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Fatherhood is a blessing

I was 27 years old. I was in my second semester of the Radio & Television Arts Program at NAIT. It was a Friday evening and my good friend Jeff and I had gone to the Oilers preseason game, and then out on the town for some fun. We met up with our regular crew of boys after the game on Whyte Avenue and eventually found our way to Cook County Saloon.

It was 12:30 in the morning. I was about to check my coat when my older brother Colin appeared in the entrance. He was married with two young boys, and I was shocked to see him at the bar. He smiled when he saw me and said, “Come outside, we need to talk.”

I’d had a few drinks during the evening, which was normal. I was single and had a great group of guys who I hung out with almost daily. We had a lot of fun.

I followed Colin out to the parking lot and he turned around, looked me in the eye and said, “Dad is gone. He had a heart attack.”

Colin was always a great older brother. We never fought as kids. We looked out for one another, but he was always the more mature, responsible one. Seventeen years later I’m still amazed how he handled himself in that moment. He delivered those eight words with calm, compassion and empathy.

I was in shock. We hugged. I cried. I quickly went inside to tell my friends I had to leave, and then I jumped in the car with my brother, my little sister Rachel and their spouses.

It was a 35-minute drive to the family farm near New Sarepta. Much of the ride home is a blur, but I vividly remember my brother explaining what happened.

Our father, William Arthur Gregor, passed away in his car in Sherwood Park 17 years ago today; he had a massive heart attack. Thankfully it was quick. He was at a red light and he bumped into the car in front of him. The driver got out and noticed right away Dad was in trouble. This good samaritan called 911 and stayed with my father. A police officer was first on the scene, but Dad was gone by the time he arrived. He told my brother a stranger stayed with Dad. He didn’t die alone, which this many years later is very comforting.

We never found out who this kind soul was, but I hope he knows how much his compassion towards my father meant to our family then and today. Thank you.

Dad had his annual physical in August and the results said he was in good shape. He quit smoking a few years before his death. He wasn’t a heavy drinker or overweight, but unfortunately it was his time.

There were long stretches in the ride home to the farm where no words were spoken. There wasn’t a lot to say, but my only question was, “How’s mom?”

My parents had a whirlwind romance. I still smile when I think about the craziness of it.

They met in a post office in March of 1969, were engaged three weeks later and married on August 23rd, 1969. They had 31 wonderful years of marriage before his heart gave out. My eyes still fill with tears just writing those words.

Rachel was married one month before Dad passed away. I’m grateful for both he got to walk her down the aisle. Mom and Dad had worked incredibly hard, sacrificed a lot to give their three children every opportunity, and they were supposed to travel the world and enjoy life together. Their love affair shouldn’t have ended prematurely.

We arrived at the farm and when I walked in the back entrance and saw my mother sitting at the kitchen table. That’s when it hit me the hardest. She was strong on the outside, but her eyes told the truth. A part of her died that night.

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 I’ve written a letter in his honour, and hope it somehow lessens the void in my heart and the hearts of my family.

Today I ask you for one favour.

When you have finished reading this, please find a moment to connect with your father. If you are lucky enough to be able to see him today, or this week, please give him a hug or spend some time together. At the very least call him and ask how he’s doing. Fathers rarely say it, especially the older generation, but they love hearing from their kids. If you can find the time give him a call and tell him you love him.

I hope through your actions, my father will see and remember what a wonderful impression he made in my life and in my heart and how much he is missed by our entire family.

Thank you in advance.

KEEP LIVING 

In the kitchen, eight hours after my father had passed, I hugged my mother tightly and from that moment on our relationship changed. I’d always respected and loved my mom, but I never felt like I needed to protect her. She is a very strong-minded and incredibly intelligent woman. Dad was her support system. Of course I helped to weed her garden and do things she asked, but as we hugged and cried in the kitchen, I felt I needed to be more supportive.

Since then we’ve had conversations and interactions which likely wouldn’t have occurred if Dad was still here. There can always be a positive from a bad situation. Six years later I, along with my siblings, sat proudly in the crowd at UBC convocation watching our mother receive her Doctorate. It was the first time I understood how parents feel proud of their children. We still chuckle about it now. Mom taking the stage in her gown and us three frantically taking pictures and smiling at her like she did when we graduated from grade one or high school.

There have also been some unexpected conversations.

Two years after Dad’s death we needed to order some hay for the cows. Somehow we had grown the herd to 70 cows, and we needed more feed. Mom was determined she would take care of it. She searched for the best deal and then drove west of Edmonton to purchase some. She struck up a conversation with the guy selling the hay and when he found out mom was a widow, he suggested if they had a “roll in the Hay” he’d give her a major discount.

It was not the story I was prepared to hear. I wanted to beat the hell of him, but it was good to see my mom know a man still looked at her that way. In her words, “She still had it.” She never took him up on his offer. But she sure enjoyed telling me that story.

We’ve shared many great times together, but I wish she could have had more time with Dad. She has a wonderful life. She has a tremendous garden, enjoys the farm, has many great friends and family, has traveled the world and seven grandchildren ranging in age from four to 21, who she supports by going to their sporting events and dance recitals and having them come to Grandmas for help with their homework.

But I still see the void in her heart. It sucks, because it will never be replaced.

