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.


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.


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.

    Pants-Free Comfort at Home

    I came home tonight after work and did a very “Dad” thing.  I took off my pants and just hung out in my underpants and dress shirt. It’s a liberating sensation to just drop the trousers and let your legs air out.

    Usually I put some on lounge pants or shorts, but today I didn’t.  No reason really. I just didn’t want to.  Maybe I’m a bit lazy. Maybe I wanted some more freedom in my own home.

    Butt, I’m happy not putting on pants this evening.  Sure, my wife and kids are embarrassed- only more for themselves, not me.  I’m not embarrassed.  It was mentioned though by everyone in the household that I should be wearing pants at the dinner table.

    I’m not showing off anything totes inappropes, so who cares.  I know in the past, friends have seen me in far less clothing, or even naked, on occasion.  I’m not exactly a sex symbol to most folks.  However, I’m kind of ok with how I look. I’m not trying to impress anyone.

    Don’t look!

    So there you have it.  I did a stereotypical “Dad” thing this evening after a long day at work.  Now I’m going to bed.  

    I plan on sleeping naked- just in case you needed that visual tonight. All in the name of comfort.

    Where Was My Father Figure in those 1980’s Movies?

    I am often nostalgic for my youth.  Mainly sharing with my kids the films that I grew up on.  For the most part, the films were goofy, adventurous and fun. But upon reflection of these 1980’s classics- there was something usually missing…  A father.

    I’m not sure if this was the norm in the 80’s.  Perhaps it was because divorce and working mothers were on the rise in society.  It made it seem like no parents were around in these films. It was also very popular to have child actors go on big adventures well outside of their comfort zone. But I loved these films nonetheless. Often watched and rewatched on VHS until the lines of static over came the images.

    E.T. was one of the first films that I can remember.  Boy finds an alien and becomes the parent figure trying to get E.T. home. To this day, E.T. scares the crap out of me.

    Annie was about a bunch of orphans without parents in search of hoping to have a family one day.  Plus singing! This movie made me fall in love with musicals.

    Goonies where the only adults in the movie were the villains trying to hunt the kids down. Even at the end the parents weren’t listening to the kids. “Hey you guys!”

    The Neverending Story had us following two separate boys on adventures without adult role models. Only at the start of the movie is the father shown, and he basically tells his son to grow up.

    The Last Starfighter was about a teenage boy living with his mom in a trailer park who played an arcade game so well, aliens took him away to protect the universe. Videogames leading to space travel?  Every child’s dream…

    Explorers had three young boys traveling into space.  Again, no parents. How did they get out in the middle of the night?

    Stand By Me had four boys searching out a dead body and just wandering around. This is an excellent “coming of age” style film about boys becoming men.

    Big was a strange film about a boy turning into a man. Besides a brief moment of the mother freaking out, they kind of forget about that aspect of the story as this kid is on his own to explore the world in an adult body.

    Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was kind of the opposite of Big. It was a grown man acting like a child.  Maybe PW needed a father figure growing up…

    The Secret of NIMH is the only cartoon that I’m going to add to this list. The father was long gone, but constantly referenced as a good man, er, mouse. Plus, Don Bluth animation is my favorite of all time.

    Moving on from the lack of actual fathers in these films, there were a few films that had “Father Figures” in them.

    Back to the Future where Marty looked up to “Doc” as a father figure since he regarded his own dad was a wimp at the beginning of the film. Plus Marty’s mom was hitting on him in the past.  Creepy.

    Beetlejuice did have parents in the movie, but they never listened to Lydia, so the dead couple tried to take care of her and protect her from Beetlejuice. My love of Tim Burton films keeps this as re-watchable to this day.

    The Wizard was about three kids running away to go to a videogame competition. At least this film had the father trying to find them and he developed an understanding for the video game fascination.

    There are plenty of other films that fit the genre of “1980’s Children Adventures” but these were some of my favorites. There is nothing wrong with the lack of parents to push the story forward.  Maybe it was the fact that I was a child during this era and  that I felt I could relate because my father was constantly working long hours and weekends. It was my father’s way of doing things.  He loved to work.

    In the long run, I think these films helped to mold me into being the father I always wanted around.  I’d say I’ve successfully gone on many adventures with my family and hope to have many more.  Sure, none of them have been magical or going into outer space, but who knows what the future holds for us. I’m just happy to be their father.

    When Did I Become My Father?

