“You should see the lake today Kate.”

I learned today that people can still give you good advice, even when they’re not here anymore.

Dad would regularly phone me as he made his way into the city, and give me status reports on the lake. On calm days, blustery days, windy days, sparkling clear days. The breakers, how incredible the waves were, how tumultuous or still it was.

“You should see the lake today Kate.”

I was a little sad and lost today. There are too few green things near me, and sometimes I forget what they’re meant to remind me of.

So I went to see the lake.

And now I am not so sad and lost.

You’re right dad, I should see the lake today. Thank you.


3, 3, 9

Yesterday I sold my motorcycle. Today I was finally able to delete my last voicemail from my dad. The two are not separate.

I have always known I wanted to get my motorcycle license. At some point, it was going to happen. In old family movies, there is one scene of a very itty bitty me after I’d been hoisted up and allowed to sit on a cousin’s bike. I am grinning with my whole itty bitty body.


When I lived in Indonesia, I was giddy when I got to rent small displacement bikes and zip around the islands. It was the fulfillment of some very deep-seated very long embedded dreams. I’d be sat on the bikes, finally doing the driving, and still grinning with my whole body.

As I closed in on 30, I suddenly realized I had the time and means to make this happen for myself — to get my motorcycle license. I even had a parking spot, sitting there, just waiting for two wheels to occupy it.

So I got rolling. I signed up for lessons, still not sure exactly what my plan was (would I buy a bike? what would I use it for? would I ride alone, or find others to ride with?). But I started down the path figuring I’d figure it out as I went.

Then my dad, who I also adored with my whole being, suddenly had serious health problems. As I was taking my motorcycle training, he was being admitted to hospital. As I was shopping for my first bike, his was worse and worse news (though always delivered as if it were not). When I narrowed in on a particular bike, he had me tack up a picture of it up in his hospital room. When I came to visit, we would talk about how it was going. It was the thing to talk about that wasn’t the big scary thing in front of us. A redirection technique at which my dad was a master.

In my last voicemail from him, the one I’ve been resaving for 4 years, he is phoning me to celebrate the removal of his chest tube. He is proudly telling me how he got to help remove it himself, and how it means that he will be out of there in 24-30 hours (“Colour me excited”). He said he was just happy about it, and wanted to share that with me. Then he goes on to ask how it is going with shopping for my motorcycle, and hoping it’s going well, whether I’m just scoping out or if I’m buying. Then he signs off and hangs up.

Every time I listen to his message, I think of when we spoke when he first woke up from hip surgery. How he said that day, when he woke up, it was the greatest day of his life. All his Christmases and birthdays all rolled together — he was awake and alive. He’d been afraid before surgery, and all he’d wanted was to open his eyes again when it was over.

In this voicemail, I can hear his love and I can hear so much pure true dad. The happy, kind, generous and excited teddy bear of a dad. The one who calls to share his happy and excitement, and also to ask after yours with genuine interest, curiousity and support. In the years since he’s been gone, I have learned how unusual this made him, how little most of us do this for each other.

If I listen closely though, I can also hear that his voice is not right. Everything he says is cheery and full of relief and promise. But there are sounds on this call that belie that everything is not going to be okay. He clears his throat strangely, and there is a gurgling sound in it. When he hangs up, it takes a long time. He has some difficulty getting the handset into the cradle. The phone clunks around on the base for a while before the line goes quiet.

He called me and left that message on May 7th 2011. He died suddenly a couple of weeks later on May 26th.

I have not been able to handle this. I have missed him too much, and it has hurt too badly. The other day, my husband told me that after my brother called to tell me my dad had passed, I made a sound that my husband didn’t know how to describe. Then he realized that it was the sound he thought of when he’d watch The Princess Bride. The sound of ultimate suffering. The pain of your soul being wrenched apart. He said he still thinks of and remembers that sound when I am in pain now.

One of the only photographs I have of me on my bike was taken by my dad. I made my very first ride on my very first bike a trip to visit him in Oakville, shortly after he was out of hospital. He insisted on taking a photo of me. It is one of my favourites. I am smiling at my dad, and he is showing me he is proud of me.


