nine years ago

At a couple of minutes before 9 p.m. tonight, March 17, 2008, it will be nine years since my dad died of kidney cancer. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know that my dad had a lot of interesting careers, adventures and pastimes. One of these was racing stock cars back in the 1950s when most of the racing here in Canada took place on dirt tracks,.. the horse tracks at fairgrounds. My father (Ed Kay) was actually quite a well known racing driver in his time. We have newspaper clippings with accounts of his races, and photos of him holding checkered flags. When I was about 18 and working at my first real job, the topic of my dad’s racing career came up in conversation. One of the older male coworkers practically flipped out when he found out that Ed was my father and ran off to tell one of the other older men. They both raced back to talk to me about the old days when my dad was something of a racing legend, and that his souped up Dodge – # 23 – was next to unbeatable (click on above photo for a larger view)

Dad gave up racing cars around the time that he married my mom, built a new home, and began to raise a family. He left his racing days behind, but went on to pursue other interests, one of which was sailing. Many summer days were spent sailing for miles up and down the Ottawa River where our family cottage was located. A love of being out on the water runs through both sides of my family. My dad’s father’s family had fishing boats on the Isle of Man back around 1900 and my grandfather used to like to tell a story about how he and a friend (without permission) made off with one of the family’s small sloops and sailed around — I believe it was the island known as the Calf of Man. They were just kids at the time and, needless to say, were in big trouble when they arrived back home after their adventure.

As I write this post today, the weather is very much like it was the day that my dad died in 1999. The ground was yet covered with snow, it was cold, but with the sun shining brightly. I’d been caring for my dad for several weeks, and on this day, he’d asked if it was okay if he “went” that day. I replied, “Sure, if you like.” In the afternoon, he asked to have the windows opened even though it was still quite cold. However, the air was still and not uncomfortable, so I opened a window. We could hear birds singing outside — just like I’m hearing at this moment. My dad always wore a watch with a gold expansion bracelet. He asked me to take it off and put it on the bedside table. He said that he didn’t need it anymore, then went on to muse over how it is that we pay too much attention to time. Later that night, dad passed away, held in my arms, as I once was in his.

To my friend, mentor and father — Miss you.


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12 Responses to “nine years ago”

  1. Dave Says:

    Sounds as if he was wise as well as accomplished. Thanks for sharing your memories of him in such a powerful, brief essay.

  2. robin andrea Says:

    What a beautiful tribute and remembrance. It’s really so profound how he spent his last day. I love his awareness of the approaching moment, and how he prepared for it. A lesson for all of us.

  3. am Says:

    Hearing more about your father, I can see even more clearly where part of your lively spirit comes from. Cool photo of him in the stock car. Wonderful photo of him cradling you outside in the sun by a sparkling river.

  4. bev Says:

    Dave – yes, very wise indeed. Thanks.

    robin – Thank you. That last day spent with my dad was very interesting — a lot to be learned from it.

    am – Throughout his life, my dad never stopped being curious and interested in the world. It seems like a good way to be.

  5. Mark P Says:

    Along about this time of year I think about my own father, who died eight years ago this month. Very early in the morning, probably around 3 or so, we sat in the ICU waiting area, which had a window open. A mockingbird sang the whole time.

  6. John Says:

    It’s obvious you had a wonderful father, Bev. And he was fortunate to have had a daughter who cared for him the way you obviously did.

  7. bev Says:

    Mark – it can be good to have a reminder – a sound, a certain kind of light – for a moment in the past.

    John – yes, i had a wonderful dad, and have a wonderful mom too. we were lucky to have each other.

  8. Cathy Wilson Says:

    I think you are very much your father’s daughter. He was quite a man. And lucky to have you there.

  9. bev Says:

    Cathy — Thanks!

  10. thingfish23 Says:

    It’s not the best word, but it’s the only one I can come up with, that I “envy” your time with your father in his last hours. I had to say Goodbye to mine, as he lay in the bed at the VA hospital, knowing I’d not see him alive again. He knew it, too but we didn’t talk about it. He never wanted to talk about it, as was his right.

    Still, I knew I wanted to be there at the end – knew it from the time he got really sick. I was pissed that I had no choice but to come back home and go to work.

    I take comfort, however, in knowing that Dad understood. My work wasn’t going to wait, unfortunately, and Dad raised me with an insane work ethic, so there you are.

    Looking back, though, I can’t help but regret not being able to be there.

    One last thing (sorry for the wind here):

    When my Mom and sister were holding vigil at Dad’s bedside, they’d pat his hand, or kiss his head, or whatever and tell him that “he could go”. They repeated this phrase often. “You can go, you can go, you can go…” At one point he opened his eyes, sort of vexed-like, and said, “Go WHERE?!”

    Makes me smile every time to think of it.

    God bless you and your family Bev.

  11. Larry Ayers Says:

    A very well-written and touching essay, Bev!

  12. bev Says:

    tf – It took me awhile to get back here, but thanks for posting about your Dad. I know what you mean about your Dad and the “insane work ethic” and am sure that your Dad completely understood about having to get back on the job. Liked the part about the “Go WHERE?!” remark. We had a somewhat similar incident on the day my Dad died. Don came in to sit with Dad and I and Dad looks at him and says, “Spectators not permitted!” Don started to leave, and Dad smiled and Don realized he was just joking.
    Another sort of funny anecdote connected to my Dad’s passing, and that has to do with the old “work ethic” thing. When my Dad was first diagnosed with kidney cancer and we didn’t yet know what the eventual outcome might be, I started helping to keep his small manufacturing business going. Gradually, as he became increasingly ill, I took over more and more of the assembly work in his workshop that was below his bedroom. The day before he died, I split the time between caring for him and working in his shop. A couple of times during the day, I came upstairs and asked if he’d prefer if I spent more time with him, but he said “No, I like hearing the drilling and hammering going on down there because it makes things seem normal.” On the morning of the day that he died, UPS came to pick up a shipment of everything I’d assembled for customers the previous day. My Dad was thrilled to hear how much stuff I’d managed to ship out that day. I think he felt sort of happy to know that things were taken care of and he wasn’t leaving any job undone.

    Larry – Thanks!