Cherish your father….


Fifteen was the
most difficult age for me. I still recall it being the least
favourite time of my life. I chuckle about it now, but going through it was
brutal. I didn’t like how I looked, which probably surprises my friends
considering nowadays I never pass up an opportunity to check out my gorgeous
self in a mirror.

I disliked my
school picture so much I didn’t purchase my grade ten year book. The photo was
awful. My hair was feathered in the front, touched my shoulders in the back,
but it wasn’t curly, instead I had “wings” that flared out to the side. I was gangly and had a bit of acne on both sides of my face. I was the
posterchild for awkward teenager.

Thankfully it
was only a short phase in my life. As I sat down to write this annual letter my
mind flooded with memories of life as a fifteen year old. It is eerie how
the mind will connect events with numbers.

Today is the 15th
anniversary of my father’s death, and I’m amazed how much he still impacts my
life despite not having seen, heard or touched him in 15 years.

William Arthur
Gregor was 56 years young when he suffered a massive heart attack. He had quit
smoking a few years earlier, wasn’t overweight, didn’t drink very often and he
was very active running the farm, but his time with us ended abruptly.

I’ve never felt
angry that he left us so early, just sad.

Life is
precious and it can change in an instant, but if you’ve constructed a solid
foundation of love with those in your life, I believe you will be able to
handle the curveballs a tad easier.

Our family was
lucky to have so many close friends and family stop by the farm to express
their condolences the weekend after he passed. When my brother Colin tracked me
down that Friday evening to tell me the news my first words were, “How’s mom?”

Without ever
uttering a word on the topic their relationship taught me how you should love and
respect someone.

Mom and dad formed a deep bond through 31 years of marriage, and it was gut
wrenching to know they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the twilight years together.
They sacrificed so much for their three children, and my baby sister was
married one month before he passed. Life was finally going to slow down for
them. They had plans to travel, spoil their grandchildren and enjoy life together.
Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.

Dad passed away
on a Friday evening, and five days later on the morning of his funeral I found
myself unable to sleep. I hadn’t spoken much in those previous days, instead I
spent much of my time in the barnyard fixing things and looking after the cows.
Dad and I spent so much time over the years working, laughing and arguing in
the barn. I felt closer to him being up there. To be honest, there wasn’t much
to do, and I spent hours walking around looking for things that reminded me of
him.

I saw a hammer
and it made me smile. It reminded me of fencing together and how quickly he
could lose his temper in the barnyard. Dad was not a violent man whatsoever,
but when we worked together, especially fencing or with the cows, he could get
fired up. I inherited his short fuse, and my family laugh often at my sudden outbursts
of frustration. I blame you, Dad.

I walked by the
pens in the barn and recalled many times we helped birth cows, or the few times
one of us got ran over by a cow. It didn’t happen often, but when it did the
one who didn’t get kicked, butted or ran over sure thought it was funny.

I walked in the
back corral and remembered the first time I saw my father cry. Mom’s favourite
horse Sinroy had floundered and we had to put him down.

My emotions
shifted from laughter to tears frequently during those days in the barn right
after his death. I didn’t realize it in the moment, but I was extremely blessed
to have shared such a close relationship with my father. He took the time to
build and strengthen our relationship, and I’m thankful he did.

If you are a father,
ask yourself if you are taking the time to build lasting memories with your
children. They won’t remember what you bought them, but they will remember what
you DID with them. Dad took me to sporting events. He taught me how to drive.
We worked together. We laughed. We argued and we even cried once watching a
movie, but we both pretended we didn’t.

We didn’t have
cell phones, computers or a never ending stream of what we call “communication”
devices when I was growing up. Maybe it was easier for him to be involved in my
life, but I’d like to think it is still possible today.

When you go
home tonight, leave your cell phone in your car or the back entrance and
interact with your kids or your spouse. It will enrich your lives much more than
looking at your phone or computer.

Make memories
that will last their lifetime. The biggest gift you can give your child is your
presence, even after you’ve passed away.

Quick story…

Dad was
diagnosed with Perthes Disease (impacts the leg and hip) when he was twelve. He
spent two years on crutches, but his left leg was still ½ an inch shorter than
the other. He never complained about his leg and it never slowed him down, but
in the summer of 1986, when he was 42, he had hip surgery.

Thirty years
later he was back on crutches and very quickly he was doing tricks again. He
was comfortable on crutches so he never sat still. There is very little down
time on the farm, and there was a lot of fencing that needed to be done in the
fall of 1986.

