It’s Father’s Day and I want my Dad to know that I am thinking about him.
I don’t know who posted this old photo to the Internet. It was taken in the summer of 1920 on the porch of a house called Marnoch where my Dad spent many happy times as a child. I came across it quite by accident a few weeks ago. It startled me to find a photograph of my grandparents taken almost 100 years ago as I Googled the family name. I wondered, as I looked at it, what the people in the picture would think about the longevity of this family gathering photo, made even more indelible in this digital age.
The man at the left is Alex Porterfield, my Dad’s uncle. My father’s middle name is Porterfield and mine is Alex. So this guy who had no children of his own lives on in spirit.
My grandfather is the thin man sitting beside Alex. His nickname was “Sliver”. He was a blacksmith in Belgrave, Ontario, a little town north of Clinton. He and my grandmother would have been about the same age as my kids are now when this picture was taken.
The man in the centre is Peter Porterfield, brother to Alex and Mary. He lived in British Columbia and seldom came to Ontario. He must have been making a summer visit.
The woman seated near the middle is Maud (Code) Porterfield. She was a favourite of my Dad’s and vice versa. I have an old clock that comes from her place. She had a wonderfully shaky voice like Katherine Hepburn and I loved visiting her house in Wingham when I was a child. Her other claim to fame is that her great niece is Alice Munro. Alice writes about her aunt in several of her stories. Aunt Maud is quite accurately and lovingly portrayed as Alice’s “Aunt Charlie” in the story “The Ticket” in her book “The View from Castle Rock”. I treated myself by rereading that story last night. Aunt Maud and Aunt Sadie appear in many other stories written by Alice Munro.
My grandmother is the woman standing on the right side. She looks stern in the photo. But I remember her as a sweet, dear little woman. The older woman seated beside my grandmother is her mother, my great grandmother, Mary Stevenson.
So where does my Dad fit in, you ask? Well look behind the man in the centre. Partially hidden, on the porch is a pram. In the pram would be my father who at that point was only a few months old. So this is the first photograph where my father appears…sort of…92 years ago. And he is still going strong in 2012.
In fact, thanks to his generous support of a community in Kenya, there is now a Stewart Geddes School in Osiri village, not far from the mainland ferry dock heading to Mbita. I am proud of Dad’s generosity toward this little school. Last year, his gift to them through CanAssist was to build latrines and fence the school yard. Just last month he donated funds to build two additional classrooms for the school. They report to me that the kids at the school are amused by having this strange “mzungu” name for their school, an honour that they offered to him in recognition of his support. And because of his help, the young children in this remote, neglected community will have a chance to start their education.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Your example of concern for the welfare of others has contributed to who I am today.