My plan had been to learn on my bike by driving out to visit my dad. I thought it was perfect. It would be a nice ride along the Lakeshore, and I could go out and see him more often. He wouldn’t need to pick me up from the train. I’d go out on Sunday mornings, and when we’d get together for work, and we’d have coffee (mine black, his mostly milk) and we’d watch the boats.

And then within weeks, he was dead.

And everything broke. And everything changed.

And I broke too. And I had this bike. And I didn’t have him on the other end anymore. What I did have was this new sense of death. Death right up close. Death up so close it smothers you. It turns off all the lights in the world and drains all the oxygen out of the air.

But I don’t like to give in, and I don’t like to give up. And if I just sold this bike, if I did what I wanted to do and laid down and died myself, that dream and whoever I was along with it, might go and always be gone, and I might never find it again. And what would dad do. What would it mean about life before and after. What if everything really was just gone and there was no colour and no dreams and no point and no life. But what if the only way out was through.

So I dug in – hard, blindly and unrooted. I decided I would finish this, I would get my full license. I’d zip my broken heart up and put on my helmet and jacket and I would do this thing — for the little (and medium, and full-sized) me who’d always wanted to, and because it was what I had started, a piece of the path that had just been blown apart. A road connecting before and after.

I’d passed my first test with flying colours, and my instructors suggested I’d be good as an instructor. I turned visits to my dad into much further and chillier early morning visits to my aunt’s farm. I’d arrive shivering (and a little purple) but triumphant, and re-anchoring to family I had drifted away from. I practiced, and took lessons, and got good. My bike and I appeared on the cover of the riding school pamphlet.

I got better, I learned how to handle a big unwieldy bike with skill and confidence, and I remained broken.

I kept practicing. And I took my second and final test. I passed it only 2 points shy of perfect. When I found out in the parking lot afterwards, I nearly sobbed with relief and pride and accomplishment and loss. When I got home, I let that sob out.

After that, I had some moments of pure bliss while riding. Riding in the early morning, through thick sweet meadow air just north of the city, coming across a pheasant, watching the sunrise, riding a motorcycle on open quiet long roads. It is heaven on earth. I felt absolute and total joy and comfort and ease.

And when it was time, on a cold Easter weekend, for my brother and sister and me to scatter a small box of my dad’s ashes, I rode my bike back out to Oakville to do it.

And back home, year over year, every time I picked up voicemails, I would resave my last message from my dad. Usually, I would skip it. 3, 3, 9. (Fast forward, fast forward, resave.) Very very rarely, I would listen to it. But mostly, I just kept resaving it. 3, 3, 9 and go on about my day. I’d notice I wasn’t ready to delete it, but not know why or when that could change. After a couple of close calls where I’d delete a run of spam messages and nearly hit 3, 3, 7, I saved a copy to a backed-up drive. As the years passed, I was able to delete his entry from my cell phone, my home phone, my address book, but I couldn’t delete that voicemail.

3, 3, 9.

The relief and joy of riding began to diminish, and as a couple more years went by, I noticed just how hard it was to get from the thick of downtown Toronto out to the fields and birds and soft and quiet. How I was trading 2 hours of cold and busy and angry drivers to get out to those fields and that peace. And how maybe it wasn’t balancing out.

Where was the line between the pain and the pleasure? What had I set out to do? Did I have any further to go, or had I arrived there while I wasn’t looking?

Yesterday, I sold my bike. One day, maybe I will buy another one. Maybe for now, I’ll rent. Maybe I will do some more off-road riding — starting and ending in the woods. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll enjoy all the future possibilities all that pain paved for me. Maybe I don’t need to rush. Maybe I’m not sure what happens next. Maybe I’ll figure it out as I go.

But yesterday, I let go of that bike, and today I was finally able to let go of that voicemail. This bike that I had this troubled relationship with, these big ups and big downs, I let it carry some of the pain of these past few years. The struggle. The struggle when the struggle was too tough to really make any sense. The freezing cold mornings to avoid the traffic. The desperate slogs out of the city to find somewhere there was oxygen in the air. What it felt like to try and figure out a way forward into a future you couldn’t imagine, and didn’t want.