I was 14 years
old and called a few of my buddies — Ben, Omer and JJ — to come over and help me
fence. Dad wasn’t supposed to do any manual labour yet, but he came outside to be the foreman. He liked
interacting with my friends, and they really enjoyed his sense of humour. We
were fixing the fence that ran parallel to the road. It had to be tight,
because cows on the road rarely ended well.

After a few
hours of work, and dad cracking a lot of jokes, we were getting close to
finishing. Dad gave the boys helpful tips on hammering, pounding the posts and
tightening the wire. We were running the top wire, but it wasn’t tight enough,
and Wild Willy (a nickname my brother and I gave Dad) was getting impatient.

He decided he
was going to help.

He hustled down
the fence line, stepping with his good leg and using his crutches to propel him
through the air. He was fast on his crutches. He reached the brace in the
middle of the field, crawled through the fence to get on the side closer to
the ditch so he could pull the wire tighter by standing on his right leg.

He tugged the wire
tight using the claw of the hammer, but it slipped out and he went tumbling into
the ditch. We boys were stunned. Moments later we saw a crutch fly up from the
ditch, over the fence and land in the field. I ran over to see him. He was down
the embankment, lying on his back and cursing the hammer. He got to his knees and
crawled up the ditch to the fence.

I could tell he
wasn’t hurt, and I struggled to contain my laughter. “Can you pass me my
crutch?” he asked, trying to remain composed. I passed him the crutch, but I couldn’t
suppress my laughter and he calmly said, “I think you guys had it tight enough.”
The boys roared with laughter.

Dad could have
sat in the house, but instead he came outside. I smile thinking about
how often he did things with us, rather than sit on the sidelines.

Engage your
children. You will be a better man because of it.

PRIDE…

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I’ve only been
a father for 21 months, but I’ve quickly felt the swells of emotions that fill
up your chest when you watch your child accomplish something. Beckett is
learning new things daily. It is extremely fun to hear him say a new word, even
though it rarely is the word I’ve been trying to teach him. “Can you say Dad….
Dad,” I suggest. He responds enthusiastically with “Dah.” Moments later he
blurts out “Apple.”

My yearning to
hear “Dad” is replaced with pride because he can say apple. I’m realizing daily
that fatherhood is a wonderful rollercoaster of emotions.

Dad was always
very proud of his three children and his wife. He attended all of our sporting
events, piano recitals or school events. He was our biggest fan, but he was far
from a cheerleader. He never spoke to a coach about playing time. He cheered
just as loud when another kid scored a goal as he did when one of his boys
scored.

I was always
proud that my friends liked my dad. From teenagers to young adults they truly
enjoyed interacting with him.

Even now I meet
people I didn’t know previously, who knew my father and they always speak
highly of him. He had an uncanny ability to make anyone feel comfortable.

Last month I
came across a post one of my cousins had written on Facebook. It stood out
because it was a positive post, which is increasingly rare on Facebook. Carly
had written a post about people in her life who had passed away and what they
meant to her.

She wrote this
about my father.

“Uncle Bill – if there was a man that
let me feel okay about being a kid (even when I grew up a little bit more) it
was Uncle Bill. Always there to turn my frown upside down; to go to the dessert
table before the ‘lunch’ table… tisk tisk we were bad! We may have shared the
same sweet tooth! He taught me how to play war, and if that wasn’t enough to
keep me happy or laughing he’d talk to me in his famous Donald Duck voice!”

The crazy thing
is Carly and her family grew up in Scotland. They would come visit our extended
family every two years and stay for a month. We’d see them for a week or so
every two years, until they moved back to Canada when Carly was 12 or 13.

In limited
encounters Dad had managed to make a positive impact in her life. Great men
treat everyone with respect, and I share this story because many of you who
are reading this aren’t parents.

You don’t need
to be a parent to be a role model. Many of you are probably unaware of the
impact you are having, or had, on a child, teenager or adult’s life. Keep
treating people with respect and kindness. You are enhancing their lives and
making the world a better place.

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, know that he had an unbelievable zest for life;
an ability to make everyone he met comfortable and most important, he had a
huge heart. It’s too bad his 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 15 years I’ve
received many replies from men about my letter and every one of them mentioned they
hope their children love and respect them the way I did my father.

Don’t fool
yourself into thinking your Pops wouldn’t want to hear this 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.

THANK YOU….

thank-you

I want to thank
all the men who remind me of my father in how they treat others. I see so many
of his traits among men in my family, my friends as well as random strangers in
public. Thank you. I wanted to share one
note I received. It fits well with the theme of 15.

Britt sent me
this last year.

