HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

My father was born in Radisson, Saskatchewan on June 14, 1912. He was one of 14 children born to Norman and Una Babcook. He was once struck by lightning (in Fielding, Sk), fought in WW2 (and lost a brother, Roy, who was a member of the Seaforth Highlanders and died in April 1945), worked on the farm until after the war and then headed for Vancouver (where he met my Mom). He was an edgerman in sawmills when I was born, and kept moving around when they became unionized in the 1960s. He later worked for Husky Oil and then CN in Maidstone, Saskatchewan until they retired him and then worked into his 70s when his health finally began to fade.

My Dad was a great guy. He had a wicked sense of humor, miles of common sense (‘talking with Dad’ was pretty damn important when I was a young man, saved me in so many ways) and a tremendous outlook on life. He showed me how to enjoy life, how to be a stand up guy, and the importance of being a good Father. The truth is, or at least my truth is, much of being a good father is actually being there, when kids need to talk with Dad. He taught me that by doing it for me. He was there for me, and I’m there for my kids. Learned behavior. Huh. Dads.

My Dad collected things, I found out later a lot of the kids who went through the dirty 30s collected random bits their whole lives. For my Dad, it was string and nails (I straightened nails for him even into my teens) and pencils. Isn’t that crazy? I wish he were here today, I’d buy him all the string and nails and pencils his heart desired.

My father gave me baseball. When he was a young man, there was a time for work, a time for school (not much, though. Those Saskatchewan kids of that era really didn’t have a chance for education, at least many of them), and a time for baseball. My Dad played in a pretty good hardball league when he was young (the same league the Detroit Red Wings would later ban Gordie Howe from playing in each summer) and he was a catcher. The son was not the athlete his father was, but the beauty of baseball transcends timelines and can be appreciated on many levels. I love hockey, but my first love is baseball and it’s due completely to my father and how he took the time to teach me the game.

I’ve told you the box story (summer vacations were always insane) and I believe I’ve told you the Frank Mahovlich story (the Leafs ended a lifelong relationship with my family the day the Big M went to Detroit), but I’ll tell you another one. Here’s a story about my Dad and conflict, and a man named Keith Schwartz.

My brother had a helluva time with cow’s milk, so we had goats. We lived 17 miles north of Maidstone (if you turned left at the Allan’s store we were two miles up) in the old McLaren school (I think it was called the old McLaren school, memory fades). Anyway, Keith Schwartz was our neighbor and a helluva nice guy. The first spring we were there, my Dad was breaking ground on our property for a garden, and he had a small tiller, a shovel and two dumb kids to help. One day, Keith Schwartz is driving his tractor down the road with a discer (he’d been out summerfallowing fields) and—it’s important to know he’d barely met us—and he gets out of the tractor and yells at my Dad to ‘get the hell out of the way.’  Three turns with the discer and we were golden. Small thing, but that tells you more about Saskatchewan and the people who live there than a month of Sundays.

Back to the goats. That Halloween, someone stole our goats. I say ‘stole our goats’ because that’s what Dad said, ‘someone stole our goats!’ and Jesus Murphy he was mad. I remember being really upset, you know I loved those goats (goats are ornery animals, never get one as a pet, but they grow on you). My Dad waited a day, and then another.

Then do you know what he did? He drove (my brother and I went with him, no idea why) to Keith Schwartz’s house. Got out of the truck, and told Keith Schwartz he didn’t care who took the goats but they better be back by morning or there’d be hell to pay. Keith Schwartz didn’t have one damn thing to do with it (we found out later the culprits) but the goats were back the next day.

My Dad. Problem solver.

Ira Babcook died on June 14, 1992 (his 80th birthday) and my boy was born a little less than two years later. My daughter came along two years after that, and both spent lots of time with my Mom before she passed in 2009. I hope Mom and Dad are in heaven today, having a coffee, and talking about their sons and making plans for the day. I hope they see our happy family and see just how much they meant to me, and how much impact they’ve had on my two kids who haven’t budged out of bed to wish their old man a happy Father’s day.

Thanks, Dad. I miss you, see you someday.

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20 Responses to "HAPPY FATHER’S DAY"

  1. Ca$h-Money! says:

    Happy Father’s day LT, and to all the Dad’s out there.

    Tearing up (only a little) while reading your Father’s day blog post is becoming a bit of a weird tradition for me. Your dad sounds like a helluva guy. I lost mine about 8 years ago, still stings on days like today. I still find myself routinely surprised by the impact the man had on my life, little things that I find myself doing realizing that it comes from him, and wishing he was around to give me advice when I need it.

