A dedication to my Dad

Jason Gregor
September 29 2009 09:32AM

blurry-farm-house

Good morning, I hope this Tuesday finds you happy, healthy, and most importantly, that those in your life are doing well.

Nine years ago today my father, William Arthur Gregor, passed away at the young age of 56. The morning of his funeral I couldn’t sleep and decided to write an e-mail to my friends to release my feelings, and since then I type an e-mail in his honour each year, and hope that it somehow lessens the void in my heart and the hearts of my family.

If you never met my Dad, he was unique. He had an unbelievable zest for life; an ability to make everyone he met comfortable and most importantly he had a huge heart. It’s too bad his heart gave out so soon. Dad was healthy for his age, he had quit smoking a few years earlier, rarely drank, ate well and was active, but I guess it was his time.

When I sit down and write this email I am flooded with memories of Dad that make me laugh, but ultimately leave me in tears as I yearn to hear his laugh or see him dance with my mom one more time. I’m most proud of my father because of how he treated his wife, my siblings and our extended family. My dad wasn’t rich or famous but he was very wealthy and extremely blessed.

It's strange how a person can affect you even nine years after the last time you’ve spoken. When I see fathers and sons together at sporting events, family gatherings or even at the mall I’m always reminded of him. Dad was what a father should be. He was supportive, caring, stern when necessary, but his best characteristic was that he always made me feel that he was in my corner.

He was also a character.

He loved to laugh, and play jokes and tease his kids or nephews and nieces. He was able to fit in on any situation. I remember a wedding our family went to when I was about 21. There were little bubble bottles on every table and the bride and groom wanted people to blow bubbles on them. Well, it was all kids out on the floor except my dad. He was in the middle of it, smiling with the kids, laughing with them and blowing his bubbles. I recall my mom telling me this story once and how she fell in love with him even more when he did that. He was so good at having fun and embracing the child within. Many of us guys think we are too cool or too mature to do certain things, but I think we might be missing out on more than we know.

Dad wasn’t a big “life-lesson” type of talker. In fact, I only recall a few times when he gave me any fatherly advice, but mostly he showed me through his actions how to be a good man, father and husband. To the dads who are reading this, sometimes the best thing you can say to your kid is nothing. Pat him on the back after a loss or a win — the fact that you are at his game means more than you know. And it isn’t just when they are little. My dad came to my games in junior when I was 18, 19 and 20. He never said much, but he was always there and if I wanted to talk about the game he remembered every play. Be there for your kids, emotionally and physically more than just monetarily.

Last month I had an encounter at the farm that re-enforced how moms and dads prepare you differently for situations, even though the outcome is similar.

When I was 16, we had a huge hornets nest on the side of the farm house. The hornets had become a bit to aggressive so Dad decided we needed to get rid of them. He explained to me that we should attack the nest at night, because the hornets would be sleeping and it would be easy to get close to it. There wasn’t GOOGLE when I was that age, and I never doubted the old man... ha! I was 17, and thought it made sense.

So at about nine o’clock we go outside, place a ladder against the house, Dad hands me a broom and says go up and give it a rip. He stands at the bottom and steadies the ladder. It’s was a 12-foot ladder. As I’m climbing, he of course shakes it and nearly knocks me off, just another one of his fun-loving pranks. I get to the second highest rung, rear back and swat the nest. It doesn’t fall, and as I’m getting ready to swing again, the hornets are everywhere. Dad had left the minute the nest didn’t fall and yelled “jump” so now I leap off the ladder, and land with a thud.

I see Dad standing in the garage doorway laughing, waving his arms at me to hurry up, while the hornets are all around me. I sprint to the garage and as I get in he slams the door. I ended up with about five or six stings. I’m livid now.

“I thought they *&*&%*#$% sleep at night,” I said. I can still see him hunched over the work bench, his back heaving up and down as he tries to catch his breath between laughs.

“I forgot you didn’t play baseball that was an awful swing,” he finally says.

Who the hell says that? But that was dad; life was too short not to have fun. I asked him later, after I had rubbed some mud on my arms to ease the stings, if hornets actually slept at night.

“I think so,” was his reply.

