CHERISH YOUR FATHER…

I love sweets. Chocolate bars, candy, ice cream, pies and cakes I love them all, but for the longest time my guilty pleasure was Long Johns. From a teenager until my early thirties I couldn’t walk into a Safeway, without walking out with at least one chocolate covered long john.

I’ve found many other treats taste sweeter, yet long johns were my favourite, partially because my late father shared the same love affair with them; except he devoured the maple ones. When I think of the number thirteen, the term “baker’s dozen” always pops into my head, and this past week I’ve been thinking a lot about the number 13.

Thirteen years ago today, my father, William Arthur Gregor, passed away at the young age of 56. His heart gave out in his car at a red light in Sherwood Park. He had quit smoking a few years earlier, wasn’t a heavy drinker or overweight, but unfortunately it was his time.

Five days later, the morning of his funeral, I was nervous, solemn and agitated, and for an unexplained reason I decided to write an email to my close friends. I had bottled up a lot of my feelings the previous few days, and let them out in the email. I asked for their prayers, but at the end of the email I asked them for one favour.

I never got to say goodbye to my father, and I asked them if they could call their fathers, or give them a hug and tell them they loved him. I hoped that through their actions my father would know how much I truly loved and respected him.

Today, after you’ve read this, I hope you can find the time to do the same.

Unlike the previous years that I wrote about my father, this year my thoughts and emotions are much different. I still miss seeing his smile, hearing his laugh and experiencing his genuine zest for life, but this year I feel a new connection, and sadly, also an incredible longing for him.

In ten weeks, my lovely wife Traci and I will become parents. I have so many new emotions stirring inside, and even though I haven’t met the little boy or girl yet, we want it to be a surprise; I already feel an incredible connection to him/her.

I can only imagine what it will feel like the first time we meet. Like most first-time fathers my mind wanders wondering if I’ll know what to do. Will I be patient enough? Will I be able to be firm when necessary, and tender when needed? It’s a mixture of unadulterated excitement, and a bit of trepidation.

Since I found out Traci was pregnant, I’ve started reading articles and books that I never would have read before. I’ve saved many articles with tips on raising children, mainly teenagers, you can never start preparing too early, and I’ve learned some great stuff.

However, as I prepare myself for the joy and wonder of fatherhood, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what made my dad such a great father to me and my siblings.

I thought it would be impossible to pinpoint one action that made him a great father, but after hundreds of memories of him flooded my mind these past few weeks, I found myself always coming back to one simple, yet incredibly powerful, action; love.

Dad rarely said, “I love you,” but he showed it regularly and usually unconditionally. Mostly I remember that he loved my mother, and I’ve realized that watching my father treat my mother in a loving fashion has had a profound impact on every aspect of my life.

It seems simple, and that is the beauty of it.

In John Medina’s book, Brain Rules, he breaks down how the human brain works. Why are some people “smarter” than others? The theory of “genius born” or “genius made” has been debated for years, but Medina had a very unique response on the topic.

He wrote: “A man once asked me, ‘how can I get my son into Harvard?’ “Go home and love your wife, was my answer.”

Too often we expect the answers to life’s questions to be profoundly deep, or that they will challenge us to do something extraordinary. Many times the simple, non sexy answer is best.

Over the past 13 years I’ve spent countless hours re-living the memories of my father, usually with a combination of laughter and tears, and I’ve started to realize that most of them involved him demonstrating how to love his family, specifically my mother.

My parents had a whirlwind, fairytale romance. They met at the post office in Grande Cache, Alberta. They went on a date the next day, were engaged three weeks after that and got married four months later.

Were they in love with each other? 100% percent, but did they know how to love each other? No, because love should be a verb, not a noun. They discovered how to let their love evolve and grow throughout their marriage.

Three months after dad passed, I walked into the farm house and found my mom sitting in the back entrance, tears running down her face, staring at an ice scraper. I asked her what was wrong, and she started to laugh/cry. 

Every winter morning when he left for work, Dad would scrape the ice/frost off of her car and start it for her. Every morning she said. She couldn’t believe how much a small thing meant to her and how much those little things mean in a relationship/friendship. She cried because she wasn’t sure she had ever told him how much she appreciated that. 

Gentlemen, never stop doing the little things for your partner, common law partner or your wife, and ladies if you have a wonderful man in your life, don’t hesitate to tell him how much his small acts of kindness mean to you. 

My father was rarely in a bad mood. He was always smiling, but when he needed to be the disciplinarian he knew how to get my attention. I only recall getting one real spanking in my life. I was 11 years old, and I had stolen some money out of my mom’s purse. Not a smart move on my part. 

I don’t remember how I got caught, but I do remember suffering the consequences. It was over quick, but I received the message loud and clear. Strangely enough, after the lecture and few well-deserved smacks on the rearend, it is one of the few times I vividly remember my father saying, “I love you, son.” 

Thinking back, I’m sure he didn’t like handing out that spanking, but I needed to be taught a lesson, however, before I left the room he wanted me to know he still loved me. I’ve yet to experience that rollercoaster (loving them emphatically, but having to hand out fair discipline) of “parenting” emotion, but when I do I hope I can find the right delivery. 

