There are so many things in life we take for granted. Are you taking time to be thankful for the people around you? Do you take time everyday to be thankful? This past year was the hardest of my life. My dad taught me so many things, I’ve shared four here. Four things that will help you remember to not miss life as time goes by.
December 2021: My mom calls me and I find out my Dad has had a massive stroke and has been told he will never talk or walk again. December 2021. One year ago. However, he goes and proves them wrong on that very same day. When he saw his wife, my mom, he walked AND talked as he crossed the distance between them swiftly to hug her and tell her he loved her. Have I mentioned my Dad was a very stubborn man? His gown may have been open a little in the back…. Lol. He would have hated that.
January 2022: This was the best month of my life, watching my parents love each other more than ever; they were happy, grateful, loving, fun, and Dad was SO GRATEFUL TO BE ALIVE. He enjoyed every moment. He expressed gratitude. He hugged. He loved. He attended every hockey game and family dinner possible. He was SO HAPPY for the first time ever. No stress, no complaints, only love for everyone in the family, especially my Mom, who deserves it so much.
February 2022: This was the worst month of my life. I found out my dad had cancer in seven places and the prognosis was not good. How did they miss all of that when he was hospitalized for his stroke? No idea. I try not to think about it because it really upsets me. That, and the fact that we had to wait until one day before he died in March, to see an oncologist, who couldn’t even show up in person, to tell my hopeful and super-healthy-eating-meditating-for-the-first-time-father, that there was NOTHING they could do for him. The hope in his eyes disappeared instantly. He demanded to be checked out and went home so he could pass in peace without all of the hospital crap he’d hated his whole life and surrounded by his family. The family that he built, loved, and led for the last three decades. His dying wishes were simple. “Take care of your mother, and don’t fight with each other.” My brothers and I were there with my mom until his last breath.
Grief has been horrible. Missing my Dad has been the saddest thing in my life. Wanting him to be here has been the strongest desire. Crying uncontrollably because I’ll never see him again happens less now but a lot in the beginning. Thinking about any opportunity I missed to tell him how amazing he was and how much I loved him still haunts me. Worst of all, not being able to help my mom with her debilitating grief and depression hurts my heart every day.
For the longest time, my Dad was what you’d probably call “old school,” and very hard-working. You know, the kind of heavy duty mechanic manager who wasn’t “pussy-footing” around anything. He was firm and strict when I was younger, so much so that I felt bad for his apprentices, knowing that they’d be getting the same type of leadership I was. We’d always gone dirt biking with him, he taught us when we were tiny kids, but even that had been a class with a “tough instructor” until the last 15 years. He was a hard man to please and sometimes hard to love (as we all are). He wouldn’t even let me hug him until about 15 years ago haha! He was a “hard-working man” and he never stopped. Until he did. When he wasn’t working as a heavy duty mechanic he was fixing the roof. One time, he actually fell off the roof, you know what he did? Went to the hospital, of course… NO, HE DIDN’T! He never went to doctors or hospitals because of an experience in his youth. He NEVER went to the hospital… except for that one time when I had surgery on my heart and he came to the hospital, bought me a stuffed dog from the gift shop, came and told me I’d be ok, hugged me, then quickly left. That meant SO MUCH TO ME. So, back to him falling off the roof… he obviously didn’t go to the hospital… he climbed back onto that roof and finished the job. Then, he started on the garage! And, after that, he cooked a huge dinner for the entire family! He never stopped to enjoy life, except after he finished cooking a meal, he would enjoy a beer, and lovingly watch the whole family enjoy his feast. He even made me my own vegan feasts. I guess saying “never” isn’t true. He was a super hard working man, but he did really enjoy our trail rides in the mountains, and you could always tell when we stopped to eat or take a break how happy and proud he was to have his family there, and have them be so great at riding the trails because he taught us how.
Mostly, my dad was “hard” and “hard-working” early in his life. But then my mom, us kids (my parents included our spouses in “their kids”), and the grandkids, finally started to wear off on him; he started to spend more quality and love-filled time with the family. The grandkids were especially helpful in this transition I think, and he even let me hug him. He smiled more. He cooked more dinners and spent less holidays working. He hugged and complimented my mom more. He bought the things he’d always wanted but never let himself have. You’d better believe I took full advantage of that new “Dad-itude” (Dad attitude) and openness for the last 15 years! I’d get a one armed hug back in the beginning, and a grunted “love you too”, but it got better every single time I saw him. I was eventually getting full on hugs and, “I love you too, sweetheart” all the time. He also started letting me take pictures with him, instead of fully running away when I wanted a shot with him. For the last 15 years of his life I remember him most often, in his favourite place to be, the corner of my parents brand-new-fully-renovated-kitchen-built-to-my-mom’s-specifications (one room of several), after cooking an amazing and gigantic meal for all of the family that could attend (and even the ones who couldn’t), with his arms crossed and a huge smile on his face, often a bud light in his hand. Even as we’d sit to eat and exclaim, “OH MY GOSH DAD this is SO good!” he’d smile or wink or nod his head slightly and continue to watch from his post in the corner. He had finally learned to enjoy life. He had finally learned to let himself be happy, proud of, and grateful for everything he’d worked his whole life to create. His relationships, his family, a brand new truck, a brand new dirt bike, and a brand new motorcycle. All of the things we loved doing the most with him. All of the things he taught us kids; the things that we will continue to enjoy and the things my brothers have taught their own kids. The things that brought us together. The things that were FUN. The things that feel SO GOOD!!!!
Even before we cracked him open like the love-and-gratitude-machine-Dad he really was, he always loved us in his own ways. He taught us SO MUCH and I’m still realizing today how important it all was.
These are the top four things my dad taught me and I continue to be reminded of:
- Always take great care of what you have before it’s gone – things AND relationships.
- It’s ok to love dogs more than people sometimes. They’re pure love and they’re a great way to relax and become more present.
- DO NOT WAIT!!!! BE HAPPY NOW before it’s too late. Figure it out!! Don’t waste your time here.
- Take care of YOURSELF. Or everything else will disappear. Your health is all you have.
This was really hard for me to share but I felt it needed to be written because it could help so many others treasure things they will one day miss. When you treasure time with special people, become more present, and take great care of your relationships… your business will definitely improve as well.
I hope the things my dad taught me help you.
Please enjoy your time with loved ones this Christmas. It will be our first without Dad. And we would give anything for one more Christmas with him.