Fathers Are Important
By Jason Gregor1 year ago
When I close my eyes I can see the limp, but also the baseball-sized biceps. I can hear the voice of Donald Duck, and the deep, hearty laugh. I can see the thick fingers, and the oddly clean and well-kept fingernails. I can see the blue 1982 Ford pickup, the blue cardigan with two holes on the bottom right side and the devilish grin.
I can see and hear many things, yet some days I see and hear nothing. The feelings come out of nowhere, the memories invade my mind, especially this week, and I yearn for so much more.
Twenty-two years ago today, my father, William Arthur Gregor, died. He was 56 years young. 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, which Dad had gently nudged into, called the police and then stayed with my father so he wasn’t completely alone during his final breaths. I never met that man, but I’m forever grateful for his unselfish act to stay with my father in his last moments alive.
Dad had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. A condition where the blood supply to the head of the thigh bone in the hip is temporarily disrupted. It caused him to have one leg half an inch shorter than the other, and he needed a lift for his dress shoe. He had a limp when he wore running shoes, which wasn’t often. His Perthes led to him having hip surgery when he was 43, but the good news was the surgeon lengthened his leg during the surgery and he didn’t need a lift anymore.
I can still see his limp when we played football in the yard, and I envision his bulging biceps creeping out of his t-shirt. Dad was on crutches for almost three years when he was 13-15, and he became a wizard on those crutches. He didn’t slow down, and he became an excellent swimmer, where his hip and leg condition weren’t a detriment. The crutches sculpted his biceps and shoulders.
He could speak fluently in Donald Duck. Oh, how I loved hearing him speak like Donald. Luckily, I inherited that skill, but I don’t think I speak as clearly as he did. And I definitely don’t have his deep, hearty, almost losing-his-breath type of laugh. I’d do almost anything to hear it again, or see him sitting in his favourite rocking chair, eating popcorn and wearing his trusty blue cardigan. He loved that sweater, as much as he loved his 1982 Ford pickup. It was the only new vehicle he ever owned, and after growing up quite poor, I learned later in life, after truly understanding the power of a dollar and earning your own way, why that truck meant so much to him. And I remember his hands. Strong, thick, but his nails always well kept. A symbol of his many strong characteristics. He was a tireless worker, but also very loving and caring.
We buried Dad five days after he died and 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 write out my thoughts in his honour, and hope that it somehow lessens the void in my heart and the hearts of my family. I asked my friends a favour then and today I will ask you the same.
When you are finished 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. Fathers want and need your words of affection, even if they might not show it all the time.
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 he’ll know our family misses him dearly.
And if you are going through a rough patch with him, reach out. Extending the olive branch before he passes will ease your pain, and you won’t live with regret. He likely misses you more than you think.
Thank you in advance.
The week leading up to the anniversary of his death, the pain, and subsequent void, in my heart is constant. I long to meet him in my dreams, but he never comes. I rarely sleep well leading up the 29th. I try, but I always wake up in the middle of night, unable to go back to sleep, as I think about what it would be like to see him, hear him and feel him.
I’m come to realize this is normal for me. I’ve had wonderful random dreams about him between November and August, but they never seem to come around the anniversary of his death. I’ve learned to accept it, and the past month I’ve spent many hours thinking about the impact my father had on my life.
It stems from me reading the book, The Boy Crisis, by Warren Farrell. I’m an avid reader, but this book has struck with me in ways no other book has. In 2022, and for many years prior there has been a boy, and a man crisis, that many of us are afraid to discuss.
I highly recommend you read The Boy Crisis. It is not a book to skim over. Read it, absorb it and get a friend or family member to read it so you can discuss it. There are real issues that need to be discussed.
- Suicide rates among boys and young men are scary. Between the age of 15-19 boys commit suicide at four times the rate as girls, and between the ages of 20-24 that rate increases to five and six times that of females.
- Boys today have sperm counts less than half of what their grandfathers had at the same age.
- Right now, boys and men under 50 years of age are TWICE as likely as girls to die at the same age.
- Worldwide, boys are 50 percent more likely than girls to fail to meet basic proficiency in any of the three core subjects of reading, math and science.
Those are just a few of the topics discussed in the book, but there are many others, and the one that really resonated with me was “Dad Deprivation.” Farrell’s explanation from chapter 13 will grab your attention.
“Depriving a child of his or her dad is depriving a child of part of her or his life. That is, findings published in Pediatrics in 2017 concluded that ‘at 9 years of age, children with father loss have significantly shorter telomeres.’ Telomeres in our cells are what keep our genes from being deleted as our cells divide. As the National Academy of Science reports, ‘Telomere length in early life predicts lifespan.’