Jason, I’m 15 years old. I have been
told, and as you probably know, being this age makes me automatically think
that I know and understand pretty damn near everything. And then, once a year
for the past three years, you write your annual article about
parenthood/fathers/family/friends and it reminds my young mind that I don’t in
fact know everything.

When I was six months old, my twin
brother and I were diagnosed with a rare form of mastocytosis, which is
basically a skin condition that makes me take Reactine every day so I’m not
insanely itchy and eventually in a dire situation. When we were diagnosed there
were doctors from around the world coming to see the two baby boys that weren’t
supposed to make it past two. We were the rarest little boys on the planet at
the time. Through all this my mother stayed home to continually take care of us
and frequently rush us to the hospital.

My father was in University. Therefore,
we had little to no money. My dad ended up going to school till 3, working till
10, studying till 1, and then getting back to the books at 7 am the next day,
just so we could scrape by.

Family and friends helped out a lot
during these times, but I am reminded of the determination and resiliency my
father had those first two years of my existence every time you write this
article. He got six hours of sleep every week day for TWO YEARS! So, each and
every year at the end of September, my father gets the most love he ever
receives from me, just because this article wakes me up and reminds me of what
he did, and what he tirelessly continues to do. Thank you for this. Thank you
for reminding me of who I really am and who I am molded by.

Britt, thank
you for sharing. Your father sounds like a great man, and you are following in
his footsteps.

Miss You….

I write this
letter with the hope that your actions will help my father know how much he
meant to me, and how much I truly miss him.

If you are
lucky enough to be able to see you father today, or this week, give him a hug
and spend some time together. At the very least call him and ask how he’s
doing. 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.

If you and your
father are in a bad place, contemplate reaching out to start the healing
process. It will be difficult, but forgiveness will feel good.

Thanks in
advance to those who follow through on my request. I offer my condolences to
all of you who have lost your father this year, especially my good friends Ryan and Robin,
and I hope his memory warms your heart. If your father is gone make sure you
call your mom, because the void in her heart is likely much larger than yours.

Dad, I love you
deeply. You are still alive in my soul and your actions inspire me 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, Jason.

  • tileguy

    And for all you that grew up with disfunctional parents (no need to list the many types there are) and have somehow made it, and can care for things like the oilers, or form relationship, hold your heads up and be happy for others, as you are not alone.

  • tileguy

    Jason,

    Like others, I too look forward to this post every year. Not only does your writing make a person feel like they actually knew the man, for me it also comes just before my dads birthday.

    Unfortunately I lost my dad to an unexpected stroke just over 4 years ago but I find myself lucky to have had him in my life until the age of 70.

    A quiet understanding fellow that taught me more than I ever knew at the time. He was an intense Oiler fan; who’s all time favorite was Bill “Cowboy” Flett 🙂 He certainly would love this upcoming edition of the Oilers.

    Thanks for sharing Jason, much appreciated.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Every year, Jason.

    Every year I try to get through this article without bawling, but I can’t. Which is tough, since I am usually at work when I read ON.

    My father passed away way to early, in 2006 at the age of 52. It was sudden. No sickness. Spoke to him one night and he told me he loved me I told him I loved him. The next morning I got the call to come home, something was wrong.

    I was 26, and it was the first time I had ever felt like a man. My dad was gone. I was the man in the family.

    He still impacts my life ever day. I sound like him. I find myself sayting thing he said. Now expecially that I am a father of 2 beautiful little ones.

    Cherish your father.

  • james_dean

    I still got my old man. I was never starved or abused growing up but we had a falling out along the way and havent talked in years.

    Thanks for helping me pick up the phone Jason.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I don’t agree with you on a lot of things, but this one I wholehartedly do. I’m back in Canada now (have been for quite a bit) as I live(d) in Europe for quite a long time to help my mother take care of my dad as he has early stages of Dimensia so I spend a fair bit of time with him so my mother can enjoy her retirement a bit more. He has those moments when everything is still there and as I’m older now, I appreciate those a lot more now.

    In the end one day I hope to be as good of a father as some of my friends, seemingly yourself Mr Gregor and of course mine. It’s a pretty high bar to set admittedly, but if there is one thing I want to make sure I do right is that.

    Thanks for the brilliant article.

  • yawto

    Spider Mable Monday and then this Tuesday. Ya big jerk. Feels like the beginning of the summer with all that smoke in the sky. Keeps on making my eyes water.

    Thanks Jason, Favorite article of the year. Almost becoming as much a write of passage for the fall as the Golden Bears Rookie game. You just don’t take years off.