When I first started this blog, I vowed to write a blog entry every Monday. I did so for 27 weeks, which is over half a year, and nothing short of remarkable by my standards (considering attention span isn’t near the top of my resume). The day after I wrote my last post, my father passed away suddenly while riding home on a train. It appears to have been a massive heart attack taking everybody in his world by complete surprise. He was 76 years old, but looked much younger. If you lined up a hundred 76 year olds and were asked to pick out the ones you thought this would happen too, he very well could have been the last man standing.
If that doesn’t seem heartbreaking enough, his first grandson (my son) was born 3 days later. He was very excited about the prospect of this, as we all were. My little guy came out big and healthy, but with a hefty burden. He is blissfully unaware of this, but there is an incredible void that has been left in our lives, and we look to him to fill it. He’s doing an admirable job already.
I don’t think anyone would blame me for not writing a blog last Monday. It’s an emotionally complicated time to put it very mildly. Mind you some of the best writing does get done during these times, but I’ve opted for sleep when given a spare moment. I did actually do some writing last Monday believe it or not. I was tasked along with my sister and a close friend of my father’s to say a few words at his funeral which was on Tuesday. My portion of that is currently folded up on a few pieces of paper with the type of horrible penmanship only I can boast of. I thought it might be a nice idea to type this up, and post it for anyone that might want to read it. That will also conveniently cover my blog post for another week. I don’t think I’ll be able to put this one in the humor section though. My mom told me that he did read my blog the morning he passed away. (The one about dogs not liking people). He got a kick out of it from what I’m told. It was nice to hear that.
Without further ado….. This is more or less what I said at his funeral.
“I would like to thank everybody for their support this past week. Family, friends, co-workers, classmates, teammates, and members of the church. I’m overwhelmed, but not surprised. As most of you know, my wife gave birth to our son….Ken’s grandson on Friday evening. They’re unable to be here as they are recovering at home, but my wife wanted me to say something on her behalf, as even though her absence is understandable, it’s quite devastating for her not to be here as she loved my father very much, but she also wanted to thank everybody for their support during the major life events that have taken place here.
When talking to all of you this past week, the one main theme is how terrible it is that he didn’t get a chance to see his grandson. It’s OK to feel sad about that, but my father was the type of person that would have preferred a happy celebration of his life today. He was a happy, positive man who would always look at the bright side, and there was plenty of bright side for him to look at. So rather than focus on what he didn’t get a chance to do, here’s what he did get a chance to do……
He got a chance to grow up in the beautiful Muskoka area where the air is cleaner, the people are friendlier, and now everyone that’s not from there wants to pay top dollar to own a cottage there.
He got a chance to play hockey, and was quite a player. When he was a youth, his team won the Ontario championship on 2 different occasions. Coming from a small town in those days, that was a big deal. When he went to Ryerson University, his team went undefeated for an entire season and won the championship. Then he ‘tried’ soccer, and that team won the championship in the same season. Since he was the goalie for both teams, he was named Ryerson’s Athlete of the Year. He is now a 2 time inductee into the Ryerson Sports Hall of Fame, both for his contribution to the undefeated championship team in hockey, and as an individual athlete. I mention a lot of the sports stuff because a lot of the people I talked to yesterday saw some of the pictures and said ‘I didn’t know Ken played hockey’. Of course not. He was very modest, and wouldn’t have ever brought it up in conversation unless asked about it. Or as his hockey coach said to me yesterday ‘he showed, but didn’t tell’. To put it in perspective for non-sports fans, 4 of his amateur sporting accomplishments have been celebrated 50 years after they happen. Anytime you remember, never mind celebrate something 50 years after it happened…… it’s kind of a big deal! I’m nowhere near as modest as he was. I get a lot of mileage out of these stories.
He got a chance to marry the girl of his dreams, spent 47 wonderful years together, and had 2 children, both of whom turned out alright. He got to do a fair bit of travelling to many great places, and has friends all over the world.
He got the chance to golf which was his only real indulgence or vice. He didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink, and he didn’t spend money on himself, but he golfed. Every chance he got. The powers that be blessed him with the ability to hit the ball 300 yards, well into his 70s. They didn’t necessarily give him the ability to keep it on the fairway, but that always gave him the chance to go into the bush and rustle around for a few minutes so he could pull out half a dozen golf balls to replace the one he lost. If you were ever on the golf course and having a slow round without knowing why, there’s a good chance he was out there in front of you.
He got the chance to be good to people. He volunteered his time. He used to help raise money for Unicef. Lately, it’s been the church. He worked as a greeter, helped out with the banking, and even drove an elderly gentleman around to his appointments. If you were his friend, family member, casual acquaintance, or someone he just met randomly at the store, he was fascinated by you. He loved hearing about you, and it wasn’t an act. He was like that all day every day. There was no ‘on switch’. He had the magical ability to make whoever he was talking to feel like the most important thing in the world at that exact moment. You could be talking about a blade of grass, and he would hang on your every word. Imagine that was your father? You could see how one might get to be a little obnoxious 😉
He was loyal to everything and everyone he valued. He was a meticulous Virgo too. Every job he did, had to be done right. Even if he was serving us dessert. If he had to divide up a pie or cake, there were high level mathematics going on in his head to make sure everyone received an equal slice. God forbid someone would ask for a smaller piece.
His hellos and goodbyes were legendary. If you came to the house, he was like a friendly dog (only he smelled better), but he couldn’t wait to get you into the house. After you left, he stood on the porch and talked to you until you almost had to cut him off, and then summer or winter, he would stay out there and wave at you until your car was no longer in his sight lines. EVERY TIME!
I can’t begin to describe what kind of a son, husband, father he was, and what kind of grandfather he would have been. Based on some of the clues I’ve given here, I’m sure you can put the pieces together. We’ve had a great life together!
My final thought is…… If there were such a thing as human cloning (and it weren’t soooooo frowned upon), I think he would have made an excellent prototype. I would love to live in a world full of Ken Austins!”