“How much damage to life expectancy is created by dad-deprivation? Children with father loss already have by age nine telomeres that are 14 percent shorter. However, when compared to girls, the telomere damage from father loss is ‘40% greater for boys.’
“Dads – like moms, air, and water – are essential to our lives. But we’ve tried to live without dads. We haven’t tried to live without moms, air or water.”
For decades television has portrayed fathers as the butt of the joke. Not bright, always needing to be told what to do, and not overly loving or caring. And many in society believe this to be the case. I don’t.
Farrell outlined in his book, after years of research, how incorrect that thought process is. A Father is equally as important as a Mother. They have different approaches but make no mistake both are important.
As I read the book, I thought of my father. Farrell spoke about the importance of family dinner. Whether you are a two-parent household, or a single parent, family dinner is huge. Early in my childhood both my parents worked out of the home, but after Dad had his hip surgery, he ran the farm. He did more of the cooking and cleaning, and he usually made our family dinners.
As I read the book, I was flooded with many memories of sitting at the table. Some nights it was my mom, dad, brother and sister, and others it might have only been three or four of us depending on work and sports. But those dinners involved conversation, lots of laughs from my dad, wisdom and educational stories from mom, and without knowing it at the time – lots of life lessons. I recall my father sharing his feelings, not often, but he wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable.
Farrell wrote in his book about the importance of “teaching your son how to feel feelings, when to express what he feels and how to be assertive, but not aggressive.”
That was my dad. He never sat me down to have these chats, but rather they came when we worked together in the barnyard. He’d casually mention a story from his youth, or tell me about his father, the grandfather I never met who died when Dad was 24. There wasn’t one “wow” moment, just many that fortified my love for him and molded my emotional feelings.
The biggest takeaway from the book was the importance of fatherhood in a child’s life. It also discussed how difficult that can be due to divorce. Not divorce per se, but how in society men have a much more difficult challenge of getting 50/50 custody. It is a topic that more men, and women, need to discuss and be aware of. There is no quick fix, but the conversations need to happen.
I’ve always felt blessed to have the father I had. He was incredibly loving and caring. He made people smile. My friends liked him. They still share stories about him that make me laugh. He was highly devoted to my mother and his entire family. He was the perfect role model for me.
While reading the book made me think of him, it also made me look at myself as a father. What am I doing right, and what can I do better? But I also thought about kids without a father around, or the fathers who wanted to be around more, but were unable to because of the custody decision by the courts.
It truly pains me to know some men choose not to be present in their child’s life. Don’t be that type of father. Be the one your kids want around, because you love them, support them and make them feel happy and supported. It pains me even more, however, for those who want to be present, but are fighting societal biases that don’t allow them. If your marriage is split, buy your ex The Boy Crisis and have her read it. It will help your children.
“Whenever only one sex wins, both sexes lose.” Warren Farrell.
If you didn’t have a strong bond with your father, don’t let that stop you from creating one with your children. My grandfather battled alcoholism, and while he loved his family, he and my father didn’t have a close relationship. But that didn’t stop my dad from breaking the cycle.
He vowed to be a present father. To laugh and play with his three children. To support them, to love them and show them how to have a loving marriage.
Showering your children with love and support is the best thing you can give them. It is much more important than money. So be sure to give them your time. On Tuesday my son asked me to shoot hoops with him. For 20 minutes it was just the two of us on the driveway, and we kept playing even when it got dark. Those moments fill my heart and I hope my son remembers them later in his life.
It pains me that my wife and son never met my father, but I tell stories about him often. On Tuesday I hugged my son longer than usual and he finally said, “Dad, let go.” I told him what Thursday (today) was and I needed an extra-long hug. He looked at me and hugged me deeply. The power of a hug is indescribable. Hug your kids. Hug your father.
Connecting with your children will enhance your life. It doesn’t matter what age you are, or they are, build that connection and it will strengthen your mental well-being.
Once again, thanks in advance to those who follow through on my request. I truly appreciate it, and my sincere condolences to all of you who have lost your father this year, especially my sister-in-law Nicole and her family. I hope you have many fond memories of him. 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. I look forward to seeing you in my dreams again in November. Thank you for showing me how to be a good father and husband. It was a life-changing gift. I hope I am doing the same for my son. Please watch over all of our family and friends, my lovely Traci and especially your soulmate, Mom.
Love, your son, Jason
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