During the last 10 years or so, my dad would occasionally come to Toronto in late January for a big executive meeting of the Ontario Football Conference (OFC) – he was one of the Vice Presidents. This is what my dad did in his retirement – built a whole football program at the competitive rep level. You know, instead of like, gardening.
Anyway, these meetings would start on a Friday night and then go most of the day on Saturday. For a few years in a row, the OFC put the out-of-towners up at the Royal York downtown. Fancy.
Even though he had a meeting to get to on the Friday night, he would always plan to have cocktails (aka wine) in his hotel room with me. I would head out of the office a bit early that day and meet him at the hotel.
It was a kind of fast visit, maybe an hour or so, but it was something I really looked forward to. I’d like to think he did too. He would bring snacks and wine – red for him and white for me – and when I got there, it was just the two of us. That might seem unremarkable to those who come from smaller families or whatever, but for me, alone-time with Dad was a rare treat.
We would sit and chat about the usual stuff, and by chat, I mean he would pepper me with questions; how’s work? How’s (insert guy’s name who I was seeing at the time)? How’s Bec and Brookie? Is Fish (who is a person) still involved in football in Guelph? What do you think of this or that? I’m really impressed with David’s blah, blah, blah and I talked to Christina the other day and man, she’s just like grandma, it’s non-stop entertainment with that one; updates on the grandchildren and Carolyn and her work, and of course, a detailed breakdown of whatever construction was going on in Peterborough and so on.
He would definitely tell me at least one or two stories I’d heard 27 times before, but I would listen and smile and laugh, usually because the story was funny, but also because it was so delightful to hear my dad tell it and see the pure joy it gave him.
After a while, I would head home, and he found his way to whatever conference room his meeting was in. I can remember thinking that I was so lucky to have a dad who went out of his way to catch up with one of his kids. Well, to catch up with me.
In the summers, whenever the Peterborough Wolverines were playing Toronto, I would meet him at the football field and we’d watch the game together. He’d introduce me to the coaches and parents, etc. who I didn’t already know, and every single one of them would say something along the lines of “Oh, you’re Angela, the singer, the one who lives here! I’ve heard so much about you!”
Dad and I wouldn’t really talk much during the game. As my mom says it was like talking to a brick wall. So, I would just immerse myself in the game and watch my dad watch the game.
After the last game and as the players and coaches headed back home on the bus, Dad would take me out for dinner. He’d always say, “get anything you want, Ange” and wink at me. He’d order something predictable for him, and a glass of red of course. He’d flirt with our server, laughing his little ‘Ernie’ laugh (as in Bert and).
We’d have similar conversations as we did in the hotel in January. And while I never got the sense he was divulging secrets to me or saying anything he wasn’t going to recount to Mom when he got home, it felt so private.
You know that thing of when you realize that your parents are actual, real people, not just your parents? Well, even though I’d come to that realization years before, it was these little moments alone with Dad when it was just so clear to me that he was so much more than my dad. I mean, he’s still my dad and he definitely asked ‘dad’ questions, but I would get little glimpses of how others saw him, how people responded to him, how much he was respected and revered, and who he was as a person, outside of his role as my dad.
I miss those solo visits with Dad. This time of year, especially on Sundays, I always feel a little homesick. Yes even at my ripe old age and having not lived at home for over half of my life I still get homesick sometimes. Let me live my life!
And Beyonce help me if I catch a football game on TV – it’s over. Just the sound of football being played makes me think of my dad. Dad, Sunday family dinner and football are pretty much what fall means to me.
It makes me think of cold, crisp fall days, standing on the sidelines watching dad and my brother on the field, or depending on how old I was, the cute boys in their tight football pants.
I’ve never considered myself a so-called ‘daddy’s girl,’ but perhaps these little visits were the closest I ever got. I had all of Dad’s attention and it was just so damn special. There’s no better word, as trite or corny as it may sound.
I miss my solo dad visits; I miss his Ernie laugh and I especially miss the excitement in his voice over the phone in the weeks leading up to our visit when he would go over the plan with me at least 14 times.