Thirteen years. Time is a funny thing. On one hand, it feels like yesterday when I last hugged my father and on the other, it feels like a lifetime ago. I can’t think of any better way to remember him today than writing on our blog and going for a memorial ride after work this evening. Perhaps next year I will be organized enough to somehow put together a proper weekend memorial ride.
There are many people and events that shape or help define our lives. I have given a lot of thought to this over the last year. Much of that time thinking was spent on the back of Tigger which naturally led to thoughts of Pop. At times it has been difficult to determine whether his presence in my life while he was alive or whether it was the event of his dying so young that has shaped me more. I’ve come to believe it is a combination of both.
He started working away at logging camps when I was five and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him to leave his wife and young girls for extended periods of time. His love for us was always evident in the things he did. I still have letters and emails that he wrote me, always starting with one of his nicknames for me and ending with an “I love you”. I can remember him hugging us and the airport, Kirsten and I crying, and whispering for me to be strong and look after Mom for him. I became very good at not crying at the airport or in front of others. This has stayed with me to this day. Even on September 17, 2000, I could not cry at the hospital and went into ‘look after Mom’ mode. My coping was trying to take care of as much as I could that day. Talking to doctors, taking his belongings from them and looking after as much of the paperwork as I could.
I have his stubborn streak. When he pushed me on grades, I naturally rebelled. Not heading to University was one of the ways I rebelled. As an adult, I can recognize it was his ambition for his girls to be more and to look beyond our hometown of Duncan. He brought us up to believe that we could be and do anything we wanted – if we worked hard. He didn’t believe in gender stereotypes. We were taught to use a firearm safely, how to fish, how to change the tires and the oil on our cars. Conversely, the very same man spent countless hours building a doll house by hand for a surprise Christmas gift.
Almost every morning this summer, I have read of a motorcycle accident – usually fatal – in the GTA. Often speed or another vehicle is provided as the cause, less often it is related to alcohol. We still don’t entirely know what happened that Sunday morning when he lost control of his bike. Speed and alcohol were not factors. There were no witnesses so presuming no other vehicle. It was in all senses of the word, an accident. He was 47, in good health and doing an activity that he loved. Sometimes, I can’t imagine a better way to die. Quick, not suffering from illness and doing something you love. When asked by people how I manage to cope with Tony riding after losing my father to the same passion, I usually come up with a canned response “you get used to it” or “because he’s happy on the bike”. Truthfully, I believe that if it is going to happen, there is nothing I can do to stop it and you can’t live a life of 'what ifs'.
His sudden passing at such a young age is what has led me to ‘live like you were dying’ (to quote my favorite country song). I have managed to cram a lot of living in thirteen years that I sincerely doubt that I would have been inspired to do otherwise. I’ve travelled extensively, been skydiving, completed my MBA, moved to Toronto to achieve professional success and to allow for my independent nature to thrive. I have him to thank for the foundation of what I learned from Pop while he was alive and the sudden realization of the fragility of life with his death, for all that I’ve accomplished.
Every time I get behind Tony on Tigger and put on my motorcycle helmet, I smile and think of him. The days I know he’s riding along with me are the days that the first song in my shuffle is riding related and I hear his laugh in my head. This past year with so much time spent on the bike is the first year that I feel most at peace with the loss. I may not see him but he lives in my memories and he helped shape so much of who I am.