Peter and I took David out to breakfast this morning at Republic, a cafe in Manchester with truly extraordinary food—something that is not easy to find in this neck of the woods. After we got back home my stepfather Jim called from Utah and I had a chance to wish him a Happy Father’s Day as well.
I’ve been blessed with three different father figures. Jim became part of my family over twenty five years ago, and although we were all grown (in fact, I had two kids of my own by then), he has always considered us his own and we return his love and affection.
In 1985, we lost our first stepfather of sixteen years, known to us (really) as Daddy Dick. He was a character, and upon reflection, not all of his qualities were good ones, but nonetheless, I adored him.
And, of course, our father, Hilding Gunnar Olson, or rather Ollie Olson. He is the handsome fellow in the photo—the tall gentleman who is not sporting a pistol on his belt.
Sadly, dad was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer a mere four months after my own diagnosis with lung cancer. Despite a poor prognosis, he vowed to fight his disease and traveled to MD Anderson for one memorable (coinciding with Hurricane Rita) round of chemotherapy. Too weak for any further treatment, he passed away on Thanksgiving Day in 2005, his favorite holiday.
I haven’t written much about my father, but I miss him so. My first memory is of handing him a brick: while studying for a PHD in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, he worked as a general contractor to support our family.
Ollie was a quiet and gentle person, who loved to garden and began composting and recycling long before such practices were vogue. He canned his own pickles, pears and peaches and our pantry was always stuffed to the brim. In his later years, he developed an avid interest in art, becoming a prolific painter.
For me, he was not just a father, but a good and easy companion. We shared many interests, and I often find myself saying “you’d really like this dad.” And I’m sure he would.