We spent an hour in the garage that night recapping the debacle. What I wouldn’t do to see him standing there one more time.

Fast forward to last month.

One of the hardest days I’ve had since Dad died was earlier this month when we had to ship all of our cows, except ten and the bull. This has been the driest summer in 60 years and the fields are barren and most of the dug outs dried up. The worst part was knowing how it tore up my mom. The cows were a connection to my Dad, and getting rid of most of them was really tough to take.

I had to ear tag all of the old cows before we shipped them. I put the first one in the head gate and then went to the house to get the tags. When I came back, there were bees all over her. So I let her out. Over the summer some yellow jackets had built a nest underneath the head gate. I got the tractor, lifted the head gate up and took it away, but the nest wasn’t attached it was still on the ground. I go to the house and tell mom. My plan is too be fully clothed this time.

It’s 30 degrees outside, but I put on my coveralls, some gloves, and a toque for my head. I’m walking up to the barn when mom comes out of the house. She has some sort of mesh with her. She’s going to make me a bee hunter head gear. She folds it up for double the thickness, drapes it over my head, tucks into the collar of my coveralls, and then puts the toque on top so the mesh won’t go anywhere. I’m sweating bullets now, but I’m confident I won’t get stung.  Moms at least try to prepare you for the situation, rather than tell wise tales... ha.

We don’t have any of that spray that supposedly kills bees, so my plan is too scoop the nest off the ground with a shovel and move it away from the squeeze. I sprint in, scoop it up and get about ten feet before the bees are buzzing all over and I drop it and retreat. Behind the granary stands my loving mother. I walk over and as I get closer I see almost the exact same grin on her face as I did on my dad’s 20 years earlier.

The only difference is she waits until I ask her if she has a better idea before she bursts into hysterics. She describe how I was flailing my arms up and down as the bees were all around me, but has to stop as she grabs onto the fence to hold herself up while laughing. She can barely talk.

I’m sweating bullets in my new bee fighting outfit, but it’s hard not to laugh watching her describe my antics. She then proceeds to get a camera, because she will need a picture when I go back for round two and move it further away. Eventually I got that bees nest into the burning barrel, and I’m glad to report without any bee stings.

As she walked away I was reminded why she and Dad were so in love. They both knew how to love and laugh. I also think that Dad knew that day was going to be hard, so he wanted to inject some laughter. Laughter can make even the hardest day easy some times.

My parents had a whirlwind romance. Dad asked her out in the post office; three weeks later they were engaged and then they got married four months later. Their love was apparent every day to me and my brother and sister. Without ever saying a word, my father showed us how a man should treat a lady, and I’m proud to say my brother was a good pupil, because he has become a loving father and husband. I’m confident that when I am in that situation, (keep the faith mom!) that the lessons I learned from Dad will stick with me.

Dad always made sure Mom knew that he loved her. I never consciously noticed that as a child, but as a teenager and then a man it was obvious. Gentlemen never forget to show, or more importantly, tell your wife how much you love her.

I feel blessed to have had a loving father for 27 years of my life. He showed me how to be a genuine man, how to respect others, and how to enjoy what life brings you. But what I wouldn’t do to hear his laugh one more time...

It’s not like my dad and I never argued or bickered. Our battles in the barnyard were quite boisterous at times, but we never held a grudge. One of us always extended an olive branch to apologize, and thankfully when he passed I had no regrets. Some days it pains me to hear about a son or daughter who isn’t on speaking terms with their father. Some things are too hard to overcome, but most of the times our egos or plain stubbornness hold us back from saying sorry.

We can convince ourselves that it's the other’s fault, but let me tell you this: losing my dad was difficult, but I can’t imagine how I would feel if we hadn’t been on speaking terms at the time of his death. Death doesn’t give you a tomorrow. It is forever, and it rarely gives you advance notice, so don’t wait to mend that fence, because you might not get that chance.

I write this post with the hope you can help my father know how much he meant to me, and how much I truly miss him.

If you are lucky enough to be able to see you father today, or this week, give him a hug or just spend some time together. At the very least call him and ask how he’s doing. Dads might never say it, but they love hearing from their kids. If you are in a different city, give him a call and tell him you love him. I hope that through your actions, my father will see what a wonderful impression he made in my life and heart.