Being a great father is one of the toughest jobs in the world. I truly appreciate watching men who take the time to be involved in their children’s lives, who aren’t afraid to show them how to love, but also are willing to teach their kid’s good life lessons. 

Men rarely tell one another they are doing a great job as a husband and father, but I see it all the time and I truly want to say thank you. We need more of it the world, now more than ever, so if a man in your life or inner circle is doing a great job, politely let them know. They will appreciate it more than you know.

ROLE MODELS…

My father was my first role model. I truly wanted to be like him. I mimicked him so often that I even learned how to speak like Donald Duck from him. Nowadays I’m lucky to have four men in my immediate family that I can learn and watch from. 

My older brother Colin has many of my father’s traits. He’s a loving husband and father, and rarely misses attending his children’s activities. My brother-in-law Eric does the same, and watching a man truly love your little sister, who I always felt the need to quietly protect, is very comforting. 

I’ve also gotten to know Traci’s brother Rob, and I’m proud to say he’s a good man. He’s a car nut, and in between playing house and dolls with his two daughters, he’s found a way to get them to enjoy watching Nascar with him. Quite the unique combination. 

Doug, my father-in-law is very healthy conscious. He eats well, exercises often and is a great example of why being healthy is important. He also was, and is, a great father to my wife. Being a good father to your grown daughters makes life easier and more enjoyable for their husbands. 

Most dads cringe at the thought of their baby girl marrying a guy someday, and I’m sure Doug had a few sleepless nights after I proposed only six months after meeting Traci, haha. 

My annual letter has always come from a son’s perspective, and I think it is important for men to express our gratitude to our fathers because we rarely do. However, over the past two years I’ve been lucky enough to experience how important a father’s love and respect to his daughter can be for her, but also her husband. 

He taught Traci self-respect, showed her through his actions to his wife, Cheryl, and to her how a woman should be loved. She was a “daddys girl,” but not in a spoiled way. He taught her good life lessons on how to balance a cheque book, make her own payments, treat people with kindness, but like my father, at the root of their relationship was undying love. 

I learned, often subconsciously it turns out, through my father’s actions how to love a woman, and Traci learned how to be loved by a man. I believe that has helped make our marriage much easier. 

SHARE WITH THEM…

It is great to see fathers introduce their children to the things he loves, as well as spending time doing what they love. Make sure do that. When I was 14 I loved Motley Crue. On the way to my hockey games dad would let me crank up their music, but often on the way home or on other trips he exposed me to the music he loved. I’ve a huge fan of Motown, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and others because of that. Whenever I hear one of their songs I smile, because it reminds me of my father. 

Take the time to make lifelong memories with your children. I can speak from experience that having those memories of my father does lessen the void in my heart now that he is gone. 

Make sure you take some time to connect with your children. They might never tell you, but our parents are our first and most important role models. You can help shape your son or daughter’s future in a positive manner, usually just by giving them your time. 

Put down your cell phone and stop texting, tweeting, facebooking, instagraming or emailing and connect with them and your significant other. We all desire that attention and connection, and I firmly believe those moments revitalize us and allow us to keep working hard. 

Thanks in advance to those who follow through on my request to hug or call your father. My sincere condolences to those who have lost your father. I hope that the memories of him are still alive in your heart today. 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 still love you deeply. I miss hearing you talk like Donald Duck, your laugh and most of all your love. Please watch over all of my family, friends, my lovely wife Traci, your soon-to-be 7th grandchild and especially your soulmate; Mom. 

Love, your son, Jason 

P.S— If you are feeling a bit awkward about calling your father, take a moment and watch this. You might be surprised to learn that you’ll feel as much happiness about sharing your gratitude with him as he will get about hearing it.

  • Lannyfan

    Sorry – cut off previous post. I admire you a great deal and love that you are prepared to open up about the things in life that transcend the mindset of the importance of professional sports.

  • Zack

    I don’t post on here too often but I’m a frequent reader and this piece gets me every time, for the last three or so years now. Thank you for sharing Gregor.

    I can count on one hand how many times my dad has told me he loved me but I’m perfectly fine with that, for what he may not say in words he shows both my sister and I how much he cares for us and how proud he is of his kids. This summer, after graduating University, I went back home for a couple of months and was offered a job up north in Alberta. It was my time to leave the nest and I remember pulling out of the drive way, we said our goodbyes, shook hands and I left. We kind of looked at each other for a second before I got in the car and I just remember him standing at the edge of the driveway waving. I’ll never forget that.

  • kawi460

    I am sorry to hear about your loss. I’m pretty young and haven’t suffered a major loss like you Gregor. It’s a sad part of life. I appreciate the life lesson’s you have shared.

    Congratulations to you and your wife on the pregnancy!!!!

  • Wax Man Riley

    Also, thank you for this. Every year I read your column about your father, and every year I end up at my desk at work (yes, even Sundays) reading this with tears in my eyes and tissue in my hand.

  • Wax Man Riley

    I’d love to give my father a giant hug for you Gregor, but like you, my father passed away way too young.

