the depth of sadness and knowledge hidden behind his wire framed glasses.
We sat that night, together, around a circular patio table under neath a warm British Columbia sky. We were united by our mutual love for her, and as we spoke softly as the others came and went we discovered we had far more in common than just the lady who had brought us together.
He was soft spoken next to my brashness and far more reserved than I'll ever manage to be in my life. I watched him as he gently interacted with his grandchildren and I laughed as he took little J under his wing and tried to teach him to blow stones like one does a fuzzy dandelion puff.
Later that night the two of us found ourselves alone underneath the patio umbrella, while the rain drizzled down around us. The night air was deafening with the quiet swallowing us.
He asked me about my life and how I found his daughter. He was genuinely interested in how an Albertan prairie girl found her way into the very core of his family. His eyes clouded with pain as he asked about my angel son and his paternal instincts flared as he listened to the violent road my new son has traveled in his short life.
We sat quietly for a moment, as he digested the facts of my life, my history before he broke into a smile and told me some of his favorite moments as a father to her and her sister. He chuckled as he told me personal memories and smiled like a proud father when he told me that his grand daughter was a carbon copy of her mother.
The night drew to a close as the rain started pounding around us and together we gathered up all the chairs to try and keep them dry. As we headed into the house to turn in for the night he clasped my hand once more and told me to sleep well.
The next morningÂ he watched his family and the new generation his children have created and laughed as we all swapped stories and jokes over breakfast. Pictures were taken and memories shared and soon my time with this family,Â this family who had welcomed me as one of their own, was ending.
As I stood to leave and find my way back to my own family, with love in my heart and promise to self to one day be able to have moments like this with my own family, he approached me and wrapped his arms around me.
He thanked me. For sharing my story with him, for listening to him as he told me his. He thanked me for being kind to his family and for loving his daughter so. And then he thanked me for something no one else ever had before: He thanked me for simply being me.
I hugged him hard and tears welled up at the corner of my eyes and for a heartbeat I wished he could have been my father.
And then I left.
And now he is gone.
His name was Stephen.
Thank you for sharing your father with me Catherine.
You will be greatly missed Stephen. God Speed.
*****If you are inclined to leave your condolences for Her Bad Mother's loss in my comment section, I will be sure the family and Cat receives them all.*****