|The family on the Winnipeg River. Once upon a time.|
Hello. Been a long time since my last post. Lots of water under the bridge. Lots of changes.
I wondered sometimes if I would ever write another post. And besides this one, maybe I won't. But there is something that before the last half dozen Father's Days, I promise myself I will write and post. And, for the last half dozen Father's Days, I don't.
Truth be told, this is not the first time I have related some of this story. That time was at my father's funeral. But I thought it could benefit from being written, as the reader will not have to decipher it through my blubbering, as those at the funeral did. So anyways, here it. This is for you, dad.
"It's really great to see you too." As far as my memory serves me, those were the last words my dad ever spoke to me. One could do worse, I am sure. They also took a heck of an effort to say. The cancerous tumour in his brain was working hard. Stealing his thoughts. Stealing his words. Stealing his life.
Glioblastoma it was called. Why you get it? They dunno. But if you do? That’s it. The only question is “how much time?” With my dad? Not much. From the day I heard my mother’s voice on the phone from Winnipeg expressing concern at my father’s odd behavior, to his hospitalization, my move back from Ottawa, his move to a long term care centre and then his passing away, it was only months. Spring to late fall.
The words were spoken in the common room at the Tuxedo Villa long term care centre. Just after the (now) ex wife and I and Gabe and Emmett had completed the move back to Winnipeg. The boys, just four and one and a half, were running around like maniacs, oblivious. I can still remember feeling this overwhelming stew of emotions when I saw him, already wheelchair bound, extremely limited in his movements. Grief. Sorrow. And so much love. And I told him what I felt. Which was “It’s really great to see you, dad.”
God, I loved my dad. To echo my brother Greg’s words at the funeral, he is the greatest man I have ever known. A constant calming presence. A moral compass. An unimpeachable role model. And always his children’s biggest supporter and biggest fan. Which I guess is where this story really begins. Because, I will tell you, one of his kids really, really, needed that.
I have been a graduate of law school for almost 15 years now. In those 15 years, I have gotten to do (at least in my mind) some incredibly interesting work, been able to travel, and been able to support a family. Pretty amazing, really. Sometimes it seems hard to believe what things were like for me before I got in to law school. But I remember, oh I remember.
1995. I have now hit the wrong side of my twenties. A little more than two thirds of an abandoned Arts university degree in the bag. Unemployed. I am sitting in some Employment Insurance counselor’s cubicle. My dream of being part of the blue box recycling industry in Winnipeg was shattered months before when the private company I worked for didn’t win the tender. I have brilliantly decided to salve my disappointment in being laid off by staying on EI as long as possible, as it pays me 55% of what had been a pretty crappy wage, and as sitting home all day erodes my self-confidence.
She had given me some survey or something to fill out, and we were reviewing my answers. While I can’t remember the specifics, I can remember this vibe coming off of her. Like she was trying to appear positive, but you could see that what she was thinking was “uh oh…this dude is in trouble…. he very well might stink at everything.”
But I eventually found work! In a warehouse. Unloading 100 pound boxes of siding from a semi-trailer and stocking them. And then taking those 100 pound boxes and loading them on to contractor’s trucks. At least until it snowed, then... I was out.
I can remember so clearly looking at these older contractors and installers and thinking “I am going to be their age. Soon! What the fuck am I going to do for the rest of my life!? Am I going to be here when I am forty? I don’t know how to do anything else! And I am not even particularly good at this!”
At this point, you might be wondering where my father comes in to the story. Well, here it is! At the same time as this was going on, I am going to the parents every Sunday for dinner. And my dad keeps kind of pestering me to consider going to law school. Because he thinks I would be good at it. Each time he does, I think to myself, “Law school? Ummmm…Dad? That’s for people with their shit together. Not for fuck-ups like me.”
But I can’t say that to him. I have to come up with an excuse for why it’s not a good idea. And I am pretty sure he is not going to buy “I think I want to give this siding humping a real go!"
So instead I try for the practical: “Uh, I think you need to get a degree first, so no point.”
“Well, why don’t you just find out what the requirements are to get in?” And I do it, hoping that once I confirm, if it will get him off my back. Oops. Crap. At the University of Manitoba, you only need two full years of an Art degree to apply to law school. Which I have. But…aha! The LSAT! The uniform test to apply to law school! It costs money! Like $100! Perfect excuse! (If you are cringing at what a fucking dolt/loser I was, don’t feel bad. I cringe every time I think of it.)
Anyways: “Sorry dad, you gotta write this test. And it costs too much money. Oh, well.”
“I’ll pay.” He tells me.
“Uhhhh…well you need these tutorial books with practice tests too, and they are pretty pricey.”
“Ok, I’ll pay for that too. What’s the total?”
Crud. He had me. I was trapped. Fine. I will write the stupid test. I will do crappy and then we can stop this farce.
So I signed up for it. And I read the prep books. And I went through the practice tests. And then I wrote the test. And I did crazy well. (Whuuuut? Is it possible that I am not a fuck up?) And I applied to law school. And I got in. (Whuuut??) And I got some student loans and I went. And I liked it. And didn’t seem out of place. In fact, seemed good at it. And it was like a ball rolling down a hill. I graduated with good marks, won some awards. Finished my Arts degree while I was attending law school. Got a job with the exact firm I wanted, working in exactly the area of law I wanted. Then got to move to Ottawa and write income tax law. Then got to join one of the big four accounting firms. Then got to join CRA – exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to. Like I said…amazing.
|Holy cow! JJ graduated from something!|
But it all started because, even when I was ready to give up on myself, had pretty much already given up on myself, my father refused to. He refused to stop believing in me. And it’s because he wouldn't... that I have the life I do today.
So although the words can’t really cover it, I will say thank you, dad. And I love you so much. Still. Forever.
Happy Father’s Day.