I Turn My Camera On

Today would have marked my father’s 80th Birthday. One of the few things I have kept of my father’s is his camera. It’s nothing special to anyone but me. Valued at $40 used on eBay. The Praktica is nothing more than a 35mm chunky camera.

The reason it’s special to me is that my father realized that when I was born- he did not own a camera. He went out and bought it within a couple of days of my birth. Partly because there was some uncertainty in my living beyond a short while. I had respiratory issues from birth. But that’s another story. This camera was purchased in 1976- the original receipts and warranty card are still in the carrying case.

I ended up using this camera in high school back in the mid-nineties for my photojournalism class. I took numerous black and white photos with it as well as colour pictures. Some of those ended up in the year book. Including my favorite which was a collage overlay of four photos together making up the front of the school. Not too easy to do when there was no preview screen and had to wait to get the images developed.

Now as our son enters grade 11- he has taken up photography as his art major. With it came a curiosity of my father’s old camera. In the first week of photo classes, he went through four rolls of film just taking black and white photos with it. Soon he will develop the pictures and see what he has created.

The one picture that my son wants to take with the camera is one I am impressed he thought of. It’s nothing outrageous, but rather one that brings the camera’s journey full circle. He plans to take some photos of my father’s tombstone- using the same camera that my father had bought to take pictures of me at birth. It’s quite convenient that the graveyard is merely steps away from the school grounds.

I’m not going to lie, at first I had a tough time allowing my son to use the camera. But he has been respectful and understanding of the sentimentality to me. He keeps it in the case and is very careful when handling it. As I said, there’s no monetary value to this item. But it means a lot to me as I wish my father could have seen the lovely grandkids that were produced. I would hope he would’ve been proud of me. But I didn’t become a good father to impress him. I became a good father to spite him.

Happy 80th Grampa. You missed an entire world, yet somehow you are still a big part of mine.

Golfing… As Predicted

Our son began his first job three weeks ago. He is currently a groundskeeper at Surrey Golf Club. Check out my write up about his first week here: 1st Work Week. As I anticipated, he wants to take up golfing now.

He has found about 75-100 golf balls so far at his work. He came home yesterday and wanted to practice his swing. So I did my best to teach him. He hit about 30 or so golf balls and nailed maybe 5 of them comfortably.

My father attempted to teach me how to golf a couple of times throughout my childhood. Unfortunately, he wasn’t patient with me. I think around age 13 he gave up. To be fair, so did I. But I did listen and remember his teachings. I was able to pass the wisdom onto Theory. As much as I wish I could continue to teach my son how to swing a club, if he wants to learn it would be more beneficial for him to take lessons.

Taking from my own past experiences- both in teaching and being taught- learning from a parent isn’t always the best. Expectations can be too high, anxiety kicks in and then finally disobedience to the lesson being taught. Which causes a bit of animosity between parent and child.

I do have a feeling our son will enjoy golf. He is very keen on learning more and loves his job tremendously. The job has been great for him so far. He likes it so much, some days he goes in up to an hour earlier than scheduled. That means being at work at 4am!

Best of luck Theory in becoming a better golfer. Grandpa would’ve been proud.

Smokey

Today I hung out with an older coworker of mine. He is an experienced railroader who has been with the company as long as I have been alive- almost five decades. So I respect how he runs things and listen to his stories. Not many of his tales are of work. Most are of his family and experiences outside of there. I appreciate his tales and respect how he tells them.

I spent hours with him today. In doing so, I came home smelling like an ashtray. He smokes. A lot. I haven’t smelled like cigarettes in years. My father smoked regularly. And in the 70’s/80’s it wasn’t uncommon to be indoors or in a car with a child while you smoked. As a result, I took up smoking at around age 17.

I smoked for about 10 years off and on. There is hardly any pictures of me smoking. In fact, when my wife and I married, she requested that we do not have pictures of us smoking in case our children were to see them. The last time I smoked a cigarette was before my son was born. Over 16 years ago.

I have celebrated with a cigar on occasion since then. Not my favorite thing to do, so it’s only been about three times. I do not smoke any other things, as my world is already a trip as it is. Finding a picture of my indiscretions of the past is rare and I would be surprised if there are more than the two I have shared today.

But the smell of stale cigarettes on my clothes today brought back memories of long ago. I was unsure of what tale I wanted to share, if any, of smoking. So here’s a small tidbit.

