Cherish your father

IMG

Unlike previous years, when I always found a connection
between the amount of years since my father’s death to a memory from my
childhood, this year nothing has connected me to the number 14. The 12th
year of his passing reminded me of his favourite movie, The Dirty Dozen, but this
year I recalled nothing connecting the two.

Instead of recollections, I found that the bond between
father and child has embraced my soul in a much deeper sense . The memories
that overflow my consciousness this year have been more about the meaning and
responsibility of fatherhood.

Fourteen years ago today, my father, William Arthur Gregor, left this world at
the young age of 56. He had a massive heart attack sitting in his car at a red
light in Sherwood Park.
Luckily, a kind Samaritan in the car in front of him, that dad had gently
nudged into, called the police and then stayed with my father so he wasn’t
completely alone during his final breaths. A simple gesture by an unknown
stranger still warms my heart today.

Dad had quit smoking a few years earlier, wasn’t a heavy
drinker or overweight, but unfortunately it was his time.

Five days later on the morning of his funeral I couldn’t
sleep and decided to write an email to my friends to release my feelings. Every
year since then I type an e-mail in his honour, and hope that it somehow
lessens the void in my heart and the hearts of my family.

I also ask you for one favour.

When you are done reading take a moment to connect with your
father. If you are lucky enough to be able to see him 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 and know that our family misses him dearly.

Thank you in advance. 

My first eleven letters came from the eyes of a young,
single man, the last two as a married man, and this is my first year writing as
a father. How I view my father hasn’t changed based on my personal situation,
however, as my life morphed from single to married to fatherhood I find I feel
connected to him in different ways. I didn’t need to be married or become a dad
to respect how great a father and husband he was, but now I recognize the
different challenges he faced in different roles.

On December 4th, 2013 my wife Traci and I were
blessed with a healthy baby boy. Beckett William Douglas entered the world at
3:19 p.m. and since his arrival he has filled our lives with even more love and
laughter. It was the second best day of my life. The first being when I asked
Traci to marry me, and she shockingly said yes. Without her, I never would have
met my son and my love for her grew stronger the first moment I saw Beckett.

I had a strong relationship with my father and thankfully I
never had any major regrets when he died. I knew he loved me, he showed it to
me for the 27 years we were together, and I loved him just as much. However,
there are still certain days where his absence can take my breath away and make
my heart hurt.

Beckett’s birth was one of those days, just like my wedding.
You want your loved ones to meet one another, and while I know Dad would have
loved Traci and Beckett immensely, I do wish they could have met. I have told
Traci many stories of my hero, and I will do the same with Beckett.

Don’t get my wrong, I don’t feel sorry for myself because I
lost my father. I know many of you reading this have experienced a similar
loss, and in many cases probably much worse, but at certain times his void is
very painful.

I’ve learned to accept that, but I’ve also learned to
embrace those emotions. It reminds me of how much he meant to me, and I hope
that when I die my son will have similar feelings, because it will mean I made
an impact on his life and soul.

I have received many heartfelt and compassionate emails from
this letter over the years, and the most reoccurring theme from men is that
they hope they are impacting their children the same way my father did to me. I’m
sure many of you are in ways you don’t even realize.

I now wish I would have told him how much I respected and
learned from him when he was alive, but I hope that my willingness to always
want to go home to the farm on weekends to work and hang out with him and my
mother showed him my love.

For decades men were taught it wasn’t masculine to share
their feelings, but, no offence, that is complete rubbish. I believe a real man is someone
who is willing to show their vulnerability, express their feelings but remain
strong in their convictions, beliefs and actions.

If your father or mother has taught you great lessons, or
impacted your life tell them today. It will strengthen your bond, and warm both
of your hearts. With the advancement of technology and gadgets it is becoming
harder to truly connect with one another. Put down your phone, tablet or laptop
and take a moment to express your gratitude verbally or physically.

I’ve previously written about the lessons I learned from my
father, and in most cases those lessons didn’t come from him sitting me down
and explaining them, but more from me learning them through his actions.

LOVE….

IMG_4359


My job allowed me the luxury to enjoy many of the late night feedings with my
son Beckett during his first three months. I loved those one-on-one moments. As
I fed him, I thought of my father, and what was it that he did to form such a
strong bond between him and his children.

I
thought it would be impossible to pinpoint one action that made him a great
father, but as I thought back to my childhood during those feedings,  I always found myself coming back to one
simple, yet incredibly powerful action; love.

The Beatles were right, All
We Need is Love
.

My father wrestled with me, he took me to soccer and hockey
practices, he watched TV shows with me, he taught me how to play crib, he
kissed my mom in the kitchen, he danced with her at weddings, he comforted me
when I cried watching E.T., he hugged my siblings, he played road hockey with
us, he taught me how to drive, he loved our dogs and he disciplined me when
necessary, but never in an excessive manner.

If you are wondering if you are being a good parent, ask yourself one simple
question. Am I showing my children how to love? Our actions show love, and
often most of our love goes unnoticed.

How often do we feel unappreciated in a relationship or as a
parent? Quite often I suspect, especially as parents, but that never stops
parents from loving their children.

It might surprise many, but I actually like to read stuff
that isn’t sports related.

