I realize Father’s Day is not necessarily a happy day for some people.
Some people have never had a relationship with their Father.
Some people have, or had, a dysfunctional relationship with their Father.
Some people have broken ties with their Father.
Some people don’t remember their Father.
Some people had a great relationship with their Father, but he’s passed away.
I fall into this last category. I had a great relationship with my Dad, and I remember him, vividly. Even the “not so good” memories are memories I cherish now.
My Dad, Anton (Tony) Kovacevic, passed away July 26, 2000 and yet, despite two decades having come and gone since his spirit left this world, I can still hear his laugh….I can still smell his tobacco….his aftershave…..I can still feel his presence. Yes, I truly can feel Dad’s presence.
This blog post won’t be like my previous posts. In my previous posts, my intention in writing them was to help; to bring some sort of value to the reader.
This blog post isn’t like that. This one is simply to share my fondest memories of my Dad, a man you didn’t know, a man who you can’t know, a man who left us much too early in his life (Dad passed away six months after being diagnosed with stage four mesothelioma).
You’re welcome to stop reading right here if this doesn’t interest you. My feelings won’t be hurt. I just need to get this “out there”. Why? Because some day I too will no longer be “here”….but the worldwide web is forever, so at least now, while I AM here, I can make my Dad immortal online.
Here we go.
One – My First Memory of Dad
I don’t have as many photos of my Dad as I would like, but I do have enough to “jog my memory”. With that said, my first memory isn’t from a photo, it’s what I call a pure memory.
My first memory of my Dad took place in Dad’s dump truck. I must have been on a PD day off from school because I DO remember that this happened during the week when I would normally have been in school.
My Dad was driving his dump truck, I remember sitting up on the passenger seat (this was before child booster seats and before it was mandatory to be seat-belted whilst in a moving vehicle), and I was looking out the passenger window. I remember Dad slowing down the truck and I saw we were turning into the police station.
I looked over at Dad, with a “Where are we going, Dad?” look in my eyes, and Dad said to me, “I’m taking you to the police station because you’ve been a bad girl”.
I was instantly crushed.
I looked to my Dad as my protector. Dad was tall and muscular and I felt like he would always keep me safe. And here he was, “turning me in” to the police??
Up to that point, I was having a fun time, being up high in the truck, I could see down into the cars beside us, I could see far up ahead, I was with my Daddy, and I felt like “a big girl”. I had been a good girl all day. And the day before. And the day before. And the day before. Heck, as far as I knew, I was a good girl every day (I was a very obedient child).
Sure enough, Dad continued to steer the truck into the police station parking lot. I slid off the passenger seat, and scooted myself down into the space between the seat and the dash, where you would normally have your feet if you were an adult sitting in the seat.
He parked the truck, looked over at me with a very serious look on his handsome face, and I remember feeling like I was going to pee my pants (something I used to do often when I was scared). Then Dad cracked a big smile and said, “No, no, we aren’t going to the police station because you were a bad girl. You’re the best girl. I have to pay for a ticket”.
Ugh. Thanks for the heart-attack Dad!
Two – Another Scare
Speaking of giving a girl a heart-attack. Another memory of Dad involved being scared. We were at Toronto (Pearson) Airport; I can’t remember who we were there to greet, or maybe we were seeing someone off on their return flight home, but this memory involves my Dad, my cousin (who is about 15 years older than me) and me (I think I might have been eight or nine years old).
The three of us were in the terminal, walking, and as was my usual way, I skipped ahead.
Mom tells me that I would often do that. Apparently (and I say “apparently” because I don’t remember this, I was too young), but when I was very, very little, we were visiting my Aunt in New York City and I skipped ahead and ran back so many times that Mom says I criss-crossed New York City twice.
So I skipped ahead at the airport….but when I turned around to run back to Dad and my cousin, I didn’t see them.
Imagine, there are hundreds of people! I’m lost in a sea of people, some walking quickly and purposefully with their suitcases in tow, some sauntering, some waiting around, but there are hundreds of them!! And I’m one little girl, looking for my Daddy.
Of course I got scared.
I ran back to where I thought they should be. They weren’t. I searched around for their familiar faces. Didn’t find them.
So I got even more scared.
After a while….I don’t know how long…could have been 2 minutes, felt like two hours, my Dad and cousin poked their faces out from behind two large pillars, and were laughing their heads off, at making me scared.
Not cool, not cool at all.
