A LOVING FATHER

Jason Gregor
September 29 2012 08:22AM

In order for a movie to be considered great it needs to appeal to different generations. I’ve watched a few movies that I loved when I was 20, but today I don’t relate to them as much. A great movie, however, will be timeless and whenever you sit down and watch it will capture your imagination.

One of my father’s favourite movies was the 1967 classic, The Dirty Dozen. The star-studded cast included Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savales, Charles Bronson, star runningback Jim Brown and John Cassavetes who earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor as Viktor Franko.

Today marks the 12th anniversary of my father’s passing, clearly the reason The Dirty Dozen popped into my head, and each year as this day draws closer memories of Dad flood my brain. My wife, Traci, had never seen the movie so we watched it last night. The Dirty Dozen is still great, however, my mind wandered through most of it thinking about Dad.

He loved watching movies. I picture him in his old ratty white t-shirt making popcorn on the stove. He’d think he was the popcorn guru ferociously sliding the pot back and forth across the burner to ensure every kernel was popped. He always made more than enough, offered us each our own cereal bowl full, and then wheeled downstairs to his trusty orange rocking chair. The Fly was his #1 favourite movie, I think he watched it 100 times, but The Dirty Dozen was near the top.

William Arthur Gregor was only 56 years young when his heart gave out.  He had dropped my mother off at her physio appointment in Sherwood Park and planned to run some errands before picking her up. Sadly he never made it back.

At a red light he bumped into the car in front of him. A Good Samaritan got out and quickly recognized something was wrong and called 911. A policeman was a few blocks away, but by the time he got there Dad was gone. It pains me to think that he died alone; however, the officer said the stranger from the car spoke to Dad and stood by him during his final breaths. We never got to thank that man, but I hope he knows we are incredibly grateful for his kind-hearted actions.

I was 27 when my brother, Colin, tracked me down to tell me the awful news. It was a Friday night. I had gone to the Oiler game with my roommate Jeff and then we met up with some buddies and hit the town. I didn’t have a cell phone and I still chuckle at how Colin knew which bar we’d be at. Thankfully, my partying ways were predictable.

He told me to come outside and proceeded to tell me our father had passed away. Hearing the news was hard, but I bet it was difficult for him to tell me. In some ways I feel lucky that I was the last to find out, because I had instant support from my family. I got into the car along with my sister Rachel, brother-in-law Eric and sister-in-law Elise and drove to the farm to see Mom. After they told me the specifics, my first question was, “How’s Mom?”

My parents had a whirlwind romance. They met at the post office in Grande Cache in March of 1969, got engaged three weeks later and were married on August 23rd of the same year. Over the next 31 years their friendship and love strengthened, and after watching my baby sister get married in August of 2000 they were planning on traveling the world.

Twelve years later the memory of walking into the farmhouse and seeing my mom still brings me to tears. She got up from the table, walked to the back entrance and we hugged. Her eyes told me everything. Her true love was gone. We didn’t say a word; we just hugged each other tight until we both started to cry. There was nothing I could say in that moment that would make either of us feel better, and that’s when I realized that sometimes a hug is more comforting than words.

I am normally a very social person. I love talking and joking with people, but over the next five days, while our house was filled with friends and family offering their condolences, I spent a lot of time in the barnyard by myself. Dad and I had spent countless hours working around the barn, corrals and fields, and in those places I could still feel his presence.

 Like most young men I didn’t like to cry in front of people. I’d convinced myself that crying was a weakness, so I tried to only do it when I was alone. During the days leading up to Dad’s funeral I spent as much time as I could in the barnyard, and I  shed a few tears sitting on the straw bales in the barn thinking about him. To this day, when I walk through the white gate by the garage and into the barnyard a sense of calm and happiness saturates my body.

TELL HIM HOW YOU FEEL

I was incredibly lucky to have William Gregor as my father. If you met my father you’ll know what I mean. If you didn’t… 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.

He was a loving and loyal husband, father, son, brother, uncle, grandfather and friend. He rarely gave fatherly advice; instead he showed you how a good man carries himself through his actions.

 If you feel this way about your father, be sure to tell him. Over the past 11 years I’ve received many replies from men about my letter and every one of them mentioned how they hope their children love and respect them the way I did my father.

 Don’t fool yourself into thinking “the old man” wouldn’t want to hear that from you. Fathers want nothing more than to know their children love and respect them. When you tell him look into his eyes and you’ll see his pride.

