I remember my 18th birthday like it was yesterday. My close friends and I went to Amnesia in St.Albert. I lived on the farm in New Sarepta and all my friends lived in Beaumont or on farms just outside. St.Albert was a 45-minute drive from Beaumont, but we went there because we knew the guys who weren’t 18 yet could get in.
Times were different then. The bar didn’t scan your ID. It was pretty relaxed. We figured out, from previous appearances, they rarely checked ID before 8 p.m., so we’d show up around 7:30. My birthday is in October so I was one of the younger guys in our group, but a few were born after me and we went to Amnesia so they could partake in the festivities. A 45-minute drive was a small sacrifice to ensure everyone could get in.
We had a great time that evening, but what stands out the most for me was when my father showed up. He came in and we had a beer together. He didn’t stay long. He never tried to be my buddy per se, but I was really happy he came to have a beer with his son on his 18th birthday. I felt a bit more grown up as he laughed and interacted with our group for an hour or so.
Oh what I would do to have a beer with him today.
Our father, William Arthur Gregor, passed away in his car in Sherwood Park 18 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. He didn’t die alone, which this many years later is very comforting.
My father wasn’t a big drinker; at least after he had kids. My mom told me they used to have fun before they had kids, although I have a tough time picturing that. Those two lovebirds had a whirlwind romance that began from a meeting in the Grande Cache post office in March of 1969, which led to marriage on August 23rd, 1969, three children and 31 years of a loving marriage.
Sadly it ended abruptly on September 29th, 2000.
I only recall my father being tipsy once in my life; at his 50th birthday. I think he had five beers, so nothing crazy, but that was the only time I ever saw him have more than two or three drinks. But he loved having a beer with his sons on a Saturday night. When I was 20 and going out all the time, Dad would love to sit in the basement, watch Hockey Night in Canada and have a beer before I would go out on the town. We’d talk about the game, our farm or just about how I was doing. He never pried, and the conversations were never heavy, but I really enjoyed them. Sons take a moment to hang with your father. You will both be better men because of it.
I’ve always felt blessed Bill Gregor was my father. He was the best Dad for me, and my siblings, Colin and Rachel, would say the same thing. He was a loving husband, hard-working, funny, a great dancer, a devoted father, a playful uncle with the incredible ability to make friends with everyone. He could walk into a room and have everyone smiling. I see a lot of him in my brother.
His death was a complete shock. He was in good shape. He’d just completed a physical with positive results. He’d walked Rachel down the aisle a month earlier. His kids were out of the house and he and Mom were going to travel, spoil their grandchildren and enjoy life.
It didn’t happen. Instead 18 years ago I found myself sitting at my computer on the morning of his funeral trying to sort out my thoughts. I was trying to type out a few coherent sentences which I would read later that afternoon, but then I found myself writing a short email to my close friends.
I asked them to do me a favour that dreary morning, and today I will ask you the same one.
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, spend some time together and most importantly tell him you love him. If you don’t live close please call him and ask how he’s doing. Fathers never tire of hearing from their children. I can say from experience you rarely know when it will be your last conversation, so be sure to cherish the time you have with each other.
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.
If you and your Dad are at odds, bury the hatchet. I am forever grateful I had no regrets when he passed. I knew he loved me and he knew I loved him. We didn’t say it very often, but his actions of being present, supportive and there when you needed him were a constant reminder of how much he loved all his kids.
He actually phoned me two days before he died. I was living off Whyte Avenue and it was odd he called me on a Wednesday evening. I don’t remember much of the conversation, other than the very end. He asked me if I was okay. Usually when we spoke he would ask me to bring him something when I’d come to the farm on the weekend. But that night he asked about me. When I hung up I remember thinking that was strange, but years later I am so glad he called.
Part of me believes he knew his time on earth was ending and he wanted to make sure I was okay. My father wasn’t one to give advice often. He came to every sporting event I played, but he never lectured me or tried to coach me during the drive home. He just loved watching his kids. He enjoyed being involved in their life, and when I asked his opinion he would share his thoughts. On the rare occasions he gave advice, it stuck with me, because he didn’t say it very often, but when he did you knew it was important.
