My dad was a simple man, and, I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. He didn't care for flashy things, the latest gadgets, expensive cars, luxury vacations, designer clothes, or fancy restaurants. He liked spending time with his family and friends, a good home cooked meal, hearing a good story, and he liked being there to be part of the next great story as it developed.
He joined our family when we were already three kids with a single mother, and he took on the role of primary breadwinner. He never wanted to be the role of disciplinarian, but rather guide and conscience. He taught us right from wrong, work ethic, and not to be afraid to tackle a task that you didn't have any idea what you were doing by learning from mistakes and course correcting.
When he first joined our family, he wasn't yet "Dad" but rather "Mom's friend JD". After they had married, the habit of calling him JD was old hat, so it stuck. Once Brett was born, he sat us older kids down for a serious conversation. He explained that he wanted Brett to call him by a new name: "Dad", and that it would be helpful if us bigger kids would also call him "Dad" so that Brett would get the hang of it. We quickly agreed and that was the day JD talked us into promoting him to the position of "Dad."
JD went the extra step by actually adopting the older three of us so that we could formalize our family under the same last name. Despite being a blended family, JD never treated us that way. He always treated all of his children as if they were his own from birth and we thank him greatly for that.
Since I had become a father 3.5 years ago, I've aspired to bring the same loving and encouraging approach to my relationship with my boy. I can't wait until my boy is a little older to show him some of the cool stuff that Dad showed me when I was a kid. For example, over and over I would have him to demonstrate in my bedroom before bed how eclipses work using a makeshift system of a flashlight and some balls.
JD was extremely proud to be a grandfather to Hudson and soon to be a grandfather again to my sister's child Emma, who is due in February.
He was planning to visit me the week after he passed away and I had three topics saved to talk to him about when we next met. We never talked on the phone much so I would keep a running tally of things that I knew he would enjoy. 1) I was going to give him shit for forgetting to call me about turning my clocks back on November 2. He used to call to remind me, and I missed that little ritual. That and my smoke detectors had just started chirping, and I was going to blame him. 2) I had told him about my first camping trip with my boy briefly when I saw him last for lunch, but hadn't shown him the pictures or videos, so we were going to go through the slideshow. And 3) I had heard there had been discussions about him, Brett, Damian, and I making a canoe trip down the Spanish River and I wanted to do some preliminary mapping to start getting excited about the journey.
Between Dad, my grandfather, and my uncle, I was instilled with a great respect for and interest in the outdoors as a child. As an adult, it's been hard to get out every year consistently and make substantial trips. This sort of adventure sounded like an awesome way to get back to the roots of one of our childhood trips, and I wanted to build up some stoke early and get started on some details.
I've long been envious of the kinds of epic journeys that Dad has been able to do with his vacation time. Whether it's canning to Moosonee, hiking the provincial parks, or driving the north highway to bring me back a 6-pack, he always came back with great stories. I've wondered if I could even be alone with my thoughts for the amount of time that he does it. I've imagined his solo hiking to be like a mindful meditation of sorts.
Although, maybe that's making Dad out to be far too serious. This too, is the man that, with child-like glee, first visited my first home, ran into the kitchen to turn on the tap only to leave the water running and then jumped on the couch in my living room, pulled off his socks and threw them across the room to random corners and called out to me: "Excellent, now I get to do to your house what you've been doing to mine for 18 years!"
I love you Dad and will miss you always.