Three – On The Farm With Dad
Those first two memories were scary for my young self, but please don’t think my Dad was cruel. He wasn’t. Dad just had a sense of humour that I didn’t get, especially not as a young child.
All my other memories of my Dad are good ones….well, until he got sick and then passed away….but for about 20+ years, I had nothing but good memories of my Dad.
My third favourite was as a child, from the ages of 10 to 18, growing up on our hobby farm in Newholme (just outside Huntsville, Ontario). Back then it was just us and then waaaaaaay down at the end of the road was another family (they had two small boys) and then waaaaay at the other end of the road, actually we had to cross the main road, was another family, with eight girls.
Today, that road is full of houses, one right next to the other and my childhood house is no longer there.
I’m not 100% sure what happened to that house, but it seems there was a marital dispute between the people who bought the house (and acreage) from my parents, and the man decided he’d rather burn the house down than let his wife get it in the divorce.
The “new people” who live on that property now are lovely; they’ve built a gorgeous, massive home, and I wish them nothing but good.
But anyway, going back to that life on the farm…..I loved my childhood. I mean, I didn’t love it when I was in highschool and all my friends were going to parties and I was at home studying, but my parents were strict, I respected them, and I did as I was told.
I really had a wonderful childhood.
As I said, it was just me and my sister, who’s five years younger than me, and at that time, I often found her annoying, so I’d go “get lost” to get away from her. I’d hop on my bike and ride until I couldn’t ride anymore….then I’d climb up a rock, sit there contemplating life, and ride back home. Or I’d venture off into our woods (we originally had 100 acres), and I’d literally get lost….pretending I was the first person ever to wander those woods. Of course, eventually I’d find my way back home. Back then you could do those kinds of things, parents didn’t treat us as if we were precious and made of glass. We could be kids, and I loved it.
Maybe that’s why I love to be in nature so much now. Even as a young child I loved coming upon a stream in the woods, watching it glimmer as it cascaded over the rocks….or finding a tree that a beaver had gnawed at…..or a really beautiful birch tree, with its crisp white bark slightly peeling off.
Dad wanted sons, but was “stuck” with two girls haha….so making lemons out of lemonade, he treated us like boys. Both my sister and I were kind of tom-boyish as kids. We would stack the wood Dad chopped. We would ride on the tractor with Dad as he tilled the garden (which was huge); one day we came upon a baby bunny rabbit, and I loved seeing Dad gently scoop up that bunny in his large, tanned, callused hands.
My third favourite memory of my Dad, though, stems from a not very fun time…..
I was 10 years old and I was helping Mom wallpaper the livingroom. Back then, you had to have a tub of water near the base of the wall, you’d put the roll of paper in that, let it sit for a bit so the glue got tacky, and then unroll it, wet, whilst applying it to the wall. That was the last time I put up wallpaper (you’ll find out why) so I don’t know if it’s still done that way.
Anyway, Mom was standing on a wooden chair, we had unrolled the paper, I had JUST handed off the shears to Mom so she could cut the paper and BOOM!
I started hopping around, crying, “It hit me! It hit me!!“
It had been storming outside, but it sounded like the storm was far off in the distance, so we didn’t really pay much attention to it. Apparently the storm came over us very fast, because I had been hit by lightning!!!
Long story short, my Dad drove me to the Emergency ward, doctor examined me, said I was very lucky to be alive because had the lightning (which had come UP from the ground….I didn’t even know that was possible, not until it happened to me) come up at even a slightly different angle, by 1 cm, it would have gone through my heart and I would have been dead on the spot. As it was, it had come in through my left foot, up my leg, and out my left thigh, leaving 22 small holes in the shape of a perfect circle (which healed over in about a week or so).
Dad drove me home…now here comes the fun memory part….we went into the house, and all four of us (Mom, Dad, my sister and me) were standing in the kitchen, hugging, thanking the Lord for sparing me….and all of a sudden, we heard a car horn blaring. We had a Pontiac Parisienne….do they even make those anymore?
Anyway, that Pontiac’s horn had not been working, for months. But that night, it came on, and STAYED on. Keep in mind, we lived “in the sticks”, aka, in the middle of nowhere, so it wasn’t like someone decided to get into our car and the car alarm went off (I don’t even know if there was such a thing as a car alarm back in those days).
Dad broke from our group hug and went to put on his rain slicker, and the horn stopped. He looked at us as if to say, “Um, did that really just happen?”
He came back in for the group hug, and the horn blared again.
