What My Dad Taught Me

His Legacy Continues On

My dad–chipper as ever–in the ICU on June 13th, 2012 — the day after a 7-hour cancer operation.

Question:  How old do you think my Dad is?

Dealing with his third bout fighting cancer, Dad stayed as strong as ever right to the end — I know it has to be because he has always been in top physical shape AND he has an upbeat attitude to life in general.  Just look at that grin!  😆

Growing up, I always knew Dad was special — a hardworking provider who loved nature & keeping fit.  Now, I know all the wonderful ways he’s taught me to be a good person:

Be Happy

Dad is the friendliest person I know!  A born Calgarian, he acknowledges everyone he passes with a smiling nod & a “Howdy“.  Yes, he still uses Howdy as a greeting — it’s a Calgary tradition from when it was a cowtown — long before it hit a million people!

And no matter where we went, Dad would get into a pleasant conversation with total strangers — always making new friends.  He didn’t talk politics or religion but there was always something he would find interesting in that person.  And, of course, for Calgarians there is always–absolutely always–the crazy weather to talk about.

And any time he noticed someone who needed help, Dad would go over or stop the car to see what he could do — in a friendly, non-threatening, way.  Any time one of his kids, grandkids, friends, or neighbours needs help, he is there..  Sometimes he spreads himself too thin helping his growing family.

I am absolutely positive that it is his happy, everything-will-work-out attitude that has helped him fight the big C — first, 15 yrs ago, bowel cancer when they also discovered a lung tumour which meant another round 2 months later, then in 2012, a tumour sitting on his main artery of his upper leg.  Now, it has spread to many organs & his bloodstream — still he keeps up the good fight with a great attitude.  He handled all the chemo & radiation treatments, operations, & recoveries with grace, aplomb, a laugh, & always a belief he would make it through.

I’ll never forget my Dad helping the sweet little 3-yr-old girl I had guardianship of [hoping to adopt] who had been abused by her mom’s boyfriend.  When I first got her–I think of her as “Little V“–she was terrified of men & wouldn’t go near them.  At the time, my sons were 7-yrs, 5-yrs, & 1-yr old, while my sister’s 3-yr-old daughter was just 2 weeks younger than Little V — the two girls became sweet companions.  Little V played fine with the boys but she would not go near my Dad — friendly as he was.  No problem, he never pressured her.

Then one September day we were having middle son’s birthday party on my parents’ front lawn — the boys & my niece had been playing with Grandpa.  Little V stood aside, as usual, just watching.  It all ended with a hug & my niece sitting on Grandpa’s knee.  It was the most heart-warming shock to all of us when Little V calmly walked up to my Dad & gently placed herself on his knee for a hug.  OH MY !

Throughout their lives, I have witnessed my sons helping others.  Just a few days ago, my middle son & I helped a family in trouble.  I was very proud of him.  A few years ago when visiting home, my youngest son & I were out, lost in one of those new neighbourhoods around my parents’ place, running low on gas with only a couple bucks between the two of us.  We noticed a lady stopped with a flat tire — he immediately set to changing it.

There we were, atop a naked foothill, on one of Calgary’s speeding Trails, the high winds & driving rain practically blowing us over — the lady & I stood back while we watched my son’s long legs hanging out from under the car OVER the white line.  Let me tell you, every time a vehicle rushed by, my heart sunk ever lower!  Finally, he was finished & I left them while he put everything away in the trunk.

As we watched her drive away, he told me she had offered him $60 but he’d said no.  Oh my, I was so proud of him!  We certainly had a good laugh about us refusing help in our own situation.  It is the Calgary way.

His Legacy Continues On

Work Hard

Except for holidays & maybe a few–very few–sick days, I cannot remember my Dad ever not workingFor most of my childhood, he worked shift work — Days [8 a.m. to 4 p.m.], Afternoons [4-12 p.m.], & Midnights [12-8 a.m.].  Our lives with Dad revolved around this schedule.