When I was under the age of ten, my father would send me to the corner store to buy cigarettes. There was an age restriction of being sixteen in 1986, so I would be given note with a phone number to contact my dad, and I could buy a pack and bring it home. After a few times, the corner store owner began to know me and my father’s brand, so the note was unnecessary for a couple of years. That was when the age limit changed to 18 and the government cracked down on selling to minors.

Cigarettes and smoking have a different stigma than they once had. My coworker still smokes as of the 80’s and 90’s were relevant. A part of me looks to him as an uncle, and honestly he probably could’ve been a close family friend. He reminds me of the good aspects of my father. Plus my coworker has been known to dye his hair and mustache to look younger. He has a look of Burt Reynolds when he does this.

Hence the title of today’s blog- Smokey. Honestly, I think of how my father looked in the 80’s and believe this was also his attempt and being cool. Facial hair, a cigarette and a beer- that was the 80’s “Dad Look” and smell. No cologne needed as a haze of smoke would be around.

Daffodils

Daffodils have started to sprout in our gardens. They are a lovely sight and we haven’t had these flowers at our previous home. We did have daffodils around a Sakura tree at our first house.

The flowers are vibrant, as I’m sure you know. Even though we are still in winter- I love that the bright yellow is a foreshadow to spring. Unfortunately, the flowers also make me sad.

The flowers at our first home were planted to remember my father. He had died from cancer. Daffodils are a symbol of hope for those suffering the effects of cancer.

Now that I am seeing daffodils in our current garden, I think of my father. I’d like to think he’d be proud of who I’ve become. Perhaps he would admire my parenting skills or career path. But that’s not the case. Cancer took him away in the year 2000. My children never had an opportunity to meet their grandfather.

As I walk around our home for the next few months, I will be thinking of my father in a positive way. The daffodils bring a new lease on life, and I love the yellow.

Thirty Year Old Clubbing

I went to see my father yesterday… He’s dead mind you- so I went to visit his final resting place. I had a moment just standing there… Talking to the air, asking for advice. Something I really needed. I brought with me a peace offering of sorts…

Besides the yearly beer, I also brought his golf club that I still had in my possession. The club was a “Big Bertha” that he had bought in 1991. Thirty years later, I still have the club. I was going to leave it behind yesterday at his grave, but I still use it at the driving range; and my son uses it on occasion as well. So it came home with me once more.

Funny thing… I also have my old man’s golf umbrella. Which I happened to use yesterday when I visited his grave. Rust patterns have emerged by the metal prongs against the fabric. Yet it is fully functional and kept me dry as I shared a beer with my father.

Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of things that remind you of someone who is no longer around. The thirty year old club and the umbrella (which is far older) mean something to me. I can’t part with the items just yet. Maybe in another thirty years…

Cusp Of My Seasonal Depression

November 25th, 2000.

That was the day my father died. He had long since suffered from the effects of cancer and chemotherapy prior to his demise. He was a smoker by age thirteen and worked in a uranium mine at one point in his life. Golfing is what kept him active. But he still drank and smoked quite regularly. At age 58, his body just didn’t want to go on.

Every year I go and pay my respects to my father. Some years are not as respectful as I should be. I have a lot of emotions that run rampant from mid-September until today. There are times that I absolutely despise who that man once was. Then there are moments I wish he was here so I could ask for some advice. This is one of those years that I really need him.

But he’s not here. And I can love or hate the man for all he did or didn’t do for me as I grew up. I need him today, but he’s not available to me. Just like many of those moments as a teenager when I needed him. I’m on my own trying to work out how to move forward.

My eyes are filled with tears writing this as my heart continues to feel broken and at a loss. But I know deep down, that November 26th of every year, things start to get better. That date is the start of my yearly healing.

And this year, that healing has its work cut out for me.

I Need To Be Better

Around this time every year, I am not the nicest person. I’m especially shitty towards my family. Unfortunately I usually catch myself after I have said or done something hurtful to them.

I have a tough time on a day like today- which would’ve been my father’s birthday. My crummy behavior sprouts up around this time every year and goes until the end of November.

November 25 is the date to be precise- that was the day my father passed away in 2000. Mentally, every year on that date is like a sigh of relief for me. I suddenly can become whole again.

