In order for a movie to be considered great it needs to appeal to different generations. I’ve watched a few movies that I loved when I was 20, but today I don’t relate to them as much. A great movie, however, will be timeless and whenever you sit down and watch it will capture your imagination.
One of my father’s favourite movies was the 1967 classic, The Dirty Dozen. The star-studded cast included Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savales, Charles Bronson, star runningback Jim Brown and John Cassavetes who earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor as Viktor Franko.
Today marks the 12th anniversary of my father’s passing, clearly the reason The Dirty Dozen popped into my head, and each year as this day draws closer memories of Dad flood my brain. My wife, Traci, had never seen the movie so we watched it last night. The Dirty Dozen is still great, however, my mind wandered through most of it thinking about Dad.
He loved watching movies. I picture him in his old ratty white t-shirt making popcorn on the stove. He’d think he was the popcorn guru ferociously sliding the pot back and forth across the burner to ensure every kernel was popped. He always made more than enough, offered us each our own cereal bowl full, and then wheeled downstairs to his trusty orange rocking chair. The Fly was his #1 favourite movie, I think he watched it 100 times, but The Dirty Dozen was near the top.
William Arthur Gregor was only 56 years young when his heart gave out. He had dropped my mother off at her physio appointment in Sherwood Park and planned to run some errands before picking her up. Sadly he never made it back.
At a red light he bumped into the car in front of him. A Good Samaritan got out and quickly recognized something was wrong and called 911. A policeman was a few blocks away, but by the time he got there Dad was gone. It pains me to think that he died alone; however, the officer said the stranger from the car spoke to Dad and stood by him during his final breaths. We never got to thank that man, but I hope he knows we are incredibly grateful for his kind-hearted actions.
I was 27 when my brother, Colin, tracked me down to tell me the awful news. It was a Friday night. I had gone to the Oiler game with my roommate Jeff and then we met up with some buddies and hit the town. I didn’t have a cell phone and I still chuckle at how Colin knew which bar we’d be at. Thankfully, my partying ways were predictable.
He told me to come outside and proceeded to tell me our father had passed away. Hearing the news was hard, but I bet it was difficult for him to tell me. In some ways I feel lucky that I was the last to find out, because I had instant support from my family. I got into the car along with my sister Rachel, brother-in-law Eric and sister-in-law Elise and drove to the farm to see Mom. After they told me the specifics, my first question was, “How’s Mom?”
My parents had a whirlwind romance. They met at the post office in Grande Cache in March of 1969, got engaged three weeks later and were married on August 23rd of the same year. Over the next 31 years their friendship and love strengthened, and after watching my baby sister get married in August of 2000 they were planning on traveling the world.
Twelve years later the memory of walking into the farmhouse and seeing my mom still brings me to tears. She got up from the table, walked to the back entrance and we hugged. Her eyes told me everything. Her true love was gone. We didn’t say a word; we just hugged each other tight until we both started to cry. There was nothing I could say in that moment that would make either of us feel better, and that’s when I realized that sometimes a hug is more comforting than words.
I am normally a very social person. I love talking and joking with people, but over the next five days, while our house was filled with friends and family offering their condolences, I spent a lot of time in the barnyard by myself. Dad and I had spent countless hours working around the barn, corrals and fields, and in those places I could still feel his presence.
Like most young men I didn’t like to cry in front of people. I’d convinced myself that crying was a weakness, so I tried to only do it when I was alone. During the days leading up to Dad’s funeral I spent as much time as I could in the barnyard, and I shed a few tears sitting on the straw bales in the barn thinking about him. To this day, when I walk through the white gate by the garage and into the barnyard a sense of calm and happiness saturates my body.
TELL HIM HOW YOU FEEL
I was incredibly lucky to have William Gregor as my father. If you met my father you’ll know what I mean. If you didn’t… 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.
He was a loving and loyal husband, father, son, brother, uncle, grandfather and friend. He rarely gave fatherly advice; instead he showed you how a good man carries himself through his actions.
If you feel this way about your father, be sure to tell him. Over the past 11 years I’ve received many replies from men about my letter and every one of them mentioned how they hope their children love and respect them the way I did my father.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking “the old man” wouldn’t want to hear that from you. Fathers want nothing more than to know their children love and respect them. When you tell him look into his eyes and you’ll see his pride.
On the morning of my father’s funeral I couldn’t sleep so I sat at my computer and sent an email to my friends. I asked for their thoughts and prayers, but most importantly I asked them to tell their fathers they loved them. I hoped that through their actions my dad would know how much I loved him.
Today, after you’ve taken the time to read this, I ask that you do the same.
This year I wanted to thank those, many who are unaware they are even doing it; who helped me remember my father. Every year I could write about a different life lesson he taught me, but this year I wanted to focus on your actions.