 On the morning of my father’s funeral I couldn’t sleep so I sat at my computer and sent an email to my friends. I asked for their thoughts and prayers, but most importantly I asked them to tell their fathers they loved them. I hoped that through their actions my dad would know how much I loved him.

 Today, after you’ve taken the time to read this, I ask that you do the same.

 THANK YOU

This year I wanted to thank those, many who are unaware they are even doing it; who helped me remember my father. Every year I could write about a different life lesson he taught me, but this year I wanted to focus on your actions.

Since his funeral I’ve become much more comfortable with my inner emotions. While I’m not a fan of crying, I’m also not afraid to let it happen anymore. Traci jokingly teases me and says that I’m the “cryer” in our house. Most movies that involve a father and son choke me up, and of course any real-life sports movie or documentary opens up my tear ducts.

 Lately, however, when I see someone acting like my father my eyes well up. Too often we get caught up in all the negative aspects of life, but everyday I see many positive actions that warm my heart.

Thank you to the fathers who build backyard rinks for their kids.

My friend Dregs takes great pride in his rink. Guys love to build things, so I know that is part of it, but mostly fathers like watching the enjoyment it brings for their children.

We grew up on the farm so Dad never had to build us a rink, he just had to clear the snow off the dugout and we’d play for hours. Dad never played hockey growing up, but he knew how to skate and loved playing shinny with Mom, Colin and I. We had a fire by the pond and we’d play for hours. It was such a great bonding moment.

 If your dad built you a rink make sure you thank him, and if you are in the planning stages for this year make sure you enjoy it. It will build lifelong memories and strengthen the bond between you and your kids.

Thank you to the husbands who love and respect your wives.

 To those who open her car door, pull out her chair in a restaurant, put away your phone during dinner and listen to her, surprise her with flowers or a love note, cuddle her on the couch, hold her hand on a walk, and most importantly support and encourage her, I say thank you.

Your actions make the void of my father much more bearable. By watching your good deeds, it reminds me of what a great man he was.

Thank you to the fathers who love and support your kids.

To those who drive your kids to every dance recital, sporting event, school activity and then stick around and watch them, thank you.

To those who introduce your kids to new activities or ones you loved as a child I applaud you. Kids want your time much more than they want the material things you can provide.

To those who help their kids with their homework. You likely fake your way through some of the questions, but just sitting at the table shows your children how much you care.

Your actions remind me of all the good times I shared with my father.

Thank you to the men who help your extended family, friends and sometimes even strangers.

To those who donate to charities, volunteer in your community, help your neighbour, help your friends move, love and accept your in-laws and don’t gossip at work, I say thank you.

 The world is a much better place than we think, and when we take the time to acknowledge the good aspects of life our days are much more fulfilling. Thank you for doing the little things that put a smile on someone else’s face.

In the past year I’ve started reading more books. I prefer true stories and I’d highly recommend Escape from Camp 14, Unbroken, A Million Little Pieces, Lullabies for Little Criminals, Tuesdays with Morrie and Have A Little Faith.

 Mitch Albom’s Have A Little Faith really made me think about life. The following excerpt is a Sermon from the Reb (Albert Lewis) one of the main protagonists, and a truly wonderful man. 

“A man seeks employment on a farm. He hands his letter of recommendation to his new employer. It reads simply, ‘He sleeps in a storm.”

 “The owner is desperate for help, so he hires the man. Several weeks pass, and suddenly, in the middle of the night, a powerful storm rips through the valley. Awakened by the swirling rain and howling wind the owner leaps out of bed. He calls for his hired hand, but the man is sleeping soundly.”

“So he dashes off to the barn. He sees, to his amazement, that the animals are secure with plenty of feed. He runs out to the field. He sees the bales of wheat have been bound and are wrapped in tarpaulins. He races to the silo. The doors are latched and the grain is dry.

“And then he understands, ‘He sleeps in a storm.’

“My friends if we tend to the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the aching throb of unfulfilled business. Our words will always be sincere, our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of ‘I could have, I should have.’ We can sleep in a storm.

“And when it’s time, our goodbyes will be complete.”

I never had the chance to “officially” say goodbye to my father, but I never had any regrets because we knew we loved each other. I was lucky enough to receive a surprise call from him two days before he passed though. I am very grateful he made that call, but more importantly I’m thankful and happy about how he acted during my lifetime.

How he loved his children and my mom made his passing much easier to absorb.