Even though I am aware and acknowledge my shittiness, I still end up overreacting at some of the simplest things. It’s like a couple months of male PMS and I really hate that I am like this. So if I’m a jerk to you (especially my family) please forgive me. I don’t get seasonal depression. I get seasonal asshole.

Dad’s Desk

Back in the early 80’s my father began working for a computer company. WANG Computers. By the mid 90’s- the company he was working for wasn’t doing so hot and downsizing was rampant. As the offices shutdown, and the spaces were condensed- my father stayed. He had the luxury of having to terminate people he had worked with for years. It did not bode well for his health.

My father got Wanged.

As the downsizing continued, the company started selling off their office equipment. Eventually my father picked up some things prior to his departure. We got a few art pieces, a couple computer chairs, and a desk. A large, heavy, durable, virtually indestructible desk. My family moved this monster into at least four different homes. I inherited the beast. I will not be taking it to my new house.

So I brought it to my work.

We needed a new desk at my work. I have been asking for some new furniture for ages, but it doesn’t look like it’s on the horizon. At least for the foreseeable future, This desk will be utilized. Everyone who saw the desk literally said, “Hey- Nice Desk.”

What’s funny is that this wasn’t even the desk my father used at his work. This was some random cubicle desk he brought home. I had to help him dismantle it on a Saturday and bring it home back when I was a teenager.

Now every time I go to work and sit at the desk- I’ll think of my father. I will think of him and my plans to Retire from this job. It’s the perfect desk for my work.

Playing 78’s

Today marks what would’ve been my father’s 78th birthday. Over the years I have not been too kind in sharing memories of him. This year I am going to do my best to share a couple of bittersweet experiences instead.

In the past I have gone to visit his grave and enjoyed a Molson Canadian beer in his honor. That was the beer of choice by my father. I remember the stale scent of Rothman’s cigarettes and beer emanating from his beard as I grew up. It was a very distinct odor on evenings and weekends that only my father possessed.

During the day, he would have the aroma of Halls Lozenges mixed in with the scent of Cigarettes. He always had a package in his car and would pop one in his mouth from time to time. They sat in the change holder near the car stereo. After unwrapping one of the square candies, he would bunch up the waxed paper into tight little balls while a song played on the radio. At the end of the song, he would place the tiny paper balls into the car’s ashtray. It was an odd habit, but one that was distinctly his.

I never knew my father to enjoy music the way I do. In September of 1981 he did buy a brand new stereo from Sears. Perhaps as a birthday gift to himself since he rarely wished to celebrate birthdays in group settings. The JVC LXI came in numerous large metallic framed pieces. A set of oversized 12” subwoofers, an amplifier, tape deck, radio and record player. I was with him when he purchased it from the local Sears in Edmonton. We brought it home and he set it up in the dining room on the china cabinet. Where it would remain until we moved.

I remember that once it was set up, he put on a record and I sat directly in front of one of the speakers to listen to the music. I was five at the time and just amazed at the magic behind how it worked. After a few hours, my father made me wear some headphones instead and turned off the speakers.

For the remaining few years in Edmonton, my mother would put on her “Highland records” and sing her Scottish songs. Occasionally ABBA would be put on the turntable (I think that’s where my love of disco originated). I was never allowed to touch the records in fear that I would scratch them. As well, my records were only permitted on my children’s plastic record player- not the high end one that my dad purchased.

Looking back on that purchase, I realized my father didn’t do it for himself. He did it for my mother… and in a way for me. I became entranced by music that wasn’t just learning my ABC’s. I fell in love with all genres and memorized numerous song lyrics as I grew up. The only music my father would listen to was the radio on his commute. No cassettes or records were ever played by him in our home.

Nowadays, in my home, music is always being played throughout the house. I set up speakers in every room, and we play music that keeps us all entertained. The family sometimes argues over what to listen to, because they don’t always want to listen to disco… but that’s okay. We all enjoy the fact that music brings us together.

Perhaps now my father listens to his collection of 78’s in the afterlife. Keeping his emotions to himself like he always did. His bits of sharing while he was alive was minimal, but effectual. I always thought he liked Elvis because of the records he owned, but I could be wrong.

That’s my story about my father and how he inadvertently created my love of music. Happy Birthday Dad.

Father’s Day 2020

I’ve been a father for nearly 18 years now. In the grand scheme of things, I think I’ve done an okay job of raising three kids. Obviously I could not, and did not, do it on my own.

