My Dad’s 65th birthday was May 7 of this year.
He had a surprise birthday party held in a great little restaurant-y room at his golf course to which he is a member.
And I think he was surprised… ish…
He said he knew something was up, but wasn’t sure what. So I’ll go with the idea that he was at least pleasantly surprised and definitely had a hell of a time whooping it up at his own little soiree.
My brother was the MC for the night and he did a great job, which isn’t a surprise at all. He’s cool as a cucumber with these things, and he kept things moving along for the evening and opened up the floor to people who would like to say something to the guest of honor, John.
At one point there was a bit of a lull and a bit of expectation that I should get up and say something about my Dad.
I got up, but I also got flustered. And tongue tied.
Moi? Tongue tied, you say? Never! That’s crazy talk!
I kid you not.
What do you say to a man who has been such an important person in your life?
There was a lot that should have been said. And I’m so sorry I didn’t say much of anything important at the time.
I was up there maybe three minutes and felt a bit like an idiot for not really giving my dad the toast he deserved.
So here goes:
Dad, one of my first memories of being with you is of being in a wheelchair in a hospital as a very very young girl. I think it was Montreal, but it could have been Calgary. I’m not sure what I was doing there, but I know I was scared. And I know you were steering the wheelchair. My hair was put up into pony tails on either side of my head, and you were gently using those to ‘drive’ the wheelchair. You made me laugh and eased my anxiety and made things so much better.
And you’ve continued to guide me when things get rough.
You’ve helped navigate some really rough roads with me.
From being a teen and pushing against you and your rules. To driving to Victoria together with you and loving every minute of our time together before you had to leave me alone at school. And everything in between. And since.
So many memories; they come faster than I can type.
You have been my father through my highest highs – my marriage to my best friend. You gave your blessing when he came to you and asked for my hand in marriage. You walked me down the aisle and I’ll never forget your face before those church doors opened. The pride, the happiness, the worry, the love – all there in one moment and it is singed in my memory forever.
I remember you in the hospital when I was in labour with my oldest. I knew you and Mom were out in the waiting room for who knows how long. But you couldn’t come see me until I had my epidural.
When I was no longer feeling pain.
And when you walked into that hospital room, I think I saw that same look on your face.
And when we found out I needed an emergency C-section to deliver the baby, you saw me before the operation and I said something like, ‘whatever gets the baby out and healthy’ and I think you said something to me along the lines of, ‘but you’re MY baby.’
You held each of my sons and you loved them instantly. You are the man all my friends were scared of when I was a kid. But I know just how much mush is right under that sometimes crusty exterior!
You have always been the strong foundation for our little family. But I really got to know how strong you are when Mom got sick.
I have a wonderful husband. But we have not been through anything like this before together. And he was a rock for his wife.
And I know, from watching you that it should just be expected that a man take care of his family in that way. You set the bar very very high.
If the other men in my life can be half the man you were while Mom was sick, and be half as loving and half as brave, then we’ll all be okay.
I don’t mean to diminish anything my husband did in that time. When all else was failing in my life, gravity brought me back to him. He was everything and he bent over backwards for me while Mom was sick. And I know that he would do the same for me if I ever became sick myself.
And watching you with Mom, I now know what ‘true love’ and ‘devotion’ and ‘eternal’ and ’til death do us part’ really means. And I know I have it with Jason.
I get it. Til Death Do Us Part.
It isn’t just the good, fun stuff. It is the ugly, tortuous stuff you never think of when you’re wearing the white dress and drinking champagne.
It is the stuff where your wife is not hungry from chemo treatments, and you try anything and everything – including enlisting family to drive to any restaurant in town to get her what she craves – to get nutrition into her.
It is where you drive across town every day, more than once, to see your sweetie while she is kept in the hospital.
It is where she is confined to a wheelchair after surgery and you carry her from the wheelchair to the car and back again.
It is where she is sent home to die and you make her as comfortable as you can and you love her and care for her and you don’t stop until her cancer is almost killing you as well.
Okay. Enough of that.
It was a big chapter. But it isn’t your only chapter, Dad.
Wherever Mom is, she’s loving you and she’s happy for you that you are retired and enjoying your life.
You have your special new vacation home and you have golf games and your friends and your family that loves you very very much. And you have a woman in your life that you care very much about.
You have always been such a hard worker. I never thought I’d see this day when you retired.
I’m sure you’ll still dabble in projects and keep yourself busy. But I gotta say, I’m shocked that you have closed the chapter on this company you created from the ground-up. And now a new and exciting chapter is waiting for you.
Now you get to navigate your own path and I’m so excited for you.
I love you, Dad.
And then this is the part where we all dance and party the rest of the night away… oh wait a minute, we did that anyway!