Last Father’s Day, I wrote a heartfelt tribute to my own long-suffering Father while wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all the great Dads out there. Now moving tributes are fine and dandy, once in a while. So this year I’m changing gears and sharing some of the wackier moments my Dad gave me growing up, and boy, did my he provide plenty of comedic fodder. And you know what? I actually managed to learn a few practical things along the way, though I wasn’t smart enough to understand some of the lessons until years later. So without further adieu, allow me to share the comedic highlight reel of my formative years starring my one and only Pop.

Growing up, my Dad was a mobile pack rat. Everywhere we went he vacuumed stuff up like a Hoover on steroids. Business cards, flyers, pamphlets, those little condiment packets from any fast food place we stopped at (my family only went through one actual bottle of ketchup a year), but instead of squirreling his treasure trove in his pockets or the glove compartment of the car, he gave it all to my mother to put in her purse. It was her biggest pet peeve and finally one day she snapped, yelling at my bewildered father that she had more of his stuff in her purse than hers. My father was easily the smartest man I knew growing up, but even my five-year old self knew that his solution, that he genuinely thought would be a smashing success, was doomed for failure. I can’t remember if it was for an anniversary of Christmas or her birthday, but I have never seen a smile die so completely as my mother’s did when she unwrapped my father’s gift that year-a bigger purse. Now while there’s no actual lesson to be gleaned from this little nugget, there is a realization for my own personal development; that my complete failure to understand the fairer sex in even the slightest is totally and without doubt my father’s fault.

And speaking of Christmas. . . . One Yuletide morning my sister came bursting into my room, dancing from foot to foot like she was standing on a hot plate and stuttering incoherently. I soon saw why as a massive Christmas gift had found its way under our tree over the curse of the night. And more shocking, it was addressed to yours truly. Turned out it was a brand new mountain bike, but the punch line? My mother confided in me years later that my dad covered part of this several hundred-dollar purchase with Canadian Tire money. You know, the kind in 5 and 10 cent denominations. My first question was how long had they been saving up their Canadian Tire currency? The second was how much did that poor clerk want to kill my father when he purchased it? On the flip side though, the cool thing is my father braved death by cashier for my Christmas present that year.

Growing up on a horse farm I learned that while horses are animals of majestic beauty and dignity, some can be real, grade A jerks. One spring we welcomed two brand new horses to our little equine family, a high-spirited phillie I named Aldieb (after a character in a book I was reading at the time, so stop judging me). She was bright and full of energy and far too smart for her own good, an absolute bundle of awesome. The other one, a stallion my dad named Corby (though I had plenty of other R rated names for him), not so much. He grew so fast that by the time he was only a few months old he was already wearing gear reserved for horses a year or more older. He was pure power and he knew it. He was like that guy in high school who was just naturally gifted at sports; big and strong and fast and a total douche-bag to anyone who was smaller than him (which was everyone). Now don’t go and get the wrong message, he wasn’t a bad horse. He was a PSYCHOTIC ONE, and you would think that my father, the far more experienced and stronger horseman, would have volunteered to work with said nut job while I got the rambunctious but smaller (and much less violent) Aldieb. You would think. And you’d be wrong. Corby and I went to war every single day and since my entire body weighed about the same as one of his legs, you can imagine who usually came out on the other side of our regular battles bruised, scarred and occasionally crying like a little girl. I was kicked, stepped on, head-butt, body checked, run into and almost killed when my sister “panicked” one day and locked me in a stall with Corby when he decided to play a little soccer with my head. I learned two lessons from my many losing encounters with that four legged monstrosity; the first was that you have no idea how far or high you can jump when you have a couple hundred pounds of homicidal equine chasing you. And second, when your dad tells you that getting your ass kicked on a daily basis while he stands by watching, occasionally even smirking, is “good experience,” he’s totally lying so he doesn’t have to deal with that noise.

One year before Christmas (noticing a pattern in my nostalgia?), I underwent an emergency appendectomy, and in the rush to remove my little intestinal time bomb, a few corners were cut in the recovery process and suffice to say that for the better part of a month I had all the mobility of a drunken walrus with a hip problem. That was the same time my father decided to take me with him to go shopping for my mother’s Christmas present (probably to prevent him from buying another deluxe sized purse) and we deliberately ventured to one of the local shopping malls as early as possible to avoid the homicidal Christmas mob. That’s an important detail to keep in mind because when he got to the mall, the parking lot was indeed half empty. There were plenty of spots within comfortable walking distance for someone whose steps could be measured in millimetres. Instead, my father chose the second furthest spot from the door. Make no mistake, he would have grabbed the furthest but it was already taken (probably by some other guy who was torturing his wounded son). To add insult on top of humiliation, he would stop every ten feet or so as I inched my way across the concrete ocean of the parking lot, wee step by painfully wee step, to ask what was taking so long. Now you might think that was a one-off but he did the exact same thing to me a few years later when a sprained tendon restricted me to crutches for a little while. Only this time we were visiting the hospital and if he had parked any further away it would have been across the street (which he probably considered). When I questioned his choice of parking spot, he replied (complete with a smile on his face) that I needed the exercise. Note to any parents reading this right now; when a child is on crutches, that’s the last time they need more exercise, especially when you put a set of snow-covered stairs between them and the hospital doors. Just saying.

I’d like to think I got a few back here and there (like when I took him to see Avatar in 3D and he spent most of the fight scenes ducking the giant spears flying out of the screen), but I know better. Growing up, my dad pretty much had the upper hand and thinking back on it, it was probably karma for all the stupid grief I put him through. And after all, what good’s having kids if you can’t mess with them every once in a while? If anything, I got to cut my sarcasm teeth on my Dad and his occasional antics. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Make sure to spoil your Dad today folks, he’s the only one you’ll ever have so make it count. Happy Father’s Day Dad.  I love you.

Shayne Kempton


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