Without my wife; aka mother to our children; there really wouldn’t be a Father’s Day for me. She and I have worked together over the years to create a loving environment for our three beasts kids.

To be completely honest, I don’t know if I was ever going to be ready to be a dad without her pushing me. I’m glad to have taken on the challenge and the role. Our children are my pride and joy. I will always be there for them in whatever form they need me.

I was never close with my father. I’d like to think I have become the father I always wanted. The kind of father who goes on vacations, jokes with their kids, has family movie nights, even loses at video games to them. I have shown love and support through all of their endeavors, be it Cheerleading, Speed Skating, and the arts- no matter what they wanted to do, I was there.

Certainly there were times when they wanted to give up. But my wife and I pushed them and guided them through those hurdles. It’s not always fun and laughs when you have to be the bad guy either. In time, I’m sure they will understand why and when we needed to be strict with them.

For now, I’m just glad to be celebrated as their Father. I have a drawer full of handmade cards and gifts from over the years. I cherish those moments and memories.

I’ll always remember them as my kids, even as they enter adulthood.

Modeled After Memories

Recently I was cleaning out our storage, sort of… I got sidetracked pretty quick and the cleaning ended in about five minutes. I discovered some old models that I somehow acquired.

When I was about 9 or 10, my father decided that he and I would make model airplanes together. That lasted about ten minutes. My attention span was dedicated to video games or cartoons. (GI Joe and Transformers: FTW!) Hanging with my father was never on my list. Mostly I was afraid of his temper. In the end, he half built the model on his own and gave up.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, he needed a hobby to take his mind off the inevitable. So he bought these two models. They were never opened. I don’t know why. But they ended up in my possession at the end of 2000. Twenty years later, I’m ready to give these away.

Only I can’t.

My son wants us to build them together. We have a father/son connection that I never had growing up. Let me hold back the tears a moment. Perhaps these models can be created with love. We can create a memorable moment. One that I can add to the thoughts of my father. Create a model relationship and add some positivity to my childhood.

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.

Trying To Be A Better Man

Today would’ve been my father’s birthday. Over the years I’ve been trying different ways to remember the good in him. Which has been difficult when the bad memories were more impactful. From September 19 (My father’s birthday) to November 25th (the date he passed away) I’m not a pleasant person to be around at home. I’ve been consciously making different choices in my life to try and be a better person each and every day.

For two years in a row I grew a beard. It made me look like him. I was thinking of making it a tradition, but last year my family pushed hard and made me feel bad that I grew facial hair. I’m not sure why, but I’d rather not have bitterness thrown at me from those whom I care about. So no beard planned this year.

Last year I did “Sober September” and this year I’m trying as well. I had a couple of beers once this month and felt instant shame in myself for being weak. The reason is my father drank heavily and I worry that the trait runs deep in my genes. Especially when I look back at most of my Instagram posts and see a lot of beer in my hands.

Obviously I’d love to say that I am in control of my drinking, but am I? I come home from work and would like a beer with dinner. I have days off and want to see friends which generally brings up drinking. Maybe this year I’ll try not drinking from September 19 to November 25th. Do the complete opposite of what my father would do. Maybe only then can I push the negative out of my mind and bring out the positive memories.

I sure don’t want to end up like him- sour, angry and dead by age 58. That doesn’t appeal to me. I want to be a better person.

I know I’m a better person. I just need to remind myself from time to time.

Nazdar Klamo

My father had a tendency to speak Czech with his buddies when his family was around. My father did this because we, his immediate family, couldn’t speak Czech. He never wanted us to know it. My father kept secrets. Read about my unknown half sister Here.

My father taught us only one Czech phrase. A phrase to say at the start of a meal. Dobra Chut’ meaning Good Appetite. I have never taught my children this phrase. Maybe I’m bitter towards my father. Perhaps I can share this phrase and create good memories of their grandfather whom they’ve never met. My children want to see the good in the world, and I want that as well.

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But I did pick up on some Czech. As a child you get curious as to what is going on in your world. I discovered a few things from my father’s friends older kids. They were surprised that I didn’t know Czech. But I knew some. Mainly because I stole my father’s old English to Czech dictionary.

