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The Importance of Fathers

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Jason Gregor
6 months ago
“Memory is the diary we all carry with us.” – Oscar Wilde
Accurate words from a great writer. It is true some memories fade with time, but not all, and I believe those truly special and meaningful moments exist in the corners of our mind. We just need to work hard to remember them.
Those moments are worth remembering, and I’ve found the easiest way to keep them alive is by talking about them, either to myself or with others. Or writing them down.
Twenty-three years ago today, my father, William Arthur Gregor, died. He was only 56. He had found his soulmate 31 years earlier and married our mom. They raised three children, had two grandchildren, which has now grown to seven. They’d worked hard to make a loving household and marriage. They’d built a successful life, saved their money and were ready to travel and enjoy more time together.
Their plans were suddenly derailed.
Dad had a massive heart attack sitting in his car at a red light in Sherwood Park. Luckily, a kind man in the car in front of him, which Dad had gently nudged into, called the police and 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. Thank you, kind sir.
You are never prepared for that moment. I sure wasn’t. I was 27. I lived off Whyte Ave in a house with some of my best friends. I was in my second semester of Radio and Television at NAIT and life was great. I had a loving family, helped my parents run the family farm, was chasing my broadcasting dream and having lots of fun partying with friends.
My older brother Colin, who earlier that Friday evening had picked up our mother and took her to the hospital to identify my dad, tracked me down at one of my usual hangouts – Cook County. I still remember walking in the door, and just as we were about to check our coats, he tapped me on the shoulder. He was married with two kids and showing up at the bar at 1 a.m. wasn’t normal. “Come outside,” he said. “I have to tell you something.”
I was a bit tipsy, but when he told me Dad was gone, I sobered up quickly. The ride from Cook to the farm wasn’t very lively. My brother, his wife Elise, my younger sister Rachel and her husband Eric had come to find me. Looking back, it was very nice of them to come together. Our parents always stressed the importance of family, because when you are at your most vulnerable, they will be there. My siblings were.
Walking into the back entrance and seeing my mom sitting at the table is a memory I’d love to forget, but never will. The pain in her eyes when she stood up to greet me was excruciating. A part of her heart died that evening, and our relationship changed instantly.
I’ve always had a close connection to animals. I loved the farm, and even though I hadn’t lived there for seven years, I still called the farm home. I spent countless hours working with my father in the barnyard. I still go there often. I can feel his presence. I hear his laugh. I see his limp as he moves around the farm. I see his perfectly wavy hair, which I didn’t inherit, his baseball-sized biceps and his ever-present smile.
We buried Dad five days after he died. 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, in hopes 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 ask you the same.
When you are finished reading, please take a moment to connect with your father. If you are able to see him today, or this week, give him a hug. Tell him you love him, even if it is uncomfortable. 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.
Thanks in advance.
Even 23 years after his passing, the memories of him, his actions and his word are clear in my mind. I’m incredibly grateful they are. This year I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why they are so clear. I know for some that isn’t always the case when a loved one passes.
The more I read about men and relationships, I’ve learned my father was rather unique. He grew up in an era where men weren’t supposed to show their feelings, or express emotion. His father was a quiet, stern man, but my father opted to go a different path. He was expressive. He showered his wife and kids with affection. He laughed often, and loudly.
I believe my memories of him are so vivid, because we spent so many hours together. His family and the farm were his main priorities. He came to all of our sporting events, musical recitals and anything we were involved in.
He showed up. If there is one thing you should do for your children is show up. Your presence and your time are infinitely more important than money to your children. I often dream about having one more conversation with him. I never remember the topic, but I often wake up thinking I saw him. I don’t dream often, but when I do, he is most often the one I see.

FATHERS ARE IMPORTANT…

My son is nine, and I know the days of us spending time as much together are slowly dwindling. He will grow up, become more independent and our moments together will be fewer. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be important. Quality over quantity. It matters.
I love to read and this past year I re-read one of the most impactful books of my life. I’ve never had a book resonate with me so much. Lately, I’ve noticed a trend in society that I don’t think is healthy. Men, specifically fathers, have been underappreciated in the importance of their role in their child’s life.
