Yesterday morning I wrote Night Shift Is For The Birds. Not fifteen minutes after post a bird crashed into our sliding glass door. It got up and flew away. Moments later, another crash. Same bird?

I went outside to pick up the little creature. It seemed stunned and was having difficulty breathing. I held it gently in my hands. It gasped repeatedly, and finally twitched.

Welp, it passed away. Nothing I could do. With so many birds in our yard, I hope it didn’t have little ones to look after. But it was gone. Not sure if this was the same bird that hit the glass the first time or not. I’m thinking it was. It’s not the first bird to crash into our home over the years.

Unceremoniously, I tossed it into a plastic bag and dropped it in our outside waste bin. Really? Yes. I would’ve done the same if I had found it later in the day. As much as I hoped for it to be okay, like when the Hummingbird entered our home last month, this was not the case.

The only other time I held an animal as it died was our first guinea pig. That was different though. The kids gathered round as he took his last breath. He got a proper burial in a shoebox, as all small pets do. I guess animal death doesn’t affect me the same as it once did.

Somber Day

Today was not a feel good kind of day. I could sense the heaviness in everyone I spoke with. The change in their voice, the look in their eyes, their posture dropping. All of it a reminder of what a tragedy can do to all of those around.

Dealing with the loss of a coworker who is close to you or a person you’ve met periodically can feel brutal. It’s still a loss. It’s still able to affect you. Talking about it changes the atmosphere of a room almost instantly. Seeking emotional help is all that I can suggest to people.

I may not be in the union any more, but I know where my roots stem from in the railroad and respect the difficulty of each and every situation. There’s no happy ending today. No joking or laughing. Rather a sobering reminder that where we work can be devastating and take a good person’s life without warning.

November 25th Again

It’s November 25th again. We are one month away from Christmas. I’ve been keeping myself busy trying not to became a shithead over the past couple of months. I usually get moody from Mid-September until today. It’s like my brain decides that it’s time to be a dick and lets it all out.

But not this year. This year I’ve actually been better. And that’s good. Because today is the 19th anniversary of my father’s demise. As I usually do- I’ll go drink a beer after visiting his grave. You see there’s a grave where his ashes remain. As much as I don’t like my memories of how my father treated me, I really don’t like that my mother didn’t respect his wishes to have his ashes scattered on a golf course. We argued back then about it but wouldn’t be swayed.

So now there’s a grave site that only I visit- because mother and sister have moved away. Since they don’t visit me when they’re in town, I know they don’t stop there either. A part of me feels that my mother burying my father’s ashes was one final “Fuck You, I’ll do what I want” to him. Her reasoning for not doing what he wanted was so we could have a place to visit him.

I visit the site to remind myself that he’s gone. And to remember that the only dead body I have ever seen was his as he lay on the hospital bed. His mouth locked open as if he was ready to yell once more at his kids. That vision of his lifeless body haunts me still, even 19 years later.

Josef Andrew Havelka Version 1.0

The body of Josef Andrew Havelka V1.0 has been through quite a bit over the years since coming off the assembly line.  Right from the beginning, there were issues with the air intake.  Had this been the dark ages, this model would’ve been destroyed early on. But after a minor repair at age 2, everything seemed to be going ok.

Until the ear infections kicked in resulting in tubes getting installed in the drum assembly to help drain excess fluid.  Then came the allergies and asthma that have lasted most of the lifetime of this 1976 Model Josef.  

A few years ago, there was a procedure implemented in order to prevent spreading of this version into the world.  Three byproducts seemed to be the limit achieved. A slight swelling and uncomfortableness occurred briefly…

Then, some diagnostic tests were performed to see if the possibility of Marfan Syndrome was possible.  As this body has shown many signs of it, the doctors ruled it out at this moment, but have requested a check up every five years.

Recently, there has been a new issue arising. A difficulty when swallowing.  Right above my stomach, it feels like choking. Now I wait for an appointment to have a scope pushed down my throat to check out the esophagus.

There’s still a few more years and miles left on this version of me.  A few nicks and scratches on the outer shell, some loss of hair as well adds to the charm. Growing older and deterioration of the body is to be expected.  Good thing I don’t plan on staying in Josef Andrew Havelka V1.0 once the time comes.

The biggest challenge in life is to avoid death.  Unfortunately there hasn’t been any winners yet in the Live Forever category.  I hope to be the first.  The game is on!

Sixteen Years

Sixteen years ago today, my father died from cancer. Or rather what the cancer had done to his body.

I’m always saddened by the fact that it happened one month before Christmas. That was his favorite time of year and he always made a bigger effort for the family at this time. I miss the old bastard.

It seemed as if he were only around for birthdays and Christmas.  However reflecting back- he held our family together in some weird way.

Josef K. Havelka, made an impact that spans onto a new generation of the Havelka Clan. They only know him through the stories from my memories.  On occasion, he is still missed by me, and by my three children (who never met him, but always ask me to share stories).

I am like my father in many ways. I know I am an asshole with a kind heart like he was. That makes me proud to be his son because he always called me an asshole as I grew up.