He used a few phrases quite often which made it easy to find words. I began to become quite proficient in trying new phonic spellings to decipher what he was saying. Most was gibberish. But on occasion I heard about his feelings for his family. His disgust. His disdain. His regret. Being a child and receiving pity from people you barely knew was difficult. A part of me wanted to return to being naive. I wasn’t exactly the son he wanted. But I overcame his words, overcame his feelings of contempt- I survived and thrived.

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My father used a phrase often when greeting his friend. At one point my father told me it meant “Hello Smiley.” But the literal phrase would have defined my father more than his friend.

Nazdar Klamo.

Simply meaning,

“Hello Deceit.”

To the feelings my father left me with when he died in 2000, I say “Na shledanou.

Bye-bye. Cheerio. So long.

2019- The Year Devoted to Our Son

It feels like this year is heavily devoted to our son Theory. We have already done two trips for speed skating competitions and have two more weeks out of town planned this summer for him to get some more practice.

He stole my tutu.

If you’ve been following along this week, you’ll also notice I was a parent chaperone at his Grade Seven camp. I was really happy that he wanted me to do this. It also made me feel good to find out his friends were excited that I was going as well. In fact, one kid asked that his father not volunteer to come because the boy wanted to be in our cabin.

My father never would’ve considered doing that. Let alone take time to ensure his kids experienced successes. My wife and I put a lot of effort into making sure our kids get the best education and experiences.

I have a fantastic relationship with my son. I can be both his parent and his friend. The fact that he happily hangs out with me while out in public is great. I hope to keep this up through his teenage years.

It’s the kind of relationship I wish I had with my father.

World JR Hockey

Yesterday my son and I attended his first ever hockey game. We went to the Rogers Arena in Vancouver to watch a match from the World Juniors. My boss at work was kind enough to give me a couple of tickets. So I took full advantage of my day off and my son being home for winter break to attend the game.

We were happy to show support to the Czech Republic as they played against Russia. I picked up a hockey scarf at the game so my son would have a souvenir to remember his first hockey game.

With one minute left in the game, the Czech team pulled out all the stops in an attempt to tie the game. Unfortunately, the last shot on goal didn’t make.

In the end, my son and I had a great experience together. We cheered, we oooed and we awwwwed with the crowd. We took selfies and videos. We even had good conversation during the drive to and from the game. All around, it was a great evening spent with my son.

Sept 19, 1942

Today would’ve marked my father’s birthday. But he left this world in the year 2000. Funny thing is I know very little about him even though he was in my life for 24 years.

I know his birthday is today and that he was born in Prague. My knowledge of his history is limited. He kept his past a guarded secret. These are the tidbits I do know:

  • His middle initial is K. I believe it was for Karl- but I cannot be certain.
  • He has a sister (whom I’ve never met or spoken to)
  • In the summers of his youth, he was forced to leave home and work on a farm.
  • He was a helicopter mechanic in Prague when he was 17.
  • He defected to Canada in the early 1970’s.
  • He left behind a wife and child (Also whom I’ve never met or spoken to) before marrying my mother.
  • Then there are the things I can recall about him growing up:
    • He enjoyed golf.
      He owned a deli once.
      He loved to build things for his home.
      He always wanted a Mercedes Benz, so he finally bought one.
      He worked long hours.
      He never wanted to go on vacation.
      Only once did he ever return to Prague.
      He yelled a lot.
  • He rarely ever expressed an emotion besides anger towards me. I always felt like I wasn’t the son he wanted or something. I’m sure in his own way he cared and loved me, but it didn’t always show. I just hid in my room mostly.
  • Prior to his death, he only had an opportunity to meet my wife. He never met any of his grandchildren. My kids used to ask me about grandpa, but have since stopped. Partly because they are older now. But also because I don’t have anything new to tell them about him.
  • After his departure nearly 18 years ago, he is slowly becoming a faded memory- and I’ve come to terms with that. I don’t have much more to say about it all. As I said last year, I’m trying to focus on the good memories- even though they were few. Oh well.
  • Happy Birthday Josef K. Havelka
  • Coffee To-Go

    I remember the coffee in the 80’s that my parents drank:

    To make a coffee for my parents was simple. Pour hot water over two scoops freeze dried coffee, two scoops sugar and milk. Easy to make and the best part- it was unpleasant tasting. So I never drank coffee as a kid.

    In my late teens and early twenties I never made coffee at home. I only drank the crap from Denny’s late at night or when hung over. Once I married my wife, we would brew our own coffee in a coffee maker. On occasion we would even buy beans and grind them ourselves.