Most sitcoms present fathers as goofy, unorganized and in need of a wife to help them navigate parenthood and life. We can all benefit from a good partner, but this constant downplaying of fathers disappoints me.
Warren Farrell’s words had a profound impact on me this past year. He, along with John Gray, are the authors of The Boy Crisis. I strongly recommend every man should read it. And ladies it will help you too. It is a wonderful book with some powerful messages. And it really made me think.
It has many great topics, a few dire statistics, and some powerful quotes.
“Love with knowledge and lead with empathy.” We all need to educate ourselves more on the emotional intelligence of humans. We need it more now than ever.
 “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.”
This one really hit me. Luckily, it hasn’t impacted me personally like many other men. Mainly those who are divorced. I’m speaking about the men who want to be involved in their children’s lives but have an uphill battle with the courts to see their kids even half the time. And it isn’t just the fathers who suffer. Many studies have shown that kids are suffering from “Dad Deprivation.”
If you are a father who isn’t making your children a priority. You need to re-evaluate your priorities. You are important to your children. They need you. Make an effort to be involved. I know in some cases it will never happen, and for the children of those men, I hope you find a male role model in your life who helps you. A stepfather, a grandfather or just a family friend who will listen and talk to you.
And to those men who want to be more involved, but are fighting an archaic court system, we see you. My heart goes out to those men, and their children. And their exes, if you have a loving, caring, responsible man in your life who wants to spend time with his children, don’t limit that because you and he aren’t in love anymore. Please find a way to put your differences aside and allow your children to flourish by spending time with their mother and father.
In the book, Father and Child Reunion, they did extensive research about fathers. They discovered that Dad Deprivation (a lack of time with your father) surfaced as the leading cause of more than 25 social, psychological, academic and physical problems that overwhelmed children.
— 71% of high school dropouts have minimal or no father involvement.
— Living in a home without a dad is more highly correlated with suicide among children and teenagers than any other factor.
— Around 90% of runaway and homeless youth are from fatherless homes.
The list goes on.
Both boys and girls without dads suffered, but the damage to boys is longer lasting. There is a chapter in The Boy Crisis specifically about the four “Must dos” in divorce for both the mother and father. I recommend reading it.
As I read the book, I was grateful that my father was a bit ahead of his time when it came to how he treated and interacted with us. I don’t think he was aware of it, to be honest, but he allowed us to express ourselves. He hugged us regularly. He kissed us goodnight, even when we were teenagers.
I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back he helped me become more emotionally intelligent. I was able to cry, laugh, feel sad or angry and he never judged me. Don’t get me wrong, we had some very loud workdays together in the farmyard. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been used in a video on how to parent (laughs), but it worked for us.
From the age of 14 I spent many hours working together with my father at the farm. He was more in tune with the machinery, while I connected better with the animals. Needless to say, that led to some disagreements on how to do things. I don’t remember exact details of those arguments, but I do remember the walk from the barn to the house. There is a long alleyway with a fence on either side that runs from the garage up to the barn. There is a white gate at the bottom by the garage and my father said what happens on this side of the gate (barnyard side) stays here. Once we walk through the gate, it is over.
Often as we walked to the gate, I’d apologize to him, or him to me, and once we walked through that gate it was over. It is a lesson that has helped me in many facets of life. If I have a disagreement with my wife, we don’t let it grow. We discuss it, debate it and then move on (most of the time). It doesn’t carry over into the basement or our bedroom.
It was simple advice, but what a difference it has made in my life. It has helped me in the workplace, and while I’m far from perfect in handling my emotions or words, I’m happy that my father encouraged me to be expressive and vulnerable.
I have much more to learn about manhood, fatherhood, friendship and being a husband. My mother taught me education is a lifelong journey, and I’m excited about what else I will uncover. It pains me to see such a divide in our society now. There is more finger pointing, and less conversations and empathy.
