23

Cherish Your Father

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 having 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.

DON’T WAIT….

If you and your Dad are at odds, bury the hatchet. I am forever grateful that 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.

Love Jason

  • Canoe Ride 27

    Thanks Gregor. Not the article I was expecting this morning but a great one. I’ll be calling my dad today. And making breakfast for my girls will feel a little more special.

  • King Allant

    Thanks for this Jason. My Dad was gone too young too. Came over from Europe and chose to adopt me at six weeks.
    I was going through some papers the other day and saw the adoption application and on the line where they ask why you wanted to adopt this child was one handwritten line, “ because we love him”.

    We’re lucky to have had great fathers. Hang in there today.

  • Shameless Plugger

    I always read this article annually and it never really resonated with me. That was until last Halloween when I became a father for the first time myself. Thank you for writing this as it only affirms what I now know. That being a father and connecting with my own father are two of life’s greatest gifts. We have since become much closer. I never understood the love my dad had for me until I started having that love for my son. Call your dad today guys and gals. As much as we all know that no one loves you as much as your mom. Your dad is right there in second nipping at her heels. Thanks again Jason.

  • GK1980

    Awsome read. Me and my father are going to Sweden to watch the oilers and to have some father son time. I understand the importance of this trip and both he and I are really looking forward to it.

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    What a really nice article. My father was a minor hockey coach for 40 years, I still really miss him. Thank you for a very nice story evoked some nice memories of my own.

  • mikeisthird

    A number of years ago when you wrote the first of these posts I made a point of texting or calling my dad whenever I saw it. Made a point of telling him I love you and trying to make sure my kids and I both made memories with him as we got the chance. I lost my dad in January and I’m just starting to understand some of what you’re talking about – especially missing the chance to just ask a question or have a quick conversation.

    Thanks for doing this each year, man.

  • elliotsmom

    Jason, thank you for writing another tribute for your dad and sharing such wonderful memories you have of your relationship, with us. He sounds like he was an mazing man. I’m sure he would be so proud of the type of man and dad that you have become. Thankfully, I was so lucky too that I had such a great and close relationship with my father. I think of him often, and many people tell me I’m so much like him. This is such a compliment for me to hear. If only Heaven had a phone number, I’d be calling him everyday for another pearl of wisdom or a great old laugh.

  • shaner

    As always thanks Jason, as a person who has become a newly minted dad and as someone who has been at odds with his own dad for many years I always appreciate this article. as far as Im concerned being a Father is the most fulfilling job in the world. Especially for the impact we have on our little ones.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    My dad was an alcoholic until I was six or seven. We got along okay, but there was a hatchet to bury that we didn’t. Dementia swept up on him and killed him in two months at the age of 69, about two years ago. Then this past spring, my brother died of cancer age 41, leaving behind two girls, 11 and 9. I had a baby due (see pic) and couldn’t make the funeral, which was a half a country away. So, that’s half my family gone in a couple of years. Now it’s just me and mom, who’ll be 70 in the spring. I’m 38.

    Reading your article hurts. Time is limited. Hug someone.

    Thanks for writing.

  • Hockeytalkguy

    Great Article, so glad that my pops is still around. His hunting days with me are over but I still get him and mom out in the boat fishing 4 – 5 times a year. It’s funny how they take care of you when your young and the roles get reversed as they reach the golden years.

  • Hi Gregor

    This is your finest work. I wrote you when I lost my father three years ago because this post hit me right in the feels. Thanks very much for this. Your father is proud of you today, and every day.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    My Dad is still here (I’m 44, he’s 76). Growing up a hockey goalie, my Dad was at every practice and game. 5 summers in a row he took me to Yorkton for the IGS (International Goaltending School) during the last week of August. Thanks for reminding me to call him after the game today.

  • natedoo22

    – [ ] Jason once again thank you for writing this article. I commented on the first yearly edition you wrote, it was one after reading that I immediately felt compelled to pick up the phone to call my dad & have one of the many great talks we shared during those years. Shortly some time later my dad who had suffered a bad brain injury at work became extremely toxic to the people closest to him. I strained my marriage and spent endless hours from my family trying to live up to the message you convey in these yearly heart-felt pieces, but I could do it no longer. I often felt immense guilt for shutting my dad out of my life but I had to do what was needed for my wife, children, & now looking back my own well-being. Years of this article always brought back the good memories of my dad, but also brought back the guilt & pain of extricating my father out of my life. Last years article came shortly after my uncle had called me & said I should go see my dad in the hospital as his health was rapidly deteriorating from Crohn’s disease. I spent the next 4-5 months visiting my Dad at least once during the week I was back home from work & we’d talk about the Oilers, politics, & sadly his desire to be spared from his suffering he was tormented with. On FEB.20th this year I received a phone call on my way to my weekly skate at Argyll Arena that my grandmother passed away that morning, I told my mom I’d still skate that way the boys had two goalies & I’d rush to meet up right after with her. I played for my grandma that skate & got off the ice & got half undressed, I grabbed my cell phone & noticed multiple text’s & some missed calls… something was off. I continued to get undressed thinking it was regarding my grandma & thought I better hurry up & get going, but the next call I answered was not not about my grandma it was to meet my brother & wife at the Misercordia for my Dad. Nobody yet had said he was gone, but inside I knew. I rushed out of the arena & drove my way to the hospital tears rolling down my face. While I awaited their arrival in the hospital parking lot, as the two vehicles rolled in I could see the looks of my families faces that confirmed what I already felt inside…that indeed he was gone. Two days before he passed I visited with my dad in the Misercordia I hugged him when I left, I told him that I loved him & that I was proud of him for being such a warrior with his illness, & for raising me the best way he could. He tightly hugged me & said he wished life hadn’t gone the way it did, after our goodbye’s that was the last time I’d get to spend in person with him. All the years of this article Jason it reminded me I’d regret not spending time with my dad on his deathbed as bad as things had gotten.
    – [ ] Your article resonated with me before & it will always be something I’ll be grateful to read yearly Jason so “Thank You” for that. Your message is heartfelt & it reaches out to people likely in so many different ways for each individual. As long as you continue to be a public figure, please never stop writing this. Life is so much more than just hockey, but it’s one of the many things that brings us together as Edmontonians. I think about Adam Larsson this past season when he was here in our city (half a world away) when he lost his father, the Oilers floundering season felt less of a downer after that moment along with many I felt & shared his pain.
    – [ ]

  • Jason Gregor

    Thank you all for the kind words, and for those who shared their stories of their father. I hope his memory still lives on in your heart, and when you think of him you smile. Remember to make memories for your children so when you are gone they will remember you. Have a wonderful day.