I let them go just before the calendar ticks over to another year without my dad here, another year of never hearing a new voicemail, never hearing his voice say any more words. Every year, inching forward. Every year, figuring out how to breathe, what to hold on to, and which things it’s time to let go.

I think dad would understand, and I think he’d still be proud.

The Ghosts in the Machine

Thanks to Rob, itinerant linker and all-around thinking man’s vagabond, I’ve been reading Patrick Rhone’s Enough site.

This morning, I landed on page 4 and The Value of Email. It’s a thoughtful pondering on the place of email and email archives, guest written by Mike Rohde.

I have another point in favour of keeping your email archives. Archives that go back years and years. It’s not a super cuddly “up” sort of point, but here it is…


(It keeps coming back to death. Oh mortality, you attention-hogging cad.)

I’ve written before about the strange glitchy comfort that technology provided on the night of my dad’s death. When he had “logged off”, but his GChat had not. His status simply lapsed to “Away”, which was at once poetic, accurate, and unnerving.  Though first, it stayed as “Busy”, which, if consultants did sailor-style tattoos, was a status my dad should really have had inked in a heart on his bicep.dadchat

But beyond a lingering presence on a chat list, what I have are emails. Hundreds of them. Thousands? A sloppy filter I set up says I have 1,659 emails from my dad. In one account.

What a strange artifact of the mundane minutia of a relationship. What it’s really like to be friends with someone. Not a perfectly composed photo, but hundreds and hundreds of tiny exchanges. Give and take and send and receive, over and over and over.

That may be the strange niche of email archives. Because we dash off emails all day every day, they seem less precious to us than letters. But the snapshots they retain of a relationship are so much more deliciously everyday. In a letter, we tend to be our best selves. A little more scripted, a little more careful, a little better framed. They’re composed. Gmail may still use a big “Compose” button to start a new email, but that’s not often what we’re doing. We’re jotting and answering and pinging. “How’re you?” “Good, you?” “Good.” Emails are sometimes elegant and articulate, but often not. They’re many thin threads of caring and checking and supporting that tie you together.

I have not yet gone back through my emails from my dad. I’m not even sure how I would do that. It is the same daunting challenge of going though any archive, but at computer, not human, scale storage. I think I have kept them though not because I plan to go and meticulously reread them. Certainly not all, but perhaps not even any. I think they are there to thumb a finger across. It’s not an Ansel Adams compendium. It’s a flipbook of dad. It’s a million little gestures of kindness and humour and questions and answers and plans and dates. It’s friendship in funny little sketches. Archived.

It’s not a pretty whole but, as a whole, it’s awfully pretty.


“How can we ___ while we also ___”

My dear old dad would have been 63 today. I wasn’t sure I wanted to think about that yesterday, so I took the long road around the landmines and set my brain to work on my taxes.

But the best laid plans something something kaboom, because my dad and I worked together. So my filing boxes have lots of little dad-isms lurking in them.

Including, apparently, this elephant:


Which dad drew while we were hanging out together during some after-conference dad’n’daughter time.

He thought it was a terrible drawing, while I thought was both fantastic and adorable, and I cajoled him into letting me keep it.

And on the reverse side, some actual work material (not that the elephant doesn’t look like a hard worker):

BryanElephantA good old Dad fill-in-the-blank to get you thinking. Letting ideas be in tension, and finding the balance. Looking the complexity of a situation straight in the ol’ eyebulbs, and figuring out how to deal with it.

On a day when I miss my dad especially, while remembering him with huge love… yup, it fits.


The Sedaris Problem

Let’s call it “The Sedaris Problem”.

Can you write about your family?

What does it mean to write your story, if you cut all the family parts out? What is lost? Is it even possible? Do you wait until everyone involved is dead? Is that actually any better, or is that just like talking about them behind (or 6 feet above…) their back?

Mine is the sort of family where when you casually mention an anecdote at a dinner party, other guests sometimes drop cutlery. Something you grew up with or around (or still do) is greeted by incredulous “wait, WHAT?” Get my siblings in the room at the same time, and our joint memories and experiences get jaws a’droppin’. It’s been a hell of a ride.

