Dad and I had a strained relationship. I felt he had failed me as a Father. Financially he was dependable, helping me with University or contributing towards the cost of my little league hockey, but he was never around. Despite the fact that I played hockey for over 6 years, my Father only ever attended 3 games, one in which he didn't even stay till the end. But you forget those things when you hear your father cry for the first time and he asks for you. You just let go of your anger and you become present. Because he's your Father.
Over the next ten months I went with my Dad to his chemo sessions at the General Hospital. I organized a cancer benefit at Swizzles, raising almost five hundred dollars to aid the cancer ward that treated him. During his hospitalizations, I'd try to visit as often as possible, sometimes just sitting by his bedside while he slept, silently doing my homework.
On November the 25th my Father died. He had fallen at the hospital two nights earlier and hit his head. In a matter of speaking, he never really got back up. He was 63 years old.
The day of his funeral it rained. I suspect many people there didn't even know who I was. I certainly didn't know any of them. It was a hard reminder of our estrangement and just how much we kept from one another. That day I thought a lot about our last year together, how after all those years apart my Father had finally said the words I had longed to hear, that I was 'a good son'. He said it as if he had never recognized it before that moment, and that realization meant everything to me, because it was all I had ever wanted to be to him.
Just one month after Dad passed away, Sammy, my Springer Spaniel died. From cancer. Just like my Father.
When I was a little boy my mother took me to a child psychologist because I hated visiting my Father but refused to discuss why. We'd sit in his office, I'd ignore the toys and stale candy, and instead, slowly, he'd get me to talk about my feelings as I rigidly sat.
Shortly after my last therapy visit, my Father and Stepmother decided to get a dog and they brought me along to choose one from a litter of Springer Spaniels. I chose Sammy because she was the only girl in the litter, the smallest dog in that big card board box, ignored by her brothers, and left out on the sidelines. For the next 5 years Sammy was my best friend. I went from never wanting to visit my Father to being desperate to return to his house to spend time with my dog.
It wasn't until years later that I made the connection. Had Sassy Dog, which was my pet name for her lol, been used to coax me into visiting my Father? My Mother denied it but I didn't care ether way. Sam made me happy.
I like to think now that up there in heaven my Father is throwing the tennis ball for Sammy to chase and, just like before, Dads looking after my dog until I can see both of them again.
I miss you Dad.
Swizzles 3rd Annual Get Naked Benefit is in support of the Courage Campaign, a fundraiser for the Ottawa General Cancer Wing Expansion Project. Hosted on the Ottawa River in conjunction with Swizzles annual Pride boat cruise, join us on Thursday, August the 26th at 10pm for live music, the Rockalily Burlesque troupe, and amatuer strip tease performances from some of Ottawa's most visible community members! Tickets are $25 in advance and available at Swizzles Bar, 1 in 10, and After Stonewall.