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God, my Dad could be difficult, impossible, and infuriating…

And how I loved him.

I miss his sense of humour and fun. Dad had a way words and storytelling, and most of all, that he had a sparkle in his eye that never ever diminished, not even with age and creeping dementia.

My Dad would have been 97 last week.

He was born on Friday the 13th.

He died on Valentine’s Day in 2013.

Oh yes, this man’s life was wired for drama and mischief.

 

My father, circa 1960! I inherited his skinny legs!

 

He came by it naturally.  Many of you already know my background. But for the benefit of others, my father came from Canadian military royalty.

He was the only son of Canada’s greatest war hero, Billy Bishop.

Billy Bishop was the most decorated flying ace of the First World War, not just of Canada but of all the Allied countries.

 

 

Billy Bishop in the cockpit of his Nieuport bi-plane in 1917

 

 

And he has attained almost mythical status, handsome, with a big personality, the original knight of the air, and inspiration for the Peanut’s comic strip Snoopy versus the Red Baron.

There are books, films, a celebrated play, called “Billy Bishop Goes To War’, as well as, streets, bars and buildings, mountains, stamps, coins, and a page in the Canadian passport honouring my grandfather.

For my father, this meant he was born into a world where he had a lot to live up to.

 

My grandfather pinned on my Dad’s wings when he became a fighter pilot like his father. This photo was in newspapers worldwide in 1942.

 

My Dad flew the mighty Spitfire in World War II and like his father survived over 100 missions.  But you can imagine what it must have been like following in his father’s footsteps.

Dad used to joke, “between my father and I, we shot down 73 German planes.  My father shot down 72, and I shot down one!”

My Dad was honoured to be Billy’s son, and he adored his father. But there was a dark side too.

My father drank too much and he could be abusive. I was often afraid and angry with him.

It spilled over into my life.

So much so, that in 2017, I decided to write about it.

In my memoir called Living UP To A Legend (Dundurn Press Inc.) I explore the legacy of growing up with a superhero in the family.

 

 

 

There were so many wonderful things about that, and there is the other side too; haunting feelings of never feeling good enough, searching for one’s own sense of identity, and what success means in one’s own life.

In other words, things with which we all struggle.

My father certainly did, and so did I.

Today, I choose to remember him for those lessons he taught me, how he instilled in me drive and passion, and also just how he could make me howl with laughter.

He was my greatest teacher and in the end, like my grandfather, a hero to me.

 

In the nursing home where he passed away, my father was NO angel! He kept the place on their toes and they loved him for it! Circa 2011

 

I know many of you are with, thinking of, or remembering your fathers today.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

Here are the links to see more about my memoir. Most of the reviews

are on the Canadian site.

(Living Up To A Legend link amazon.ca)

(Living Up To A Legend link amazon.com)

 

Brought to you by www.womanofacertainageinparis.com

 

 

14 Comments

  1. Liz Gilbert on June 21, 2020 at 8:15 am

    You and I have shared many memories about your father’s antics. He was definitely larger than life.
    Your book captured him and others who returned from WWII with honour and glory and the tragedy of the wounds, seen and unseen, that they carried back with them.
    Happy Father’s Day Arthur, whoever you are.

    • Diana Bishop on June 21, 2020 at 9:18 am

      Such a lovely note Lizzie. You and I have so many wonderful memories growing up next door to each other and getting to know each other’s families. You were a favourite of my mother and father, and of course you know how I loved YOUR father — the absolute contrast to mine when you think about it. Yours was calm, peaceful, always attentive and interested while mine was well — enough said They were both remarkable in their own way and I cherish those years when we were young and they were in their prime! Lots of love, Diana

  2. Gretchen Greene O'Brien on June 21, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Thanks for sharing your memories of your Father and Grandfather – positive and negative! Made me think of my father who passed away 16 years ago. He was a Colonel in the Cdn. Army Service Corps and we moved around the country. ..Chicago / Ottawa / Halifax / back to Ottawa! The most difficult part of that was trying to make friends in new schools! Not easy for someone who lacked confidence! But I survived! Happy Fathers Day!