Don’t wait for tomorrow to tell your father how you feel. And fathers don’t wait to show and express to your family how much they mean to you.

Many of you are now fathers, and I implore you to make time for your kids.  I could go on forever writing stories of my father and the times we shared, but the one constant was that he was always took an interest in my life. He came to all my sporting events, taught me how to drive, shared a casual beer on a Saturday night when I became older and most importantly, without having to say it, his actions showed me I could always count on him. Rarely did we say, “I Love You,” but his supportive actions and interest in my life showed me he did.

Thanks in advance to those who follow through on my request. I offer my condolences to all of you who have lost your father, and I hope that his memories warm your heart. If your father is gone make sure you call your mother, because the void in her heart is likely much deeper than yours.

Dad, I love you deeply. I miss your popcorn, your laugh and your love. Please watch over all of my family, friends, my lovely wife Traci and especially your soulmate; Mom.

Love, your son, Jason

Take a moment and listen to The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics. Especially at 1:49. Don't wait to tell your father what he means to you. Have a great day.

 

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 Matt Henderson
September 29 2012, 08:42AM
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Always a moving piece. Thank you for sharing, Jason. I lost my father this past February and I think of him every day.

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#2 Jeffrey Chapman
September 29 2012, 08:43AM
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Hi, Gregor.

Each year I read this, I tear up. Your old man was a great man, and I wish that more kids could appreciate what they have like you did.

Have a great day.

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#3 heavyoilcountry
September 29 2012, 08:58AM
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Thank you for this, Jason. My bio dad walked out on me when I was 2 & my step dad was, well, full of demons. I promised myself not to become either of these things & thus far, my wife & 3 daughters can probably attest to that. Thanks for sharing this today. Even though we've never met in passing, it's great to know you shared this relationship with your dad since some of us just never get the opportunity

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#4 Tomsster
September 29 2012, 09:00AM
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This is your best article yet ! Made me tear up. Sorry for your loss.

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#5 Velo
September 29 2012, 09:01AM
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I'm always surprised how fast a year goes when these beautiful articles show up again. I love them, and your challenge to be decent men is commendable. I also hate them because I have to read them in the bathroom so I don't need to explain the weeping to the family ;)

Thanks

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#6 The Soup Fascist
September 29 2012, 09:04AM
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One quote I remember, truly believe, and certainly fits in with part of your excellent offering about your Dad, seems to fit him to a tee ,

"The greatest gift a man can give his children, is to love their mother".

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#7 Butters
September 29 2012, 09:05AM
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Jason, you do your father's legacy proud everyday with your tireless charity work, your infinite patience with our comments on your show and this site. I could go on.

I am certain your father beaming with pride everyday and looking forward to when you become a dad.

Arch, sorry to hear about your father, thoughts and prayers dude.

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#8 Randomhero79
September 29 2012, 09:09AM
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Tugged on the ol heart strings..great piece man. As a single father of three I make damn sure I let my kids know how much they mean to me...thanks for writing this and pointing out how great our dads are

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#9 Jesse
September 29 2012, 09:10AM
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Thanks for this Jason. You look just like him.

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#10 Jesse
September 29 2012, 09:10AM
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Thanks for this Jason. You look just like him.

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#11 The Towel Boy
September 29 2012, 09:52AM
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As always, thanks for this Gregor.

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#12 edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY
September 29 2012, 10:23AM
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Every year, I find it hard to come up with a fitting comment but just want to say thank you, Jason. Every year after this article, I do send my Dad a message thanking him for everything he does and did for me in my life. Thanks again.

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#13 Yonsy
September 29 2012, 10:24AM
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I lost my Dad this July 14. He was the greatest man I ever knew. Thank- you for this piece.

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#14 RexLibris
September 29 2012, 10:38AM
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Perfect sentiments, Jason. Thank you.

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#15 edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY
September 29 2012, 10:56AM
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Props for everyone today.

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#16 Zack
September 29 2012, 10:58AM
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A very moving read Gregor, thank you.

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#17 NewAgeSys
September 29 2012, 11:00AM
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Thank you.

By being generous enough to share your life with us all ,you have allowed your Father to give the wonderful gifts he gave to you to all the young and old men in this world who never experienced the loving teaching arms of a man like your Father.The love and guidance given to you have shone through your words and will forever be an example for all of us to aspire to as Men and Fathers.

