Father's Day 2009: Not a hockey blog

Robin Brownlee
June 21 2009 02:56PM

Until three years ago, Father's Day was a day I tried to ignore. A day I wanted to come and go as quickly as possible. It had been a day that made me dark and sad and envious and angry. It was a day I always ended up feeling sorry for myself, and loathing how I always fell into that trap. I'm guessing I'm not alone in that.

I was tempted to write about that this morning, which is something I'd never have considered not so long ago. I'm not sure why because, as anybody who has followed me here knows, the birth of my son Sam back in August 2006 changed my perspective forever.

That change began Father's Day of 2006, when my wife presented me with a DVD of an ultra-sound she'd had. The grainy images I could barely make out made me cry like a baby. Real tough guy.

I guess it's the circumstances here and now that convinced me to write today, although I'm not sure I could have finished -- it wasn't going to be light fare like the piece David Staples penned about dads at the Cult of Hockey or yet another great bit of real life story-telling you can read over at Black Dog Hates Skunks on almost any day of the week.

Nothing like that. Not at all.

A CHANGE OF STORY

Until Sam arrived, I hated Father's Day because it always reminded me of what I didn't have.

I was just short of my third birthday -- the age as my Sam is now -- when my mother packed a couple of suitcases and my six-month-old brother and I into a beat-up 1955 Chev station wagon and left my dad.

She had no choice, really. Drunk and angry over what I don't know, my dad picked me up and threw me across the kitchen with enough force that I went through a cupboard door and ended up wedged beside the stove with the pots and pans.

It wasn't the first time my dad raised a hand to me in a fit of drunken rage, but, it would be the last. There's no way, not with a six-month-old brother in the picture, mom was going to risk more of the same. She'd already stayed too long and put up with too much, I'd later learn.

I saw my dad just one more time after that. I was 13 and waiting at a bus stop at Eighth Avenue and Columbia Street in New Westminster on the way home from a movie. I glanced over and saw a man leaning against the doorway at Wosk's Department Store. He was drunk, dishevelled, unshaven, and dirty. He was frail, old and used up -- nothing resembling the strapping auto mechanic in the photos my mom kept.

The man on the street was my dad. Our eyes never met. For a moment, I thought about beating the hell out of him. Instead, I turned away. That day, on the bus ride home, I cried for him for the last time.

When he fell down some stairs in a drunken stupor, hit his head and died of a blood clot on the brain about a year later, my mother got a phone call. I got a pair of steel-toed work boots and an electric shaver that didn't work. My little brother got nothing. Neither did my mom.

HERE AND NOW

Like me, you've heard of or even lived and survived circumstances like that, or worse. I'm not alone. Not nearly. That bit of history didn't tempt me to write today. In fact, it had little to do with it.

As you may have read earlier this week, I'm playing Mr. Mom with Sam now because my wife, Analyn, is in the Philippines. She's gone home to visit her brother, Arman. He has pancreatic cancer.

Arman is only 48 and is the father of two. He's a wonderful, kind, gentle man and a loving dad. It will take a miracle for him to survive six months. There won't be another Father's Day for him. Sam will never meet him. Pictures and video from this trip will have to do.

It's so bloody unfair. So wrong. I couldn't get that out of my head after Analyn phoned me this morning to wish me happy Father's Day and say, "I love you." She'd spent the night in the hospital.

Sam, who I'm happy to say is beating down a case of pneumonia like Georges Laraque slapped around Rob Ray, has, thankfully, absolutely no real understanding of why his mom isn't here right now.

Besides, he wouldn't be that worked up about it because he's eaten more hotdogs and pizza and played more video games in the week she's been gone than he has the rest of his life.

CALL THE RE-WRITE DESK

I was eight or 10 paragraphs into what I was going to write this morning when Sam changed everything, just like he did by being born -- three months premature on August 16, 2006, which happens to be my birthday. You know his story . . .

Sam climbs onto my lap. "Hello, daddy." He wants to watch Gummy Bears on my laptop. He wants to watch In The Night Garden and Thomas and Friends, all of which I have bookmarked. When "I'm working, Sam" fails to deter him, I figure a 15-20 minute break will give me a chance to gather my thoughts.

Sam starts punching keys on my laptop, like he always does. No big deal. I'm used to it. The difference this time is I've remembered to minimize what I've written, but not to save it. Sam zaps it with a barrage of keystrokes. It's gone. "Shit," I say, when I realize what he's done. "Shit," says Sam, reminding me that language does matter. "What the hell," I think, figuring time will be better spent with him, especially today. I wasn't hell-bent on spilling my guts. No story. No problem.