I remember cold days turned warm because Dad was on Midnights & had called to say he’d be home in time to drive us to elementary school — a bone-chilling mile away.  I remember Christmas Days where dinner was before 3 p.m. because Dad was on Afternoons & Christmas Mornings when we had to wait an almost-impossible 3 hours to open presents until Dad was home from Midnights.  I remember summer days when he could hardly sleep with all the children playing outside his bedroom window yet he still went to work that afternoon or night.

Even with six children & a modest income, my Dad provided everything we needed plus quite a few luxuriesHe always planted & cared for the vegetable garden to feed us; he provided us with fancy bicycles, innumerable balls, & tons of other sports equipment; he hardly slept each Christmas Eve putting together the vast amount of toys we’d enjoy in the morning; he provided us with a stable home that any of his family can still come back to.

When the union at his long-term employment at Cominco’s ammonia plant went on strike, my dad immediately applied for his dream job working for the City of Calgary Parks department — days working outside– no shift-work.  No, sitting out, not earning an income, time-out for my Dad.

Dad worked for the city until he retired but he still kept working — a hockey referee, shop deliverer, & babysitter.  He never slowed down to a crawl until these last couple months — which irks him tremendously.

His children, grand-children, & even some of the older great-grandchildren are hard-workers providing well for their families.  Even in this very different world of employment, we all look at Dad as our inspiration to continue to work hard.

His Legacy Continues On

Keep Fit — Play Sports

Before this latest chemo, Dad rode his bicycle regularly — up/down some pretty steep foothills around their place.  He’d do miles each time he went out — 2, 3, sometimes 4 times each week.  He also went swimming about the same number of days — often going with my sister.  For Dad, cutting back on his sports activities has been the hardest part of dealing with cancer.

As if that’s not enough, Dad’s ultimate favourite is refereeing hockey!  Now, any of you hockey fans know that yeah, the players work hard, but alongside them are the referees who have to skate well enough to keep up with all the action, keep out of the players’ way, duck Superman-speeding pucks, break-up fist-flying fights, AND make fair calls about penalties without pissing off players, coaches, fans, & the league.

I’ll never forget the admiration in a fellow-referee friend’s voice at Dad’s Surprise 70th Birthday Party —>  Your Dad is amazing — he skates faster & better than many of the 30-yr-old men playing!

Yes, he skates miles to keep up to men half his age.  And, at that time, he was reffing 70-80 games each month — totally amazing!  And yup, he was a bit upset when league policy meant lowering his hours when he turned 75-yrs-old — to a MINOR 20-30 games per month — oh my!

He blew me away when I talked to him on that Fathers’ Day in 2012 –> The doctors say it could be 4-6 months recovery but I gotta get back to hockey in September.  I’ll get back in shape this summer.  Oh Dad, I do not doubt it — You Are Amazing!  😎

My dad taught me to skate when I was 3-yrs-old on the ice rink he made in half of the huge back yard.  Except when a Chinook was in town, I always had a skating party for my birthday in November — on the backyard rink Dad made every year.  My 2½-yr-old grand-daughter was taught to skate by her dad–my son–wearing my original leather skates with the fluffy ankle collar.

Dad taught me how to hit terrific home runs & how to pitch both underhand softball & overhand hardball.  He spent many an hour helping me speed up my pitch & make it more accurate.  I went to Calgary Stampeder football games with Dad & always–absolutely always–watched Hockey Night in Canada on Saturdays with him.  Because of him, I’m not afraid to try any new sport — my current love is kayaking.

All of my Dad’s SIX children, TEN grandchildren, & TEN+ great-grandchildren are active in sports.  I was blessed with three strong, healthy sons & four strong, healthy grandchildren who continue to stay fit playing various sports including bicycling, baseball, rugby, hockey, football, track & field, swimming, gymnastics, . . .