  2. regwald says:

    Thanks for sharing your stories LT. I appreciate them. I am lucky enough to still have my Dad. Turns 72 today and I will be driving out to the farm to celebrate his birthday and Father’s Day. And toasting a few times as well. Cheers !

  3. Raider Jesse says:

    Happy Fathers day LT. Great article as always.

  4. Hammers says:

    Good on yea LT . My Dad passed 25 years ago and I still think and talk about him . A son is most influenced by his Dad according to the experts and daughters by there mums . When you get into your 70′s you realize just how many of your fathers traits you have and are glad for them . Have a great day and keep all your articles coming .

  5. supernova says:

    Happy Father’s Day LT,

    Revel in the memories and celebrate our fathers.

    Mine is still around, I just talked to him on the phone. Unfortunately don’t get to be with him this year.
    Business has me half a country away.

    He has taught me to be a good dad and I love being a father.
    My daughter is Super ( reason for my moniker)

    She is also in Alberta while I am in Montreal which is very tough today.

    Many blessings to the great fathers out there.

  6. nycoil says:

    Happy Fathers Day, LT and all the fathers here. My own dad left this Earth suddenly when I was 19. For many years I was an angry young man, mad at him for not being around to teach me “how to be a man.” Then eventually I went on a solo round-the-world journey spanning 14 countries on 5 continents, and when I found myself in Ecuador giving up vacation time to help out some families with Down’s kids I realized that “learned behavior” from my Dad’s example had taught me everything I needed to know.

    Now I just wish I could thank him for playing catch with me on so many occasions for hours and hours until his arm was too sore to throw any more, not to be all “Field of Dreams” on everyone or anything. And of course the 6am Saturday drives in -35C weather in Edmonton to hockey practice because a 12 year old kid born in Tokyo who didn’t even know how to skate wanted to live the Canadian dream and play hockey.

    I don’t have any kids yet, but I know that I will remember what my dad meant to me and will be there for my kids to throw the ball until my arm is too sore to lift and attend every damn recital and play, and go to every softball, ringette or hockey game I can.

    I am going to have a beer and a cigar today for my dad, and then I’lll have another beer for all you dads here on this day. Have a great day with your families and thanks for being there for your kids, even when sitting with a vending machine chicken soup (do they still have those things?) in a freezing cold Southside Arena is the last place you want to be.

  7. Gret99zky says:

    Great read, LT. As always.

    Happy Father’s Day to all.

    My Dad coached me through my baseball years. I always played on a team with kids who were 2 or 3 years older than me.

    When I was 16 I played on my Dad’s beer league fastball team. Best year of baseball ever. Made it to the show.

  8. frjohnk says:

    Great story LT.

    Gret99zky:
    Great read, LT.As always.

    Happy Father’s Day to all.

    My Dad coached me through my baseball years.I always played on a team with kids who were 2 or 3 years older than me.

    When I was 16 I played on my Dad’s beer league fastball team.Best year of baseball ever.Made it to the show.

    A similar story here, growing up, my two hockey team loves were the oilers and my old mans rec team. I eventually laced them up with my old mans rec team as a 15 year old. I made the show and even had a beer afterward. A great day and memory.

  9. Woodguy says:

    Great story LT.

    Miss my Dad something fierce many days a week.

    Always want to ask his opinion on this or that, or just hear that he’s proud of what I’ve made of my life.

    Would have loved for him to meet my daughter. She’s just a peach but with a serious stubborn streak.

    She actually reminds me of him quite a bit in terms of mannerisms and temperament.

    That’s probably because I’m pretty much my Dad in terms of mannerisms and temperament and she’s learning from me and has my DNA.

    My daughter made me a card, kite, place mat and bought me a book (with help from Mom) for Father’s Day and they are all just awesome.

    Love being a Dad.

    Have to start taking better care of myself so there’s less probability that she’s not lamenting my early passing when she’s an adult like I do for Dad.

  10. Frank the dog says:

    You and your children are very fortunate people, LT, to have such devoted fathers. You also lived in a time and place that is almost magical in its recollection though it may not have seemed so at the time.

    As we become fathers we look at our newborns and we so often have all of these hopes, dreams and ambitions for them, and so often we can lean too far towards either the carrot or the stick no matter how hard we try.

    As a grandfather, I am now grateful that while I enforced boundaries I never cut them off or slammed the door shut on them. I was always available to talk and there was always a place for them to live, providing certain rules were followed.

    So in spite of all those dark days of really bad decisions, I today enjoy the respect and love my children have for me, and the happiness of multiple grandchildren that share that affection.