I need to find the Kleenex box now,and then make an important phone call.

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#18 jandjsmum
September 29 2012, 11:04AM
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I am very happy for you to have had such a close, loving relationship with your father Jason. If I were able to plan out my life I can imagine wanting to have a father just like yours. My story is very different, I have never known who my father is. He took off when he found out my mother was pregnant with me, and that cowardly act has affected my life in every way possible. I have been haunted by his absence my entire life, so even though you had far too little time with your dad Jason, he has left you with so much. When you and Traci have your own children, your father will be a constant presence in your heart and mind, you will think of him often, embrace his memory, he still has so much more to teach you. Thank you for sharing your dad with us.

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#19 Quicksilver ballet
September 29 2012, 11:35AM
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No matter how many times we have the opportunity to read this, i still shed a tear.

Thanks for keeping us grounded Jason.

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#20 RKD
September 29 2012, 11:37AM
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Sorry for your loss.

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#21 Yardbird
September 29 2012, 11:47AM
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I remember your Dad well from the time he was Rec director in Grande Cache, at which time I served a term as charter member of the local recreation board. You Mom also performed admirably as the social conscience of the new town by writing a column in the local newspaper.

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#22 Coaliethegoalie
September 29 2012, 12:42PM
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Hey Jason, thank you for this. I was adopted and was raised in a VERY loving home and my dad was my hero. As i grew up i learned that my dad may not have been the best husband or family provider, but that never changed who he was to me growing up. I was recently reunited with my biological mother who has lost both her parents, and has imprinted on me just how painful life is without your parents. I am going to make TWO phone calls now...

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#23 Keith Hay
September 29 2012, 01:43PM
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Jason: Thanks for that. Brings tears to my eyes. I remember your Dad Very Well I still think of him from time to time. He was always at the rink with you whether it was a practice or a game. He was always supportive, always had a Great Attitude. Say Hi to your Mom for me. Your old coach Keith Hay

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#24 yawto
September 29 2012, 03:30PM
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Gregor, you ass. Every year. I open the browser on my phone as I sit across from my wife and check out ON. See the title of the article, see you dad and look at my wife. I tell her to excuse me for a couple moments as I will surely be crying in the next five minutes.

September 13th, 2002. The day I lost my hero. He was 57 and I was 25. As I read your articles each year, it makes me wonder if my dad had another brother I knew nothing about. It makes me happy to see some other people had a truly great childhood with parents that really knew what mattered. In a day and age when too many marriages go by the wayside I still try live mine by the example my father showed and I believe you father did the same thing.

I know what you mean about you Mom and even now I tell her she should meet a guy, go on, be happy. But when the love was true no other will truly ever do. I know her heart will have a void for the rest of her life and try to let her know how much I care all the time to help fill it.

And this damn song JG. You see for me it's the 3:50 point of it. I don't know if you plan on having kids but I will tell you that if you do, and you ever want a living memory of you dad, whew. Just little things they do. Because they do what you do. And you do what your dad did. Some days it just gives me chills when I just see it.

Thanks for sharing your feelings with us and encouraging men to be real men. As we rant and rave on here daily about a group of guys who fight over a rubber disc and the billions of dollars it worth, remember what truly matters, your families and friends. Jason, you were young like I was but I think you know just like I do, your Dad would be proud. You handle you self well, you are a class act and this is just another reason why you have great respect and a great following. Remembering what really matters.

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#25 Souby
September 29 2012, 05:49PM
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Thanks Gregor. This yearly tribute to your Dad is a great way to see how a husband and father should be.

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#26 Clarkenstein
September 29 2012, 06:49PM
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Real men cry JG.

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#27 Captain Obvious
September 29 2012, 07:55PM
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So good. So touching.

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#28 unca miltie
September 29 2012, 09:22PM
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To continue, on a very serious note, those of you talking about urinary issues the other day should consider getting checked for prostate issues. That way you and your kids would likely have more time together. Spoken from experience of being treated for prostate cancer..

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#29 Spydyr
September 29 2012, 09:41PM
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Very moving piece .Sorry for your loss.

Know what is worse than losing your father.

Never having one in your life.

Some get to feel the joy of fatherly love and have great memories.

Other don't. Be thankful of the time you had with him.