And I think the importance of fathers is more imperative than ever. It is great to see all the men who are making their children and their wives or partners their priority. It brings a smile to my face when I see fathers playing with their kids, reading to them in the park, playing catch, taking them to their practices, watching their games. And showing them how to love others. I see you. You inspire me daily.
And remember men, one of the greatest lessons you can teach your child is to show love and respect to their mother, whether you are married, separated or divorced. And if you and your father aren’t on the best of terms reach out and say hello. One simple call might start you on a wonderful journey.
I received this email from Luke. It was beautiful.
Good morning Jason,
I decided to write to you today because I was reading your Cherish your Father article on Oilersnation and thought you should know just the kind of impact that article had on my relationship with my father/parents. I have meant to write you this email for about four years and just have not done so (probably because I know how emotional I will get while writing it), but I thought now would be a good time to let you know there are many people who are impacted by the work you do.
About 10 years ago, I was just starting my career, I had just spent the last six years in school, and it took a lot of my time and attention. I always had a good relationship with my parents, but I wasn’t overly close with my dad. I read your article, and in a moment of inspiration just called him to say I was thinking about him, and I would like to get together soon. I was living in Edmonton, and he and my mom were in Red Deer, and I didn’t get down to see them very often. So that weekend I went down, and just visited with them both for a few hours and came home. 
After that, primarily because I enjoyed our one-on-one visit so much, I spent considerable effort re-establishing the links I had with my parents after several years away and not really being close. We saw each other often, and eventually my parents moved up to Leduc as all their kids (there are five of us) were living up here. Our bonds tightened and I felt really good about how much time I was spending with my family, and how we were always able to rely on each other for anything. 
Four and half years ago everything changed. My dad was diagnosed with an incredibly rare form of cancer, which was completely undetectable until he reached a terminal stage. The next six months were a brutal combination of weekly visits, chemotherapy trips and daily phone conversations as we all tried to get as much time together as we possibly could. Often, people express regret when their parents are sick that they did not spend enough time with them before they passed. Because of you, I never had to endure those feelings. The moment six years earlier, when I just happened upon your article, and felt like making a phone call had completely changed the narrative I would have lived. If I hadn’t experienced that moment, I may never have rebuilt my relationship with my Dad, and those last six months would have been a brutal reckoning while I struggled with depression and regret. 
Don’t get me wrong, as you can attest, losing your father is hard, and I struggle with it still. But I also get to feel like I had an amazing relationship with my Dad, and I was a strong support person for him and my Mom while they dealt with the most difficult thing they ever faced. I spent those last six months reminiscing about everything we did together, past and present, and how great our relationship was before cancer took him away from me. Thank you for writing your annual article, it truly meant the world to me, and my father, and I am certain it does the same for countless others who read it and then take the time to give their Dad a quick call when they are done. Each year I look forward to reading it now, because it reminds me of my relationship with Dad, but also helps me to remember that even though I may not know it, some of the things I do that might just be for myself, may in fact be exactly what helps someone else. 
Thank you again. God Bless, 
Luke
Thank you, Luke. I cried reading it, because it made me proud that you took the initiative to reach out. I’m glad you re-connected with your parents and strengthened your relationship with your father. It likely meant more to him than you will know.
Connecting with friends and loved ones improves our happiness. We all need that interaction. One of the best parts of my day is reading with my son before bedtime. He enjoys me reading to him while he eats a snack. Often, he will rest his head on my shoulder. Those moments fill my heart. I will read to him as long as he wants me to.
Last month, we started reading Warrior Cats by Erin Hunter. It is about four Clans of wild cats who have shared the forest according to laws laid down by their ancestors. The character development is great, and the best part is the series has about 30 books. I will be able to read to him for quite some time. Those 15-20 minutes every night are wonderful and I think he enjoys them as much as me as he always asks me to read him a book. He is a very good reader, but prefers I read. I hope you find those small, special moments with your child, regardless of their age.
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 friend Paul, whose father passed earlier this week.  I hope you have many fond memories of him.
Dad, I love you deeply. I miss your laugh, your devilish grin and your genuine excitement when watching your kids play sports. 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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