    I have also seen the distress of parents that burned those bridges, and alienated the fathers or mothers of their grandchildren, and there are no winners there folks, just emptiness and pain.

  11. wheatnoil says:

    Wonderful, wonderful post LT. You are a fantastic writer and a pleasure to read.

    My dad and I had some wicked fights through my teen and early adult years… back when I knew the world and had all the answers. I always thought the fights were his fault, but that doesn’t match up with how the fights decreased when I started growing up and not being such an idiot. It’s funny how you can fight with someone you’re so similar to… you start realizing you’re fighting with yourself as much as with another person. His flaws angered me, but mostly because they were my flaws too. From those fights I think we both became better people… especially me, I think he was always a much better person than I gave him credit for when I was younger.

    Now I’ve gone from fighting him to worrying about him. Worry about his health. Worry about when he’s finally going to retire. Maybe that’s the cycle in life.

    Technology is a wonderful thing. Today I can FaceTime him though we’re hundreds of kilometres away. He can see his grandkid. And I can see him. Make sure he’s looking healthy. Guy doesn’t exercise enough and he should really eat healthier. Makes me angry. :)

    Happy Father’s Day to you LT and to all the dad readers and posters on here.

  12. wunderbar says:

    Damnit LT I was doing really well right until the end and then a couple tears came.

    Happy Father’s day to you, and to all the dads reading this. I’m not there yet, But whenever it happens if I’m half as good a dad as mine is I’ll be golden. I have a lot of fun at his expense but the truth is that I don’t know what I’d do without him. Truthfully I’m just sneaking a few minutes away this morning while we spend the day outside building a gazebo for his barbecue. There are a couple steps that say that you need 4 people and there are 2 of us but we’ll make it work. (the instructions also say to disassemble the thing when there is a risk of high winds, which would literally take 4 hours to do so I don’t even know). We’re going to be outside, listening to World Cup, checking golf scores, but mostly enjoying a perfect day outside. I’m sure 30 years from now a day like this is what I’ll remember.

  13. RexLibris says:

    Thanks, LT.

    Dads.

    :)

  14. cabbiesmacker says:

    A little off topic but how did you end up a Mitchell Mr LT or am I missing something here?

  15. haters says:

    Happy Father’s Day, great post LT, I’ll be honest the only reason I follow the oilers is because when me and my dad didn’t see eye to eye we always had the oilers to talk about and sometimes even now I’ll call him up and we will talk for a good hour on what we think should happen or who should stay or go. Father’s Day and the oil go hand in hand, unfortunately I have a daughter who I’m trying to get into hockey but no go so far.

  16. Lowetide says:

    cabbiesmacker:
    A little off topic but how did you end up a Mitchell Mr LT or am I missing something here?

    My first day in Edmonton radio, they decided my real name was too obscure. So, “Allan” is my middle name and “Mitchell” was my Mom’s maiden name. So I had about an hour to decide, and that’s what I went with 30 years ago.

    Toughest thing? Telling my Dad. He understood, no big deal to him.

  17. One-Timer says:

    Thanks for the story. My dad passed away two years ago at 80, and just like WG, I sure wish I could talk to him still.

    Those dads. You wonder often enough if they really love you, then your own kids come along and the truth comes crashing down on you as plain as day.

    Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads out there.

  18. bucknuck says:

    That was one fine post. I always stop in Radisson at the Red Bull and get Ice Cream for my kids. Kids are mostly grown now and it’s been years since I was there, but I remember it fondly. Ironic that the other place we used to stop was in Maidstone. A nice little restaurant called Jean’s Oasis. Quite a few years ago since that place took on new ownership, but that’s life. Things change.

    I grew up in Saskatchewan too. Spent many summers on a farm out by Wadena. I wonder how many born and bred Edmontonians know what you mean by “Summerfallowing”. I sure do.

    I’m remembering my dear Grandpa today. Seems like he meant to me what your Dad meant to you. I really appreciate the trip down memory lane.

  19. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Thanks for the stories LT.

    Happy father’s day to you and all the fatherly readers and their fathers.

  20. nelson88 says:

    Late to the table but happy father’s day LT. Love the story and you are true gem of a sports blogger and a person. Even without knowing your background in detail i have always felt the humour, stubbornness and respect you show for others was a pretty good indication of your “roots”‘

    Was in Philly this weekend with my 4 year old son making some memories. At the park when Jimmy Rollins passed Schmidt for the career hits mark. Didn’t mean much to my son at the time (other than a chance to dance and cheer) but it will mean something one day. Being a father is a tough job but i wouldn’t have any other.

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