This was in the Intensive Care Unit at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary. My dad was propped up in his hospital bed, trailing rubber hoses in every direction, and I was perched uncomfortably on the arm of a chair near his good ear.
I mentioned how on my trip to the UK a couple years back I’d made a project of picking up all Dickens’s novels in hardcover as I found them in used bookstores. I’d thought my collection was complete, but only a few weeks before, while looking at my bookshelf, it had suddenly occurred to me that I’d overlooked Little Dorrit.
That was it. Not my most enthralling story, you see. But we had a lot of time to kill during dad’s final week in the hospital, so he didn’t seem to mind.
My story reminded him that he’d once taken a copy of Little Dorrit along on a date with a girl in Red Deer. They were having a picnic, it started to rain, they hurriedly gathered their things and ran for shelter, and it was only later that dad realized he’d left his book on the grass at the picnic site. He trudged through the rain to retrieve the book and found it irremediably soaked through.
Dad’s Little Dorrit story was almost as boring as mine. It’s obvious why it had never occurred to him to share it before. He probably hadn’t thought about that ruined book in fifty years.
Whenever I think of him being gone I think of that soggy copy of Little Dorrit, and the innumerable equally mundane memories locked inside his head that I never got to hear. Memories that waited half a century or more to be triggered by the right combination of words or sensations. Memories that mouldered like rare volumes in the library’s loneliest stacks, only to crumble away before it occurred to anyone to consult them.
I’d like us to use this website, those of us who knew and loved my father, to preserve a few volumes from the dust. Use the comments section below to share your memories of my dad – the mundane as well as the extraordinary ones.
Feb 13, 2013. Added a page of miscellaneous Photos. Any more good ones out there? If so, please leave a comment below and I’ll get in touch with you.
Mar 9, 2013. Added two more early stories to the page of Roger’s Selected writings.
Jul 2, 2019. Finally got around to adding a bunch of new photos I scanned a couple years ago – and, more excitingly, an audio recording of Roger talking about his encounters over the years with John Diefenbaker. You can find that on the Life page.