It has been a tough week, as Monday my dad lost his year long battle with cancer.  To make things worse, he was still up in Canada which means we were not able to visit him in person as he went through his initial treatments and then could not be there for him at the end.  That definitely does not make us unique, as I know so many other people have had to face similar circumstances during this pandemic.  I had hoped that with vaccinations increasing, that perhaps the US/Canada border would reopen to allow us to have one more visit, but unfortunately it was not to be.

I would like to share a few memories of my dad as I’m still struggling to come to terms with the reality that he is gone.  He did his best when I was a kid, and we had a lot of fun, but he was definitely not someone built to deal with little kids when he was younger.  How that changed after my daughter was born, and he became a grandpa.  She was the apple of his eye, and she had that rare power to actually push through his natural stubbornness.  When she was around six or seven, we were living in Toronto, and decided that it was the perfect time to take her to Disney World for the first time.  Once we had some of the basic plans in place, I reached out to my dad and step-mom to see if they wanted to join us for the trip.  I pitched it to him as a trip where they could spend a couple of days with us in Orlando and then head on down to the Keys or whatnot on their own for some “real” vacation time.  To my utter surprise his answer was that they definitely wanted to come, but there was no way they weren’t going to spend the entire week with us at Disney.  When I was a kid, my grandfather had a house down in Naples, and we were able to spend a number of winter vacations down in Florida. (Those road trips down each year could be a whole set of novels unto themselves), but I remember having to beg and plead year after year to get to go to Disney.  Finally he relented and we spent two and a half days there when I was about ten.  It was clearly torture for him at the time as he did not view it as the happiest place on earth back then.  Needless to say, he not only enjoyed the week with the grandkid at Disney but went on every ride she wanted to and it was a great bonding experience for them.  I will admit to getting great satisfaction from telling the story about how his own kid only deserved a day or two at Disney, but for his granddaughter the sky was the limit.

The other story about my Dad that I love telling, truly captures his dedication to jokes and revenge.  He had a friend who he got into some back and forth with about something that I cannot remember, but which really doesn’t matter for the story.  In any case, as they were having this friendly back and forth and playing little pranks on each other, the friend ended up moving about three hours away for work.  Truly understanding that revenge is a dish best served cold, my dad waited about a year before embarking on the joke that would end the little rivalry.  He got up one morning, jumped in the car and made the three hour drive to where his friend had moved.  Along the way, he hit a grocery store and picked up a fresh cream pie, and upon arriving at the friend’s door and ringing the bell, he without a word greeted his friend with that pie to the face.  Having delivered his revenge, he simply got back into the car and drove home.  He was willing to spend over six hours driving just to throw a pie into a friend’s face.  Needless to say this was a lesson that I took to heart, and when a friend of mine and I got into a friendly disagreement I was able to convince a mutual friend to help me completely rearrange his house when he went away on a Christmas vacation.  It took us about eight hours of hard labor, but he came back home to find his bedroom furniture set up in his living room, his dining room furniture in the spare room, etc…  To this day he is still bitter about the whole thing, which really just makes it that much funnier for the rest of us.

The last memory I wanted to share came to me as I was trying to explain to my daughter how I had come to love spicy food so much.  As a kid who didn’t like spicy food, she was trying to understand how someone could come to enjoy it.  My recollection, which both my dad and uncle have since confirmed, is that it all came about due to a regular pizza night between the two of them when I was a little kid.  They would get together each week to enjoy some beverages and a hot and spicy pizza from Cortina’s pizza in Garson, Ontario.  This thing had banana peppers, jalapenos, spicy pepperoni and a spicy sauce. Obviously, as a little kid I wanted to partake in anything I saw my dad and uncle doing and I am told I was becoming pretty obnoxious about it as time went by.  Finally having had enough of my badgering they decided to give me a piece and then have a great laugh as I ran around the room with my mouth on fire.  In their minds a lesson would be learned and they would finally get some peace.  Unfortunately for them, I loved that spicy pizza, and a love for spicy foods was born.  Plus, they had to share that pizza on a regular basis moving forward.

I am going to miss my dad a ton and will always regret this “lost” year, but most days I will remember the events above, and so many others that shaped my weird and ridiculous childhood and helped me grow into the person I am now.  Wherever he has moved on to, I am sure the fish are biting and at some point someone is getting a pie to the face.  Miss you Dad.

The Free Range Viking

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