Today is Father’s Day. Dad passed on Mother’s Day. Here is the text of the tribute I gave for him at his funeral:
Dad lived life fully. We tried to capture it in his obituary, but it felt to me to come up a little short. He also loved music, so I’ll draw on a couple of his favourites as I try to paint a picture of his life.
First up, Centerfield, by John Fogarty:
Well, a-beat the drum and hold the phone The sun came out today
Growing up, Dad played hockey and baseball, fighting hard under the stern coaching of John ‘Brother’ MacDonald. I couldn’t figure out if Dad, or Gramps for that matter, either hated him or loved him, but Dad played with the heart of a champion.
In college, he played Rugby, or Rugger as he called it— earned himself a plastic shoulder, but that didn’t stop him.
Fogerty also sang:
Put me in coach, I’m ready to play… today.
Dad took his X ring and B.Ed and headed up North, not once, but twice, to teach highschool kids. The reservations weren’t great in the 80s: substance abuse, suicides, poverty. Dad mentored teens, coached sports, and even founded a youth center with Mom. Not every decision was a great one, but his heart was where it was most needed.
When we moved back to Nova Scotia, Dad couldn’t readily teach– a weird twist of economics and bad timing. He adapted.
For many years, Dad sold cars and vacuum cleaners the same way he coached kids. He was good at scraping by and making it work. One of the things he told me was that “every conversation was a sale; there’s a buyer and a seller”. Sure, that’s a dark cynical way to look at the world, but if we’re being honest, it’s not wholly untrue. He also said that if anyone asked him what the best car or vacuum was, the answer was “whatever one you’re selling.”
A little of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler:
Son, I’ve made a life Out of readin’ people’s faces And knowin’ what the cards were By the way they held their eyes.
Dad pivoted his life and career may times, often in sales, but always in the interest of providing for his family. He also developed a knack for fixing vacuums and small appliances. It’s not that he was a handyman (he wasn’t), but after a few electocutions, burns and the occasional blunt force trauma, he got really, really good at it. He ran the Vacuum Doctor for a very long time.
Bob Seger with Against the Wind:
And I guess I lost my way There were oh so many roads I was living to run and running to live Never worried about paying or even how much I owed
Dad’s first marriage floundered. Then he found love again. I don’t know if it was Dad and Bea’s “second act” or if Dad was already on his third or fourth or fifth. Doesn’t matter. Dad and Bea had a mutual interest in the Maritime Stock Car scene, photography and journalism. The Racing Spectator defined their marriage. And boy, did they have fun. It was amazing.
A little more Seger:
Against the wind I’m still runnin’ against the wind I’m older now but still running Against the wind
When Bea passed, Dad struggled for a while. He leaned on family— his kids. Yet, he adapted as he always did. Made it work by honoring her passions as well as his own. He poured his energies into faith and the community of the Salvation Army.
Back to Kenny Rogers:
Every gambler knows That the secret to survivin’ Is knowin’ what to throw away And knowin’ what to keep.
When Dad got sick, it was the smallest thing that took him out: a fall and a crack to the hip. Just a bad roll of the dice, Dad would curse and call it a final dose of “Langille Luck”.
And finally, from The Gambler:
‘Cause every hand’s a winner, And every hand’s a loser, And the best that you can hope for Is to die in your sleep.”