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#30 Lloyd MacKenzie
September 29 2012, 11:38PM
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Definitely moved by your article. When my Dad passed away, we lived hundreds of miles apart and I only saw him 2 or 3 times a year. Once in a blue moon, I would call him on the telephone. People didn't make long distance calls so readily back then like they do today. I felt impressed to call him one night and had a nice talk. We talked about his garden and a problem he was having with the plumbing in the house. We spoke about my new job and I caught him a little about our kids. About an hour after we spoke, my mother called me to tell me that we're at the hospital and my Dad was showing signs of a stroke. He slipped into a comma and died a few days later. It may have just been a coincidence that I called him that night or perhaps without even being aware of it, I had some sort of premonition about his death prompting me to enjoy one last conversation with him. I will always be grateful for that opportunity.

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#31 B S
September 30 2012, 12:12AM
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A wonderful tear-jerker Mr. Gregor. I can especially identify with the whole crying alone part of grief. Since I was 6 years old I've only wept (more than a couple of tears) twice: when my great Aunt passed away, the first real loss in my life, and I can still remember my mom chastising me for losing composure, and the second time was at my mother's bedside, about 4 hours before she passed away (yeah, I wasn't very good at listening to her I guess).

Without death, there wouldn't be life. If we had forever to do everything, we'd never do anything. Mortality is a gift that teaches us to cherish what we have.

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#32 Latinman
September 30 2012, 01:06AM
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Thanks for writing about the most important things in life..... As much as we love sports, nothing comes close to spending quality time with our love one... God bless you Gregor!,

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#33 RJSOILER69
September 30 2012, 01:22AM
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Gregor, Thank you for sharing! I lost my big brother 6 years ago and my Mom 1 year ago! In these last 6 years (especially this last one)I have found my best friend... My Dad! Not everyone sees him as the sweet, caring guy but his heart is made of gold! And I get to see it everyday and my 9 year old son sees it everyday! I am a little jealous, I think my dad likes my son more than me! I LOVE IT! Thanks for the tears, I REALLY ENJOYED THEM!

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#34 Mrs. "B"
September 30 2012, 08:58AM
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What a beautiful story Jason! My favourite part was the love story of your mom and dad. They both look so in love and happy on that picture. I am sorry to hear that you didn’t get to say goodbye to your dad…I firmly believe that they are always around us, your dad is always around you.

I am not a good writer....but I will try my best. Thirteen years ago when my dad passed away of Cancer and I was already in Canada. I didn’t make it home to see him for the last time. Being a single mom at that time, with no money, no family and just have few friends, I didn’t come up with enough money to pay for my airfare. So I talked to my dad on the phone for the very last time and told him that I can’t go home, that was the most difficult long distance call I have ever made in my life. Knowing that it will be my last conversation with my dad, and I can imagine how hard that was for him not to see his baby girl for the last time. Then I told to my dad that I will send that little bit of money that I came up with to my mom to help her pay for the medical bills and funeral expenses, which I know for sure my dad was also worrying about before his last days. I got to say my last words to my dad and it made me feel better, eventhough I didn't make it home to see him for the very last time. You are right Jason, we should always tell the people we love how much we love them always!

We have a picture of my dad and my brother Arman - who just passed away last year, we always light a candle for them and once in a while my husband would buy some flowers for them. I know that my dad was always worrying about me especially knowing that I am many million miles away from home, his wishes was for her baby girl to meet a wonderful man. It took a long time before I met that wonderful man in my life but it was worth waiting for him and you know him very well….he is Sam’s Dad” my soul mate and the LOVE OF MY LIFE, we both have no family here but we have each other now and our children.

I know that my father is very happy now that I finally found the right man!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

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#35 Unknown Comic
September 30 2012, 09:01AM
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Very nicely done.

I lost my Dad suddenly 8 years ago to a pulmonary embolism. He was only 58 years old. I never got to say goodbye to him either. He never got to meet my kids who have been born since.

Sounds like our fathers were very similar - that means we're both fortunate.

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#36 Harlie
September 30 2012, 11:04AM
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Thanks for sharing, Jason.

I remember learning to skate when I was barely 4 at the rink my dad made when we lived up in Fort McMurray in a trailer at the time.

Looking back, the rink couldn't have been very big, but to me at that time, it was enormous! My dad would put me and my older brother on the ice and give us each a lawn chair to hold onto and push around.

We then moved to Fort Sask when I was 5 and was lucky to have my Dad coaching our tom thumb team in hockey. Dad continued to coach me through the years all the way up to Pee Wee. My Dad was always my hero and always will be.

Thanks Dad, love you!

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