I know for men, and some women, it can be hard to show emotion, but don’t let your fears get in the way of telling those you care about how important they are. Trust me, knowing he loved me made his death much easier to accept. His memory brings tears to my eyes as I write this, but they are a mixture of pain and joy, as I recall all the wonderful times we shared. And for the grown up kids, remember that your father is older and probably set in his ways more than you, so for you to take the first step might be easier.

Many of you are now fathers, and I encourage you to always show an interest in your children’s lives. I think the true measure of a man is showing those he loves that they have his support and love, no matter the situation. While your kids might not say it to you, we all loved looking in the crowd and seeing the face of our father or mother at our games, concerts, recitals or at the dinner table when they asked how school was. It is comforting and the best gift you can give your kids is YOU. Don’t forget that when you are busy “providing” for them.

Thank you for reading this, and for taking the time to follow through on my request. I really need to feel his love and energy and your actions will make that happen.

To all of you who have suffered the loss of your father recently or at any time, especially my friends Allison and Erin, my thoughts go out to you. Make sure you call your mom instead, because I guarantee the void in her heart is much deeper. And remember to cherish the memory of your father.

Dad, I love you dearly. I miss your smile, laugh, your undying love and your company. Please watch over all of my friends and family and especially Mom.

Love your son, Jason

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 Don
September 29 2009, 12:02PM
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That was difficult to read. Great post.

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#52 Fro
September 29 2009, 12:03PM
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This just goes to show you how powerful speaking honestly from your heart can be. I must say that I think it is esay to tell someone you love them, but much more difficult to show them. It is the little things that matter...time matters. Showing up at sporting events, putting aside your "important" work to read your kid a story, leaving the dishes till the kids are asleep and just playing cars or whatever games they liek at their age. These are the important things that really matter, this is what people remember.

Jason.....thank you.

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#53 Kiaser Wilhelm
September 29 2009, 12:10PM
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Thanks Gregor. I love hockey, but this is something that is so much more important than any sport could be. I seem to recall a couple of stories about my dad and wasp nests too, except they usually involved propane torches at midnight. Oh, the memories. I sympathise with you guys having to sell your cows too; it's been brutally dry all summer on our farm. I think I'll give the old man a call in the next few days and say thanks for everything. Keep up the good work.

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#54 BUCK75
September 29 2009, 12:24PM
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Great read.

For future reference if you move a hive in the morning when it is cold the bees/wasps are moving slower because of the cold. ;)

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#55 oil4thecup
September 29 2009, 12:29PM
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Excellent post Gregor. I think it helps remind everyone to take a step back from our busy lives and appreciate the important people we love and not too take the time together with them for granted like we sometimes do.

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#56 Jet
September 29 2009, 12:35PM
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Great read!! I admire that you share your thoughts and feelings as you did on a public forum, takes amazing strength and character to do that. May you find solace in your memories.

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#57 The Menace
September 29 2009, 01:19PM
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Thanks JG.

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#58 SquidRx
September 29 2009, 01:19PM
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Thank you, Jason. That was a fantastic post. I am very glad no one stuck their head in my office while I was reading. It would have been tough to explain the tears. As soon as I can compose myself I'm calling my Dad and my kids are getting a hug when I get home, whether they like it or not.

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#59 Paul Kelly
September 29 2009, 01:26PM
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Beautiful piece, Jason. Your love for your father and family seeped through every syllable.

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#60 dragon
September 29 2009, 01:37PM
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thanks for sharing, Jason.

my dad passed away at 59. i was 28. i cherish every moment he spent with me and wish he was still here for every little event in my life.

as far as 'hope that it somehow lessens the void in my heart and the hearts of my family'... it will never happen. we just have to manage our expectations better: our hearts are supposed to have these dear voids. we just learn to carry them better.

dads rock!

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#61 smiliegirl15
September 29 2009, 01:58PM
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My dad has been gone 7 years this October. The fact you have all those lessons, and have remembered them, are reasons your dad will always be with you. Mine lives in my memories too. I think every farm kid has similar stories of cows and wasp nests. I think you have to have a sense of humour to be a farmer.

