Fathers and Daughters

My Dad died just after his sixtieth birthday.  We’d always been close, but in the five years after his diagnosis we worked at getting to know each other better.

At 6’4″ and 265 lbs, Bill was always a guy’s guy.  As a teenager he played Rugby and Football and was well liked in spite of his unmerciful penchant for teasing friends and  family.  He joined the RCAF, but was not a candidate for pilot – I think he just liked the uniform.  He repeated his final year of high school, graduating with his sweetheart, our mother.  He was the perfect salesman and later sales manager.  Not in a smarmy kind of way, but with a authentic kind of charm that you could not resist as a client or employee.

1957 Calgary, my father, 3rd from L, strolls with friends including his brother.

Dad had a yearning of a sort to explore.  I could tell by the kind of stories he would share about the few trips, like to Venezuela, that he and Mom were privileged to attend on the company nickle.  His peers would joke about the beautiful women while Dad would talk about the food and the drink ~ the Culture.

Now and then, Dad and I would drive down to China Town.  Nothing like the scope of Toronto or Vancouver, but for an eleven year old girl living in Calgary, China Town was incredibly exotic.  We would meander through every store quietly examining bamboo novelties, textiles and China teapots.  The last stop was the grocery store where he’d fill a small basket with produce or dried fungi.   Upon arrival with our treasures, my mother would roll her eyes at the items we gleefully shook at her and then placed in a mason jar like our own personal Curio Shop.

Eventually the purchases led to cooking.  Sunday Chinese dinner in our household became a legend amongst our friends and boyfriends, as we shopped, cooked and ate with our father grandly pronouncing his favourite dish as the evening’s winner.  One time a friend left our house briefly on the pretense of needing a final ingredient.  When his dish was announced the best, we learned, so desperate to win, that he’d gone to a Chinese restaurant and brought back a fully cooked dish.

Fathers, if your daughter ever shows any interest in going with you somewhere nonsensical, don’t question it, just take her.  It will become your secret world and a familial compass in her future.  In my case, it also led me to York University at age 40 to obtain a degree in something we both love, social cultural anthropology.

Golfing with Grampa – Guest Blog by Marius

ImageI asked my 23 year old son his opinion on what grandparents could do to stay engaged with kids his age.  I got a blank stare.  I then asked, well tell me what do you do with your grandparents.  He paused and said, “I go to their house.  I hug them.  I eat with them, maybe watch T.V.  I hug them again and then I leave.”

I was taken aback, and then remembered my own relationship with grandparents was not so different.  Ambivalence of your teen or young adult grandchild is not anti-social, nor does it mean that you are not close to or loved by your grandchildren.

I pressed Marius then just share a memory about his grandfather and this is what he wrote.  Marius says … About once a year, I’ll visit my grandparents in Calgary.  It’s a great feeling to be loved unconditionally.  I used to go to Calgary every summer for a couple weeks and bring my disassembled mountain bike with me.  At their house, I would quickly unpack and start to build my bike back to life.  Of course, my grandpa a retired auto-mechanic would help me.  They would love watching me doing wheelies down the length of street and were fascinated by my bike and my abilities.

When I wasn’t biking, I would ask grandpa what else he wanted to do besides watch me.  He said we could go golfing.   I loved the idea.   So I called up an old Calgary friend, Mike, and grandpa called a buddy — fuck I forget his name … anyways, off we went to the golf course and had a bite and were rolling before you knew it. I always get super excited to drive the golf carts, because I didn’t have a license.

I just wanted to get up to the tee and whack the ball, whereas grandpa would always take his time.  Grampa’s balls went a good distance in a nice clean shot and me, I started the day with 20 balls and went home with zero.  He never lectured, just laughed it off.   His golfing buddy was just priceless.  They were both seventy something in age, yet still interested in playing golf and keeping up with two 14 year olds.  Like a scene from Caddyshack, his friend would try so hard to hit the ball, but it would go only 15 feet or less every time.  It was hilarious and endearing and made my day.   It was the first time that I was present, in a fit teen body, about aging and sports.

The golf course was surrounded by ranches with all these beautiful cows roaming the grassy fields ands the Rocky Mountains in the background.  I ran over to the wood fence and was mesmerized by the cows so blissful in their natural environment.  Grandpa walked over and was asking what I was looking at.  I said the cows, they are amazing!  He hadn’t realized that what is common for him, cows, was big deal for me.  He reminisces about this story on a regular basis.   We had a such a great day golfing that even today at age 23 and grampa in his early 80’s we still try to get out every time I am in town.

My grandpa is a great man, genuine and strong hearted.   He had it hard growing up in rural Saskatchewan and had to work for everything he got.  I mean everything.  He told me about how he got his first pair of leather gloves when he was 13.  For a farmer next door he helped install their picket fence in minus twenty degrees , but he had no gloves.  Having finished the job, he had earned enough money to buy his first pair.  It was shocking for me to realize that every time I needed a pair of gloves it was always provided for me.

I don’t believe a thing was given to him, but good health and a great head of white hair.  I’ll always appreciate the time I spend with my grandparents and even more so because I know that they are closer to the end of their lives.

Alison speaking … I would love it if my kids spent more time with their grandparents,  I am sure that some do, but working on this piece with my son brings me back to reality.  When my Nanny, my mother’s mom, died in 1979, I can’t say there we were close.  I was busy with my own life, yet when after she died I was heartbroken for my mother and myself.  So heartbroken that I made myself ill with remorse that I had not tried to get to know her better.   My mother, however, never nagged, bribed or cajoled me about my grandparents – I think she trusted and knew that all relationships have their own rhythm.