    It’s 8pm on a Saturday night.  I’ve been awake a little over 8 hours.  A bit over half of my day has been awful.  I think it’s all my doing as well.  Actually I know it’s my fault.

    I slept in past lunch.  I woke up with my lower back in agony.  I barely wanted to move.  Eventually I pushed myself out of bed.  Begrudgingly I made a late breakfast for my wife and I.  More like I made a breakfast sandwich for a late lunch.  While we ate, my wife reminded me that I wanted to take her to the VIP Cinema to watch “Logan” this afternoon.  So I checked the showtime and we decided to make the 2:30pm showing.  A matinee was a great idea.

    I accomplished the 3 S’s and we were at the theater with twenty minutes to spare.  We sat down and chatted, joked- just enjoyed each other’s company.  My wife said, “I like this version of you.”  She had me thinking that I have been a poop lately.  I haven’t hung out with my kids in over a week.  Driving to and from school doesn’t really count.  There hasn’t been much in the way of quality time with the family this week.  Work has been heavy on my mind.

    We enjoyed our film.  Then wandered some shops for a bit.  I was looking for a new jacket and she was looking at clothes for the kids.  No luck.  So we went home.  No plan for dinner.  As we drove, I quickly did a mental recall of food in our home and mentioned what we had in the freezer and what to have for a side dish.  We got home with dinner planned out.

    Then I became grumpy.  No reason.  Just a big grump.  I served dinner and everything was making me edgy.  Just everything.  The way the kids answered questions, how they were serving their food, even the way they were eating.  Suddenly, my father came out.

    The grumpy piece of shit.  The asshole who ruined nearly every meal in my childhood.  The man who made me feel less of a human being with every word he spoke.  That man showed up at my dinner table.  His voice coming through my mouth.  The more I tried to fight it, the more he came out.  My wife sat silently stunned.  My children were holding back tears.  

    The one thing I never wanted.  The person have I tried so hard to not become.  Here he was in all of his Eastern European hatred.  Shining like a beacon.  A ray of destruction killing our family meal.  And I was lost.  Lost like the little boy that I could see across the table in my son’s eyes.  He and I shared a kinship of fear and sadness as I could feel my father pulsating through my veins.

    Suddenly I hated myself.  I hated everything I said.  I hated who emerged at that moment.  I can’t take any of it back.  I can’t give an excuse for why I behaved that way.  Here I am now as I type this.  Crying at the way I acted.  The way I spoke.  No one needs to accept me for that.  I can’t ask for forgiveness.  I can’t reason away my rudeness.  

    Sticks and stones can break your bones but words cause permanent damage.


    Not my best performance to date with my family.  I have many years left to go raising them and loving them.  I don’t want a night like this to reflect in their memories of who I was.  I don’t want to become my father.  I want to be my children’s father.  A father who cares and shows he cares.  Not a belligerent jerk.  

    When my father died, I had hoped that his hate had died also.  It seems there was a bit of it in me.  I hope it’s gone.
    No one wants him around.  

    Especially me.  Not ever again.  Not in this household.  Not towards my children.

    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.

    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.

    Father’s Day 

    I’m always writing about my kids.  They’re pretty fantastic little humans.  If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to celebrate today as a father.  (Go figure.)  Instead of blathering on about my children (again) I’d like to share a single story about my father today.

    My father and I.

    My father was a hard worker.  He put in long hours at the office, and in his free time he went golfing.  He was transferred from city to city- so he uprooted his family every few years.  Providing an income and a home for his wife and kids was about the extent of his fatherly duties.  In his mind, that was his only responsibilities when it came to raising my sister and I.


    Years ago, we lived in Edmonton near a couple of large dirt hills.  In the winter, the neighborhood kids would drag their sleds over and we spent hours speeding down the hills.  In the summer, we spent hours riding our BMX bikes down.  

    I was five years old the first summer we lived there.  A group of us walked our bikes to the top of the hill.  The other kids took turns riding down.  That side of the dirt hill had a smooth, gradual slope.  Each of them went a couple of times before realizing I was still at the top with my bike.  I stood with my bike between my legs and was terrified to try riding down the hill.  Then the peer pressure and taunting began.  

    I started to walk backwards with my bike wishing to crawl into a corner.  I wasn’t ready to be a daredevil and race down that hill.  I was so scared, I just wanted to go home.  I was still walking backwards and turned away from the other boys quickly.  Soon I was heading straight down the backside of the dirt hill.  My feet dragged behind me trying to slow myself down.  I gripped the handlebars with all my might and tried to steer.  About halfway down- I lost control.

