Tag Archive: dad


Yard Work

It’s almost 3am, and I smell like smoke. I have been back at my dad’s house for almost a week now, and spent a good part of today’s afternoon doing yard work. This morning I had my first therapy session in almost two weeks and feel like I mostly rambled on pointlessly for an hour. Being back here is still comforting and familiar, but it’s so strange without dad or any pets in the house. My brain feels frazzled, and despite my therapist assuring me that I am doing well given everything I have experienced I feel like I should be doing better, and more. I am struggling with accepting that dad’s house is now my house; that everything here isn’t dad’s, it’s mine to look after. The two biggest challenges I’ve been finding are that I still want to ask him about so much that I discover here at the house (why did he keep this? what’s the story behind that?) – and looking at almost every item in this house, realizing that at one time, my dad put that item down and never picked it up again. It’s not like I’m keeping the house as some sort of untouched memorial, but these thoughts hit me almost every time I move things to try and get this place organized.

Which brings me back to smelling like smoke. I’d gone for a walk along the rivers after my therapy session, and came back to the house determined to get some work done around here. The front of the lawn is absolutely covered in mud and rocks from the winter, so I started trying to make an impact on that. 30 or so pounds worth of gravel, deer and dog shit later, I moved inside the fence. I raked up under the massive cedar shrubs lining the front edge of the lawn and pulled over half a dozen wheelbarrows worth of dead leaves away from them. I had so many memories of raking the lawn in years past; of dad burning off the dead grass every spring. I wondered if I should rake the rest of the lawn or if it was too early for it (the back yard still has about 8” of snow in a lot of places, but the front lawn is bare). The guy I’d usually ask about this stuff isn’t here anymore, so I made my own judgment call, which is I guess what he had to do a lot, and sadly what I’m learning adulting is way too often about. I brought the leaves and branches to dad’s burn barrel in the back yard, right beside the garden. I brought out the stacks of papers and ancient cardboard I’d already sorted from inside the house and started a fire.

Standing there in the back yard, the sun setting behind the trees in the distance, wearing one of dad’s oldest and rattiest jean jackets, I didn’t feel how I hoped I would. Ordinarily I’d feel happy or a moment of peacefulness while watching a campfire (not exactly camping, but I don’t know how to specify that I’m not all zen watching forest fires and whatnot. I’m tired. Leave me alone). I hoped that burning some of the private papers and unnecessary memories might somehow feel cleansing, but it didn’t – it felt like work. Work that has to be done, and that’s okay too. I stood out there for about an hour or so, sipping my coffee and tending to the fire. There’s so much to do around here, all of it completely unplanned and entirely not asked for. I might not know what to do with everything here yet, but I’ll figure it out. 

Lessons.

If I should ever feel week again.
If I should ever doubt myself.
If I should lose my way..


I will remember this photo. I will remember my dad. The lessons he taught me. How proud he was of me. How much we loved each other. How strong he was, all through his life.

And I will remember what I have done. How I was able to be there for him the times he needed me. How the nurses at his hospital and his friends who’d never met me thought I was a private personal trainer because of how I’d push him and wouldn’t take no as an answer. I will remember this wise guy fake screaming in pain as I made him do exercises, just to tease his mom and lighten the mood. I will remember spending hours doing math problems, spelling words or running through his car history, just to help his brain recover after the strokes. I’ll remember being terrified when his eyesight would come and go and he would forget where the clock was in his room… but I would make him look around until he did find it, and then I’d stay on that task until he could tell me what time it was. Sometimes it would take an hour, other times it would be almost immediate – but we’d always stay on it, no matter how much he yelled at me (which was quite a bit some nights). He would get it, he would do the work, most nights he’d cuss at me.. but at the end of every night, he would thank me and tell me he loved me.

I liked to think I was strong before getting smacked by a truck and before dad’s strokes… but I’ll be even stronger from here on out.

Thanks dad. I love you too.

Blue, Christmas.

Late last night I realized this would actually be the third Christmas I’ve spent without my dad.
Two years ago he had just had his strokes and had been transferred to PG on December 20th. I woke up alone in my dad’s house on Christmas morning and was beyond grateful that Granville’s was maintaining their beautiful tradition of offering free coffee and treats on Christmas day, because I really didn’t have anywhere to go and being alone in that house was not something I could handle. I got a coffee and an extra cup for dad, sat in the table that’s been my favourite since high school, put his cup in his spot and gave him a call. 

I can’t remember what we talked about, but sitting there, having a coffee and hearing his voice was a wonderful moment. After the phone call, the kind people working gave me some bacon to give to Molly who was waiting in dad’s car for me, and we went for a drive to visit with my brother.

Last year I decided against going home, and I am at peace with that decision. Dad and I had been arguing quite a bit at the time and I didn’t feel like selling a kidney just to fly home and get yelled at from his hospital bed while I stayed alone at his house. I chose to spend the day by myself, for myself, and when dad called and started yelling at me within three minutes, I knew I’d made the right choice. It wasn’t really him yelling at me – the strokes had affected his brain and sometimes things didn’t make sense to him they way they should have. Still, it was nice to hear his voice but I was happy to have stayed home, and still have both kidneys.

This year, I don’t have a choice and if I did I’d sell that kidney and yours too (no offence) just to talk with him one more time, even if it was only to hear him yelling at me again. I knew this Christmas was going to be hard, and it is. I called my grandma last night to check in on her, and she told me how much she misses my dad, how much she misses the traditions we used to have. I still don’t know how to process this massive hole in my heart, but I hope that in time I’ll find a way.

There’s no fake fighting over perogies this year. No wrapping paper tube sword fights. No counting the amount of times my dad would say “what in the hell…?” while opening gifts. No going for coffee at Granville’s, no cooking Christmas dinner for grandma. No plaid jacket counts, no going for drives with Molly in the back seat, no laughs, no great big bear hugs where we’d take turns lifting each other off the ground and squeezing until the other tapped out, always with a laugh and love.

I’m grateful that I didn’t go home last year because my memory of the last Christmas I spent with my dad is an amazing one. We went for dinners and coffees, he got his idiot son drunk and listened to him finally open up and talk, he kicked my ass like always at pool and we fake fought over grandma’s perogies like we always did, and always will. That’s the memory I want, that’s the memory he deserves.

If you took the time to read this, I want you to know that I’m grateful you’re in my life, and I wish you all the best in the coming year. Take the time to reach out to your loved ones and let them know how much they matter to you. Be well and stay strong, friends.

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