My dad was for the most part a good man, he was just ruined by my mother. He ended up a hopeless alcoholic I am sorry to say, and he died 2 months after I got married back in 2008.
I try to look back at fun things we did together when I was young, and I can’t think of many. My love of the outdoors is from him. We went camping as a family for years together, I do not know why this practice stopped but it did.
I was taught to solo canoe by the time I was 6 years old. We had to perform certain skills to my father’s perfection before we were allowed to be let loose on the lakes in our canoe. And man did this do me well over my lifetime.
We had to learn to gunnel walk, that was a skill that was easier to learn then I thought possible, mind you it may have been the canoe we had growing up, I would never try that in the canoes of today. We had to learn to flip the canoe back over when it got tipped, climb back in and bail the water out and continue to canoe. We learned how to survive under the canoe in rough weather if need be.
Of course we had to master how to maneuver the canoe as well alone. For my father that was sticking the bow of the canoe onto a stick he had driven into the ground on a beach. If you were off an inch, you failed. That skill was mastered by me, in fact I dated a girl I met in Algonquin simply because she was so in awe of my canoe skills. Grand times, meeting and dating a girl you met in the middle of a Provincial Park on a 10 day canoe trip.
Lessons were tough, nothing was easy to master with him, but what he taught me has lasted a lifetime in the outdoors. I still camp today, I still use some of his gear. Almost all of my cast iron frypans were purchased by my grandfather for my father when he was a child. They are over 80 years old and still being used on the open campfires. I have added many new pieces to my collection for my son, and I am teaching him the exact same way. Minus the beatings and berating attitude of course.
This sadly is one of the only things I can actually remember my father teaching me. Most times especially when we were a little older he was drunk. Quiet time in our home started mid afternoon until the next morning. God help you if you woke dad up, the beatings were relentless. And the worst part was, he could not remember if you did this yesterday or today, so you got a beating no matter what.
Things were not always terrible though, he did nice things when sober. That was the only time we ever wanted to be around the house. Otherwise I spent my time in the same creek system I play in today with my son.
I started to work when I was oh, 8 years old or so. I started with paper routes of course. I had a route that was nowhere near my home, not a problem except for the Saturday Star, that was a huge paper to carry, I would have to go back to my home numerous times if I had to do it alone. I did not mind except in the winters. My dad was always up early, how could you not be when you sleep at 3pm the day before. But that was great on a Saturday morning when it was -30 and you had the morning paper to deliver, he drove me often. For that I still hold a great deal of gratitude.
The last hockey game my father ever watched me play was when I was I guess 16 years old or so. I was talented, talented enough to play at Maple Leaf Gardens. What an experience walking down Carlton St with your gear and people asking if you were playing at the Gardens. I even signed autographs. But that is not the point of this story. My point was the last game he watched he as usual was in the stands yelling and screaming at me. Do this, do that, how could you mess up that play. Do better, blah blah blah.
I had a breakaway, and there was my dad, yelling and screaming at me. You could always hear him, he was drunk and loud. I stopped dead in my tracks on the ice and yelled up to him. ” Shut the Fuck up!!” With that I left the ice, nobody knew what to do. The refs blew the play dead, and my coaches just tried to keep my happy. But my father never came to another one of my games after that. He never watched me play later in life, maybe that was good, when I broke my neck years later playing, I don’t think I could have handled him there to see that. We had a friend of mine bust his neck in his last game with us years before.
Poor Gary, all he wanted to do was play 1 game as a forward, we swapped position for that one game, and he never walked again in his life. To this day I still feel like crap, as on the play he got injured he was in the corners, what should have been my place, but poor Gary did not know how to take the hit. I was the follow up on the play, and I will never forget that moment in my life.
Anyhow, after the incident when my father stopped watching me play we drifted far apart. I could no longer stand being around him when drunk, and was old enough to drive, so I left home as often as possible. In fact before I stopped speaking with my family totally I used to call to make sure he had not had a drink yet to talk with him. It was that bad.
For all that, and really much more, I keep my posts to 1k words, I plan to expand on all this when I write my book, I still have a lot of regrets about his passing. I think his heart gave out on him, yes I know he died of a heart attack, but it was gone long before that. He lived as the totally abused husband to my mother, the next up on my 1k word hitlist.
I to this day still feel that the wrong person died that day. I think my father could have had a chance to be a good grandfather. He never met Aidan. My mother should have died instead. She does NOT WANT to see her grandson. But I will share all that on her post.
RIP dad, I still miss you no matter what you did and didn’t do for me.