Good morning, I hope this Tuesday finds you happy, healthy, and most importantly, that those in your life are doing well.
Nine years ago today my father, William Arthur Gregor, passed away at the young age of 56. The morning of his funeral I couldn’t sleep and decided to write an e-mail to my friends to release my feelings, and since then I type an e-mail in his honour each year, and hope that it somehow lessens the void in my heart and the hearts of my family.
If you never met my Dad, he was unique. He had an unbelievable zest for life; an ability to make everyone he met comfortable and most importantly he had a huge heart. It’s too bad his heart gave out so soon. Dad was healthy for his age, he had quit smoking a few years earlier, rarely drank, ate well and was active, but I guess it was his time.
When I sit down and write this email I am flooded with memories of Dad that make me laugh, but ultimately leave me in tears as I yearn to hear his laugh or see him dance with my mom one more time. I’m most proud of my father because of how he treated his wife, my siblings and our extended family. My dad wasn’t rich or famous but he was very wealthy and extremely blessed.
It’s strange how a person can affect you even nine years after the last time you’ve spoken. When I see fathers and sons together at sporting events, family gatherings or even at the mall I’m always reminded of him. Dad was what a father should be. He was supportive, caring, stern when necessary, but his best characteristic was that he always made me feel that he was in my corner.
He was also a character.
He loved to laugh, and play jokes and tease his kids or nephews and nieces. He was able to fit in on any situation. I remember a wedding our family went to when I was about 21. There were little bubble bottles on every table and the bride and groom wanted people to blow bubbles on them. Well, it was all kids out on the floor except my dad. He was in the middle of it, smiling with the kids, laughing with them and blowing his bubbles. I recall my mom telling me this story once and how she fell in love with him even more when he did that. He was so good at having fun and embracing the child within. Many of us guys think we are too cool or too mature to do certain things, but I think we might be missing out on more than we know.
Dad wasn’t a big “life-lesson” type of talker. In fact, I only recall a few times when he gave me any fatherly advice, but mostly he showed me through his actions how to be a good man, father and husband. To the dads who are reading this, sometimes the best thing you can say to your kid is nothing. Pat him on the back after a loss or a win — the fact that you are at his game means more than you know. And it isn’t just when they are little. My dad came to my games in junior when I was 18, 19 and 20. He never said much, but he was always there and if I wanted to talk about the game he remembered every play. Be there for your kids, emotionally and physically more than just monetarily.
Last month I had an encounter at the farm that re-enforced how moms and dads prepare you differently for situations, even though the outcome is similar.
When I was 16, we had a huge hornets nest on the side of the farm house. The hornets had become a bit to aggressive so Dad decided we needed to get rid of them. He explained to me that we should attack the nest at night, because the hornets would be sleeping and it would be easy to get close to it. There wasn’t GOOGLE when I was that age, and I never doubted the old man… ha! I was 17, and thought it made sense.
So at about nine o’clock we go outside, place a ladder against the house, Dad hands me a broom and says go up and give it a rip. He stands at the bottom and steadies the ladder. It’s was a 12-foot ladder. As I’m climbing, he of course shakes it and nearly knocks me off, just another one of his fun-loving pranks. I get to the second highest rung, rear back and swat the nest. It doesn’t fall, and as I’m getting ready to swing again, the hornets are everywhere. Dad had left the minute the nest didn’t fall and yelled “jump” so now I leap off the ladder, and land with a thud.
I see Dad standing in the garage doorway laughing, waving his arms at me to hurry up, while the hornets are all around me. I sprint to the garage and as I get in he slams the door. I ended up with about five or six stings. I’m livid now.
“I thought they *&*&%*#$% sleep at night,” I said. I can still see him hunched over the work bench, his back heaving up and down as he tries to catch his breath between laughs.
“I forgot you didn’t play baseball that was an awful swing,” he finally says.
Who the hell says that? But that was dad; life was too short not to have fun. I asked him later, after I had rubbed some mud on my arms to ease the stings, if hornets actually slept at night.
“I think so,” was his reply.
We spent an hour in the garage that night recapping the debacle. What I wouldn’t do to see him standing there one more time.
Fast forward to last month.
One of the hardest days I’ve had since Dad died was earlier this month when we had to ship all of our cows, except ten and the bull. This has been the driest summer in 60 years and the fields are barren and most of the dug outs dried up. The worst part was knowing how it tore up my mom. The cows were a connection to my Dad, and getting rid of most of them was really tough to take.
I had to ear tag all of the old cows before we shipped them. I put the first one in the head gate and then went to the house to get the tags. When I came back, there were bees all over her. So I let her out. Over the summer some yellow jackets had built a nest underneath the head gate. I got the tractor, lifted the head gate up and took it away, but the nest wasn’t attached it was still on the ground. I go to the house and tell mom. My plan is too be fully clothed this time.
