Monthly Archives: June 2020

My Father’s Eulogy (2012)

Happy Belated Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there…..

A few days ago my wife was cleaning up in our office and she found some folded up papers that were my notes for my dad’s eulogy speech.  I would’ve never thrown this speech out, but I didn’t exactly put it anywhere safe or memorable either.  So it was a pleasant surprise to see it re-surface, and have a chance to read it to myself for probably the first time since I was in a church saying the words out loud.  I had to do a Eulogy for my mother-in-law a couple of years later, and had the good sense to make it a blog post at the time (so the location of the paper version became less relevant).  Interesting fact….. It is the most viewed blog post I have ever written.  Even though this blog has kind of dried up in recent years, almost not a day goes by when someone doesn’t read that post.  I couldn’t understand the phenomenon, so I decided to google ‘mother-in-law eulogy’, and it’s on the first page of results.  I guess in laws don’t usually prepare the eulogies??  Anyways, my father’s eulogy never made it into blog form, so if you weren’t at the funeral, you never heard it (until now!!!).  He died in 2012, 3 days before my son was born, so I was a little busy, as you might imagine (and trust me, you don’t want to imagine).  It’ll be nice to post this and take care of this unfinished business.

Without further delay, here’s my portion of my father’s eulogy (my sister spoke before me….. I told her ‘you set em up, I’ll knock em down’ 😉 )

 

I’d like to thank everybody for coming in such great numbers and showing your support.  I’m overwhelmed, but not surprised.  As most of you know, my wife gave birth to our son, Ken’s first grandchild on Friday evening.  They’re unable to be here, as they are recovering at home.  My wife wanted to pass on a few sentiments.  Even though her absence is understandable, it’s quite devastating for her to not be here as she loved my father very much, but she also wanted to than everyone for their support during the major life events that have taken place here.

When talking to people that have come out this past week, the one main theme that keeps coming up is that it’s such a shame that he didn’t get to see his grandson…..  It’s okay to feel bad 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 that would always look at the bright side, and there is plenty of bright side.  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 beautiful Muskoka, where the air is cleaner, the people are friendly, and now people pay top dollar to vacation there.
  • He got a chance to play hockey, and was a good goaltender.  His childhood teams in Bracebridge won the Ontario championships on two separate occasions.  Coming from a small town, that was a big deal.  When he went to school at Ryerson, 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, and he won Ryerson’s Athlete of the Year award that year.  He is a 2-time Ryerson Sports Hall of Fame inductee, both as an individual, and as part of that undefeated hockey team.  Last I heard, his picture is still in a glass case at the Bracebridge arena.  Many people I spoke to yesterday that have known him for years said ‘I didn’t know Ken played hockey’, but he was modest… or like his coach said to me yesterday “He showed, but didn’t tell”.  To put his hockey achievements into perspective for non-sports fans, most of the things I listed off had ’50th anniversary’ celebrations.  You don’t celebrate something 50 years later if it wasn’t a big deal.
  • He got a chance to marry the girl of his dreams and spent 47 years with her.  They had 2 children who turned out alright.
  • He got to travel a lot, and has been on many great trips to many great countries, and has friends all over the world.
  • He got the chance to golf, which was his only real vice or indulgence.  He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, and didn’t spend money on himself, but he golfed.  The powers that be blessed him with an ability to hit the ball 300 yards almost 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 pull out half a dozen new balls to replace the one he lost.  If you were on the course having a slow round, there’s a good chance he was out there in front of you  (Just adding this, but he didn’t even need those balls because everyone people kept giving them to him for Christmas…..  he literally brought them home, washed them off and put them in my golf bag *sniff*)
  • 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 with the banking, and drove some elderly people around to 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.  He had a magical ability to make whoever he was talking to feel like the most important person 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?
  • He was loyal to everything and everyone he valued.
  • He was meticulous 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 was high level mathematics going on in his brain to make sure everyone received an equal portion.  God forbid someone 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 for you to get in the house, and when you left, he stood on the porch and talked to you until you almost had to cut him off.  Then as you drove off, (Summer and Winter) he stayed out there and waved at you until your car was no longer in his sight lines.  Every time! (Just adding this….. the last time I saw him was like this.  My wife and I were leaving his house, and she must have been pregnant as hell, and I unlocked the door for her, but I didn’t actually go around and open it.  He was mortified because he’s such a gentleman…..  I was like ‘technology man….’  he didn’t like that, but we had a laugh.  Then he waited until we were out of sight before he went inside.  I never saw him again.)
  • I can’t begin to describe what kind of son, husband, father he was, but based on what I’ve said, 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 wasn’t REALLY frown upon (this was funny because I was saying it in a church), I think he’d make an excellent prototype.

