david summers, 1955 – 2011


My dad died today.

When he was 54, he decided to go back to school to be an environmental technician. It must have been hard going back to college, learning alongside young(er) students at an age in life when people probably assume you’ve got one eye toward retirement, but he did it. He wanted to be an environmental technician, so he put his nose to the grindstone for two years and graduated this last June. He graduated with honours and on the Dean’s List because it was not enough for him to go and do the minimum required, he wanted to do his absolute best and he did. It was such a big, big moment in his life and he was so proud of himself.

We were so proud of him.

He was no stranger to hard work. He loved to farm. There was little more gratifying to him than tilling soil, planting vegetables. Looking after the earth. The (rare) times he could coerce me into maaaybee doing some dirty work, he could not contain his glee. And those (rare) times I did, he often liked to pause afterward and express how happy he was with what was done, what I had contributed, and how great the work we did looked and didn’t it look great? When it was my turn to comment, I’d usually just show him the new blister I got which was totally his fault. He laughed and teased. He liked to tease. He did it often, with great affection. We teased him back just the same.

He was a man of action. He genuinely wanted things to be better where they could be better and he took up causes–good ones, lost ones–and gave his all to them, for better or worse and never for want of praise and glory. I think, I will always think, for the rest of my life, he should have been appreciated so much more for what he gave.

He was passionate about the environment, about politics and world affairs. He loved to argue. He loved to present one side of an argument and wear you down until you saw his point, and then as soon as you’d conceded, he’d switch sides. There was always, “just one more thing,” to say when my father was at the head of the table discussing the topic of the day. No one thrived on these debates more than he and my papa (his father-in-law) did, I think. I hope they’re getting caught up right now. I really do. And I hope he’s with his father now, who passed away in 2003, and who he also missed so much and was devastated to lose.

He was a big reader. He loved crime dramas and bad sitcoms. He grudgingly let my sister indulge in Jeopardy at the dinner table. My dad was crazy for the arts. Passionate about theatre. One of the best moments of his life was bringing Man of la Mancha to the local stage. We still have a tape of it. I was eight or nine when I saw that play and it made me want to climb onstage and be an actor because I wanted to move people the way that I had been moved. I thought my dad was a genius to bring that world alive in our tiny town and make me believe in it, that his vision and interpretation of that musical could bring me to tears. I wanted to inspire them that way, make them laugh, make them cry. I hate musicals but I will always love that one. Later, I wanted to direct, like he did (my directorial debut was in the fifth grade, a murder mystery I also wrote and starred in cough) and then I wanted to write for the screen and eventually, it became books. I think the want to be a storyteller–and that is the one thing in my life that has remained consistent, that has inspired many of my choices–took root when I was sitting in the audience, watching Don Quixote rise from his death bed…

DON QUIXOTE: But this is not seemly, my lady. On thy knees, to me?
DULCINEA: My lord, you’re not well!
DON QUIXOTE: Not well? What is illness to the body of a knight errant? What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise and woe to the wicked! Sancho!
SANCHO PANZA: Here, your grace!
DON QUIXOTE: My armour, my sword!
SANCHO PANZA: More misadventures!
DON QUIXOTE: Adventures, old friend!

Thank you for inspiring me, Dad.

This is so difficult.

He loved my mom. LOVED. Loved her.

He loved his family. His wife, his daughters, his mother and father, his mother and father-in-law, his son-in-law, his brothers. He loved his friends. He loved.

He was loved.

We found out he was sick at the beginning of September–cancer–and things progressed faster than we imagined. Hope was meted out to us sparingly, dashed as quickly as it was offered. My father, the kind of person who always had to be doing something, always had to be doing something for someone, my father the fighter, never got the opportunity to fight.

It was one of the last things he said.

“I just want to fight.”

He resisted until the end. They weren’t his terms and he held on until he couldn’t hold on anymore. Those last hours, minutes, seconds…

Those were difficult too.

The heart has been ripped right out of this family.

Everything is less interesting now, a little more meaningless, without him here. There’s nothing beautiful about it, nothing in this loss that will ever make it worthwhile. It is so unfair. He should be here.

56 years old.

He did a lot of what he wanted, which is something nice to think about–or will become nice to think about one day, I hope–considering how short his time on earth turned out to be. He wanted to fly, so he flew. He travelled. He ran a lapidary business. He reinvented himself several times over the course of his life and each time, it was impossible not to see a man who was striving to be his best self and getting a little closer to it each time. He was a thoughtful a person, a complicated person. No one could frustrate me quite like he did and there was no one I wanted to impress more. I loved him. He was a good, good man. He was good man and he worked hard and I’m sitting here typing this, thinking, why didn’t we all say it more? He deserved to hear it as much as possible.

You were a good man, Dad.
You worked hard and you earned every breath.
But you deserved so many more.

Love you so much.
Miss you already, more than there are words for.