Gentleman make sure you tell your wife/partner how important they are. My father’s love and dedication to his wife is still apparent today through her actions. When men talk about leaving a legacy I’m not sure there is a better imprint to leave than one filled with never-ending Love.

BEING A FATHER 

Everyone deals with death differently. I wouldn’t tell someone how to act, because we all grieve differently. My sister was recently married and just turned 21 when dad died. I was 27 and single and my brother 30 with a loving wife and two young boys. We all dealt with it differently then and still do today.

My brother was mad for a few months. He felt robbed, and now that I am a father of a soon-to-be four-year-old I completely understand his emotions. Having children of his own made him truly understand all the sacrifices it takes to be a great father. He felt an even tighter bond with Dad after becoming a father; but in an instant that was gone.

I’m a fairly philosophical person. I don’t dwell on “what ifs” and when Dad passed I was heartbroken. But I knew he wouldn’t want me to feel sorry for myself. I could cry. I could mourn. I could be upset, but he wouldn’t approve of a pity party. I’m lucky, I never had regrets. If you and your father aren’t on great terms, try to improve your relationship. You don’t want any guilt when he’s gone.

I’ve always missed Wild Willy (nickname his boys gave him), but this past year I felt the void more. Our son Beckett turns four in December and he is an active three-year-old. I’m blessed to be able to get up with him every morning. When he is ready he yells, “Dad, I’m ready to get up.” It has become our special time.

Every morning is a new adventure with him. If I wasn’t home for bedtime the night before he tells me all about what he did the previous day, or what he plans on doing today. Often we lie in his bed and he just shares his three-year-old thoughts.

I love it. It is such an innocent time and it is very peaceful for me. Often we read a book before we get up to eat breakfast, and usually it is one he has memorized so he reads it with me. I cherish those moments, because it reminds me of my father.

I recall him and I wresting, which now Beckett and I do regularly. My dad spoke like Donald Duck, and so can I. When I speak to Beckett in my Donald voice he loves it. “Daddy you are funny,” he giggles.

I made a pledge to myself to appreciate these moments, because they could end in an instant. I know that might sound morbid, but it is true. I’m aware of what can happen, and it scares the shit out of me. I don’t want to leave my wife and son prematurely. I probably should ask my friends who have lost a father earlier than expected if they feel the same, because I fear it, but I’ve yet to broach the subject.

Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t dominate my mind, but it is there and I’ve chosen to try and use it positively. I work out in hopes it will keep my heart healthy. I try to eat well, so my body is healthy. I feel better when I do both, but I also hope it allows me more time with my family.

Hearing the word Daddy has altered my outlook on life. I feel I have a responsibility to live up to that name. And I’m inspired by men who strive to be loving, caring and involved fathers. It is more important than we think.

THANK YOU 

Men, you have so much to offer your wife, partner or children. And if you don’t have kids (enjoy the alone time haha, you can still inspire your nieces or nephews or others around you.

The male species isn’t great at praising one another. How often have you told a man you’re inspired by how he cares about his children or how he treats others?

Today, when I have a beer later tonight and think of my father, I will cheer all of the men who embrace the responsibility of fatherhood. My father did it, and I’m extremely proud of how engaged my brother Colin and my brother-in-law’s Eric and Rob are with their children. And my father-in-law Doug, who raised an incredible daughter, and showered her with love and support.

They are great role models as are many of my friends and even strangers I see interacting and loving their children. It is easy to only notice the negative in the world, but every day I observe great things happening, and it really warms my heart to see men displaying love and affection. Keep doing it.

Once again, thanks in advance to those who follow through on my earlier request. I offer my condolences to all who have lost your father, or mother. I hope their memories still 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. Thank you so much for taking the time to shower our family with an endless supply of love. I think of you often and your memory is alive in my heart. I pray I am around for Beckett as long as you were for me.

Please watch over all of our family and friends, my lovely Traci and especially your soulmate; Mom.

Love Jason

  • Jason Gregor

    Thank you for all your kind words. I really appreciate it. To those who have lost a father, mother or child I hope their memory lives on his your heart. To those who are lucky enough to still have your family around be sure to let them know how much they mean to you. Thanks again.

  • Arnie

    Your words Jason, touched me deeply. I can feel your dads spirit in your writing, he must have been a good man.
    My father died when I was quite young and my mother is a living angel in her nineties that brought up 9 kids
    Peace
    One Love

  • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

    “If you and your father aren’t on great terms, try to improve your relationship. You don’t want any guilt when he’s gone.”

    A colleague of mine once said something very similar to me and I followed his advice.

    It was a profound change nvetsation that changed my relationship with my father. It was also the last time I ever saw him alive face to face. I am so grateful for my colleague, and I would like to emphasize my support of the quote at the top of this comment.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Good read… thanks Jason. For all the good dads out there…. keep up the good work! Society in recent years seems to be portraying men as lazy, selfish, primal dolts. You see it in sit-coms, movies and other media. The value of a dad to a child cannot be understated. Don’t let anyone tell you there is no added value or importance of what a dad brings in the child rearing process. I feel a great commitment to do all I can for my four kids in helping them become better citizens and humans. There are things my wife provides them that I would struggle to replicate and she says the same about me. My mom and dad were a perfect balance to one another in so many ways – there were times growing up when I needed each of them at different times and in different ways. Fellas, don’t be afraid to step up a be a dad!