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Today would have been my dad’s 76th birthday. It is hard to believe that he has been gone for more than 7 years and I miss his presence. And yet, he was never actually physically present in my life. That probably does not really make sense, so I will try to explain.

I have no memory of my parents being together as a couple. I have a few memories of moments spent with my dad – visiting him at my grandparent’s house, driving in a car somewhere, talking to him on a payphone. Just moments.

With my mom, I have loads of memories. Baking “stained glass” candy at Christmas, listening to her play the piano or do pieces on the radio. Going with her to meet Farley Mowat when she interviewed him. Her attempts to keep us afloat financially and, embarrassing at the time, her being arrested for not paying parking tickets.

Dad, though, was definitely absent from my day-to-day life. Not having experienced anything else, I do not recall growing up with any great sense of loss. That happened later, when I got to know my father-in-law, Don. Dad Turner was an amazing man with an enormous capacity for love and making people feel special. He spoiled everyone in his life with his love and attention. Shortly after we were married, and I really spent time with Dad Turner, I began to wonder what could have been.

My dad and my father-in-law were very different men and yet they both deeply loved their families. My dad was reticent, Dad Turner was larger than life. My own father stepped up when I told him expressly what I needed. Perhaps, like me, he didn’t really know what our relationship should be. Without question, he became the father I needed and the grandfather my children needed. He lived thousands of miles away, though, so I never got to experience having him present in the literal sense.

The last years of his life, he was my almost daily confidante. I’d call him and he’d shore me back up or celebrate the events of the day. He was diagnosed with colon cancer and shortly after it became apparent that he was not going to win the war. I was able to visit him in person several times over the ensuing months and even spent his last day at home with him before he returned to palliative care. He died 3 days later.

Although those moments hold the hardest memories for me, they are also my most treasured. Dad was even more open and honest in our conversations. Looking back, I think he knew that I would have trouble transitioning from full time mom. He encouraged me to broaden my horizons, and seek to understand the complexities of the relationships in my life.

My dad didn’t have a lot of time to give me great nuggets of knowledge or insight, but he always told me the truth and encouraged me to think of myself as he did. If I am in a job interview, for example, I remember to answer the questions as he would – brag a little, he used to say.

This weekend, there is an event to raise money for cancer research and my hubby will be one of the cyclists participating. He will be attaching my dad’s trucker hat to his bike to honour the battle and the man who fought hard to win.

Happy Birthday Daddy.

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