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#62 Brian Hamilton
September 29 2009, 02:06PM
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Shannon; I too was greatly influenced by my Dad and since I turned 60, a number of friends and family members have commented on how much I remind them of him, physically and in the way I live my life. I couldn't ever receive a better compliment. I miss him and my Mom more with every passing day and your words captured the majority of those feelings perfectly. Seriously, well done. Brian

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#63 Propeller
September 29 2009, 02:28PM
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Thanks for sharing! Gonna phone Dad as soon as I get home.

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#64 Blair
September 29 2009, 02:33PM
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From a person who had the same relationship with my dad who passed away a long time ago at a young age thank you for the post. For the borther who I rarely speak with your words hit home. Tomorrow may never come make the best of today. Thank you Jason.

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#65 oilboy76
September 29 2009, 02:51PM
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Thanks Jay

Very Moving !

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#66 Dr. Unk
September 29 2009, 03:16PM
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Let's all raise a glass to our fathers, those here and those who have moved on.

Cheers, Dad.

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#67 Jodes
September 29 2009, 04:49PM
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Thanks Gregor.. It took me awhile to compose myself after that read.

I lost my dad two years ago after a short battle with cancer, and I'm man enough to say that I'm still not over his loss. He was my rock, and my hero. The void he left in my life and in my heart is still wide open. His loss and with my mother's alziemer's slowly worsening, its like I've lost both parents. Its definately a test of my faith.

When we are younger, we kid and joke when our parents say "if something should happen" "I'm not going to be around forever you know" - we don't take it seriously, or if we do we try to replace it with other thoughts because honestly, who wants to think about the people that you care the most for not being around?

I was greatful for the 35 and a half years I had with my dad.

So I share Gregor's thoughts here.. tell your parents that you love them and how much they mean to you as much as you can. You never know what may happen.

Thanks for reading.

Jody

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#68 Maverick
September 29 2009, 05:25PM
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Thank you Jason. Great Post.

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#69 Fiveandagame
September 29 2009, 06:33PM
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It takes a brave man to be so open.

Thank you for sharing Jason.

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#70 Jason Gregor
September 29 2009, 08:16PM
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Thanks to all of those who read this and took the time to follow up on my request. Thanks for sharing your stories as well. I greatly appreciate it and it made my day a bit easier. Thank you.

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#71 Jeff
September 29 2009, 08:28PM
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Hey Jason,

Great post, I lost my father to cancer last October and I can totally relate! Thank you for putting everything into prospective!!! Thank you for your blog, It has made my day and I will visit this article on October 25th, just to remind myself how precious life is.

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#72 dean
September 29 2009, 08:53PM
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Great post, brought some tears to my eyes. Definitely makes one appreciate what they have. I'm a father and cherish the tiem I get to spend with my 21 month old son.....

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#73 foliclychallenged
September 29 2009, 11:00PM
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Long time reader, first time poster (had to)

My dad has had a couple of heart attacks, but, he's still with us and healthy. Our family feels extremely blessed and thankful. Sure puts your life in perspective.

I have to go give my kids a kiss and call dad.

Take care everyone.

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#74 Oile-man-Dan
September 29 2009, 11:36PM
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Wow Jason, Caught me off guard with that one, but it was a great post. A great tribute, to your Dad, and to Dad's everywhere.

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#75 hamzinoilcntry
September 30 2009, 09:37AM
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GREAT READ. Very well done. Wish I could have met your dad. Seems like a good good man

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#76 Life in bullet points, Vol. 2 « pseudo psyence
September 30 2009, 10:13AM
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[...] on OilersNation, Jason Gregor wrote a moving piece this week about his father, who passed away nine years go. Now go tell your dad how much you love [...]

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#77 Evil Stu
September 30 2009, 11:33AM
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I'm calling my father right now. thanks for that Jason.

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#78 The Villain
September 30 2009, 12:22PM
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Great Post JG!

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#79 Joey Moss
October 01 2009, 01:34AM
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grief never goes away and this probably a good thing.

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#80 twnbbd
October 10 2009, 06:54AM
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Thank you

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