It’s 30 degrees outside, but I put on my coveralls, some gloves, and a toque for my head. I’m walking up to the barn when mom comes out of the house. She has some sort of mesh with her. She’s going to make me a bee hunter head gear. She folds it up for double the thickness, drapes it over my head, tucks into the collar of my coveralls, and then puts the toque on top so the mesh won’t go anywhere. I’m sweating bullets now, but I’m confident I won’t get stung. Moms at least try to prepare you for the situation, rather than tell wise tales… ha.
We don’t have any of that spray that supposedly kills bees, so my plan is too scoop the nest off the ground with a shovel and move it away from the squeeze. I sprint in, scoop it up and get about ten feet before the bees are buzzing all over and I drop it and retreat. Behind the granary stands my loving mother. I walk over and as I get closer I see almost the exact same grin on her face as I did on my dad’s 20 years earlier.
The only difference is she waits until I ask her if she has a better idea before she bursts into hysterics. She describe how I was flailing my arms up and down as the bees were all around me, but has to stop as she grabs onto the fence to hold herself up while laughing. She can barely talk.
I’m sweating bullets in my new bee fighting outfit, but it’s hard not to laugh watching her describe my antics. She then proceeds to get a camera, because she will need a picture when I go back for round two and move it further away. Eventually I got that bees nest into the burning barrel, and I’m glad to report without any bee stings.
As she walked away I was reminded why she and Dad were so in love. They both knew how to love and laugh. I also think that Dad knew that day was going to be hard, so he wanted to inject some laughter. Laughter can make even the hardest day easy some times.
My parents had a whirlwind romance. Dad asked her out in the post office; three weeks later they were engaged and then they got married four months later. Their love was apparent every day to me and my brother and sister. Without ever saying a word, my father showed us how a man should treat a lady, and I’m proud to say my brother was a good pupil, because he has become a loving father and husband. I’m confident that when I am in that situation, (keep the faith mom!) that the lessons I learned from Dad will stick with me.
Dad always made sure Mom knew that he loved her. I never consciously noticed that as a child, but as a teenager and then a man it was obvious. Gentlemen never forget to show, or more importantly, tell your wife how much you love her.
I feel blessed to have had a loving father for 27 years of my life. He showed me how to be a genuine man, how to respect others, and how to enjoy what life brings you. But what I wouldn’t do to hear his laugh one more time…
It’s not like my dad and I never argued or bickered. Our battles in the barnyard were quite boisterous at times, but we never held a grudge. One of us always extended an olive branch to apologize, and thankfully when he passed I had no regrets. Some days it pains me to hear about a son or daughter who isn’t on speaking terms with their father. Some things are too hard to overcome, but most of the times our egos or plain stubbornness hold us back from saying sorry.
We can convince ourselves that it’s the other’s fault, but let me tell you this: losing my dad was difficult, but I can’t imagine how I would feel if we hadn’t been on speaking terms at the time of his death. Death doesn’t give you a tomorrow. It is forever, and it rarely gives you advance notice, so don’t wait to mend that fence, because you might not get that chance.
I write this post with the hope you can help my father know how much he meant to me, and how much I truly miss him.
If you are lucky enough to be able to see you father today, or this week, give him a hug or just spend some time together. At the very least call him and ask how he’s doing. Dads might never say it, but they love hearing from their kids. If you are in a different city, give him a call and tell him you love him. I hope that through your actions, my father will see what a wonderful impression he made in my life and heart.
I know for men, and some women, it can be hard to show emotion, but don’t let your fears get in the way of telling those you care about how important they are. Trust me, knowing he loved me made his death much easier to accept. His memory brings tears to my eyes as I write this, but they are a mixture of pain and joy, as I recall all the wonderful times we shared. And for the grown up kids, remember that your father is older and probably set in his ways more than you, so for you to take the first step might be easier.
Many of you are now fathers, and I encourage you to always show an interest in your children’s lives. I think the true measure of a man is showing those he loves that they have his support and love, no matter the situation. While your kids might not say it to you, we all loved looking in the crowd and seeing the face of our father or mother at our games, concerts, recitals or at the dinner table when they asked how school was. It is comforting and the best gift you can give your kids is YOU. Don’t forget that when you are busy “providing” for them.
Thank you for reading this, and for taking the time to follow through on my request. I really need to feel his love and energy and your actions will make that happen.
To all of you who have suffered the loss of your father recently or at any time, especially my friends Allison and Erin, my thoughts go out to you. Make sure you call your mom instead, because I guarantee the void in her heart is much deeper. And remember to cherish the memory of your father.
Dad, I love you dearly. I miss your smile, laugh, your undying love and your company. Please watch over all of my friends and family and especially Mom.
Love your son, Jason