Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day

"2002-2003 Minor Atom House League Champs -- Sifton Properties"

I met my father when I was four.

My mom was single and looking for someone she could love, but also take care of and provide for her son, yours truly. We lived in Cornwall, which is about as east of Ontario as you can get. They met at work, started seeing each other here and there, and eventually became an official couple. When I was six, he offered me and my mother to move to London, six hours southwest of our small home. We agreed, and moved there in the summer of 2000. In August of 2002, they got married.

Once we arrived in London in August of 2000, he immediately enrolled me in hockey and baseball, teaching me the tricks to each sport. My father played professional hockey in Europe for a few years, and always had a gift for instruction. Despite me not having his, or any athletic genes, he taught me enough to get by. When I got older and started playing football, he explained to me the mental toughness that goes with being a linemen, and helped me develop a threshold for pain. He always told me to get up when I fell, and never show weakness.

I remember spraining my ankle in hockey when I was 11, and having a tough time getting up. I glanced over at my bench, which my dad always stood behind, and he gave me a darting look, lip synching no words. He didn't have too. I got back up, limped my way to the seat, and ended up finishing the game. When I was 15, I broke my arm in a football practice, getting tackled in a drill and having both my weight and the tackler fall on my left arm. I got up and took a look at the V-shaped limb, staring in horror at what the result might be. My coach helped me to the lockerroom, taking my cleats off and instructing me on what may have happened. I kept asking if I could play that week or the rest of the year, but he just shook his head, insisting that if it was broken (which it was), I would be done for the year. Dad drove to the school and picked me up, racing through traffic to get to the hospital. My body was exiting its state of shock, and the pain was starting to set in; I was fighting back tears, focusing on objects in the waiting room that would make me forget about the pain. We were called into an X-ray room and had pictures taken of my arm, showing it was a clean break, and what I had feared to be true was indeed correct. My dad had his arm wrapped around my shoulder the entire time, trying to console me as I realized my season was over, telling me I would be alright and that I had nothing to fear. The next few days, I had three procedures performed on me, and every time I awoke from my deep sleep, my dad would be right there by my side.

He took me to my first Leafs game for my ninth birthday, making the two hour drive to Toronto for us to see a 4-2 win over Washington. He bought me a jersey on the way, which I still have hanging in my bedroom closet, youth small and all. Over the years, he's taken me to countless sporting events, some of which I would never have the chance to see if it weren't for him. Hundreds of London Knights games, including almost every home game and a few Memorial Cup games during the '05 run...four NHL games; two in Toronto, two in Detroit...dozens of Blue Jays games...the list goes on.

But it's not just the games I got to see; it's the games that I was involved in, that he got to see. Over the course of my high school career, I've played in 27 high school football games -- he has been to everyone of them. I played house league hockey for 10 years, meaning I played in about 400 games, and he coached the majority of them. I played baseball and basketball for a short period of time, and he was at everyone of those games too. I started playing golf when I was about about eight, and he taught me everything I had to know about my swing, putting, the mental aspect, and every gentlemen's rule and law that went with the sport.

He taught me a lot of lessons that school or life itself cannot show you. He taught me how to deal with your problems in a way that doesn't acquire attention from others. He taught me about the real world, how what we hope for sometimes doesn't happen, and how we have to make our own good luck. We don't have the lovey-dubby relationship that some have, as we rarely talk about anything other than sports. If you were to ask my dad right now who the Prime Minister of Canada was, he would have to take his time in thinking that one out. He would eventually give you the correct response, but not after you sounded out the name "Steeeee-". Whenever the topic of my grades come up, he gives his usual "What are you thinking?" if they're below what they should, or his "They could be higher" if they're at a good number.

My parents split up in January of 2010, both of them mutually agreeing that it just wasn't working out. He lives in our old home, since my mom wanted to move out and get her own place. I go to his place two or three times a week, usually on nights where there's a game on. He puts the kids to bed around 8ish, then comes out to the living room, allowing both of us to relax for the first time in the day, sitting on the couch watching television. He usually packs a dip (chewing tobacco), the ultimate tell-tale of his, showing that he is in his comfort zone. I think that's the image that I'll always remember my father in; him spitting into an empty water bottle, deep in thought, focusing on the sport that he is watching. It's not a negative image, just one that has been imprinted in my mind.

For Father's day, I'll be watching the final round of the US open with my dad, enjoying watching Rory choke, trying to find something to motivate us to keep our eyes open, considering Tiger isn't playing. I'll buy him breakfast, maybe lunch. We'll sip on bottles of beer, eventually reaching dinner, when we'll decide on either going somewhere semi-fancy (e.g. Swiss Chalet) or going with the never-fail ordering of a pizza. The night will die down, we'll watch some Sunday night baseball, order a crappy movie on Rogers on Demand, and fall asleep halfway through. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.

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