Stella Leventoyannis Harvey


And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared. Homer         

He set out to do better by his children than his own father had done by him. Against all odds and in the absence of a suitable example, he dared to take on fatherhood.

As a young man, he was exactly that kind of man. An adventurer. Imagining a better life, he moved his family to a country at the other end of the world, a place with cold winters, and customs he didn’t understand. He didn’t know a soul. The Canadian Immigration officer who greeted him and his small brood at Pier 21 called him crazy, and then he smiled and said, “You are brave to have come so far.”

My dad is not the sort of man who is openly affectionate. All the touchy feely stuff makes him uncomfortable. He comes from that era. You know the one. Stingy with praise, he expects you to know just how he feels about you. “Words mean nothing,” I’ve heard him say about a million times. “It’s what you do that’s important.”

He has been right more often than I care to remember. I can see that now, as he and I both age. He didn’t like or trust some of the people who entered my life when I was younger. I don’t remember him saying much about them at the time, but I suppose I knew he wasn’t happy. After all, he was mysteriously always present when one of these friends of mine was around.

He asked questions (prickly and leading ones as far as I could see), and he wasn’t his usual gregarious and hospitable self. Like most teenagers I ignored him and stumbled through my starry-eyed infatuations. He kept an eye out, watched over me from a distance.

He was the one (along with my mother) I ran to when my feelings were hurt, my heart broken.  I don’t recall, an “I told you so.” I do remember a, “What do they know?” or “Who does he think he is?” He would smile that shy smile of his; tell me a Greek proverb or a joke as though putting balm and a Band-Aid on a torn knee.

I remember my hand in his as he walked me to school or through a park. Strong and steady, always there. I remember him beside me as I walked in a fundraising event I insisted I had to do. He didn’t want to be there and he certainly didn’t have the proper attire. I wore running shoes because he could never see his children do without. He wore his dress shoes, because he didn’t have anything else and he couldn’t afford to spend any money on himself when he had a wife and three children to feed.

I remember how angry he got with me anytime I got hurt in the playground or at school or in life, which was often given my propensity towards clumsiness. His face lost its colour each time he came to collect me from the hospital or the nurse’s office. I remember thinking how helpless he seemed then.

That vulnerability quickly turned to rage when I got better, a rage born of fear. “Why can’t you be more careful? Pay attention. We could have lost you. Don’t you understand?” His voice boomed, frightening me.

So many images come to mind, memories good and bad. I know I’m making him sound like a saint. He wasn’t and he isn’t. He is a parent, with all the humanity and blunders it entails. But one day he dreamed a big dream about fatherhood and a new life for his children. Then he went out and dared to pursue it. Lucky me.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!





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