2011 - Northwood UK

2011 – Northwood UK

Last year I wrote about my Dad and tried to explain how much he meant to me and what a great example he set for his children. A year later, nothing has changed; he may be a bit greyer, and slower, and definitely more obstinate about using his hearing aids, but he is still the same good-natured fellow he has been for years.  He and Mom are off on a wee English holiday, so I have been spared the need to write him a card, or buy him lunch.  Too bad, because treating him to a meal is an easy choice – he’s a frugal, simple kind of guy (so I come by it naturally – the simple part, not the frugal bit), so I know Swiss Chalet would have cut it.  I wonder at what age I’ll start craving the Chalet Chicken and dipping sauce.

On the way to Boston - 2008

On the way to Boston – 2008

And my kids are away this weekend.  My eldest is in Ottawa with friends, and my youngest fighting with the stomach virus that is making the rounds – at our house at least.  He is at his mom’s, because sometimes, no matter how good your dad is,  you just need your mommy no matter how old you are. And my lovely wife is now dealing with that stomach flu…it should pass soon I believe – And hopefully not to me…

And it is raining…so there is no golf – if I was so inclined. Balancing the yin is the yang of not having to do any gardening or mowing. More importantly, there is no sitting on a sunny patio sipping a Hoegardens or Heffe-Weizen, which is more of what I would be inclined to do.

So instead of being fêted, or fête-ing, I have a day to introspect and to reminisce. I am doing the next best thing to being with my loved ones – I am writing a few things down.

Last year was about my Dad.  This year I am all about being Dad.  I am at that age  where more of my friends are fathers than not – some even crossing over to the “belt and suspenders” land of being “Grampies”. All of them are fantastic at it – of that I have no doubt, because taking care of the emotional and physical well-being of our kids just comes naturally to all the men I care to associate with.   Each of us, though belonging to the same brotherhood, is slightly different – with different wiring and motivations and desired results. And as a result, there are different types of dads…all of them leaving an indelible fingerprint on their children – both genetically and personally.  But in the end, we are all united with one common purpose: to do right for our children.

scan0008 (2)I look at my two grown monkeys and I think back to the wonderful, wonderful times we had together when they were little. And I admit as they got older, and as so eloquently put in the TV program Modern Families… in adolescence it was is as if they are in a spaceship orbiting the moon. Between the ages of 15-19 they are on the dark side of the moon: no communications, no understanding – just blackness.  Then at about 19, they emerge and all is light and comprehension – they are back! As I approach my 50s, I must say that we are mostly in around the dark apogee and “We’re back” (no, not like Poltergeist). And I like it.

I think back to the memories of being a new father. I remember when my ex-wife wanted to have children. I was not ready. I was still all about parties and beers and trips and free time. I was not about diapers and strollers and high chairs. I could barely take care of myself on a Friday night; how would I care for a child?  I knew nothing about teething or colic or diaper cream or burping a child. What if I broke It when I was changing a diaper? Or burned It when I was bathing It?  I don’t remember thinking of a child as he or she – the future offspring was still an It.  And after learning I was going to be a dad, I enjoyed my period of having a dedicated designated driver full-time, and I did all I could to enjoy my dad-free years. (Luckily I did not use up all my fun credits, saving a chunk for now!).

And then, 15 October 1992 happened.

I remember holding my first-born in my arms immediately after she was born during an emergency caesarean section – she was Alex 1994barely as long as my forearm.  All delicate and tiny…perfect little fingers that clutched my pinky, with fragile looking toenails on curved up miniature feet.  She was perfect…and loud!  I weighed her, I swaddled her, and I gave my baby girl her first bit of water as her mother recovered in post-op. And for the next three years, she was the centre of my universe. I quit smoking to protect her, I watched Barney for her and sang the cult-like ‘I love you’ song, I took her to see the Sesame Street Live Show at Calgary’s Saddledome, and I played My Little Ponies – what more could I do!  She was my girl. The first child, the first grandchild – surrounded by so many who were generous and thoughtful and proud.

And three years later, she was joined by her brother. A bruiser of a fellow who through the vagaries of modern science, arrived perfectly on time as the Obs/Gyn and I consulted our diaries to arrive at a mutually agreeable time for an induced birth! (I had to respect Weekly Officers’ Coffee for the raisin toast, and then attend Happy Hour later in the day!) He was perfect too, but not in a dainty, fragile way. He arrived with the powerful scan0011 (2)and awe-inspiring aura of a rugby number 8…promises of strength and power framed by smart-looking eyes and a beautiful toothless grin that could win over even the flintiest heart..  And all of a sudden, in the space of a few minutes, the universe had two centres. He was the one I could rough and tumble with, the one who squealed with delight as I held him by the legs and twirled him upside down, the one who sat on my shoulders like a jockey and pleaded me to bounce up and down – the one who eventually shared my insatiable love for meat and BBQ. He was my boy, and though for many years he looked like Odd Job, the bowler-hatted Bond villain, he grew up into a fine young man who possesses a level compassion, care, respect and joie de vivre that I hope I have demonstrated

What merriment it was to be a father. I enjoyed the playtimes and the bath times and the story times. I loved making them dinner, and cajoling them to eat a little. I loved the laughter and the faces and the giggles. I loved the toys – my second child hood, playing with blocks and Lego and little dolls.  I loved the smell of baby shampoo and talcum powder. And how a young toddler wakes up after a nap with hair all tousled and unkempt, with breath as fresh as meadow – happy to see you as you lift them out of bed. I loved being the centre of their universe. It put everything into remarkable perspective.

And as they got older, I was still important. A father was the one to help them with school work, to take them places, to play in the

Disneyland Paris - 2010

Disneyland Paris – 2010

backyard with them, to watch movies and be a role model. To teach them respect for things and the importance of hard work and taking care of others. To show them how to throw a ball and Rollerblade and ride a bike and fly a kite; how to dog paddle or make shampoo faux mohawks and how to make the loudest armpit farts, or to burp the alphabet; to offer a finger to pull or to tickle them to point of exhaustion; to carry them when they could walk no longer, and most of all I loved executing that magic trick where they fell asleep watching a movie on the couch in the family room, and awoke the next morning all snuggly in their beds.

I can remember all the Disney movies from the 90s, using the VHSs as babysitters as I tried to catch a few more Saturday morning ZZZs on the sofa. I remember my complete joy when my children were capable of fixing themselves a bowl of cold cereal and turning on the Saturday cartoons while I slept in. And I remember being a complete wreck that the kids started venturing out on their own for movies and parties on their own – coming home long after I had fallen asleep.

And from that vantage point, I look at them now. The eldest living on her own, soon to be completing that last lap of the racecourse called University and the youngest, ready to fly on his own as he enters University next year.  The calls will be fewer, related to favours or cash or meals or laundry. Parents replaced by that inevitable gang of reprobates  that will form the foundation of that circle they will call the “friends for life”.  Time with Dad replaced by weekend cottage get-aways and concert festival weekends and road trips.  The Circle of Life continues.

18573_259561833242_739873242_4300787_4589736_nAnd as I spend more time with my children who will continue to morph from wards to friends, I want them to know that I love them, that I am proud of them, and that I will be there for them no matter what happens; that with all the things that I have done in my life, the good ones and the crazy ones, the one that makes me happiest was being their father. I can’t believe that I ever doubted I could be one. It is so natural and so awesome.

And to sum up, I hope that when Thing One and Thing Two join me for supper later this week that one of them brings me a Popsicle stick planter or a papier-mâché objet of some sort – I liked those…

Happy Fathers’ Day fellas…Enjoy the day and all it brings. You deserve it.