    • Diana Bishop on June 21, 2020 at 9:20 am

      Well Gretchen, we only get one father and they do shape us in so many ways. I wonder if it is true that before we are born that we choose the parents we are going to have in order to learn the lessons we need to learn. I like the idea of that … Lots of love to you, Diana

  3. Sham on June 21, 2020 at 10:35 am

    Dear Diana! You coached me many years ago for my public speaking events(s). I was so delighted and recall being honoured to be in your class. Thank you! I love your blog! Small piece of Paris. You have your Dad’s energy and sense of mischief.

    God bless your Dad and GrandDad, warts and all! My Dad was a complex man too. I think it came with living through the war and then some. I loved him to bits. He could inspire such strong emotions. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have always loved the idea that we choose our parents. You chose well! I chose well! Happy Father’s Day!!

    • Diana Bishop on June 22, 2020 at 12:47 pm

      I do remember you Sham. And I am absolutely thrilled that you read my blog. How are you?

      I agree with you that those who went through the two World Wars were a breed — and they went through so much.
      We have a lot to thank them for — Please keep in touch. I love hearing from you! Diana

  4. Trudy Van Buskirk on June 21, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks for talking about your father. Mine was not famous or even in the armed forces. He had a high school education, loved to read and worked in the same factory from age 18 to 59 when he died suddenly of a heart attack. I was only 33 when he died. He never smoked, never drank beer (only Canadian whiskey on holidays) and was a small man (5 foot 5). AND … Everyone liked him. He had a welcoming smile and personality. (He was also a good dancer!)

    I miss him every day — Happy Fathers Day Dad!!!!!!

    • Diana Bishop on June 22, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Trudy–another wonderful comment from you.

      Your Dad sounds wonderful but his life was cut far too short. It’s important that we remember our Dads.

      Thank you for telling me a little bit about yours. Diana

  5. Luci Rizzo on June 21, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    I never thought about the curse that comes w having a very famous family member. Living up to the memory if another….

    • Diana Bishop on June 22, 2020 at 12:43 pm

      Mostly a blessing it was thoughm and I am so proud of my family heritage and all that it has allowed me to do and be.
      In the end, we all have something or someone to live up to … until we learn to be ourselves. That in itself takes most of a lifetime.

      Always like hearing from you Luci. Diana

  6. Shardie Stevenson on June 22, 2020 at 9:35 am

    Well BFF …..your Dad, Arthur Bishop !So many memories !! I loved him because of and in spite of his “eccentricities” ! Lizzie grew up with him when you were young and I , during our high school years and beyond. Being at your place so often , I was part of the nightly routine; his coming home after tennis at the B & R , scotch and stories ….Arthur holding court and then …..too much and off to bed , I was also lucky to be invited to many Bishop parties where Arthur ” entertained” ….always a glint in his eye and that famous Arthur laugh. After your wonderful mother whom I loved dearly , passed away, do you remember that he often asked me to marry him ….even when he was in long term care …what a hoot Arthur!!
    Both our Fathers were larger than life in their own way, loved their daughter’s unbelievably ….and also….. mine loved you and yours loved me! Happy Belated Fathers Day to all !! xoxoxo

    • Diana Bishop on June 22, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      What beautiful memories you bring back for me, and us. A time long gone by. Hard to believe that all happened in this lifetime.
      Thank you for this BF! Much love, Diana

  7. Kelly on June 28, 2020 at 9:06 am

    I read this last Sunday but wasn’t able to comment at the time. Your relationship with your father is very close to the the one that I had with mine. I never understood his drinking or his anger toward our family. Like you, we didn’t talk about it. We all put on a good face and went about our lives. I had the opportunity to take care of my Dad as he was dying of cancer a few years back. His dying process wasn’t any easier than his living. Though he never opened up, just being his caregiver while he was in a very vulnerable state, changed my perspective on him. Since his passing I often feel his presence, especially when I am alone when my husband is on a trip. It is very comforting, as though he is watching out for me. I will even see little things that tell me he was there, like a picture of him and my Mom that is turned in the morning. Am I reading too much into things? Maybe, but it feels very real to me and makes me feel that I have the relationship with my Dad now that I never had in his lifetime. Thanks for the lovely tribute and making it comfortable to have a not picture perfect dad on Father’s Day.

    • Diana Bishop on June 30, 2020 at 10:39 am

      Kelly — thank you for this comment. This means so much to me. Diana

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