    I was making a coffee to-go today and realized that I have a collection of travel mugs. All of which I could probably throw out now since they aren’t exactly super clean anymore. Back in the 80’s- if my father took a coffee in the car, he used a regular mug.

    One time he forgot his mug on the roof of the car. On the first turn, the mug slide off the roof and exploded onto the sidewalk. I was entertained… he was mad. Probably because he broke his favorite mug.

    I would’ve been mad because the coffee tasted like ass. That’s the difference between me and my father and our tastes in coffees.

    Brony For a Day, Father For a Lifetime

    This morning my 13 year old daughter and I went on a Daddy/Daughter Date. It started with a trip to Chapters where my daughter bought $52 in Manga using her Christmas gift cards. There was so much to choose from, so it took us a little bit. When she was done, she made her way to the cashier. This time with no Anxiety.

    Afterwards we went for a morning matinee movie date. She really wanted to see My Little Pony: The Movie. The theater was having a cheap one time showing today, so we went. We put on our Pony Ears (made by Ningen Headwear) and found a spot off to the side. My daughter didn’t want to sit in the middle of the auditorium and block any of the younger audience members views of the screen. She is always courteous towards others. We were probably the oldest father/daughter couple as well- but we love our animation. She also loves that she met Tara Strong at a convention years ago as well. Becoming a voice over actor seems like something that may appeal to my daughter one day.

    MLP has been a part of my life for ages. Back in 1986, My Little Pony was on the tv in my home. I would’ve been ten and my sister was six. I had no argument with watching the show. In fact, I still remember playing with MLP toys with my sister and not being embarrassed by it. I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for the pastel ponies- I can still recite the theme song. So being a Brony for a short film today wasn’t a big deal.

    After our movie we went for Phở. It was the first time for my daughter. We enjoyed our noodle bowls and talked about the film. We both agreed that it could’ve been better, but it was a nice treat just going the two of us. Shared moments like this last a lifetime. There’s nothing embarrassing about that. So put on some Pony Ears and become 20% cooler in the eyes of you child.

    My Unknown Half Sister

    I’m turning 42 in two months. Of all the things in my life that have made me who I am, one event still surfaces randomly in my mind. I was 13 or 14 when I found out that my father had a family prior to the one I was a part of in my life. He was married at one point when he lived in Czechoslovakia. He had a daughter and wife whom he left behind before coming to Canada.

    He started a new family out here and I was born. Then four years later, I had a sister. It was all that I knew for most of my childhood. Never was it mentioned until my father returned from a trip to his old hometown with some old Czech buddies. Suddenly there was an entire aspect of my father that shocked me. Here were photos of a young lady in her early 20’s hanging out with my father. An older sister I never knew about prior to that moment. Turns out she also had a son. I was now an uncle?

    Years have gone by since that moment when everything changed. No longer was it just me and my little sister- there was now another person that was related to us whom we would never meet. But nothing ever really changed. A couple of years after the “big announcement”, this older sister was never mentioned again. That’s where it ends.

    As I’ve grown up into an adult and father myself- I have made sure to put my children first. I have become a role model and shown much love and respect to my kids. This half sister (my children’s half aunt, I guess) in another country isn’t spoken of very often. My children know about her, the same as I do: She is a person whom was born to my father and got left behind.

    As I think about her, I also don’t know how I feel about her. It’s been nearly 30 years since I found out and I have no urgent desire to search for her. It also seems she has felt the same- there hasn’t been any contact from her end. My mother doesn’t speak of her either because she feels it’s not her place.

    In the end, the facts and the idea of a long lost sister died with my father back in November 2000. No crazy mission to find her. No Hollywood ending reuniting us. That’s all folks.

    November 25,2017

    Today is the pivotal point in my year. Not only is it one month until Christmas, but it’s also the anniversary of my father’s death. I wrote about him last year: Sixteen Years. Today marks year 17 without him on this planet.

    As with my yearly tradition, I will visit his grave. I try and visit on his birthday in September, but if I can’t, I make sure to visit him today. I’ll be taking my family with me to his grave later on, followed by a visit to the Fort Langley Golf Course for a beer and hot chocolate. That was the place my father spent most of his free time.

