Lean in and listen. Although my Dad really doesn’t want anyone to know, he’s turning 80 this October.

We’re celebrating his birthday in style at the Alpine Club with folk dancing, Oktoberfest schnitzel and beer. An un-Mennonite evening to be sure, but there’s nothing quite like a guilty pleasure.

My Dad has packed a lot into his 80 years. He’s lucky. Happy and healthy, surrounded with fabulous friends, a stimulating family, and a supportive church community, he’s curious, eager to learn new things, and enjoying these golden years.

From all accounts Abner always was a golden boy. The baby of the family, smart, talented, and a real looker, he got a good education and married his gorgeous bride. He accomplished just about everything he wanted. Only a bit of ill health got in the way, but as it happens, things turned out pretty well.

I thank my Dad for taking some risks along the way. Abner fashioned an epic tour in 1972. While he was studying conducting with Helmut Rilling, we were hanging out in the Schwarzwald eating sausage, swimming, watching weird cartoons and playing with German kids. We beheld the great art, music, architecture and landscape of Europe up close. Here’s my iconic memory from that trip. Our family of six was crossing a busy London street. I was the last in line, taking my sweet time, when suddenly the light changed, the British cars revved up, and I was helplessly caught in the middle of bustling rush hour traffic, black taxicabs zooming all around me. From the far side of the street, my heroic Dad appeared wielding a terrible weapon – a rolled up newspaper – with which he thwacked the oncoming car hoods yelling “Stop!” as I ran across the road into the safety of my parents’ arms. I think of that incident and get a bit misty.

But a daughter can only purloin so much attention. My Dad was completely dedicated to his Holstein-Friesen cows, and when we were visited by friends from his former days as a professor at Mount Allison University, he described his herd and their pedigrees with pride. It seemed he never regretted giving up academia for a country life. Outside the farming, Abner gathered a group of rag-tag rural choristers to perform a precedent-setting Messiah, and in so doing, passed on a passion for singing big fat oratorios. He now supports what I do with Pax Christi Chorale, and he’s a great proofreader, with a keen eye for errors and omissions.

My Dad continues to appear for me in crisis. On the other end of a cell phone, Ab and Shirley talked me through my desperation in Cuba when Bruce was dying in hospital. They appeared at the airport in Toronto, held me, took me home, and stayed with me “for as long as I wanted.” I have never felt more helpless, or more grateful for my strong, fast thinking, practical, experienced, grounded, amazing parents.

Raise a glass with me. Alles Gute zum Geburtztag, Abner. Long life and happiness to you!

Share →

29 Responses to Abner turns eighty

  1. Angus Sinclair says:

    Froeliche Geburtstag and Many Years to you, Abner!

    • Stephanie Martin says:

      Thanks so much for passing greetings on Gus. You have more than one thing in common with my dear ol Dad ; ) Blessing to you xo

  2. Elisabeth says:

    A very happy 80th birthday to Abner! I have vivid memories of singing shape-note music at the Detweiler Meeting-House one year, under his general direction. It was the most fun I’ve ever had while working that hard!

    • Stephanie Martin says:

      That was a wonderful sing Elisabeth. We were back there recently for a funeral and the singing was powerful. Thanks for your BD wishes. XO

  3. Enid (Good) Dunbar says:

    My parents, Doris & Harold, have wonderful memories of their time in Waterloo, including Menno Singers –thanks to you, Abner. For my part, I’m so glad I got to know your daughters, and their love of music, while I lived in Toronto. Just as you enriched my parents’ lives, they enriched mine. My folks and I wish you a joyous birthday and more happy years ahead.

  4. Phyllis Frick says:

    Happy, happy birthday, Abner. I still recall with happy memories our trip to Scotland with the choir in 2002. A wonderful time and so great to see you again.

    • Stephanie Martin says:

      Thanks Phyllis! Certainly our epic trip to Scotland was a highlight. I’m so glad we took the risk and went across the pond. Thank you for your continuing support : )

  5. Mary Gillmeister says:

    Many happy returns, Abner! It is always fun to discuss my meagre knowledge of cattle with you, I always learn something new. All the best on your special day.

  6. Shawn Brignolio says:

    What a beautiful tribute! Many happy returns, young fella!

  7. Emily says:

    Alles Beste zu deinem Geburtztag, Abner! What a rich legacy of wonderful choral music-making you have shared! A beautiful tribute from Stephanie! I also remember singing in that Messiah about 40 years ago! You started something indeed! And I love having you and Shirley as the faithful strong supporters of Pax Christi Chorale – our patriarch and matriarch! Thanks and wishing you both many more healthy happy years together.

  8. Robert Loewen says:

    Indeed. Allies Guten zum Geburtstag. Abner. What a great legacy.

  9. Chris Thackray says:

    A beautiful tribute, Steph. Such a pleasure to get to know him over the years. A fine fellow, indeed.

  10. Cori Martin says:

    “Only a little bit of ill health got in the way”? I spent 30 years on my knees praying for my daddy’s life.

  11. Chris Thackray says:

    All the best to Abner for a great birthday celebration! We really enjoyed spending time with both Abner and Shirley this summer in Worcester.

  12. Doug Saunders says:

    Wishing your dad, Abner, a very Happy and Satisfying 80th Birthday, Stephanie! I remember with great joy meeting your folks over the years and witnessing their pride in you and your accomplishments, then protectively flanking you at Bruce’s funeral requiem. They have clearly been instrumental in your musical and faith formation, and have inspired you with inner strength and love. May this celebration be one of many more to follow!

  13. Christopher Hill says:

    Glass raised, albeit a few days late … I’ve been offline and in house-reno mode this past week. In any case, all my best to Abner at this milestone and I hope either of my daughters will have such sweet words to say about me down the track.

    • Stephanie Martin says:

      Thanks Chris – not too late. We’re celebrating this weekend, along with Canadian Thanksgiving. All the best to you and all of my loved ones in Jakarta. XOXO

  14. Rosemary Beattie says:

    Happy Birthday to your inspiring Dad!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *