I started the day with a plan. I promised to write a new blog as I’m trying not to let the lake distract me and give me an excuse to be a bum. I excel at being a bum, by the way. So many people who don’t know me think all I do is work, work, work! That does happen, but I am really good at doing nothing. I actually believe that is a vital habit for good mental health and I’ll write about that in another blog, but my laziness today saw me re-reading a Father’s Day Blog I wrote two years ago and thinking, “I like this one, I’ll just re-post it”! Believe me, I tried, but my technical skills got the best of me. Then I got to thinking, “My Dad’s been gone for over sixteen years but especially out here, I feel like he’s still watching me!” That thought also made me feel so guilty for being lazy that it embarrassed me into writing another post. It is about my Dad and I have written about this in my book, “Alvin’s Laws of Life”, but don’t really speak about it very often. Frankly, when you do what I do for a living, you reveal many things about yourself so not much is “kept to yourself”. That is, in fact, a major reason my wife and business partner, Darlene, love to come to Crystal Lake, Saskatchewan.
This place is beautiful but it’s also very “personal” for me. When I conjure images of my Dad, I tend to see two the most. One of him in his overalls working on a motor for something, usually a truck or tractor, and the other golfing at Crystal Lake. It’s also a bit creepy that my parents, Hilda and Jack Law are buried at the Canora cemetery and you have to drive through Canora and by the gravesite to get to Crystal Lake so needless to explain, every single time I or we drive past there (we also buy groceries at the Co-op, shop at the drug store or bargain center) I have a flashback image of both of them, but today, my Dad is the focus. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t “perfect”. None of us are. My point is, I’m not being “romantic” here but I consider myself very fortunate that when I recall my Dad, I always smile and especially driving by the cemetery, get a tear in my eye. I was so blessed to have a father who “never” created a negative memory for me. Sure, we argued, even fought (not physically) but we locked horns many times. He was stubborn, gruff, lacked patience and most of all, expected a great deal of people. Believe me, he hated excuses and even more, hated people who did not live by their morals and principles. He was not being mysogynistic when he said; “Just Be A Man!” It was metaphorical in a way, and especially where I entered the discussion.
Imagine how having no arms impacts your feeling of masculinity? I have adjusted with age but trust me, “Feeling like a man”, especially with women (I am heterosexual), was one of my most difficult challenges. It’s funny to me sometimes. People think learning to use your feet and living without arms is an almost impossible task! Thanks, but trust me, that was the easy part! The psychological battle was exponentially greater and in fact, continues to be as I age. Imagine something else, if you don’t mind. I have a friend who is gay and his father never accepted that! Wow! Every time I think about that, I appreciate my father even more. Not sure why, by the way, that being a gay man doesn’t still make you a “man”. Frankly, “masculinity” is too often tied to sexual preference rather than the definition I choose and that came from my Dad.
“You Don’t Need Arms To Be A Man” is a quote from my Dad I will always treasure. Also frankly, I’m pretty sure my Dad might not have been completely open to the idea of my being gay but I believe that was a function of his generation, not about his personality. The point is, I never thought I was gay, but I also battled with “Feeling Like A Man!” My puberty journey was definitely not in a straight line. But enter Crystal Lake and specifically, Crystal Lake Golf Course. Darlene and I were just at the club house this week for a going away party for a long time resident, Anita Desroche who lost her husband, Jerry, a few years ago and has sold their cottage to enter the next phase of a “seventy-something woman with lots of life left in her. It’s actually what made me think about this blog (until I got lazy!).
Everybody, and I mean, “everybody” knew Jack Law. They also knew Hilda Law, and of course, Alvin Law, but it’s Jack that starts the story telling by long time friends and even complete strangers. I’m so humbled by the fact I’ve never heard a bad story about my Dad. Maybe they exist, but as I have mentioned before, there were over 900 people at Dad’s funeral in 2001 and that image still makes my hairs on my neck stand up! Most common description…”Your Dad was one of the finest men I ever knew”! Yes He Was. I think of him as “A Man of Honour!” He lived it, and he also taught it and the way I “learned” it might seem a bit strange.
I love the game of golf. It is one of the few things I wish I could do. My parents both golfed. In Yorkton, where I grew up (you also have to drive through Yorkton to get to Crystal Lake) and Mom and Dad spent around forty years living, there are two golf courses, Deer Park and York Lake. People have their biases and while Deer Park is clearly the higher end course, York Lake was more my parent’s speed so they had memberships there for years. They even have a memorial garden and bench on one of the tee boxes named after their memory! But for me, golfing means Crystal Lake. The course here is only nine holes and for me growing up, I vividly remember the “sand greens”! Do you know what they are? Well, for whatever reason, greens used to be sand. It wasn’t “beach sand”. In fact, it was kind of oily and had an odor to it and you used to have to pull a large “squeegee like” device to “drag” a path through the sand so you could putt. Today, Crystal Lake Golf Course has grass greens and other than the clubhouse, that is the only real change to the course I love. I may have not been able to “golf” but I learned the game as a student and whenever I could, I’d walk the course with my Dad. Sometimes he’d be playing with others, but most often, it was just him and me. No power carts for Dad. He eventually gave in when his knees caused him pain in his late 80’s but walking the course was part of the experience. He always kept score and here’s the point of this blog, he never cheated…”Ever!” If he hit the ball in the woods, he’d send me in there to find it! I loved that. I actually still love it. Dad and Mom may be passed on but I still venture out on the course whether it’s with my brother, John and his kids (they own the Law family cottage where I spent my summers at as a child) or assorted friends who occasional call up and say they’re going for a round and invite me along. I still love looking for lost golf balls and there are spots on the course I’m so familiar with after fifty plus years, I know where the lost balls gather and I can still see my Dad smiling cause I located a lost ball of his, or better, someone else’s who’d given up on finding it. Mostly cause he was pretty thrifty (I called it “cheap”) but what always astonished me was he wanted to “play the ball where it lies”! It wasn’t even about the penalty stroke if he had no shot. It was the challenge. And it was the rule. And it was “The Truth”! Wonder what it must be like to golf with Donald Trump? I digress!
I vividly remember saying to Dad one day in the woods after finding yet another lost ball (probably hole #4); “Dad. It’s just you and me golfing. You have almost no shot. Why don’t you just throw it out on the fairway and play on?” Dad’s response? “Son, you may think it’s just you and I here but trust me, the Golf Gods are watching!” I immediately replied, “Lke God watches over me!” (I’d heard that more than once from both parents). Dad replied, “No. These are the Golf Gods! True, they are like God who watches over you and and me and your mother, but these Gods have one job…watching over your conscience. They are always here, especially in the woods with a lost ball and you think you can just toss it out and nobody will know. Well, son, not only will they know, but most important, I will! In fact, if you accept the Golf Gods are watching you all the time, not just on the golf course, you will live a more honourable life and that’s a goal more people should focus on!”
In my “speaking life”, I use marketable phrases with business goals in mind. My newest, “Beyond Limits…Raising The Bar To Achieve The Impossible!” is clever wordsmithing but to me, it’s more than just words. It is a sentiment. You would think that people like my Dad would have “settled” for being a “caretaker” of a little boy born without arms. But Dad didn’t “settle” for much. He expected people to strive for their own best every single day and to do that with respect, dignity and yes, honour. It would be wonderful to think everyone gets that, huh?
As yet another Father’s Day is acknowledged, I find it a bit odd that I don’t think of it being about “me”, even though I am a Dad to my son, Vance, who is 31 years old. I think about “My Dad” and how incredibly fortunate I was to have him enter my life as a 53 year old husband of a foster mother. Hilda Law, who took me in when nobody else wanted me as a newborn in 1960. I make a regular habit of celebrating “Gratitude” in my life. It sounds to some, I imagine, like a motivational speaker ploy, but I am Alvin first, “motivational speaker” somewhere next on the list but I will be forever Grateful for being given the opportunity to learn life’s most valuable lessons from one the greatest men to ever walk the face of planet Earth. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for making a “Man” out of me by pushing me, challenging me, encouraging me, loving me but perhaps most important of all, expecting more out of me than anyone could have ever expected. Thanks for you, Dad!❣️