This blogs a no-brainer. My Dad’s name was John Vernon Law but everyone called him Jack. As I write this, Darlene and I are at our cottage on Crystal Lake, Saskatchewan. It’s a place that makes my heart sing at the simple memory of my childhoods spent here in the 1960’s and ’70’s and back then, the idea that one day, I’d have my own piece of paradise never occurred to me. Yet, here I am, or more appropriately stated, here “we” are since the journey to here has been shared. But I am not writing this to just “brag”. I am writing this because without Jack Law, we wouldn’t be here and I don’t mean that in the literal sense because Dad was not my biological father. I mean it as the purest form of flattery for what I learned from this great man gave me so many tools for the life I am so blessed to have. Being Father’s Day on the 18th of June, which quite frankly is as complicated as Mother’s Day in determining if it’s just for Hallmark and Hardware Stores but I take the high road instead of the cynical one as a great event to focus attention on Dads.
In case you don’t know, my birth father was a man named Peter Pacholko. He and his wife, also my birth mother, Sophie, gave me away for adoption before I was a week old and no further discussion of why is necessary but I mention it because being a Dad isn’t just about having the genetic connection. I have no intention of being rude here, but I also want to be very clear that providing the seed that grows a child does not make you a “Dad”.
Jack Law and his wife Hilda, produced two children, John and Terry and they were born in the 1930’s. I was born in July of 1960 long after the two boys moved away precipitating the creation of a foster home in Jack and Hilda’s home in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Hilda in particular enjoyed tending to children and empty bedrooms somehow seemed wrong so they took in unwanted kids. Our paths intersected in August of 1960 when my file was handed by a social worker to the Laws for a temporary stay as being in their mid 50’s, they had no intention of growing a new family. To say being born without arms made me pathetic and helpless would be polite. To say the Laws took me home out of sympathy would be completely accurate but to add that we were meant to be together would be pure Karma in my opinion. The temporary stay lasted forever and our story has been well told, even giving me a career, so the details here are a bit repetitive but I re-state them to provide a foundation.
I am a dad too and yes, I provided the seed so my son, Vance and I came to be connected by no choice. Not getting a choice is a profound difference from how Jack Law became my Dad. Just imagine for a moment that you became a biological parent to someone like me, and I am absolutely not judging my birth family here. Imagine the sense of obligation and in many ways being trapped by circumstance. Jack Law made a choice to be my Dad. True, he got dragged into it by Hilda and I’m completely certain neither of them imagined I would stay but stay I did and that obligation must have been remarkably complicated on its own. But whatever provided the background music, Jack Law refused to sit that one out and accepted the obligation and them embraced the choice.
My book, Alvin’s Laws of Life, goes into the details so I won’t do it here, but what my Dad taught me were very little physical lessons for obvious reasons. Perfect example here. Dad was a genius mechanic. In fact, he could fix anything and I mean “anything”! But having no hands, I couldn’t learn his talent, but observe and digest, absolutely. Most important, he let me tag along all the time. It always amazed me how was never, ever embarrassed to have me along. He embraced my difference and later in life, would tell me how many lives I changed among his friends and colleagues by just being me. Wow! I definitely spent most of my time with my mother and I was very much a momma’s boy but Dad knew I would need to be resilient to make it through life and all the physical things he was unable to teach he more than made up for in life lessons. Most important, he walked the talk.
Not only was Jack Law an amazing fixer, he was a more amazing “man”. As I grew up watching him I learned one of the most valuable lessons I would ever need to get me to where I am today. I could give you all the buzz words like dependable, trustworthy, ethical, honourable, etc. but it was his essence that was so powerful. He so hated bullshit! “Just be straight with people, son” was a sentence I will always remember. “If they don’t like you ’cause you have no arms, that’s their problem”, was another. Oh, by the way, he wasn’t easy on me either. He made me mow the lawn, shovel snow, take out the garbage. He made me practice my music, do my homework, keep my word. He was an almost perfect example of life balance. But here is what he gave me that I value most.
He gave me Love. Love in almost every variation possible. Tough love, tender love, wisdom…it’s so hard to describe. The man made me want to make him proud! I know that’s not unique, but I want to write this as a short tribute to a man who was the definition of “The Real Deal”. His love for me was chosen, not obligatory and even though I was a foster child, I was his third son and he would teach me the same way he taught them. Like my brothers, he raised me to be a “man” and all the rights and responsibilities that encompasses. I have never worked as hard as he did physically, but I have never, ever been on welfare, collected an unemployment cheque or had to accept charity. I say this not to be critical or judge those who have. I say it because as I sit here looking out at beautiful Crystal Lake, I cannot believe how blessed I am. To have an amazing wife Darlene, a tremendous son, Vance (who is going to be 32 in August…yikes!), the best friends anyone could ask for and a career that has given me so much I can’t find words, and for a speaker, that’s saying something!
My Dad left us in March of 2001 and I don’t need Father’s Day to think about him because I miss him every day. I especially miss his hugs. And his smile. And his presence. I am who I am for so many reasons but today, I just want to Thank You Dad. You chose me and I am the luckiest guy in world because you did.
*This blog was written two years ago but after thinking about what I wanted to write for this Father’s Day and I couldn’t do any better. Just want to add this is for all Dads. We do our best!