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Senior Correspondent
Rita Pelland's father

I was recently pushing my weekly shopping cart while thinking my grocery list seemed lengthy. Was the list as long as it seemed, or was it because my shopping legs might no longer get me around the village green on a quick sprint?

As I turned around to the next aisle, I came to a gentleman who was contemplating the various choices of sweet preserves. The label of contents on the jars didn't seem to be of concern to him. Sorting out in his mind the one of his many favorites was demanding his attention. I do not know his final decision, but I do know most men are great sweet lovers. I find them perusing over the endless shelves of ice cream novelties, frozen or fresh pastries, and they will often settle for a chocolate bar on a whim. Being married to a sweet dessert lover, I know where to find some of these quickie treats that are sometimes hidden as forbidden fruit.

I can appreciate their agonizing decision, as of that very day I, myself, may be exercising the sweet restraint. I could picture my own Dad, who might have first checked off all the sweet items on his given shopping list, which brings to mind …

I can remember my Dad walking to work in his earlier years. Ours was a mid-size town, but at that time, the economy determined Dad's own fitness program. Most neighbors carried the same style black dinner pail, an identifiable item of that era. A self-given status symbol, denoting difficult years. As a mutual respect to one another, a nod was given to the other as one passed by — it said volumes.

My older sister and I were pre-school age, and my father's dinner pail might on occasional days carry a leftover collection of good-tasting treats. We would give a grand opening to his black dinner pail most afternoons on his return home. My mother packed a substantial lunch. Noteworthy were her homemade desserts; convenient box cakes and cookies for baking were unknown and not likely. No Twinkies, although Dad would have accepted them, if the real thing was not to be had. The genuine taste came from Mom's kitchen, which meant Dad's dinner pail could be a Foodie Heaven.

We young ones could somehow tell when my Dad was due home. Was it instinctive, or was it an internal clock? Maybe both, but mostly our Dad had a most melodious whistle that sounded like a songbird. We always heard him whistling before we even saw his appearance about the house. I don't know if it was a popular fad of the day, or if it was a natural gift that the family greatly enjoyed. And to this very day, whenever I hear someone whistling a tune, I could easily follow the person to the end of the earth. Call it nostalgia.

Off we would run up the street until we came to the whistling sound. Both Dad and the dinner pail received the great return home. Dad's dinner pail could be an edible expedition, but it did not always hold a leftover sweet. As young as we were, we knew some days there was no stopping a hungry man, so we would simply run along. On a winning day, we just thought Dad's packed meal was sufficient for him and the dessert was left — until one day on opening the pail I happened to glance at my Dad and it became clear to me how amused he was to see us anticipating a "found sweet." That meant it was ours.

Out of a lightening bolt, suddenly I grew in wisdom. It was a new kind of "knowing." Our Dad loved us more than his sweets! And that takes a whole lot of loving out of his dessert, bite by bite. Kindness has it own reward. With more growing on in our years, whenever a favor or a little help was needed, or simply being a tagalong, all that was needed was a whistling call.

Holding a board during a carpentry project, retrieving a tool, stacking firewood, picking berries, trolling for fish — whatever pastime or need, we were there as Dad's lifeline for a lifetime.

Dad, your dinner pail to this day gives me great sentimentality and with it I can experience a return home … on a whistling tune. Wishing you a Heavenly Happy Father's Day! We miss you lots and lots.

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