His Legacy Continues On

Respect & Care for Nature

For as long as I can remember, Dad always grew plants — flowers, trees, vegetables, even fruit if it could survive in Alberta.  With six kids, our garden was important to give us fresh vegetables & potatoes for most of the year.

His love of gardening came from his father — a professional landscaper/gardener.  I saw in their work a wonderful mix of plants — the beautiful along with the useful.  Yes, lines of vegetables might not be so pretty to some — but Dad always grew sweet peas on a wire fence around the veggies.  Beauty as well as an easy raid for a snack of fresh pods on my way to school.  😉

The first house I bought, in 1984, was out on the bald prairie of Strathmore — there was literally nothing but grass everywhere.  Of course, first thing on my list was landscaping — planting flowers, bushes, & trees.

Dad helped me, no–I helped him, plant more than a dozen spruce trees — no taller than ourselves — all around the lot.

And then he helped me dig out the dirt again when I realized I’d lost my wedding ring among the tree roots!  Yes, it took a metal detector to point us in the right direction.

Well, those trees dwarf the high-peaked house now [right] — I found it impossible to get a shot of the full height.  I’m amazed what 20-odd years & some love can grow.  In Calgary, Dad planted a couple of the smaller leftovers in his backyard & those trees are higher than the electric lines now.

Nowadays, there are several gardeners & landscapers in the family.  One of my sisters runs a flower shop.  The other one always has the most beautiful yard in the neighbourhood.  One of my sons took to hedge & tree cutting here on Vancouver Island — quite a feat with cedars that can grow the height of a house in a year.

And we always had plenty of animals in our house — dogs, birds, rabbits, gerbils — almost anything except cats as neither of our parents were too keen on them.  Each kid probably had ‘their own’ pet at least once or twice in their lifetime living at home.

There are too many stories to relate them all here but none of us can forget the infamous gerbil event.  My youngest sister had brought this little thing home from school when we had an Easter or Christmas break.  Mom had been vacuuming in her room when suddenly the hose got clogged.  Of course, she calls Dad to fix it & what does he find?  Yup, pieces of gerbil — ooooooh!  My poor sister when she had to go back to school to explain that one!

That love of animals has carried through all his children, grand-children, & great-grandchildren.  There isn’t a household among us that doesn’t have at least one dog — if not several — plus a cat or two thrown in for fun.  At one point, my sons & I had adopted 7 dogs — plus we had a cat that had adopted us!

One of my sisters currently has that many wonderful  dogs — along with a cat — and she grooms other people’s loving companions — almost a zoo there sometimes.  😉  My 5-yr-old grand-daughter’s latest occupational goal is — as mine was as a girl — to become a veterinarian.  All of us will always have animals in our lives.

His Legacy Continues On

Do It Yourself Handiwork

My parents bought their first & only house in 1960 when they had four children — I was 4½ yrs old, my sisters 3½ & 1 yr old & our first brother was 1 mth old.  It was your standard 3-bedroom with an semi-unfinished basement on a large lot — at the time, it was outside Calgary in the town of Bowness but only a few years later we would become part of the ‘big city’.  Also, two more children [for a total of six!] would be added to the mix.

Whatever needed to be done, Dad did it.  Of course, bedrooms were needed.  As the eldest, I’m not sure I ever slept upstairs — Dad put a wall up in the corner of the basement, added a door, replaced the standard window with a slider & a bedroom was born.  For a few years, my sister & I shared this room — until Dad built another wall with a door so we could each have our own rooms.  Dad added another bedroom downstairs so the house ended up with six bedrooms — almost enough for the whole brood to have their own room.

Of course, with a house that big, with that many children, there were always things that needed fixing.  Plumbing, electrical, painting, laying carpet or lino — you name it, my Dad has done it.  The best part?  We all learned how to DIY with him.  One of my favourite memories is mixing the concrete that forms their front walkway & stairs to this day — yup, I helped Dad with that!