Since his funeral I’ve become much more comfortable with my inner emotions. While I’m not a fan of crying, I’m also not afraid to let it happen anymore. Traci jokingly teases me and says that I’m the “cryer” in our house. Most movies that involve a father and son choke me up, and of course any real-life sports movie or documentary opens up my tear ducts.
Lately, however, when I see someone acting like my father my eyes well up. Too often we get caught up in all the negative aspects of life, but everyday I see many positive actions that warm my heart.
Thank you to the fathers who build backyard rinks for their kids.
My friend Dregs takes great pride in his rink. Guys love to build things, so I know that is part of it, but mostly fathers like watching the enjoyment it brings for their children.
We grew up on the farm so Dad never had to build us a rink, he just had to clear the snow off the dugout and we’d play for hours. Dad never played hockey growing up, but he knew how to skate and loved playing shinny with Mom, Colin and I. We had a fire by the pond and we’d play for hours. It was such a great bonding moment.
If your dad built you a rink make sure you thank him, and if you are in the planning stages for this year make sure you enjoy it. It will build lifelong memories and strengthen the bond between you and your kids.
Thank you to the husbands who love and respect your wives.
To those who open her car door, pull out her chair in a restaurant, put away your phone during dinner and listen to her, surprise her with flowers or a love note, cuddle her on the couch, hold her hand on a walk, and most importantly support and encourage her, I say thank you.
Your actions make the void of my father much more bearable. By watching your good deeds, it reminds me of what a great man he was.
Thank you to the fathers who love and support your kids.
To those who drive your kids to every dance recital, sporting event, school activity and then stick around and watch them, thank you.
To those who introduce your kids to new activities or ones you loved as a child I applaud you. Kids want your time much more than they want the material things you can provide.
To those who help their kids with their homework. You likely fake your way through some of the questions, but just sitting at the table shows your children how much you care.
Your actions remind me of all the good times I shared with my father.
Thank you to the men who help your extended family, friends and sometimes even strangers.
To those who donate to charities, volunteer in your community, help your neighbour, help your friends move, love and accept your in-laws and don’t gossip at work, I say thank you.
The world is a much better place than we think, and when we take the time to acknowledge the good aspects of life our days are much more fulfilling. Thank you for doing the little things that put a smile on someone else’s face.
In the past year I’ve started reading more books. I prefer true stories and I’d highly recommend Escape from Camp 14, Unbroken, A Million Little Pieces, Lullabies for Little Criminals, Tuesdays with Morrie and Have A Little Faith.
Mitch Albom’s Have A Little Faith really made me think about life. The following excerpt is a Sermon from the Reb (Albert Lewis) one of the main protagonists, and a truly wonderful man.
“A man seeks employment on a farm. He hands his letter of recommendation to his new employer. It reads simply, ‘He sleeps in a storm.”
“The owner is desperate for help, so he hires the man. Several weeks pass, and suddenly, in the middle of the night, a powerful storm rips through the valley. Awakened by the swirling rain and howling wind the owner leaps out of bed. He calls for his hired hand, but the man is sleeping soundly.”
“So he dashes off to the barn. He sees, to his amazement, that the animals are secure with plenty of feed. He runs out to the field. He sees the bales of wheat have been bound and are wrapped in tarpaulins. He races to the silo. The doors are latched and the grain is dry.
“And then he understands, ‘He sleeps in a storm.’
“My friends if we tend to the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the aching throb of unfulfilled business. Our words will always be sincere, our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of ‘I could have, I should have.’ We can sleep in a storm.
“And when it’s time, our goodbyes will be complete.”
I never had the chance to “officially” say goodbye to my father, but I never had any regrets because we knew we loved each other. I was lucky enough to receive a surprise call from him two days before he passed though. I am very grateful he made that call, but more importantly I’m thankful and happy about how he acted during my lifetime.
How he loved his children and my mom made his passing much easier to absorb.
Don’t wait for tomorrow to tell your father how you feel. And fathers don’t wait to show and express to your family how much they mean to you.
Many of you are now fathers, and I implore you to make time for your kids. I could go on forever writing stories of my father and the times we shared, but the one constant was that he was always took an interest in my life. He came to all my sporting events, taught me how to drive, shared a casual beer on a Saturday night when I became older and most importantly, without having to say it, his actions showed me I could always count on him. Rarely did we say, “I Love You,” but his supportive actions and interest in my life showed me he did.
Thanks in advance to those who follow through on my request. I offer my condolences to all of you who have lost your father, and I hope that his memories warm your heart. If your father is gone make sure you call your mother, because the void in her heart is likely much deeper than yours.
Dad, I love you deeply. I miss your popcorn, your laugh and your love. Please watch over all of my family, friends, my lovely wife Traci and especially your soulmate; Mom.
Love, your son, Jason
Take a moment and listen to The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics. Especially at 1:49. Don’t wait to tell your father what he means to you. Have a great day.