My father was a real pain in the ass.
You could even ask him and he would have to agree. He did after all know a thing or two about a pain in the ass. Besides the horseshoes that were jammed up there you could ask him –
“Norman, what burns your ass?”
He would reply, “A flame about this high” (indicating about ass high.)
He was a lucky man who enjoyed gambling. He frequented the Flamborough Casino and in his working days visited many more casinos, race tracks and off track betting locations around the province, in the U.S. and at home in Ireland. He faithfully played Winterio, Lotto 649 and Lotto Max and he won time and time again – always to the family’s amazement. How lucky could one man be!
My Dad’s first gamble was in coming to Canada. At the age of 18 in 1952 he decided that prospects for a good job in Ireland were pretty slim. Not even the fact that he was being scouted for the 1952 Olympics (for running) could convince him to stay in Ireland.
Blame it on years of watching John Wayne conquer the Wild West! Coming to Canada (where his Uncle Billie was awaiting him) seemed like and adventure that would pay off. So, with very little money in his pockets my Dad boarded a boat to Canada.
He struggled a little at first – and he did contemplate going home to Ireland. Steady work didn’t come as quickly as he thought it might and religious prejudice existed in Canada just as it did back home - Uncle Billie as it turned out wasn’t to fond of an upstart Catholic sympathizer. But Dad, even then, was stubborn and wouldn’t give in and soon he settled down working in high rise construction where he became adept at walking the high beams. Eventually he discovered what became his real niche, and his career, working as an elevator mechanic – working first for others, then starting his own business (Multiple Elevator Services Inc.) and at the end of his career he worked as an elevator inspector for the Province.
With a good job on the go, Dad felt good about setting down roots and starting a family.
In 1962 he and his first wife, Violet (or Vi) welcomed April Storm Winnifred (more like a hurricane) followed a couple of years later in 1964 by Cindy Lou . . . who was a wonderful addition to the family. Dad’s #1 and #2 sons.
Life threw some twists and turns and my Dad gambled again and in 1974 he married my Mom. It was a gamble for them both . . . and there have been days when I have heard my mother say “what the hell was I thinking – never marry an Irishman!”
Regardless of the ups and downs, ins and outs of which there were many – they did love each other. That didn’t always shine through, but they did and what they had worked for nearly 38 years.
So I like to think they both won on that gamble – not only did my Mom gain two daughters, but my Dad gained a devoted wife who stuck with him and looked after him right to the very end. She is an awesome woman.
In 1977 Mom and Dad hit the jackpot! On 7-7-77 the family welcomed Tara Shannon. Though not a total win . . . I wasn’t after all a boy. The bets (by my Dad and sisters) were hedging on my coming out a John Edward . . . nonetheless, I became Dad’s the #3 son.
My Dad loved his family!
Sometimes he loved to hate them . . . but you know what they say about the Irish and their tempers, their ability to drink like fish and cry at the drop of a hat . . . it’s only true on days that end in a Y.
All that aside, it’s time to remember the good and throw out the bad.
My father had a big heart and it filled with joy and pride each time a new grandchild or great grandchild was born. He loved his home and he loved it when we all gathered around with in it. He would sit back and take it all in – watch is family have a good time together.
The holidays were always a wonderful time around the Leitch house with food, laughter, decorations, gifts galore and of course family.
But sometimes it still wasn’t enough and my Dad had the need to gamble again.
On Christmas Day 2006, my Dad announced that he was going to the casino for a few hours – just to kill some time while the rest of us went visiting. I thought it seemed a bit sad . . . and imagined my Dad like an orphan sidling up to a slot machine. How wrong was I – we all were – he knew what he was doing and as usual his gamble paid off. He arrived home later that Christmas afternoon $27,000.00 richer.
He was a lucky man.
Not only was he lucky in his countless wins at the casinos, on the lotto, but also in life and with his health. How many people do you know who have survived 2 bypass surgeries, a couple of angiograms and plasties and a number of other invasive and serious procedures. We would sit back in awe of a man who could eat a full holiday feast complete with wine, champagne, sweets and liqueurs and still wake up the next morning! Oh, and did I mention that this was all done while he was a full blown diabetic, with hearth and lung problems – and undergoing dialysis three times a week!
Food was unfortunately losing its charm and Dad’s luck was running out and in his 77th year he peacefully went on to his next gamble and big adventure.
He was the last of four brothers to pass on – and one of the last in his group of friends. I imagine them all up in heaven – or perhaps among us now – having a great time! Dad would be playing pool with Uncle Matt, his beloved Kelsey laying at his feet, listening to one of Uncle Eric’s joke; “Why is Santa Claus always so Jolly? . . . Because he knows where all the naughty girls live!”
Dad would reminisce to me about how I used to ask him if he were a giant and then tell him that he was my hero. I guess he thought that as I grew up I didn’t think that anymore – and to be true sometimes I struggled. To me, my Dad has always been a “Big Fish.” He told these amazing stories that seemed larger than life. Just like I thought he was sometimes. He told me stories of “tickling the trout,” almost catching a specimen blue shark, drinking tales and fairy tales. I thought how could all this be true – but the stories were. And over time I came to understand my Dad – I may not have always agreed with him, but I understood.
So, while he was only 5’8” and may not have been a giant, he was still my hero and when he chose to, he could wipe away my tears and make the world a brighter place. Over the last few years I wished I could do the same for him.
Now that he has passed I know he is free of pain. The limitations that his body held him to are gone and he is in a better place.
His only reason for being sad now, is because we are.
He knows he will see us all again one day!
So to my Dad – Pa - I say we love you and we will continue to hold you in our hearts. We will try our best not to best not to be sad but instead be happy and pray that the road rise up to meet you. That the sun shine warm upon your face and the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, that God hold you in the hollow of his hand.