He again went to put on his rain jacket, and again the horn stopped.
It was the weirdest thing! Of course, me, at 10, living in an old farmhouse (it was about 100 years old), just down the road from a cemetary, me in my childish mind envisioned a ghost in the drivers seat, blaring the horn.
To this day we don’t know what happened…..why was the horn going off and then on again so many times? It was both creepy and funny at the same time it happened.
Four – First Man to Woman Talk
Dad lost both his parents when he was just a young child (during WWII), he was raised by his sister (who was/is nine years older than him), out in the countryside in Yugoslavia, and then later when he emigrated to Canada, he worked in a mine, drove truck, hung out with “the guys”, so he was never exposed to “girls”.
And yet, at 18, his “little girl” was living in Toronto, about 2.5 hours away; population of Newholme at that time was maybe 30 people (that’s including children), and population of Toronto at that time was about 3,355,000. I had moved to Toronto to go to travel school there; and at 18 I had my first serious boyfriend.
So my fourth favourite memory is of a walk I had with Dad. It was a BITTERLY cold winter night…..-35C….we each layered on four layers of clothing, I remember my top layer was my Dad’s first winter coat (shown in the first photo below) that he bought when he moved to Canada 20 years before that night, it was grey, woolen, long and very warm.
The night was beautiful. Crystal clear. Up in Muskoka, back in those days, there was no light pollution, so we could see every brilliant star above us, and a bright moon which reflected off the pristine snow, making it appear as if we were walking among billions and billions and billions of diamonds.
The moon was so bright that we didn’t need to turn on the flashlights we had brought with us.
It was so cold we could hear the trees snapping. My eyelashes had ice crystals on them. It was so cold, it literally took your breath away.
Dad and I went for a walk. We both liked the cold, the peace and quiet, and each others company.
I don’t remember all that we talked about….but I do remember we were talking about my boyfriend, and Dad said to me: “Men only want one thing.” hahaha! Thanks Dad! I know he meant well, but in fact my boyfriend really did love me for me, and not for “one thing”.
I had had the “birds and the bees” conversation with my Mom years earlier (she was so funny….the way she described it is NOT how it happens haha!) but I knew this was my Dad’s version of that same story, just in a more “Dad” way.
Five – In The Garage With Dad
Gosh, you know, picking a fifth memory is a challenge. Not because I can’t remember a fifth memory, but because I have SO MANY favourite memories of my Dad.
Like when he and my cousin (my Dad’s one and only nephew) went out for a pee in the night and came back into the house, all excited because they were sure they had seen a UFO.
Or the time when we would see which one of us could swim to the island at Mary’s Lake (Dad and I were equally strong swimmers).
Or the time when he taught me how to drive his old pick-up truck, which was a stick, because “any idiot can drive an automatic”.
The time he taught me how to shoot a shotgun and I shot down the hawk that had been stealing our chickens.
The time he took us out on the lake and let me drive the boat.
The time he got so mad at himself because he couldn’t find his pipe….he had looked everywhere, inside the house and out, twice…..then found the pipe in his mouth.
The time he chased me, wielding an umbrella as it was the first thing he could grab, around one of my Mom’s flower gardens, round and round and round we went, because he was sure I had called my sister a prick. I honestly didn’t know what a prick was back then, except for when you got too close to a cactus. (I had, in fact, called her a pig, because I was so angry at her and that was the worst name I could think of to call her haha)
The time he was glaring at me over the shoulder of the photographer taking my wedding photo, tapping his wrist, because he had double-parked the Mercedes.
The time he gave his grand-daughter her first bath. Two more grand-daughters would enter this world, sadly, not having the opportunity to meet Dad as it was after he passed.
The time….and this was a daily occurrence….when I would see him kiss my Mom, and they would say, “I love you” to each other.
Those, and so many more memories warm my heart.
But if I HAVE to pick a fifth favourite memory, I guess it’ll be this one….
Dad used to smoke a pipe. I used to smoke cigarettes. Dad wasn’t allowed to smoke in the house. I was a busy mother of a young child and didn’t have time for a cigarette until that child was in bed for the night.
So Dad and I smoked in the evening time, in his garage, which had all sorts of tools and machinery.
It was a “man’s garage”, it had the smell of grease and turpentine, an organized wall of every tool you could possibly need, a vice, dirty old dishrags he used when working on our cars, a million screws and nails and nuts and bolts, each sorted into its own coffee can.