It is important to me to not be a monster. I’ve never been on board with the “but if it’s a really great story” cop out. I don’t believe in religion, but I do believe in a good idea. There’s merit to the principle of “treat others as you would want to be treated”. I try not to tell stories I wouldn’t tell – the way I’m telling them – in front of the people involved. I rebuke myself (a little) when I do. But what about telling those stories on “paper”?

I’ve had the fortunately rare-ish experience of losing two of the family members and confidantes I was closest to within 2 years of each other. Both unexpected. Each tragic in a different way.

It’s a shitty club, and you don’t want to be a member.

If I can callously brush to the side what their deaths meant for them, I can consider what it has meant for me. It’s pretty simple: It messed me up.

It has led to a lot of questions. It fundamentally changed who I am, and shaken to the bedrock how I feel about life. For the past two years, it has sucked a lot of the light and hope away. Or at least blacked it out.

Kumail Nanjiani said it much funnier and about something quite different when he said  “during that movie, I’m pretty sure I lost the ability to smell rain.”

I went to the double feature.

This blog has been quiet because most of what’s preoccupied me the last couple of years has been about this “journey” (<-barf). Because the stories and experiences sometimes involve other people, I have been unsteady on how much I can write. If I had ever been successful at keeping a journal, perhaps I should have written it there. But journals have never worked for me.

Pushing the big thoughts and discussions into secret books and locked drawers seems to miss out on learning from each other. Humans struggle each by themselves, and whatever they learned from their struggle is inadvertently hoarded and lost — with the best of intentions, but with unfortunate results. Why don’t we talk about the things that really matter? So perhaps I should try. Mostly for myself, but if someone reads something they’ve felt or experienced, so much the better. We read to know we are not alone. We write to remind ourselves of what we’ve learned. (Or at least I do, as I have the long-term memory of a mole rat).

I strongly regret not having captured more of how everything went as it happened. If you grow up with some messed up things, instant repression can be a powerful instinct. But fortunately(?), when the hurt is this big, it stays with you for a while.

Loss and death are big inescapable truths, which happen to absolutely everyone. And which we barely talk about. Despite its perfect inevitability, in our lockstep cultural balking at death, we still treat death as an “if” not a “when”. We are all of us mortal. We all have our time. We all lose people. We all end.

If we don’t explore the big things, the big questions that we/I wrestle with in our head, doesn’t that leave us just talking about so much nothing? All the world is a polite dinner party with strangers. We never move forward. We don’t learn from each other. The discussable world is cut away until we talk about nothing that matters. But I want to move forward. I want to learn. I want to figure it out. That seems rather the whole point of existence.

(Not all the time mind you. Sometimes, you just need to watch cat .gifs.)

I think it is possible to do both — to respect the cast of characters, but also to dig into some of the big hurts and joys and look around. I hope to try. If I’m wrong, well… I’ve been wrong before.

A few principles I think serve as guides along the way of tackling the “Sedaris” challenge: Don’t write other people without empathy. Most people most of the time are not acting out of malice. You don’t have to excuse callous behaviour, but it’s worth trying to understand. Don’t write out of spite. Don’t betray confidences. Be cognizant of your own motivations. Write nothing you wouldn’t say in front of the people involved. Have a sense of humour about yourself and others. Be forgiving, but not complacent.

And remember that, in someone else’s story, it might be you who is the villain.

Snot for sharing

I hate being sick.

Hate it.

Hate it hate it hate it. Double stamped it. BAH.


I am bad at being sick. Worse even, as I get older. Because I enjoy autonomy. And decision-making. And choices. And doing things. And being sick is the opposite of that.

Being sick is boring. As a not-7 year old, I know what happens. There is no novelty in a sick day. In gingerale or jello. (Which I didn’t actually get when I was 7 and sick. I got raw garlic and salt water and vinegar. Hold your jealous applause.) No novelty in being on the couch or not being able to breath properly. I don’t want soup, I want to be healthy.

I am lucky. I don’t get sick often. I don’t have any little disease vectors (<-children) and I mostly don’t work in offices (<-contagion cesspools). And I fight it. Hard.

