My Father’s Eyes

My Father’s Eyes
By Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe

Dad, when his blue eyes sparkled!

The work day was over and I jumped into my car ready to run all the necessary errands on my list. Immediately I was struck by the smell of leather. The leather seats, after sitting for a day in the sun-filled car, had given the vehicle a nostalgic and wonderful scent. It gave me the memory of a car my father had and with great tolerance, hands grasping the dashboard, had taught each one of his five offspring to drive. I looked up to adjust the rear-view mirror and to my surprise I found myself looking directly into my father’s eyes! It took a moment to absorb the jolt, my heart doing a complete flip-flop as I sat there and couldn’t seem to stop staring into the small rectangular mirror. The smell of leather, the same movement of the hand to the mirror, the blue eyes, they were all the same, exactly like my father’s traits, and I wondered how I could not have noticed this before?

Another long look and yes, I did have the same eyes as Dad. Those blue eyes that we all learned to read so well, as I am sure my family could read mine. Sadness, joy, discomfort, lost in thought, tired, all the emotions a husband and father, and in fact, most of us experience on this life’s journey, are reflected in our eyes. But my father’s eyes seemed to show it more than most. We always knew if we had disappointed him, always knew if he was pleased and proud, and we did not need to hear it said, we could read it in the expression of those eyes.

It was then I remembered a phone conversation I had with my son a short time before that day. I had sent him photos from our home in Nova Scotia. He called later to ask when his aunt, my younger sister had been to visit us. I had not mentioned it to him he said. But in fact she had not been to visit, he was looking at a photograph of me looking over someone’s shoulder, hamming it up for the camera, and the eyes, when I checked the photo, were in fact so similar it was easy to understand his being mistaken.

Dad & my sister at a family wedding
Never being one to let a subject drop before it was explored beyond all reason, I started to do a mental inventory of the blue eyes, the expressive eyes, all so alike and so familiar looking. I did a step by step check in my mind, yes, we all had the same trait, and it is so obvious in my brother, he had shown much sadness in his blue eyes lately. He looked so much like our father.

A friend told me I was very fortunate because she lost her father when she was very young and never had an opportunity to know him, therefore she can only see him in old photographs. She longs for something that cannot be. She tells me how I should count my blessings. I tell her I do, every day.

My mother often remarked that when she met my father, shortly after World War II, he had a wild look in his eyes, his mind full of horrific sights and his eyes reflecting his emotions and pain of all he had witnessed, man’s inhumanity to man so much to deal with in those hell-filled war years. It took some time for him to get some stability back and to show joy again. She tells of his nightmares and his quiet withdrawn times, obviously a result of all the traumatic stress of the times.

The Jarvis Family

But then there are the good times to remember also; the sparkle that filled those blue eyes when a new baby joined our family, when one of us achieved a goal, even something like riding a bicycle. Then there were the sad times such as when his mother passed away. His eyes were blank and dull then. A graduation, a wedding, an award that one of us had achieved, always brought forth an expression of happiness and his eyes would be like sapphires, sparkling and beautiful. Then there were the fender benders we would have, the falling over the wharf into cold icy water when we had been warned by him to stay away, then Dad’s eyes would be full of fire—not a big fire, just enough to let us know he was disappointed for a time.

When my father became ill the light left his eyes, but he rallied and returned to his old self, never being one to give up easily, he struggled back to health. He sits and surveys the world with interest, making us wonder always just what he is thinking.

In some parts of the world, in some cultures it is said that the “eyes are the windows to the soul” and for that reason it is not acceptable to look directly into the eyes of another. How so very grateful I am that such is not the case for us, it is not our way, because I would miss so much.

Taking another glance now and then, reminding myself who I am, who the blue eyes came from, and being thankful, is one way of staying grounded, and certainly connected to this father of mine. This father, who at the age of 84 years still has that spark, a sparkle of blue that makes the world a much nicer place. Blue eyes, much loved, and loved much in return.

That’s my father’s eyes!

Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe is a retired Registered Nurse living in Shoal Harbour, Newfoundland, passionate about photography, writing and her family. She has two grown children and one granddaughter, who all live too far away from her in Alberta. She writes for local magazines and newspapers, Releasing Times,,, and various writers groups and publications. An anthology of short stories called Up Til Now is available through or directly through her. “To share my work gives me a great sense of satisfaction.”