“Daddy, let’s play hockey.”
It was January in Cornwall, Ontario—too far below freezing to play hockey outside.
“Okay, let’s get moving,” Daddy said.
“Where’re we going to play?” we two boys chimed.
“Here in the kitchen, with a tennis ball.”
Nothing was too much work for my Father. He cleared the floor and we played hockey on the linoleum.
“Daddy, you play goal.”
He played goal, we hit him everywhere with that ball… no pads in those days. I’ll bet he was sore that night and black and blue everywhere.
In summer he played horsey, we rode him until he dropped. In fall the crimson leaves of the maple trees were piled high then, all three of us, jumped into them from the porch. He was one of us, until we stepped out of line, then he was a taskmaster. It had to be done correctly or we had to do it again. When we said, we didn’t have time to do it correctly then, he’d ask, “If you don’t have time to do it correctly now, when will you have time to do it again?”
I never thought much about that statement until I heard my son say, “But Daddy, I don’t have time to do it right.”
“Pop, can I have the car tonight?”
“’May’ I have the car… not ‘can’ I have the car? Remember others judge you by the way you speak, so speak correctly. Now, again.”
“Ohhhh, alright. May I have the car tonight Father, dear?”
“Yes, but remember–home by midnight and put gas in the car on the way home.”
He always let me have the car whenever I asked and I received the same reminder each time. When I came down for breakfast in the morning he asked. “How was the dance last night, son?”
“Great, Dad, thanks for the car… yes, I was home by midnight.”
“I know, son. Did you put gas in the tank?”
“Uh, no that would have made me late. Thought I’d get it today.”
After breakfast, I went for gas and ran out on the way to the station.
No, I didn’t get heck or a lecture, just, “Maybe next time you’ll get it on the way home.”
“Father, you’re looking better today. How’re you feeling?” I asked.
Mother and I had taken Father into the hospital on Tuesday. He had a low-grade infection and was admitted for observation. During the week he had some spells. It was now Saturday and he was deteriorating.
“Remember, dad, the kids’ll be at our place for lunch tomorrow–then home to London. I’ll see you in the evening.”
He watched me head towards the door. I turned and looked back at him. His eyes were sad… a tear slid down his cheek.
I returned to his bedside, put my arms around him and said, for the first time in my life, “Dad, I love you.”
This would be the last time I’d have an opportunity to say, “I love you” to my Father… he had a heart attack at two the next afternoon, went into a comma and was gone at four.
Never be afraid to say I love you.
William S. Peckham is a Kelowna author and freelance columnist. If you have a comment or question about his stories or his novels you are invited to contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org
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