But at some point, by the sling and arrow of some outrageous bug, I fall. Like a giant mammoth, stuck up pincushion-style with wounds of phlegm and fatigue and ache.

So, finally, I lie here, on my mammoth side, with my mammoth trunk full of mammoth snot and I wait for extinction. Drip. Drip. Drip.

I get it from my father.

My father was terrible at being sick. Terrible.


How terrible? Well, when they went to do his heart surgery, scar tissue showed that he’d had not one, not two, but probably a few minor heart attacks. That he had just… powered through.

He was pretty sure he remembered at least one of these happening. At a work function. But it was a work function with many doctors in attendance, so he basically decided to ignore it.

Role. Model.

He was sick more often than he would have admitted (like, all the time), and he was working too hard (like, all the time), and incredibly overextended (like, all the time).

He took all the drugs and none of the rest. In one “great” story, while the participants were doing an exercise, he went to an empty conference room and lay down under a table for awhile.

I submit that if you are lying down, under a table, in a hotel conference room, to try and get 5 minutes of sleep in your work day, when you are already on the maximum dosages of extra strength drugs, then you should go. the. fuck. home. This is not a grey area. As my lovely husband says (and I throw this back at him when he (often) pushes himself too hard):

“It’s just not that important. It’s not like you’re maintaining life support machines by hand.”

But… but… but… the meeting! due dates! reports! emails!


Don’t go and infect other people. Stupid snotty jerkfaces do that. Push through it? PFFFT! If science has taught us anything (I love you science!), there is no pushing through it. There is, however, prolonging it by wearing yourself out. Oooooooo… dumb.

I am finally (<-why the frack does this take so long) learning that I am at no risk of developing sloth. It is just not in me to cop out too early or drag it out too long. Hit the sick panic button too soon. Choose less life over more. Embrace and revel in lethargy and weakness. But it’s the fear of this that keeps me ignoring the runny eye. The hacking cough. The snot. (Oh god so much snot).

But no. I will learn this lesson from my dad. If you’re sick, be sick. Be sick, and then get better. If you find you’re getting sick a lot, look at it. What is broken? What can I fix? But don’t ignore it, and don’t pretend I’m not sick this time.

Don’t be a mammoth.



In this King’s Quest game of life.

Sometimes, in this King’s Quest game of life, you find the dragon’s lair before you’ve found the dagger.

And sometimes you won’t plummet to your death if you can just manage to stay on the 5px ledge (which you can’t see).

And sometimes it’s just an oak tree, and sometimes it’s an oak tree with a golden egg in it.

And sometimes you cross onto a new screen and OH SHIT there’s the ogre and he’s ogre-ing his way down the screen to get you.

But sometimes, sometimes you’re still close enough to the corner that you manage to make it back out of there alive.

Dad 2.0

On February 3rd, my dad would have turned 60. I would have taken him to New York. We would have had a massive celebration that he had, as planned, “made it”. Now with new and improved hip and heart. That is not what happened, as he died suddenly at the end of May last year.

I last saw him a few days before he died, when he told me that while he loved the clients he was going to see, he really didn’t want to go on the trip, and was tired of travelling so much. He hardly ever said things like this — he was pretty die-hard about putting a positive face on things — and it struck me as such an unusual thing for him to say. He was pretty grumpy about it : )

I used to speak with him nearly every day, and he was easily one of my best friends. The abruptness of losing him, and the ongoing pain about what he lost are difficult things to find places for.

On his 60th, I was in South Africa. It occurred to me that, though it was not a planned “escape”, perhaps it would be an accidental perfect solution. That I would inadvertently end up ten thousand kilometers away from reminders and habits and sadness.

The twist was that, on his 60th, I ended up in a facilitated strategic planning session. With all of his favourite work words thick in the air. For tea, they served carrot cake. The old man’s favourite food of all time, double stamped-it.

My brother (whose birthday is on Sunday, so if you see him, give him a big birthday hug) wrote the post below. He nailed it, so I’m just going to repost it wholesale here.

Happy Birthday Dad, big love.