    It feels like I sense him more at that location than I do at his tombstone. Partly because of his love of golf, but also because he wanted his ashes spread on the golf course. My mother decided to not acknowledge his wishes and chose to bury his ashes in the graveyard instead, much to my chagrin and displeasure. I still don’t agree with her decision, however, the tombstone allows people a place to read his name if they so chose to visit.

    Since my mother and sister moved away from Langley years ago, I think I’m the only one to visit his grave on a regular basis. Because it is so close to my children’s school, sometimes I’ll take a minute or two to stop in and have one of those “speaking to no one in the air” moments. It sometimes clears my thoughts, other times it brings forth strong emotions.

    I’ve mentioned how I didn’t always know who my father was. Perhaps my idea of him is skewed in my memories. One thing is for certain- I’m raising my children very differently than he raised his. Hell, he had a daughter I’ve never met. I have a half sister somewhere in Europe that I’ll probably never meet. I could try and find her, but after my 41 years on this planet and only having my father in common, what’s the point? Maybe she’ll try and find me one day. But I doubt it.

    So here it is- year 17 without him. And I’m doing quite well, thank you. The only thing I’ve done differently is I decided to grow a beard on his birthday and plan on shaving it off this weekend. I think I will make it my new yearly tradition to remember him.

    Cheers grandpa. May you continue to be at rest.

    Grilled Cheese

    When I was about 11, I had my first grilled cheese sandwich. It was in a restaurant with my family during a road trip to go skiing at Big White in Kelowna BC. My father had arranged this trip with his Czech buddies and it was only one of two ski vacations we went on as an entire family.

    We drove to a mountain chalet for a week long ski trip. All I can remember about the building was the indoor pool, playing arcade bowling, and a sign that read, “Das Hofbräuhaus“. These two trips were the only time my father willingly spent quality time with me.

    In the morning, I had ski lessons. By afternoon, my father and I would go down the hill for a few runs. By dinner, I would be back at our room for a quick dinner, then off to swim and play in the small arcade. No adult supervision by the pool or in the arcade. These were simpler times where a boy could spend his quarters happily without restrictions.

    After this wind down, my parents would head to the pub inside the chalet to hang out with my father’s friends. They’d stay out late, so before my parents returned, I would watch some HBO in hopes to catch a glimpse of a boob or two. But my strongest memory of this trip was still at the very beginning of it.

    To get to our vacation destination, we left our home in my dad’s packed Hyundai Stellar. (I don’t think I have a picture of the car because my father hated it, but I found one online.) Within the first hour or so of our journey we stopped in Hope, BC at a truck stop to meet up with his friends in order to make a sort of convoy to the ski resort. This is where I had my first ever grilled cheese sandwich. There was even ham inside of it. I was in heaven.

    When we returned home from our trip, I vowed to learn how to make a perfect grilled cheese. I had never cooked before, so this was exciting for me. Years and years of frying up bread and cheese followed. I have now mastered the art of the grilled cheese. I have made numerous variations of them, all with near perfect results. It has gotten to a point that my family would ask for a sandwich if I was making one. But soon it shall be no longer.

    Over the past few weeks, our 11 year old son has been doing his best to make grilled cheese sandwiches. He has asked for advice and tips as he slowly creates his near-perfect meal. Even though he has tried to argue some of my points, he would use them and realize that dad was right.

    If my father was still around today, he’d probably never have guessed that the time he spent with me would come down to a simple sandwich. A sandwich that his grandson now excitedly creates almost daily. I don’t think my son knows where my obsession came from, but he is following suit.

    All of this stems from one trip, one stop, and one happy memory. Thanks dad for that.

    Beard Brush

    So I began growing a beard. I started on my father’s birthday September 19th.  I am planning on shaving it off on the anniversary of his death on November 25. Growing a beard was done for a few reasons.  

    1. My wife and kids said I couldn’t do it.
    2. I’ve never grown a full beard ever.
    3. My father always had a beard and I wanted to see if I’d look like him if I grew one.


    I’m only a few weeks in and I must say that the beard no longer itches. I almost shaved on the fifth day because of this.  But I overcame that urge in order to persevere. I have some points to prove!

    A few days ago, I dug out my father’s old beard brush.  I figured it’d be a good idea to keep my facial hair tamed.  As I ran the brush through my beard, something odd happened.  I could smell my father on it.


