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.