From Pample the Moose

Remembering My Dad, Bryan Hayday

Dad - Thanksgiving 3Today would have been my Dad’s 60th birthday. We had been planning to hold a huge celebration, because making it to sixty years old was going to be a really big deal. His father (Ron), my Grandpa, had died at age 54, and his younger brother, my Uncle Wayne, had also passed away quite young, at 51. Dad used to joke that with every day he lived, he was setting records as the longest-lived Hayday male in Canada (our British relatives, it seems, fare better in the longevity department). The significance of this birthday was going to be even greater after he made it through a very difficult (and out-of-the-blue) heart surgery in the summer of 2010.

Instead, Dad passed away suddenly at the end of last May while away on a business trip in northern Ontario. We had no warning signs. In fact, he had breezed through hip surgery in early April, and at Easter we were referring to him as Bryan 2.0 (“now with titanium hip!”). Easter was the last time that I saw Dad in person, and he was looking relaxed and happy. He was less happy when we spoke on the phone on election night, but that was political, not anything to do with his personal life or health. In the last months of his life, I always got the impression that he was feeling calmer, less overwhelmed with work, and more serene about his life and his future, and looking forward to future adventures. I suppose that if anything, I can be thankful that he was in a good place in his life when he passed away.

Dad, Matt, SarahBut that being said, I still feel robbed of the time that I won’t get to have with my father. For all that he travelled a lot, he had never been to New York City, one of my favourite places to vacation, and frequently mentioned his desire to go there some day. My sister and I had planned to take him this year, once his hip was fully recovered and he was up to long walks around the city. And over the past 8 months, I have constantly been reminded of how Dad was my “go-to” guy to get excited about accomplishments in my life. When I was a teenager, I used to get a bit irritated about how Dad would “brag” about us kids to his colleagues and friends. But when I got older, I appreciated his excitement. He was almost giddy with pride at graduations, and eager to share in our personal and professional achievements. I knew that I could count on him to buy up copies of my books to send to his friends. And after his cheeky comments about my first book, I was certainly going to find a way to “include an exciting car chase” to add a bit more action and zip to my next book (I’m still wrestling with how to work that into a discussion of Canadian bilingualism, but I’ll find a way!)

February was (and remains) “birthday month” in my family. My Dad’s birthday is today, and my own and my sister Catherine’s fall later in the month. So one big joint birthday party was often how we celebrated. It’s not going to be the same from now on. I miss you Dad. Happy 60th birthday! I wish you were still here so we could celebrate it with you.

Little hands

Today I went through what there was of my dad’s stuff. There was not much to take, and I did not take very much.

But I do have this:

On the back it reads:
This little gift to you I give,
To keep as long as you may live.”

Holding the print of your little 5-year old hand, when the reason you’re holding it is because the mass-produced kindergarten gift sentiment on the back has been fulfilled. He no longer lives, so it has come back to me.

I don’t know what you do with that. I don’t know where you put it.

So for now, I’m just listening to “Here Comes The Sun” and setting it on my desk.


My dad, Bryan Hayday, died last week. This was my eulogy at his funeral yesterday.

(I swear, I wrote the first part before the hall’s amp system failed).


When I was working with dad on a big meeting, we’d always discuss the requirements (AV, projectors, room layout) — he had an affinity for (and ability to do math on) table configurations that was beyond me (“so we’ll do 8 round tables of 6 and if 3-4people don’t make it in time for the start, we’ll move these two over here and have 5 tables of 5 and one of 2…”). The math part of dad’s brain was terrifying. He’d say “I’ll be there in 7 and a half minutes” and. he. was.

But when they asked about the mic for a big meeting, he’d only insist on one if the room was approximately the size of a basketball court. Otherwise it was “pffft, 80-90 people? I don’t need a mic”. And you could always hear him in the cheap seats.

Which, as a somewhat shy child, I actually found a bit mortifying, standing beside him at St Gabes BELTING OUT the songs. It was hard, especially since, as a budding atheist, I was really just there for the cookies in the basement afterwards.