Now that I am a father, I find myself missing him even more, mainly because when I do certain things with my four-year-old son it reminds me of him. Beckett loves to wrestle. His favourite move is “Elbow Smash” and he doesn’t hold back. He shrieks with glee when he bounces up and comes crashing down on me. I love it as much as he does.
My dad and I used to wrestle all the time. When I was ten I actually broke his ribs during one of our wrestling matches. He used to call my punches “Flea bites.” He loved to antagonize in a fun way, and he was laughing as I hit him with rabbit punches and called out “Flea bites, flea bites.” I decide to show him and gave him one with some extra juice, and it landed in the perfect spot. He wasn’t happy, but a few days later we joked about it.
I’ve realized now more than ever how much those one-on-one interactions with my father strengthened our bond. And I try to ensure I have get that quality time with my son. I believe my father’s actions shaped me to be the man I am today. Be present with your children. They want your time much more than any material things you can buy them.
I, like him, am flawed, but I watched how he treated his wife, how he treated me and my siblings, and how he interacted with so many people. Those qualities are what I hope to be with my son.
I have so much respect for men who are loving and present fathers. Quality time matters. Put your phone down. Be involved. Look your kids in the eye and let them see your love. It will fill your heart, and theirs, and when you are gone they will be able to succeed because your time and love gave them confidence and courage to overcome hardships.
There are days I get frustrated with how men are perceived publicly. There are very few TV shows which portray men as loving, caring, intelligent and supportive men. I realize comedy is good, and men can be simpletons at times, but we are much more than that.
I see it every day in my neighbourhood, at sporting events, with many of my close friends and by watching my brother, my brother-in-law’s Rob and Eric and my father-in-law Doug. Seeing how involved they are with their children and how supportive they are to their wives inspires me to do the same.
I should say it more to these men, and my plan over the next year is to tell men when I see them being great fathers and husbands. It is important, but it also reminds me of my father. So thank you to all the men I know, and the strangers I see who are being kick-ass men. You rock.
It is strange sitting down to write this annual letter. Some years my eyes overflow with tears as I think about him, while other years I laugh recounting something he did or said. But the constant is I always feel loved when I write about him. He was truly a great man.
ALWAYS A POSITIVE
I try to always look for the good in people and situations. My father’s death was not good, but 18 years later his sudden death is helping me. He was 56 years young when he passed and I was 27. I learned a lot in those 27 years, and while I wish he was still here, he left a lasting impression on me.
My goal is to ensure I am around for the first 27 years of my son’s life, as well as to torment my loving wife for at least another 23 years. It might sound a bit morbid, but it is hard not to think about dying young. I am 45 years of age, and while our family history suggests my father was an outlier, his passing is a part of why I strive to live a healthier lifestyle.
I watch what I eat. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweets and still eat too many, but I try to eat healthy 85% of the time. I exercise and do as much as I can to increase my odds of being around longer for my family.
If you love yourself and your family, take the first step to living a healthier life. Exercise, watch what you eat and make sure you spend quality time with your family and friends.
I’m very lucky. I get to wake up every morning with my son. We have two hours of one-on-one time in the mornings. Some days we read books, or wrestle, or play board games. Lately I’m teaching him how to play poker. He loves cards, and playing with poker chips, so I thought I could be an early candidate for Father-of-the-year by teaching him how to play. So far he has only mastered “All-in,” but he thinks it is great. He is learning how to add, so teaching a four-year-old how to play “poker chips,” as he calls it, doesn’t make me a complete failure as a father.
Once again, thanks in advance to those who follow through on my earlier request. Your father will appreciate hearing from you. I offer my condolences to all who have lost your father, or mother, especially my good friend Jay. I hope their memories still warm your heart.
If your father is gone call your mom, because the void in her heart could be much deeper than yours.
Dad, thank you for being my father. Thank you for loving me and my siblings, and for leaving us with an endless supply of wonderful memories. I think of you often and your memory is alive in my heart. I look forward to seeing you again one day and I hope you are proud of me.
Please watch over all of our family and friends, my lovely Traci and especially your soulmate; Mom. She misses you so much.