Ian McArthur is the world’s greatest father. (Hold your dissent –it’s my blog.) My siblings, my cousins and everyone who knows him agrees with me. A safe port in any storm, a rock, an engineer with the soul of a poet. An historian, a master gardener, an opera buff who wept every time he heard Graceland. He’s so brilliant he got out of high school when he was fourteen — in fact he did grades one through five in one year. He read Huckleberry Finn when he was eight and can still quote passages almost verbatim. He starts geraniums from seed in February under a Gro Light. He irons. He memorized the Rubaiyat so he could recite it to my mother. He has helped us out financially embarrassingly often. He has two daughters with disabilities in their fifties who still live with them, and he’s their Daddy — running the house, doing the laundry, the grocery shopping and scheduling doctors appointments.
He’s had lunch with Charles de Gaulle and got stranded on a deserted airstrip in Brazil. He did business in Japan where his surname, despite the spelling variant, was something to overcome, and he did. When my mother was in hospice for two months he never left her — he slept on a cot in her room.
When he went to his first job as a Junior Chemist straight out of the University of Toronto Chemical Engineering it was at a CIP paper mill in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. He noticed something off: the thousands of papermakers spoke French and management didn’t. He learned French, on his own, in three weeks. (He later taught himself Russian from a book.) He was a legend in that mill, later managed it and rose up the company hierarchy until he was the de facto VP Operations.
He read me a bedtime story every single night — an early fave was The Tawny Scrawny Lion. Books in Engliah were unobtainable in Trois-Rivieres so anytime he went on a business trip to Montreal he’d bring me one — typically literary totems of his youth, like Tom Sawyer or Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. I remember my mother raising her eyebrows at The Idiot — she said: “This is not suitable.” She was right, of course — no thirteen year old can comprehend The Idiot. But Daddy wanted me to love what he loved, and perhaps he understood Dostoevsky when he was thirteen.
Now I’m stuck with this. Nuff said.