I could try and wax eloquently about death — wax on, wax off. The piece that strikes me is that it is life’s big non-negotiable. It just is. When you get the call that someone has died, you can’t ask to sit by their bed and hold their hand. No one “pulls through” death. They’re just gone. Which is so strange, because we’re all so different. Everyone is so unique. It’s so unfair and bizarre that they can just suddenly not be here anymore. They just Are Not Anymore. And you don’t get a new one. That mash of cells and ideas and reactions and beliefs and history and thoughts has just rung down the curtain. They have ceased to be.

In my dad’s case, I feel like I was given a gift of extra time. With a big scare last year, the possibility that he would not come back to me/us became very very real. And it gave us a chance to think about all those things that so often are just suddenly snatched away. We had a chance to love him and let him know that we loved him in that really up front, clear and present (Sean Connery shout out, Dad) way — not just in a eulogy at a funeral where he can’t hear how awesome I think he is.

Because we worked together, I would often try and keep a separation between church and state. So emails from me usually looked like: “Please find attached the latest version of the report … vis a vis… ipso facto”. And then I’d get a response from him. That looked like: “Hey road warrior, Looks great! Also – do you want to add on a quick coffee to our Goodwill run? Tell your husband that I said to rock on. love, Da.”

He was always signing work emails “love”. And it drove me crazy. But especially after his surgery last year, I started feeling like “gah. Well it’s not that I don’t love you. Aw goddammit it. “Please find attached blah blah blah LOVE Catherine”.

What is hardest about this, I don’t think will ever get any easier, is that he was not ready to go. It was the complete opposite. He was just getting started. He was going to face the biggest challenge of a young workaholic’s life, the big R: Retirement.

But he did love his work, which is pretty extraordinary, and I loved working with him. Even though working with a morning person can be great, he loved using video chat. Which meant that I’d barely have sat down at my computer with cup of coffee #1 in what were essentially pyjamas, when the little gmail video chat dingle would start going off. And then pop and “helllooooo!” And because he had 2 hours headstart on me, he’d get away with doing distracting things to entertain himself while I was quickly skimming a document he’d just sent me… like staging elaborate pantomimes involving finger puppet rabbits… and maybe scissors. The man had a dark sense of humour.

For the first few days after his death, there were all these creepy digital echoes of him. Like, his gmail stayed logged in. So he was sitting there, with a “busy” status, and an away message of “Northern Ontario, yup”.

But I was thinking about it, when the two of us were online at 5am the day after he died, and I think, given that aforementioned exceptionally dark sense of humour, he would have thought it was funny. Specifically, if I could tell him about it, I think I know what he would have said. And what he would have said was “…boo.”

And then I’d say “Dad, that’s not funny.” And he would say sorry. And then, if he could, he would quietly change his status to (quotes) “boo”.

(Some of this is about how my dad was a little bit evil, and I am the apple off that tree.)

I mean, Bryan would just lie to you. For sport. Fortunately, he also had approximately one gabillion “tells”. There was one that was sort of a pause, and there was one where he started a sentence with “Actually…”. I got so good at them that I could head them off, I’d be like “no. stop it. I know what you’re doing.” and he’d be like “oh come on, I don’t even get to do it?” and I’d be like “… sigh, fine” and then he’d launch into a story about how Timbits were “actually” named after how Tim Horton used to have so many of his teeth knocked out in hockey that they’d call them Timbits… etc.

Or when I would phone him after his heart surgery, almost unfailingly he would answer the phone with this very wobbly weak STAGED “.. heeeellllooooo? Kaaate? is that you? I’m so old and feeble”. Between his love of yarn-spinning, and his terrible terrible terrible impressions which somehow always faded into an Irish priest accent: The man was a ham.

That ham gave me a huge gift I keep thinking of (and I love that he knows I’d roll my eyes at having to use the word “gift”). It’s something I’m only just beginning to appreciate and understand. My dad was proud of me. Of all his kids. Without hesitation. My whole life. To know, completely, that your dad is proud of you, not because of a tangible (a report card, or an ability to drink ungodly quantities of scotch (*fistbump to dad*)) or because of a specific accomplishment (though holy crap how he loved those), but because he is proud of who you are, or who you are becoming, as a person. Sometimes he would even “come around” and be proud of you years later for a decision you made that he initially disagreed with. To be encouraged. To have someone in your corner. Who thinks just about everything you do is just great, or “way cool”. And who lets you know that? All the time? Clearly and articulately? It is literally the best foundation a dad can give you.

