Without a real job, after having returned to college to pursue a nursing career as a 30 year old, with hardly any money or worldly possessions, I cannot ever remember experiencing the joy that I felt while taking the metro back to school after my fiance and I saw a visual representation of our hopes and dreams; the first ultrasound of what would be our baby girl with her tiny heart beating steadily as it seemed to shine like gold on the screen in front of us. Something happened to me that day that I suppose happens to all fathers: we feel a new sense of responsibility, a new sense of purpose, a new sense that if we can make a life, then we can do anything. It was like I had a sudden surge of energy that was almost instinctive, and I knew from that day onward that I would do anything to nurture and protect the heartbeat that I just saw. Like many fathers, I would learn the meanings of the words nurture and protect in a raw and visceral way and perhaps that is why we dads always seem to say “I don’t want anything for father’s day”.
In the months and years that followed, I did my best to do what I thought was right for my new family. Like many dads, I made some mistakes as life threw a few curve-balls my way. My wife became very ill after our daughter was born and I found myself tapping into a survival instinct that I didn’t even know I had in order to get through it. Soon after her recovery, our new infant daughter then became very sick as well, an ordeal so close to my wife’s illness that it threatened my beliefs but at the same time, somehow made me stronger. When the dust settled we bought a house on a tranquil west-island street…without an inspection, mistake number one. A virtual money-pit, I, like many dads, became a “DIY”er. I renovated our bathroom, the kitchen, the roof, our daughter’s bedroom, and even built a new deck after the old one burned down (mistake number two – my fault). I did all these things while working full-time as a nurse, while watching my daughter thrive after surviving a cancer that could have killed her. Then the cars broke (mistake number three – also my fault) and I, once again, like many dads, became a backyard mechanic. I replaced an engine and a transmission, fixed timing belts and did break-jobs as I watched our daughter receive awards in school, one after the other, french, math, she is good at everything. The pipes froze in the winter (mistake number 4 – again, my fault) and like many dads, I became a plumber. Under the house in -30 is not fun, but my daughter was counting on me and I, like many dads, got the job done. That same winter, the pellet stove died (mistake number 5) on the coldest day of the year and we had no heat. “Daddy, I’m cold.” I called a repair-man but there was a 2 week wait for service. Our neighbor offered his house as refuge, but, with pride at stake and a cold daughter to keep warm, I became a stove technician and fixed the stove with help from the internet. When my daughter called her friend as she basted in front of the newly fixed stove and told her how her dad fixed it, I overheard her friend’s dad say “That’s what us dads do.” I was so proud.
The reason I don’t want anything for father’s day is simple: ten years ago I got a gift that is never ending, a gift that has given me the strength of a super-hero able to accomplish anything that needs to get done. Like many fathers, all I have to do is look at my child and I am rejuvenated and healed from whatever is ailing me and that is the greatest gift anyone can receive.