I would love to live in a world full of Ken Austins!

Thank you!

 

 


Acknowledging My White Privilege

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu

 

I’ve wanted to write this for days but didn’t know what to write or how to write it.  Still don’t, but I guess I’ll work it out as I go.  I’ve done more listening than talking over the last couple of weeks.  Ever since George Floyd’s death, there’s been an uprising.  It’s overdue I think, but sometimes it takes something so shocking to really get it going.  Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know what’s happening, and I’m not here to report the news.  I’d be terrible at it anyways.  I haven’t said much up to this point, on social media or otherwise.  I feel like more listening and less talking has been a good way to approach it.  Racism has always kind of sickened me.  I have a lot of friends and family that are people of colour.  I personally enjoy that kind of diversity, and I’m lucky to live in a place that has a lot of it.  All of that said, how much do I know about it and how often do I have to think about it?  The honest answer is not much and not often.  That is a small part of what’s known as white privilege.

I’ve been trying to learn a bit more about systemic racism, and read a few articles and opinions.  I never really thought that I was being part of the problem, but if I was I’d probably be the last person to know it.  Even still, I don’t think I’ve been part of the solution either.  When I read the quote at the top of the blog, it kind of impressed upon me that I need to say something.  Just hanging back and keeping quiet isn’t making me an ally right now.  I do have a blog!  It has seen better days, more prolific entry habits, and readership for that matter.  Still here though.  While I don’t have lofty expectations for this post, I think I can get something important off my chest, and contribute in some pedestrian way to the ongoing conversation.

The thing I saw in every good piece of media I encountered on this, is that it would be a thoughtful first step to acknowledge my white privilege.  I had a vague idea of what this meant, but didn’t fully understand it’s importance.  I’ve always understood that I was less likely to get pulled over by the police, or less likely to be discriminated against in some other way.  Digging a little deeper though, there are a lot of luxuries that we are afforded, that we take for granted, and most of us are blissfully unaware that it should be an issue for people of colour.  From schools teaching our history, seeing predominately white faces on TV and in the movies, not being excluded from anything based on skin colour.  There are probably thousands of little examples, but if they don’t come up in your life, you may find it difficult to notice it.  It’s not super obvious like someone coming up to your door and giving you a bag of money because you’re white, but more that absence of certain bad things happening on account of you being white.  So you wouldn’t notice it.  Not noticing it is part of the privilege.  Not having to act on it is also part of the privilege.  One I can totally relate to.  I haven’t marched at rallies, I haven’t really called out racist behaviour, and up until today, I don’t think I’ve ever said anything in my blog about racism.  I’ve basically sat comfortably on the sidelines, and that’s part of my privilege as a white person  (not proud of it, but just being honest).  I can delete this post right now, and go watch TV, and nobody will think less of me.  It’s not my fight, unless I choose to make it my fight, but I do have that choice.  People of colour don’t have that choice.  The fight comes to them whether they want it or not.  They could use our help.

White privilege doesn’t seem to be as much about taking personal responsibility for a system that’s been in place for hundreds of years, or feeling guilty about your ancestors that may have been involved (I don’t think)….. It’s more about acknowledging that the system is there, and should be fixed.  It’s about admitting there’s a problem.  Does it solve anything?  I don’t know, but almost any problem you can have in life can’t be fixed until you take that first step of admitting the problem exists.  What if we all did it?  What if we were all just more aware?  It can’t hurt.  Let’s learn from all of this.

So today, I take the very small step of acknowledging my white privilege.  I hope that maybe someone else after reading this, might do the same.  Don’t know if you have to do it in a blog, or on social media or in the presence of someone who might appreciate it, or just say it to yourself in the mirror.  It’s the smallest of gestures in a way, but I think it’s meaningful.