A dad who was loved by a whole lot of people. From age 12 up through early last week, people I’d never met were always coming up to me and saying “oh! Hayday?! you’re bryan hayday’s daughter!”. I’ve been “Oh you’re Bryan Hayday’s daughter” (all one word) almost my whole life.

People who knew dad 20 years ago would launch into very specific things that he taught them. And I would be “ooookay, that’s nice. De Bono’s hats you say?”. But in the last few years, I began to really mean it. To really appreciate that I was proud of him.

Not “him” dad, but “him” Bryan. As he and I were just hitting that place where you’re starting to understand each other as people. His parents didn’t give him that many life tools. And he just figured it out. Bootstrap doesn’t even cover it. First he found a cow, then the cow became leather, then the leather became boots, and straps, then he attached them together… He worked really really hard, and he built this life for himself that he loved. All on his own. He came. so. far.

And still he did that while putting every. single. person. ahead of himself. But ironically while always encouraging other people to think about what they needed, and where they wanted to go.

He was very open, and so important over so many years to so many people. But there was also a very small piece of him that he told me about once, and that I was beginning to understand, that he kept for himself, that was very very private. In this person who shared almost everything of themselves, he kept this very small piece that was just for him, and that was aside, and that I don’t think any of us knew.

It’s true that after someone dies, people hardly ever call you to say “man, that guy, what. a. jerk.” But I think maybe because people were always going out of their way to compliment dad (directly, or via us) in life, that the overwhelming outpouring of memories and love feel so incredibly genuine. I think that dad’s genuineness and unbridled, determined positivity was infectious. And when people say “he taught me 20 years ago and it meant so much” or “we loved working with him” it feels so true. There are people who remember collating reports with my dad as being an insightful and life-changing experience.

And he would want you each to know that you were also important to him. That he loved you all back.

I can already see some of the places where it will be difficult for me to see echos of him.

Because it was a huge spring ritual to have dad adjust your bike seat (not a complicated bit of mechanics, and this from the man who would now say that he was a “credit card and duct tape home owner”), I think it’ll always be hard for me to ride down the Lakeshore and see grey-haired men out for a ride. (And there are a lot of them.) And every time I flip over a toe cage on my pedals, because dad had a toe cage because he had an adult bike.

And gelato and driving and tennis and certain kinds of sneakers and scotch and sweaters and cars and green jackets and scotland yard and goodwill and dancing and basketball and coffee that is 90% milk and 10% coffee. But, like I was saying to my cousin, when we were trying to make sense of this, I said that to be reminded of someone you love, right afterwards, it’s painful or at least it gives you a moment of deep sadness. But as that starts to heal, isn’t it actually really nice? To be frequently, intermittently, tiny-ly reminded all the time of someone you love — that’s not a bad thing.

Just one more of those tiny memories:

We were once playing Battleship, and I was getting so frustrated because I couldn’t find him. And I kept calling out locations all over the board, getting increasingly agitated. Until I finally realized about 10 turns later that every time he made a guess, it was the same coordinates (“E8” “Huh, how about E8?” “Let’s try… E8.”). For 5 minutes. The location of his boat.

Note: This is not a childhood memory. (This happened recently).

The fact that he is gone is stupid and unfair. How often already I think “oh! I want to tell dad about that!”. I’m in the habit of thinking that a dozen times every day, and now each time it stings. If he was here, he would say “Go on, it’s okay. You can be mad at me that I’m gone. I’m mad that I’m gone. But I love you.” And even though his physical heart was weak and lousy and gave out way too soon, his loving heart was unboundable and he spent his whole life stretching and extending it, and I find I’m incredibly glad that it extended so far and enveloped so many people.

If it is painful for you to remember him right now, please also remember that he would be very understanding of tears, but he would want laughter and smiles and maybe a Monty Python joke or two.

So please, carry him with you. I know that I’m very proud that for the rest of my life, I will be bryanhayday’sdaughter.

Thank you.

Bryan Hayday