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM

Sam loves car rides, so I bundle him up and we head for Safeway, which is a regular routine. We're short on hotdogs and pizza and green gum and bum wipes and other such necessities.

As always, Sam squeals with glee sitting in the cart as we roll up and down the aisles and then head toward the coffee grinder. I grind the coffee, then put the bag to my nose, take a whiff and say, "Ahhhhhhh, that's good." Sam peers into the bag, takes a snort and says, "Ahhhhhhh, that's good." I hug him and I kiss him. "Let's go," I say. "Let's go," he says.

Jacked by the aroma of the Irish Crème girlie blend I prefer, Sam, as usual, is bouncing around in the cart seat and swinging his legs. We get two or three steps from the grinder and Sam kicks me square in the nuts. Not a glancing blow, as he's delivered before, but dead centre in the pills. A Father's Day sack-beating. "Jesus, Sam, right in the nuts," I blurt. "In the nuts," Sam says, adding, "Sorry, daddy." His concern is obvious.

Moments later in the checkout line, Sam, to the amusement of all, provides a repeat of the play-by-play. "In the nuts," Sam proclaims, leaning forward in the cart seat before hugging me around the neck. "I love you, dad."

I love Father's Day.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

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A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 The Menace
June 22 2009, 11:32AM
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Thanks for the great piece RB. I have tears in my eyes at work, and I wish I was home to give my 2 girls big hugs.

Keep up the great work here and at home.

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#52 Rice
June 22 2009, 12:09PM
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With out a doubt, I look forward to the day I have a child of mine accidently, drop me with a shot to the groin. I think my wife looks forward to it more.

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#53 Fish
June 22 2009, 12:18PM
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Great Piece. Had my second fathers day yesterday and am amazed that I could be partially responsible for something as beautiful as my son everytime I look at him.

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#54 Fish
June 22 2009, 12:27PM
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Drew wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: Robin: whether I agree with you or not you are at least interesting and entertaining. I do disagree with your assessment of the current morning show. Bryn is Bryn , boring and tedious and AJ is confrontational and crouchy. I miss Jake. He was interesting and entertaining. 1260 made a mistake.

I agree. I cant stand Bryn and AJ is a huge dork. Why did they can Jake anyway?

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#55 noogles
June 22 2009, 12:44PM
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Wow.....that was a great story. Made me laugh and brought tears to my eyes. I'm not a father, but I can tell how great it must be. Glad your story has turned out so well....it could have gone so wrong. Life can be really unfair but then hear a story like this and you realize it can also be really amazing. Thanks for that.

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#56 Dennis
June 22 2009, 02:27PM
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RB: you turned out very well all things considering.

An impressive read.

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#57 Harry Merkin
June 22 2009, 03:20PM
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Robin

I have been a reader of the Nation since day one and although i dont like to admit it a close friend of Wanye's as well, i seldom feel the need to post but that story might have been my favourite ever written on here and i have read ever article written on this site. Every article you write seems to get better and better and i enjoy reading your stuff more and more. I dont know how you can top this one. Glad to hear you Son is doing better and looking forward to your next Article.

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#58 J-Bird
June 22 2009, 03:47PM
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Good stuff RB.

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#59 Pat McLean
June 22 2009, 05:15PM
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A little late to it but great writing RB. Nothing beats being a dad.

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#60 BK
June 22 2009, 05:44PM
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Robin you are a great writer. I used to HATE listening to you on 1260, but after listening for some time I appreciate your opinion and definitely your insider information. You have come into your own on radio, but as a writer you are truly gifted. Thanks for this article, a reminder that not all sports fans are 25 and under! (father of three).

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#61 Rival
June 23 2009, 10:41AM
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Robin,

Thanks for telling your story. I knew the one about your son but not about your dad. I have two little girls of my own and perspective really did change once they came along. Thanks for sharing that with us.

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#62 Scott Peterson
June 23 2009, 02:49PM
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Great story,Robin. I have to admit this is the first story of yours I've read on here, but it was great. I'm sorry to hear about Analyn's brother. Give her my best and say hi to Sam and Mike.

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#63 Kal
June 27 2009, 03:36AM
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Man tears right now Brownlee, makes me want a little one of my own ever more, Thank-You

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