Dad has had many projects around their house over these 50-odd years — two back decks, kitchen cabinetry, new flooring practically everywhere & in some places 2-3 times, adding a bathroom downstairs, removing a bedroom upstairs to enlarge the living room, patio doors out to the deck — everywhere.  There’s even the time he had to re-drywall part of the hall ceiling because he fell through it when working in the attic.

My favourite project with Dad was renovating that first basement bedroom he added to the house into a great teen room for me.  Together we designed the long wall — with a closet, shelves, drawers, desk areas for both my school work & for sewing — all of it especially for my needs.  In the sewing area & on the wall perpendicular to the closet Dad installed pegboard so I could hang whatever gadget I needed.  I had so much fun picking out the wallpaper & I remember when we got this great piece of purple shag carpet from the discount bin at Sears — it was [and still is] the highlight of the room.  😉

Dad’s love of DIY has carried onto all his children who have owned, renovated, and beautified their homes with great pride & care.  All of us have painted or tiled or drywalled or built a deck or renovated a washroom or . . . someone in the family has done it themselves.

My own love of stained glass comes from ‘helping’ Dad whenever he had to fix a broken piece of glass — and yeah, every once in awhile, one of those windows was broken by an errant baseball!  One of my brothers is a professional glazier who I’m sure got his love of glass from Dad.  It’s the kind of job that’s simply easier with two people & you felt honoured that Dad would entrust you with handling the delicate — & expensive — glass.  First, there was cleaning out all the broken glass & glazing, then the careful measuring to ensure the right fit before my favourite, the trip to the glass shop where they would zip, zip, cut our piece in lightening speed.  Finally, the most satisfying — but sometimes frustrating — part where Dad would make whatever adjustments were needed so frame & glass would fit in the appointed opening & I did the ‘thumb work’ on the caulking as Dad ran the beads around.  Ta da!

His Legacy Continues On

Love Faithfully & Deeply

My Mom & Dad have been married for almost 59 years & dated before that when they met in high school — they have loved each other faithfully ever since then.  I always knew they loved each other & never doubted they would stay together — not so much by what they said but from what they did.  Sometimes it was just them lying together on the couch while watching t.v., sometimes it was holding hands while we were out somewhere, sometimes it was the way they silently communicated with each other — always they were a team.

Dad has always been there for all of his family — 60 years of dedication shown by innumerable deeds.  From getting us to school or sport events when we were younger to helping us with our myriad needs of getting old ourselves, Dad has helped.  If one of us needed help with anything, we could call Dad — he was always there to get it done.

His Legacy Continues On

Explore the World

Our family traveled as far & as much as we could afford from before I can remember.  Every summer, when Dad got a 2-3 week vacation, we would go somewhere for sure.  Our early trips were close to home — my great-grandfather’s place in Drumheller [I love the picture of my sister & me having a bath in an outdoor tub] or the Okanagan in B.C. — lots of fun swimming in warm lakes plus delicious fresh fruit to pick for pigging out while we were there & canning when we got back to the soon-to-be-colder Alberta.

xx first big trip to Disneyland & winning the trailer changed our adventures

xx as children left, Dad & Mom ventured further around the world

Even after all the children had left home, Dad & Mom often traveled with family members including daughters, sons, & even a grandchild or two or three or . . .  But they did go off on adventures as a couple — their latest was a wonderful cruise along west coast North America through the Carribean for their birthdays in April [same day; different years].  Dad & Mom have been to so many places it’s impossible for me to list them all but they include Australia a couple times, throughout the U.S., & throughout Europe.

His Legacy Continues On

Answer:  I’m sure you guessed it by now –> my Dad was 77-yrs-old in the above photo.

My Dad passed away today at 79-yrs-old.  As was typical of our relationship [I often learned his lessons too late & we didn’t speak of them], I didn’t have this published & he didn’t hear these words [any areas still left with ‘xx’ were to be edited after publication].

HIS LEGACY CONTINUES ON

Simply A Dawne Thought

 

Advertisements