When I think of my dad, I think of car rides and listening to Queen. I think of side hugs and bear stories, his patient listening and my incessant talking after the caffeine hits during morning coffees.
I think of the fact that everyone thinks his favourite band is Boston, but that it’s actually Aerosmith (although he usually never corrects it), and of how he did an air guitar performance of “Teenage Wasteland” in front of his 9th grade French class for an assignment on self-expression.
When I think of my dad, I think of his burgers, how he’s perfected them over the years and how they never fail to bring the family together on a warm July evening. I think of my earliest memory: sitting on the back of his Skidoo, my eyes barely peeking through my hooded scarf, my “snood”, feeling my own warm breath against my face as we bounced along the snowy trail, feeling so safe because he was driving.
I think of the story of when my mom was pregnant with me, their first child — how she asked him what he wanted, a boy or a girl. He said just a healthy baby . . . and that maybe, just maybe, that baby would someday love boxing. And how, after a difficult delivery, when my mom and dad went to see me in the intensive care unit, I was all black and blue but otherwise healthy. Still, it looked as if I’d been in the fight of my life so my mom said, “Well, it looks like you got your boxer!”
I think about how he used to call me The Girl with No Fear — because I loved public speaking. “That's most people’s number one fear,” he’d say, “and the fact that you’re not afraid tells me that you can take on anything.” But of course I was . . . afraid of some things. Afraid of the snapping turtles in the opaque Ontario lakes and whatever else lied beneath. Afraid of failure every time I would step up onto the starting block before a swimming race, as I tested the suction on my goggles obsessively.
“No matter what happens, if you mess up a turn or your goggles fall off, finish the race, don’t stop swimming,” he’d say. When I played soccer as a goalkeeper he taught me to step out of the net, to kick the ball away before my opponents would shoot, to focus on the angle of the shot and position myself accordingly. And the first big swimming race that I turned towards the board to see I was in first place, he was there. And when I won my first shutout soccer game we went for chocolate bars to celebrate.
Most of all, I think of this one picture of us, one where Dad is holding two-year-old me upside down while I laugh gleefully. I love it because, from the beginning, I knew it was safe to push the boundary — that no matter what my dad was there to hold me, to catch me.