When my dad was 21 and two semesters short of finishing university in Colombia he married my mom and moved to Canada from Colombia. I've lived in Colombia for a summer and in Copenhagen for six months and I've always admired people that will leave everything they know to come to a foreign country to start over. I have three co-workers that have just done that in their 30s and it boggles my mind.
My parents worked their way through university, my dad having received only 1 year's worth of credit, and then a Master's before settling in Port Hope and then Cobourg before I was born because that's where there was a job for him. I remember being quite disillusioned during my job search after university and having my mom tell me that my dad would apply for dozens of jobs a day which eclipsed my meager output. Maybe it was the equivalent of "walking uphill to school in the snow both ways" but knowing my dad I doubt it was far from the truth. He's not a workaholic but he works supremely hard. For 17 years he's run his own business and you certainly don't do that by not being an excellent example.
During this World Cup he'll get up at 530am, head down to the basement which has been refinished and serves as the company's global headquarters, and work until the day's first game at noon before taking in every game. He's never travelled to a World Cup in large part because I think he hates the idea of missing any games. He and I would drive my mom nuts because we had, for as long as we were vigilant, every game from Italia 90, USA 94, and France 98 on VHS. When he coached my soccer teams growing up, we'd have the team over to watch a game or two and he'd send tapes home with every kid with instructions to watch the imagination on display and so that they could share in his love for the game. I remember in the summer of '94 more often than not any display of true skill was usually accompanied by a mention of what game had inspired it.
Aside from bringing his love of soccer with him, he dove headfirst into Canada's game. There's actually a good story about it in Michael Grange's Leafs Abomination but it served as a way of feeling Canadian and finding a place in a new country. For better or usually worse, he became a Leafs fan and from that point on I was doomed. I'm not much of a morning person but I can remember that on the mornings that I slept in I'd rush downstairs to find that my dad had written the previous night's NHL scores on a sheet of paper for me. Like so many other things over the past 30 years, it interested his kids so he was going to foster it. He even started trying to learn about cricket when I started playing it in high school although he has no hands. I inherited those skills from my mom.
Growing up, I obviously played soccer and that was easy for my dad to coach but I also played hockey. Or at least, I did eventually after enough years of CanSkate and power skating which my mom insisted on so I wouldn't be one of those lumps that couldn't skate. As an aside, it's a great path because hockey isn't fun without the puck and you can't get the puck if you can't skate but I digress. So in his 30s my dad took up hockey too! He joined a local church league and started playing himself so that he'd have a better idea of what I was doing. Otherwise, he was driving me around Ontario so that I could play and cheered me on. The picture above is from Christmas two years ago in London when I started making a small deposit on the hundreds of times that he tied my skates.
When Toronto FC's birth was announced, a buddy wanted to get tickets. We were both really excited. He eventually bowed to peer pressure that it was a waste but my dad immediately stepped in. We were there to see the rain of cushions when Dichio scored and he jumped on a goon's back when I got my nose broken saving some girl from the goon's buddy and he was there when TFC made their run to the CCL semis. The thing I hate most about TFC being so awful is how disillusioned he has become that their incompetence has robbed me of those two hours we'd spend up in 221 talking about soccer and life. He rarely makes it out to offer his too long chirps - remember, keep it short and sweet - or his off-key chants or his mistimed attempts to rally our section to join with the south end's songs. He's embarrassing in that loving way that only dad's can be.
My sister and I tease each other when we do things that are exactly what he would do but the truth is we both know there's no one better to emulate as a person. We both owe so much to our parents, sometimes literally, that it's hard to put into words what they mean to us and how much we value what they've done for us. A small example is that my dad commuted from Cobourg to Toronto every day for 10 years because when they floated the idea of moving from Cobourg my sister and I had total meltdowns at the thought of leaving our friends. If I have to drive to work once a week I have to count to 10 at least once lest I murder someone and he did it for 10 years because his shitty kids didn't want to move.
Anyway, my dad and my mom are in Chicago to celebrate my dad's 60th and because his nephew's son is graduating from DePaul and they'll travel almost anywhere to celebrate the success of someone in the family. My cousins often point out that I'm my dad's doppelganger and I know that I can't measure up to the man he is but it's nice to know some people think I can because it's a honour to be even considered near his level. Hopefully we'll have another 60 years to celebrate. Have a great birthday dad!