    The bottom of the hill hit me fast.  Bloody and bruised, I picked up my bike and hobbled towards my backyard.  From the top of the hill the other kids were screaming out my name, but I didn’t turn around.  My goal was to get home.  I needed my mommy. I was nearly at our gate when my father burst out of the kitchen and down the porch stairs.  I saw him and that’s when I began to cry.  I dropped my bike and ran to him with my arms spread out.

    I’d love to tell you that he lifted me up and hugged me.  That he held me tight and whispered that everything was ok.  It would be a fantastic end to a horrible experience for a battered and bruised child.  I’m crying as I write this- because that never happened.

    He grabbed my little arm with great force and spun me around throwing me back at my bike.  He made me pick up the bike. He grabbed my arm again and dragged me and the bike back to our home.  As I sobbed he hurled insults at me.  I struggled to break free from his hand, but his grip was firm.  We got to our home and he finally let me go. I ran and hid in the bathroom, terrified of what would happen next.  An eternity must have passed.  I finally gained control over my breathing and looked at myself in the mirror.  Fat lip and bruises on my cheek.  All covered in a mix of blood, dirt and the tears of a scared little boy.  Thanks dad for being there.

    To this day, I refer to my dad as an asshole, because that’s how I remember him.  Everyone else thought he was the funniest, nicest guy around.  He was dark and regretted having children.  Trust me- he told me enough times.  

    My father gave me a name.

    He died before I married and had children of my own.  From his parenting, I take from him many things.  Like how to cook, do home repairs, and drink beer.  From his lack of parenting skills I vowed to be there 100% for my children.  I made promises to never miss a birthday or a special event.  Work would never come between me and watching my children succeed.  Anger would never keep me from pausing for a moment to listen to my children and hug them when they need it.  

    In my eyes- I’m the better father than he ever could have been.  He’s been dead for over fifteen years.  But the memories of a frightened child, thirty five years ago, will never forget him.

    Deep Fry My Heart

    Eating healthy is a great idea at my age.  Then why do I find joy in using my deep fat fryer?  I love all the amazing foods I can make at home that the pub will charge me a small fortune for. Denny’s has got nothing on me.

    Deep frying food goes way back for me.  My father got a T-Fal deep fryer back in the mid eighties.  I was ten years old when I found out we could make fries like a fast food restaurant in our own home.  It became a staple of our weekend dinners.  My father mastered the art of deep fried potatoes.  His only attempt at being adventurous was when he made fresh mini donuts once- only once- and they were amazing.

    When I was about sixteen or seventeen, I would borrow the deep fryer for parties at my friend’s houses.  They loved the spicy curly fries I would make.  That deep fryer ended up being passed on to me when my father passed away.  I used it nearly every weekend until it finally died a few years later.  

    I was without a deep fryer for only a couple of months after that.  I shopped around for the biggest home fryer I could find.  The DeLonghi deep fryer met all my needs.  It was large, clean, and had a deep basket.  I have abused the hell out of this machine!

    I have gone way past my father’s attempts at deep frying.  Sure, I deep fry French fries and potatoes like my dad used to make, only better.  My friends look forward to coming over to my house for a party because I will serve deep fried shrimp and deep fried pita bread (an excellent pairing for spinach dip).  But you don’t know living until you’ve deep fried a Mars Bar or gourmet bacon.  Pickles, zucchini, cauliflower, mushrooms & sweet potatos taste so much better when battered and tossed in the deep fryer. This past week alone I have enjoyed shoestring French fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks & jalapeño poppers.

    I still don’t have the courage to try and make deep fried donuts.  That was something my father made.  I don’t want to sully my memory of the look of joy on his face as he bit into his first home made donut from scratch.  I know that they would taste delicious, but I also know that if I made them, they’d taste better than what he made.

    Yes, that sounds cocky.  But I’ve made it a goal in my life to improve on all of my father’s recipes.  I have succeeded.  Learning to cook properly has made me who I am in the kitchen.  Funny thing is, as much as I love my deep fried goodies, I also enjoy the vegetarian meals we make.  I’m pretty sure my deep fryer will take a break this summer as fresh fruit and vegetables will be hitting our table.

    But until then, I’m going to see if there’s any more ranch dressing left for me to dip my mozza sticks into.