My dad, Bruce Dickie, died January 28, 2001, ten years ago today. He was 83. It was his time. I miss him every day.
“A man is a man only when he measures himself against something more Universal than the morality of his own time.”
That acerbic 20-word challenge found its way out of Sam Keen’s mind into a 1991 book called Fire in the Belly, subtitled On Being a Man. Dad and I had several long evening discussions about this very quote, defining the Universal, searching our own lives to find our personal Universals then figuring out how we measured up.
If I remember it correctly – this was in the mid and late 1990s – we decided on three Universals: love, conflict and spiritual growth. Both of us were incredibly lucky in love. We both found life partners who loved and understood us. Conflict and Dad’s experience during World War 2 overseas were his most significant Universal, the one that shaped and informed everything else in his life, including the other two Universals. My most important Universal is spiritual evolution, personal growth. That’s what directs the flow of my life.
One of my favourite pictures of us. A Polaroid taken by Mom in our kitchen in Shoal Lake on Christmas Day 1981. We are both sporting our new cozy duck flannel shirts. That’s Mom’s writing along the top of the picture.
Dad never talked much about his big Universal, about The War. Some uncles never left the battlefield, couldn’t shut up about it, showing tedious souvenirs but not Dad. He couldn’t wait to get home to his little wife and make a little family on the wide Canadian prairies and forget all about it. The horror, the horror would change him, he knew that coming back. He was already having the nightmares on the boat home. But life ensued, distracted him, challenged him anew. He laughed like crazy at Basil Fawlty’s “Don’t mention The War to the German guests” skit. Still, even as an old man, there was a flicker of Hell left behind his eyes, battle scars, indelible.
In this photo you can see the haunting impressions of war in Dad’s eyes, taken in Boscombe on England’s south coast in February 1945 after he’d seen action on the battlefield.
Dad was very curious about shamanism. He was a great listener, patient, quiet, not waiting to talk, really listening, thinking along with me. I’d be explaining away wasting words galore then he’d say something short, concise and perfect. I remember one time about 1998 I was talking in a very animated fashion about something that happened out there in Saskatchewan for me, sharing it deeply and suddenly he said, “Son, you could teach that. Are there people who want to learn this? You could teach anything.” It was one of the most life affirming and prescient things Dad ever said to me. Mom had been the teacher.
The last picture of us together. Taken in his apartment in Morley House in Shoal Lake, 2000
Turns out there are people who want to learn about shamanism and everything else. Dad knew that someday I would find my audience, that I would “little bit know something” that others need to know. He is still wise, wise beyond his years. That kind of wisdom is Universal. Stand tall, Dad. You know you measured up with flying colours to your Universals, all of them. With your unwavering inspiration, I will keep trying to prove myself against mine. Thank you. I love you Dad.
“All goes onward and outward
And to die is different from
What anyone supposes