My Father Loved Alberta

My father loved Alberta so completely that the land was part of his soul. To this day, something happens to me when I drive north on I-15 and cross that 49th parallel separating the grasslands of Montana from the grasslands of Alberta. I see the Rockies lining up in a majestic row on the western horizon and I breathe that smell of home, the smell of Alberta, the smell of my father–Bryce Coleman Stringam.

I admire him. I’ve treasured how he’s been one person in my life who has never developed clay feet.  He was sterling. Body and soul, he exemplified a consistent pattern of high ideals. Since I lived in various US states as an adult and he lived in (and inordinately loved) Alberta, most of our visiting happened when I went home. He’s been gone from us for many years now, but I still don’t feel his death with the devastation I expected  would accompany the death of someone I adored. I go home to Calgary and he’s not there and it’s just plain irritating. How dare he leave the province when I’m visiting! I have so many things stored up to tell him!

He wasn’t a chatty man, although he could express himself clearly, even eloquently on occasion. But he had some funny sayings. When I was little and would follow him around holding his hand and asking questions, about the thirtieth time I asked, “But why?” he’d answer “Oh, cat for.”  I’d say, “Cat for what?” He’d respond, “Cat for to wear a pair of kitten britches.”

All these decades later I still wonder what that means. Was he telling me, “When you’re older you’ll know the answer”? Or was he saying, “Beats me.  I have no idea”? Or was he saying, “I may be an old cat, but it doesn’t mean I can think like a kitten.” What do you think he was telling me?