    Seven years ago, at the age of 52, my dad died in his sleep of a massive heart attack. He died on the night he and my mom celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary. My mom had to find him on the couch in the morning after a night of celebration.

    Seven years later my mom has now passed, again, way too young. She didn’t even make 60.

    Now I am a new parent of a beautiful 16 month old boy, Sonnie(Sunny). I love him with all of my heart and at night, when I am rocking him to sleep I wish with my whole life that my dad could have known him. I was lucky enough to have my mom know him for the frst 5 weeks of his life. I wish that he was here to help guide me as a father.

    Love your new baby, Jason. Be the father that your dad was to you and my dad was to me. It is the best thing I have ever done in my life, and I didn’t really know love until I met Sonnie on that amazing June day.

  • kawi460

    posted this on my fb page and its generated so many comments and stories from old friends….thanks….my dad passed in 98…I had moved to Alberta in 78….didn’t realize how much I must have hurt my parents moving like I did until my own two have now moved on…I understand but it still hurts not having them close…I smiled with your story about long johns…my dad always loved ‘crackly nuts’ which were cracker jacks…still call them by his name….

  • RyanCoke

    Nice, except I have a qualm with one part.

    “Gentlemen, never stop doing the little things for your partner, common law partner or your wife, and ladies if you have a wonderful man in your life, don’t hesitate to tell him how much his small acts of kindness mean to you.”

    This isn’t the 19th century anymore, these type of gender roles shouldn’t exist. Women can do what a man can do, and so both are fully capable of ‘doing the little things’ for each other, and that includes scraping the ice off a windshield and warming the car.

    • ubermiguel

      The Nation is a bit of a boys club, so Gregor’s talking to the boys here. I’m sure we all agree it goes both ways.

      This sort of thing works for any relationship; like when you grab a coffee for a co-worker without being asked; or when you clear you neighbour’s sidewalk after finishing your own.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Great job Jason. I still have both parents who are in their eighties I talk them just about everyday. I have friends who lost both parents by the time they were 30.I shed tears for them around special occasions as they are parentless. Do this every year Jason

  • kawi460

    Lost my dad at 18 – had to go identify his body for mom.
    its like yesterday. Lost mom at Xmas 2 years ago.
    Life can really hurt at times. We all have our stories or will.
    My heart goes out too those who have that pain or will be experiencing
    it. Tough goes right out the window when this crap happens.
    Balled like a baby in a fetal position.

    Ok- dont need this right now.

    Have a great Sunday boys – because….thats what we are.

    Mac

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Jason, you’ll be a great father……….because you want to be. You’re dad will be proud.

    Great article and here’s to a health baby.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Good column, Jason.

    My recipe for raising two good young men, both now in University:

    Stay united on the same page with your spouse. At least in front of the kids. Always. The little urchins learn at a young age to divide and conquer.

    Take an interest in your kids music. It is important to them. Even if it makes your ears bleed. If I can put up with Back Street Boys, Spice Girls, Rammstein and Jack Johnson (in order) so can you.

    Parent first, friend second. They have enough friends.

    And watch those friends. Weed out the bad ones quickly.

    Let them make decisions on some things. And give them no choice on others. (Keeps the little buggers confused and off-balance, not controlling and spoiled.)

    You are off to a good start before you even begin, Jason. Congrats.

  • smiliegirl15

    I lost my mom back in March. She had her health problems but it was still a shock, she was just 59. I find myself tearing up at certain things like maybe a song; a memory that’s brought to the surface; or just randomly no matter where I am.

    Fortunately, last year I took some time to tell both my parents that throughout tough times and above all faults that they admittedly regretted, just how much I loved them and how amazing they have done raising myself and my three siblings – and that I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything in the world. Though I regret not seeing or talking to my mom for the few days before she passed, I’m glad I did that and I hope she felt it in her heart.

    My dad is your typical old school father. We stopped saying I love you when I was maybe 9 or so. We butted heads over certain things throughout my 20s and a few years ago it came to a boiling point. We met in the hallway at my parents home and I grabbed him. I had a good hold on him and screamed “I’m gonna kill you!”. Harsh, I know. But I was angry. I felt like I could have put him through the wall. My mom intervened and about 2 seconds later I released him.

    I immediately started crying. 30 years old and I’m bawling in front of my parents. My dad said that it was okay and every father-son goes through that. But it wasn’t okay. Not to me. I did something I never thought I’d do – something I regret to this day. But funny enough, as we resolved it there I told him I loved him, and he reciprocated. We now say it almost every time we part ways or get off the phone.

    Something so hard to say is now so easy, and so worth it.

    God bless, Gregor

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    First things first Jason, Congratulations on the soon to be birth of your child. There is no doubt you will be a fantastic father. The love you have shines through every day with your listeners. Fatherhood will come so natural for you as a result of growing up with your parents as such great role models. Once again, thanks for sharing the personal side of your life with us.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Amen, Jason. I lost my Dad when I was 18, and my Father-in-Law passed away several years ago as well. All of our grandparents are gone, too. I greatly missed the male leadership, but I am fortunate to have some great wise seniors to hang around with at my church. I hope everybody takes a moment to give their Dad a call while there is still time.