I love reading true stories, but this year I’ve also started
researching different aspects of parenting. I highly recommend The Happiest Baby on the Block to any
parents expecting a child. The Five S’s were a saviour with Beckett. He has
slept through the night since he was 12 weeks old, and while I’m sure it is
mostly due to inheriting his mother’s love of sleep, I did learn some great
tips in the book.

During my search for stories, tips and anecdotes on
parenthood, I stumbled across something profound from Nicole Johnson’s novel The Invisible Woman. I think it can
relate to men as well.

She compared motherhood to the Great Cathedrals of Europe.

“These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would
never see finished.”
“They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.”

I find her words to be incredibly profound.

My father passed away when his children were 21, 27 and 30.
My baby sister Rachel was married one month before he passed, so Dad never met
her three sons, Ethan, Ian and Owen and didn’t have the pleasure of watching
his son-in-law Eric be an excellent husband and father.

He was lucky enough to meet my brother Colin’s two boys,
Liam and Noah, but he never got to spoil his only granddaughter Ava. He did get
to tease his daughter-in-law Elise for a few years, but he never was able to
enjoy them as a family of five.

He never got to experience or see the lessons he taught his
children passed down to his grandchildren, but he, like most parents, never
contemplate not building those foundations. Make sure you are building those
foundations so when you are gone your children will carry on your legacy. If
you don’t have children, which is completely fine despite what some believe,
make sure you are building strong foundations with your friends and family. Parenthood
is an incredibly rewarding experience and I believe great parents need to be
selfless.

My father, and my mother, sacrificed a lot for their kids,
and they did it all because of love.

It really is crazy when you think about it. Take a moment to
think of all the sacrifices your parents have done for you.

Young children often take their parents’ love and sacrifices
for granted, which is okay because of their innocence, and we don’t realize
until we are adults how much they actually did for us.

Today many of you are parents and doing the same for your
children. You should be proud of your actions. Showering your children with
love is the greatest gift you can give them.

Some of you reading this might not have had a great
childhood. Maybe your father had his own demons and wasn’t able to provide you
with the love and guidance you needed. Don’t repeat what he did. Forgive him, but
promise yourself you will be a loving and caring father and husband. You don’t
have to repeat his actions.

I never met my paternal grandfather. He passed when my
father was only 24. He was a hardworking but stern man, and he and my father
never had a really close relationship. It was a different generation, but my
father vowed he wouldn’t repeat his father’s actions.

In one of the rare times he gave me “fatherly advice” I
recall asking my father, while we were working in the barnyard, why it was so
important to him to have a close relationship with his kids and why he joked
around so often with us.

He told me he enjoyed spending time with his son no matter
what we did, and because he and his father were never able to share a laugh
together that we had to make up for it. He said he never wanted to make the
same mistake with his kids. He wanted us to be able to laugh with him, and even
at him, if it was in good fun.

He said that we don’t always have to be a product of our
environment. Just because he was raised without a close connection to his dad,
didn’t mean he had to be the same with his boys. Too often many of us want to
use that reasoning in our lives. While it is hard work to break those cycles, I
am forever grateful that my Dad felt it necessary that he would. His willingness love in a different way than his
father strengthened our bond and changed future generations. Don’t be afraid to
do the same, your children and grandchildren will love so much more because of
it.

Life can be shorter than you expect, don’t let your pride, or fear, get in the
way of making a move, or saying words, that show you care. If you have
relationship in your life that needs repair, reach out and do it now. Don’t
wait.

Two years ago I pondered not writing this annual letter
anymore, or more specifically not putting it out publicly. I needed it for my
own healing, but wasn’t sure if it was necessary to share.

It is amazing how our perception can change when someone
surprises you out of the blue, and re-invigorates you by simply sharing something with you.

In February of 2013, five months after I wrote my 2012
letter, I received the following email from Mike.

Hey Jason, I just wanted to drop you a line to tell you
that you changed my life. How? Back in September last year you posted a blog on
twitter about your father. You emphasized to the reader to be a great dad and
treat your wife with respect. I read that while I was in a hotel room on the
verge of separating from my wife and two small kids following a series of
senseless arguments. The timing of it was profound. Your blog really put things
into perspective for me and I thank you for sharing it.  It convinced me
to return home and work out our differences. You and your dad really made a
difference in my life and I wanted to let you know.  I hope you post it
every year.  Again, thanks.

Mike, if you are reading this, I hope you know that email
meant a lot to me. Thank you for your kind words; it encouraged me to keep
writing this blog and when I read it I smiled thinking of my father. Thank you.
I’m glad you had the strength to fight for your family. Your wife and children
are grateful.

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

Dad, I love you deeply. You are still in my heart and your
actions inspire me to strive to be a better husband and father. Thank you for
showing me how to be a great father and husband. I hope I can do the same for
Beckett. Please watch over all of our family and friends, my lovely Traci and
especially your soulmate; Mom.

Love, your son, Jason

  • Leef O'Golin

    Lost my Dad to cancer about 4 years ago. There are very few days that I do not think about him. The finality of this may never sink in. Jason, I can appreciate the regret you have in not having a few minutes to say your last farewell.

  • aeiouY

    When my dad passed away 2 years ago I was told to just do what would make my dad proud as that’s all I can do now. I think if your father was watching you write this article every year in his honor ….. He would be proud!!!
    Cheers to great dads