Thursday, October 22, 2009

Keith Allan: June 16th, 1930 - October 17th, 2009

That’s a picture of my Dad and his dog, Jake, taken in the summer of 2008. We were in his back yard. The garden was a little weedy – it had really been my stepmother’s province, and she died in April 2007. Dad didn’t have the heart or the knees to take it on himself. He missed her very much. There were landscape gardeners, who came and did the lawns and the flower beds, but it’s not the same.

It’s hard to know what to say. Dad graduated from university the year I was born. He went to teacher’s college, and his first year teaching high school physics (and sometimes math) was the year I started kindergarten. 1960-61. There was me and my sister by then; my brother was born in the spring of 1962. Dad taught at Dundas District High School in Dundas, Ontario first, then moved to Parkside High School when it opened a couple of years later. His department head there, Nick Kinach, became one of his best friends. The Kinachs had a cottage in Muskoka, and we went there sometimes as guests. When I was in high school, and the cottage next to Nick and Rita’s came up for sale, Dad heard about it first, and bought it. When I was in high school I used to go up there with kids from the band. Something went wrong (usually some things went wrong) every time, and my parents must have wanted to kill us, but they said, "Yes," again the next year.

In 1967, Dad started teaching in the Halton Board of Education, at Nelson High School, until Lord Elgin opened. In 1976 he and my mother separated. Dad met Judy, and loved her, and they were married 30 years. Her death was unexpected, and almost instant one Saturday in April. She was twelve years younger than he was. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way.

I went to Parkside High School, fortunately after Dad had switched boards. But many of the same staff were there. I’d go to the office for aspirin, and the secretary would say, “Can you take aspirin? Your FATHER can’t take aspirin.” It was one of the things that kept me from getting into more trouble than I did, I think. I had too many teachers he was still in touch with.

Dad loved teaching, and he’d meet people in the supermarket and places, who’d ask if he remembered them – they’d been in his class in 1973. I used to take a taxi to church in Dundas, and one of the regular Sunday mornings had had my Dad for high school physics in Dundas, so in the first half of the ‘60’s, and he always asked about him.

Last year I was talking to my sister about something one day, and whether I’d tell Dad about it. She said, “He’s been worried about you since the minute he knew you were going to be born. You might as well give him something to worry about.”

This past summer, I was unemployed and income-less, in Hamilton, Ontario. I tried very hard to find a job, applied for lots of things. I was interviewed once. There were good friends who put work my way whenever they could, and it helped a lot. Kept me in groceries. And I needed to ask Dad for help, so I could pay rent, and he did help. I told him in August that I’d had plans all summer to go to Iowa for a wedding Labour Day, and I was going to stay with a friend for a while after that, and then go out to western Canada. I’ve wanted to for a long time anyway, and I wasn’t getting work in southern Ontario. There are people out west who’ll help me find a job, and I had a little capital to move with.

Dad has had liver and heart problems for a few years now. He told me this summer his doctor had told him 20 years ago he needed a knee replacement, and Dad had turned it down. He regretted that decision now. And there was arthritis elsewhere too – he’d had to have his university graduation ring cut off this spring. I’d gone away in February, and the day before I left, he said, “I could die tomorrow, or it could be ten years. And I’m ready.” When I left in September, I knew I wouldn’t see him again.

The long weekend, I wrote him a letter from here in Texas. Most of it was happy, chatty stuff about being in Iowa in early September, and then coming to Texas on a Greyhound bus. Usually I put pictures in, but I hadn’t had any printed yet. Dad didn’t use his computer any more – I think it was mostly my stepmother who’d done the communication by e-mail anyway. At the end of the letter, I told him how grateful I was for his help this summer, and told him I hadn’t wanted to be a source of worry to him when he was sick, and I knew I had been, and I was sorry.

My sister called Sunday morning. Dad passed around midnight, Eastern Time. She wasn’t sure if it was legally Saturday or Sunday. Eventually I said, “I know this is dumb, but did he get my letter?” No. She’d been picking up the mail and she was sure. The next day I called back and asked her, if it came in time, could she put the letter in the box with Dad. Cremation was Monday and the letter arrived Tuesday, but she said she’ll turn the letter into ashes and put them in with Dad’s. His will be mixed with Judy’s before they’re scattered. I’m sure he knows by now what the letter said anyway.

There’s no service. Dad didn’t want one; didn’t want anything. There will be a visitation at the funeral home tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got a million feelings right now, and I can’t identify most of them, but there’s one I’m sure of: for his sake, I’m glad he’s done.


  1. Thank you for sharing the story of your father Morningstar. Let's just sit together and feel the feelings, whatever they are.

  2. Wishing you peace as you sit with your memories. Thank you for sharing about him. I like the picture. My dad did not get my last letter to him either. I still have it but won't look at it. I think it's better to be put into his coffin or with his ashes. Love to you.

  3. Jan, it's going in with his ashes, and I wrote my aunt a couple of nights ago for the first time. They'd been close friends for 60 years (my Mum's sister) and I printed a copy of the letter and sent it to her too. Thank you.