    My dad never wore cologne or aftershave. The memories I do have of his beard were the smells of beer and stale cigarettes.  But on his beard brush was something that took me completely by surprise.  I could smell the brand of hair spray he used- 17 years later.  A sweet smell, not at all what I expected to remember about my father.

    Happy memories poured into my mind.  Such as my father’s smile behind his beard.  The way he combed his hair. The suit he wore to work. The jogging pants he changed into every night. All of the simple things that defined who he was.  Back on His Birthday I was scared that I’d forget who he was, but it came back with one scent.

    Now I’m unsure if I want to shave my beard off. But I don’t want the smell of my father to be removed from the brush. As time goes on, I’ll have to make that choice. 

    But today, I brushed my beard once more.

    Father’s Birthday

    Today would’ve been my father’s birthday. I recently found some of my old musings on an old hard drive.  I wrote this in May of 2009:

    Since the death of my father, I’ve been searching for ways to remember him. There were very few pictures taken of him and he didn’t leave many possessions behind that had any emotional attachment. I have memories of experiences and moments, but none that can stick out as who my father really was. My father seemed like an angry individual most of the time that he was around.

    When he was at home, the smell of stale cigarettes and beer hung on his breath every evening and weekend like cheap cologne. Most Saturdays he golfed with his Czech friends and on Sundays he would go in to work or lay on the couch watching golf games which he had taped from the days before. During the week, he often left early for work and stayed late, only to arrive as dinner was ending. Only twice in his lifetime did he go on a family vacation with us. That was due to the fact that his Czech golfing buddies had arranged a ski trip with their families, and my father was coaxed in to going by my mother.

    That was as far as I got. Every day a bit more of the bad slips away from my memory.  It’s getting to a point that I only remember a few of his quirks.

    My personal favorite was when he was in a good mood he would wiggle his ears.  I remember always trying to learn it myself.  The realization came to me as a preteen-that when my father was a child, he had far more free time to do that than I did.  My generation was the start of the entertainment generation.  TV, video games, movies, and computers were taking over. No time to learn little traits like making my ears dance.

    As I get older, I am glad that the positive memories are coming forward and the negative ones are disappearing.  A part of me doesn’t want to write those negative stories anymore. It’s best to stay positive as life goes on.


    Happy birthday dad. I do miss the idea of how great you once were. May you be in peace.

    No Tobacco

    I used to smoke. Years ago. I regret it immensely. No one to blame but myself for starting. I must've been 17 at the time. Thinking it was cool. But it wasn't.

    Cigarettes were a part of my life growing up. My father, his friends, the neighbors, my aunts and uncles- almost all of them smokers. Ashtrays and stale smoke filled my home as I grew up. I'm not blaming or accusing anyone for me starting but it didn't deter me from it either. In fact, back in my childhood I remember my father having a set of pipes and a large jar of tobacco on display. Occasionally I would open the jar just to smell the tobacco.

    I only know of one photo of me smoking since having children of my own. It was a Halloween party in 2002. As mentioned last year in Healthier Choice, I had made a conscious effort since meeting my wife in 2000 to not get photographed with a cigarette in my mouth or hand. We also had a no smoking indoors rule that we adhered to. It made smoking that much more difficult to enjoy- Although that really isn't the correct word, enjoying cigarettes never really happens. I believe it was somewhere on October 31st or November 1st 2004 that I smoked my last cigarette.

    All I remember about it was that I felt like my lungs were collapsing and I wasn't getting any oxygen in. It was right after another Halloween party at our place. I quit cold turkey that day. My wife had already quit because of being pregnant ages before. She had already been closer to never smoking again than I was. But me quitting helped to never have it again in our home.

    I keep one of my father's old pipes in a small box with his wedding ring and a ruby ring that he used to wear. In all the years growing up, I only ever saw my father smoke a pipe maybe twice. And that was when I was about 4 or 5 years old. But my memory of him smoking was a part of who he was. The smell of cigarettes stayed in his beard and was a permanent fixture of who he was.

    I now have to use an inhaler daily and also a steroid inhaler to give strength to my lungs in order to breathe somewhat normally. I hate it. I know that the dozen or so years of smoking increased the necessity of an inhaler but I probably would've needed one regardless at some point. Growing up in a home of secondhand smoke didn't help with my health.

    Waking up today struggling to breathe is what prompted me to write this. I don't like talking about the negative parts of my life. But certain things I do not want to repeat. Smoking is one of them. And I really hope my children don't smoke ever.