A year ago, the world was in lockdown. The idea of traveling to Canada to visit my father and my children on Father’s Day was simply absurd. People who lived a few blocks away from their parents could not see them, so those of us who live across borders, across continents knew that there was nothing we could do.
This past April I got my second vaccine, and although travel to Canada was still prohibitive – anyone entering the country would have to quarantine for several days at a government-mandated hotel (at their own expense) – the world would slowly begin returning to normal. It was not impossible that by Father’s Day I would be able to see my children, and my father. After all, my dad was not a young man… I did not know how many more Father’s Days he had left.
Thirty-five years ago, my father and I were leaving the long-term care facility where his mother had recently moved, and where she would spend the last eleven years of her life. Her mental state had deteriorated terribly, and that facility was our only option. He told me that if he were ever to lose his mental faculties as she (and all of the residents of her ward) had, that I was to put him out of his misery. He told me ‘Mitch, prepare a (Montreal) smoked meat sandwich that will put me to sleep… to never wake up again. My father was always mentally sharp, and his greatest fear was that he would lose that.
On the afternoon of April 18, 2021 I finished my golf game, and as I did after almost every golf game, I called dad as I drove home. We had a slightly longer chat than we usually did… we spoke every day, and most days it was very predictable. On this particular Sunday afternoon we joked, we laughed. He complained about how badly the Montreal Canadiens were playing, how they likely would not make the playoffs. He told me that he and Esti had a wonderful weekend. Saturday, they had gone for a drive in the Laurentiens with good friends. Sunday, morning they ran some errands, and they decided to pick up Montreal smoked meat sandwiches for lunch. He had half the sandwich for lunch and had just finished the last half for dinner. He was going to bed. It was 6:30pm here, and 9:30pm in Montreal.
Less than three hours later I got the call.
Sometime this summer I will be able to visit Canada… finally. I will visit with my children, and I will say a prayer at my father’s grave. He died the way he told me so many years ago that he wanted to die.
Esti and I speak on a near-daily basis. She and I were the two people who were closest to him. I will not say that my sister loved him less than I did, nor that he loved her less than he loved me. We simply had a different relationship. So Esti and I speak and share stories and commiserate, even two months after the funeral, nearly every day. One of the things we discuss is how excited he would be to watch our team – Nos Habitants – ahead in the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I am sure that Arthur is sitting at G-d’s right side, a gin and tonic (or as was more normal in his last years, a gin and Fresca) in his hand, urging the LORD to help our team win.
Arthur had a way about him that was truly amazing. My older son, whom I adopted when I married his mother, told me that one of the things he loved most about him was not only his kind words and smile, but that even when Aaron was ten years old, Arthur would listen to him, and speak with him as a person, and not dismiss him or talk down to him like a child. I have heard the same from Esti’s grandchildren, all of whom loved my father, and who shared his passion for hockey and the Montreal Canadiens.
It has been two months and one day since Arthur left us… healthy, laughing, and smiling until the very end. He left the world on his own terms, and while there have been so many tears since that terrible phone call, I cannot fault my father for that.
Of late, there have finally been days here and there without tears. There has not been a day that I have not thought about him, but there have been days without tears. Today is not to be one of those days.
With one exception, there has not been a Father’s Day in my life that I did not speak with my father. If I was in the same city as he, we would have brunch or dinner. There would always be a card, maybe a small gift. Today there will be no brunch, no gift, and no phone call. Those will be replaced by thoughts and memories and tears… and happy thoughts that if Montreal wins their game tonight, it will be in part because of AG’s help from above.
Happy Father’s Day to you dad… wherever you are.