Sunday, September 30, 2012

Father's Day Thoughts

I never knew my Papa’s father… I think he passed away before I was born, but maybe it happened during my lifetime, just before I can remember. Either way, there’s a sense of loss there, for he had to have been a great father, and great grandfather, and great-grandfather (ok, now this is getting confusing… should have chosen a word other than great).
Anyways, it might seem to be a bit of a stretch, assuming all these things of a man I never met; but only if you never met my Papa. I’ve said before that hero is probably the right word to describe him, in my eyes. I grew up in an extended family that was very close, and he was the centre of that, the glue that held that family together, a fact that unfortunately was made all too clear in the years after he passed away. We are still close, but since Papa left us it just hasn’t been the same.
Papa in his younger days was a star athlete and a great student, and the fact that he went away to UBC and then came back to little Cumberland has always stood out to me; here was a man who could have gone anywhere, done anything, but he went back to his roots, became principal of the school in town, and remained active in the community until the day he died. Family, community, these were what mattered, something he passed on to his children. He coached sports throughout his teaching career, including a stretch coaching Dad’s youth basketball team; sports, and family, a combination that has certainly been passed down. He was there at many of my key sports moments; the one of these that most sticks out in my head was when my basketball team, with Dad as coach, won the provincial championship, with Nanny and Papa in the stands.
With Papa as a role model, it might seem like a given that my father would be the same, but such things can never be taken for granted, especially when you consider that I was born when Dad was just 19. I can’t imagine having that kind of responsibility at that age, and in so many situations these days that is a recipe for disaster; kids, having kids. Fortunately for me, this wasn’t any 19 year-old.
Growing up, he was that perfect combination of parent and big brother, a playmate when I needed one, and yet an authority figure when he needed to be. Basketball, softball, golf, tennis, you name it he would play it with us (and beat us at it, a trend that faded far too late in life). The coaching gene had apparently been passed to him, as well, and all of us grew up in the Agassiz High gym, learning to dribble a basketball soon after we learned to walk. Once we began to play organized sports, he coached us if he could, if we wanted him to, and to this day he remains the best coach I ever had. Other coaches screamed and yelled and punished their players for mistakes, forced them to memorize plays, sucked the fun out of the game; he made us want to play, let us have fun while giving us the tools to be successful at the same time, and almost never raised his voice; and of course, when you never yell, it makes the times you do far more effective, as anyone who has been on the receiving end of his anger will attest to.
He coaching style and his parenting style are very similar, and I guess in a way that makes sense, they are different degrees of the same role; sports coach versus life coach. Patient, fun, allowing you room to make mistakes, and there to help you through them when you do; for as many times as I’m sure I disappointed him while growing up, I can not think of a single time where he disappointed me. You know, I don’t think there are very many people in this world who can say that about their parents; until I wrote that, I had never really thought about it, which I’m pretty sure makes it true.
This all started in my head the other day, when Lisa and Lizzie were making a Father’s Day card for me, and Lizzie saw a picture of a trophy with some writing on it; she asked Lisa what it said, so Lisa read it for her: “World’s Greatest Dad.” Lizzie responded: “Let’s use that one, because he is the greatest dad in the world.” I teared up a little bit when Lisa told me that, even as I thought Lizzie was wrong… she doesn’t have the greatest Dad in the world, I do, and I think if he read this my Dad would probably say the same thing. Three generations in a row thinking that they’ve got the greatest dad in the world is an amazing thing; and if Lizzie is still thinking the same thing 30 years from now then maybe I’ve fulfilled the legacy that I have been handed.
I miss you Papa.
Thank you Dad.
Happy Father’s Day.
I love you both.

June 20, 2010

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