It’s always strange visiting my father at his final resting place. I show my respects, but I’m not sure what kind of relationship we’d have if he were still around. I often struggle with making the good memories come forward when I think of him.
One memory that comes to mind is when I was in grade one- my father told me that if someone is bugging me, to tell them to fuck off. That doesn’t go over well at a Catholic School. I got in trouble, and my father just smiled about it.  

That moment empowered me as well as set my father free from ever giving parenting advice again.

Goodbye dad, again, sixteen years later.

Love, your only son,
Josef A. Havelka.

Ps. The “A.” in my name stands for Andrew, not Asshole.

Celebrating Two Lives In One Day, In Two Very Different Ways

Today was the funeral service for my old friend Jeremy.  I wrote about him two weeks ago. Feel free to go back and read it in case you wondered who he was to me: Jeremy.  It was a lovely service filled with more friends than I could have imagined one person to have.  But here we all were, gathered together to say a final goodbye.  The stories and speeches were touching.  The photos shared showed a man full of life.  The hardest part for me was hearing his 11 year old daughter speak of her father.  The courage she possessed to speak about her loss and share a couple of stories was impressive as well as heart wrenching.

Seeing some old familiar faces was nice, but awkward.  I suppose that’s normal for a funeral.  You want to share good stories of your own life and what has happened over the years, but you slow it down and find there is no easy way to talk with those who you once knew.  Bringing people together over a loss is difficult.  But our friend, Jeremy, was a fun loving and out going person.  Smiling today seemed ok to do.  

May you be at peace my friend.

The other celebration of life today was the celebration of a new born child.  

This little guy is adorable. I almost didn’t return him.

Another friend of mine gave birth to one of the most beautiful baby boys I have ever seen. Not including my own son.  (I still have parental biased going on.)  Gage was welcomed into this world early this morning by his mother Jen, father Greg, and big sister Emma.  Mom was doing so well, they discharged her from the maternity ward late this afternoon.  Ok, maybe it was more like Jen said, “We’d like to go home now, thanks for helping with my baby.”
Originally I was going to head to the hospital immediately following the memorial service.  But because they headed home so quickly, my wife and I decided to stop by their home and take a peek before dinner.

Seeing two factions of what life is in one day is humbling.  It made me realize that life starts and ends rather quickly.  From an old friend of twenty years, to a baby not even twelve hours old- both will mean something special to me.  

You can go through life sometimes not realizing who you’ve touched along the way.  

Happy Birthday Dad.

It would have been my father’s birthday today if he didn’t die from cancer back in the year 2000.  Actually, I don’t think it was the cancer that killed him, but the treatment.  Maybe if he had gone to the doctor sooner, he could have been helped, but not likely though.  He would still be dead today…  he wasn’t the healthiest of people.  He smoked since he was a child and drank nightly.  His career had caused him all sorts of stress throughout the years.

I have written many negative thoughts about my father.  But not everything was bad.  Everyone else seemed to like him, so why didn’t I?  Because… I had to live with him.  He often spoke negatively about my sister and I to my mother- just loud enough that we could hear what was said while we kept in our rooms.  

But, he also worked hard to keep a roof over our heads.  He enjoyed golfing with his buddies 2-3 times/week.  His sense of humor would best described as sarcastic and racist.  Every other word out of his mouth was a swear.  Have defected from Czechoslovakia in the late 60’s, he learned the English language on his own which may explain the use of profanity.

He tried his hand at many jobs in Canada before settling on his career.  He worked in a candy factory and once owned a deli.  He went to school and became skilled in building and selling computers in the early 80’s/90’s.  By the mid 90’s, things came to a halt.  He “retired” early and blasted through his pension and savings within half a year- mostly spent on golfing and beers. 

He moved out after some regular fights with my mother.  They never actually divorced.  He began a courier business on the Sunshine Coast and it ended up costing him more than he was making.  My mother still visited him or he would come visit us.  It was during this time that he finally became aware that he was sick.  He sold his business after only running it for a couple of years, moved back into our home and began chemotherapy.  The next three years, we witnessed his slow demise.

During this time, my mother and him “discovered” religion.  (I was raised Catholic by my mother until about grade four, when it became more of a hassle to do the church thing.  So we stopped attending church.)  My father was also becoming frail and was taking some pretty strong morphine for the pain before finally passing away.

For his last birthday we had purchased a small stereo for him so he could listen to his old Czech records and some tapes of Elvis he owned.  He sat in his recliner that had become his permanent spot over his final year, a place where he slept, ate and let the world pass him by.  As he sat there, I set up his stereo for him.  In his frail, whispered voice, it was the last time he told me “I love you.”  He rarely said it and hardly showed it.  Two months later, he would be dead.

My dad was an asshole. But he was still my father.  Every year since his passing, I visit his grave for his birthday.  I bring him a beer and then I head to the Fort Langley Golf Course and have a beer for myself. I sit there silently and drink it.  It is a time of reflection on my past year and where I need to fix things in my life so that I won’t end up like my father.  

It is my yearly reminder that I can be a better man.  

Happy Birthday Dad.  The gift you gave me is knowing I never have to be like you.  That I can be a great father in my own way.  I wish you were still here just so you can see how it is done.