I loved sitting on the top step of the garage, smoking my cigarette, while Dad would stoke his pipe with the cherry-flavoured tobacco he liked so much. He would often have a roll of Butter Rum flavoured LifeSavers in his flannel shirt pocket, so he could “fix the taste in his mouth” after smoking.
One night Dad and I were out in the garage smoking. I don’t remember what exactly we were talking about, but at one point he said to me, “I really respect you”.
Now, having your parent tell you they love you is great, but it’s to be expected, after all, that’s a natural feeling, most normal parents love their children.
So if Dad had said to me, “I love you“, I would have been touched.
But he said, “I really respect you”. That’s the best thing anyone had ever said to me (to that point).
Dad was a man of few words, as was I (and still am….yes, believe it or not, it’s true). And he rarely gave out compliments. For my Dad, to say to me, “I really respect you”, well, that was for me, a billion dollar moment.
As I said, I have so many special memories of my Dad. And I’m grateful for every single one.
As a “bonus” memory, I’m going to share one here that happened after Dad passed away…but to make the story make sense, I have to back up a bit, to when he was still alive…..terminally ill, but still alive….
As I said, my Dad had lost both his parents by the time he was six years old; he grew up poor and never had a toy in his life.
For Easter 2000, I had bought Dad one of those wind-up hopping bunnies, and I gave it to Dad for what we all knew would be his last Easter with us.
He was already frail, morphine coursing through his body to keep him comfortable. He was still able to recline in his favourite La-Z-Boy chair, but too frail to do much else. Even though he smiled when I gave him the bunny I wasn’t sure if he was lucid enough to recognize the toy I had given him, but apparently he was because….
After Dad passed away, July 26, 2000 (one day into his 61st year of life), his body was at the funeral home, in the casket Mom had chosen for him. We (Mom, my sister, my daughter and I) were at the funeral home, receiving mourners. Even though Dad’s diagnosis had been terminal, I was still in shock at losing Dad, so my brain just couldn’t process the blur of movement as the mourners came to pay their respects.
After some time had passed, I said to Mom, “Mom, I’m going to go home now. I know that’s Dad’s body in the casket, but I don’t feel HIM here. I’m going to go home now.” She understood, we hugged, and I went home.
“Home” at that time was the house Dad had passed away in. He and Mom had built that house for their children and grandchildren to live in. My husband (at the time—actually, he had moved out April of 2000), my daughter (who was 9 years old at that time) and I lived with my parents in that house. My sister lived about a half hour from us.
Dad had been set up at home with a hospital bed, oxygen tank, morphine, had 24 hour, round-the-clock nursing (they were so lovely, those nurses) plus my Mom had taken a leave from work so she could be there for him 24 hours a day too. Dad passed away in the house he built with his own blood, sweat and tears (with my Mother’s support of course).
So I left the funeral home, and I went home. I wandered into the living room, was there just mindlessly tidying up, broken up inside at losing Dad. I was standing in front of the TV cabinet my parents had, where Mom had displayed all the “get well soon” cards people had sent, and the wind-up bunny was on that cabinet too.
As I was straightening the cards, again, lost in thought about Dad, the bunny hopped!! By itself!! It hop, hop, hopped, three times. I was stunned. I stopped straightening the cards. I couldn’t believe what had just happened.
And then a complete CALM and PEACE came through me…..not over me, but through me. And I felt him. I felt my Dad there. I said, looking at the now still bunny, “Is that you Dad?“
And the bunny hopped backwards!!! They aren’t MADE to hop backwards!!!
Hop. Hop. Hop.
***Tuesday, June 16th – I learned this afternoon of my ex-husband’s recent suicide. Although we’ve been divorced for more than two decades, he is still the Father of our child and so my heart is broken for her. I am saddened at the loss his family and loved ones are feeling.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with mental health issues, and/or is thinking of suicide, PLEASE reach out for help!
If you’re in Canada:
Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645 (4 pm to 12 am ET).
Kids Help Phone:Call 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free) or text CONNECT to 686868.
Available 24 hours a day to Canadians aged 5 to 29 who want confidential and anonymous care from professional counselors.
Hope For Wellness Helpline:
Available to all Indigenous peoples across Canada who need immediate crisis intervention. Experienced and culturally sensitive help line counsellors can help if you want to talk or are distressed.
Telephone and online counselling are available in English and French. On request, telephone counselling is also available in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.
Call 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free)
If you live outside of Canada, please seek help. Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it alone.