Tag Archives: dad

Death, You are No Stranger

Dr Lorne Harold Olson, my Dad Dec. 1 1941- Feb 11 2014, captured with a fisheye during Festivus, a few years back.

Sometime, as a child
A great uncle, a small suit
Staring into a larger hole
Remembering the smells forever

Sometimes the adults
Something about a black-and-white film star
Or a relative from Norway,
an Auntie from Ireland

Decades wrings life from hard years
Rambling into scenarios of loss
Some who wander are lost
Or get lost, indifferent to finding
Living with absence of fear

Once the guns report
Bullets smash into metal
Skimming past your flesh
You are not in charge

Delicate as we are
Sympathies are few
One by one
They leave

Vague words confuse and deceive
Deceased, passed on, gone
Kindly refrain from mentioning
A celestial birthday

We have no knowledge
Nor choice
Speculation is exercise
For the nervous and ill-informed

Resist the temptation to grieve and bereave
To celebrate & console
Death knows only the past and the future
There is no present tense
Just pain, from time to time.

Hard enough just to eat, brief, sleep, live
They are gone
Perhaps they loved you
Perhaps you loved them
Do not wait to know
There is no answer
Only absence

What legacy do we dream?
Laborious hours of tasks for others
Spawning our own creations
Brought to life for joy and for pain

Or to be warm in the coldest winter
In a land of endless foggy summer
Where the sea reaches out beyond comprehension
and airplanes magically appear from over a dusty hill

Or you, painted jolly with tankard
Hung above the fireplace
Books that open
on a mantlepiece

Or interred in plywood and white
Or abandoned as ashes
Or fertilizing knowledge
Through scalpels and agreements

##

I hold his tiny yellow bald head
Listening to the wheezes
Stopped 3:23 AM
“You must wait one hour to declare”
I clean his chin, lay him down
and close his eyes and mouth

Life in this instant is instinct
And survival
and gently sparing others
From grief and uncertainty

The four stand in a line
On cue, rain falls
We stand til the end — holding on
and watch them shovel and sweep

Then, you might collapse,
you might imbibe, you might justify,
you might pray out
to an imaginary friend

##

One by one, They leave
I remember each
Not for nostalgia or grief
But admiration unspoken

The rough one in leather and muscle cars
and bad decisions, I eagerly complied
Tiny pills at curling rinks
Fights and VW escapes at gas stations

Shaggy haired blonde guitarist
Talked to me like I mattered
13 rosy-cheeked and eager
In green mac jacket like his

The artist, far from home
Often confused and disappeared
Often singing about lusty ladies
and mad experiments in super eight

Long haired city sailor
Young retired from coding
To activism and discretion
Dominos with friends, aneurysm, the end

Ole Gramps and his 67 countries
Nicotine turns to morphine
Me and Uncle Walt
Read him to sleep

Meanwhile in Alabama
The sudden sadness comes, followed by
Deceit, struggle, reprehensible actions
and a litany of notary stamps

Both of the hasheater’s parents
The kind one went to cancer
The blue one, the hard way
I only remember kindness of both

No stranger to hospitals
The doctors’ eyes show bewilderment — and fear
They confer, they draw, they poke
They cannot admit confusion

##

The tsunami warning rings Tuesdays at 10
Would you run? Trampled by the eager and prepared
Or stare the waves down
Twitching legs and bleeding heart

Floods and fires, cold wind and water
Prepare yourself they say with portions and schemes
Or will you choose the present
Leaving sympathies for the past and the future

Do you think you have a choice?
Are you so noble to sacrifice
Running to save the small or the old
With adrenaline and action in your arms
You cannot know
Until the moment of despair

Or will you wait and avoid?
Never consider
Then perhaps
You will be truly
Surprised.

Annotations About Dad, Lorne H Olson

A wonderful day with Dad, perogies, cabbage rolls and a west end personal history walk.

Here’s to my Dad, Dr. Lorne H. Olson.

Born Winnipeg, 1941, raised Regina with Air Cadet forays to Vancouver, earned Bachelors at BYU “just there for the ladies”, first job in Port Arthur, Ontario YMCA (now part of Thunder Bay), earned Masters and Doctorate degrees at Oregon, then onto professorships at Michigan State and then University British Columbia in 1974.

Was then when we settled on 154th St. in Surrey. It was a dirt road then with plenty of woods around, and I walked with my plaid lunchbox to Harold Bishop elementary where I met people I still know today.

Then, in the 80s he became a real estate “king” of growing Surrey. His humble, noble face on bus boards throughout Newton, Whalley, Guilford.

Only those of us who knew about the accident that almost killed him could notice and trace the scars from 40+ stitches in his face that went out of the windshield and back in.

Some of my brothers and I, by this time lived elsewhere, due to the vagaries of marriage and divorce and moving. Yet, twice a year we would load up on suitably unsafe vehicle to come up to bond and hang out with our dad. It’s not unusual for teenage boys and their dads to not understand each other well, but we tried.

My brothers made him proud by doing the tasks expected of his beliefs, but me, I just kept going and going and wound myself up in messes and circumstances and situations which seem to just confuse him rather than excite him. But I was living – and I was not in Surrey.

Dozens of countries later, sequestered in Olympia, Washington, my extensive life resume lacked a few key letters which were antagonizingly close after four colleges and well over a decade, Dad and dear bonus mom Myrna stepped up and help me finish off my hard won Bachelor of Arts degree in Inter-disciplinary studies. Really, I dream of earning a Master of Fine Arts and a doctorate one day so I can take over his Dr. O license plates (despite the fact that I no longer drive).

We were all caught by surprise, he ate healthy, hadn’t had a alcoholic drink in 60 years or 50 anyway, didn’t smoke, frequently jogged, made kale smoothies with hemp nut, took infrared saunas…

So many good things and then in six weeks of frustration, confusion, occasional tears, misgivings and even arguments, The end came. No fireworks no lights from above no singing angels or earnest disciples from eons past to carry him away.

Just me, at 3:23am noticing the space between breaths had become impossibly long.

The doctor – or rather the home care nurse – told me: I must wait for five minutes and then we must wait for an hour as civilians, before we call the funeral home.

The non-resuscitation agreement, the “die at home” agreement, the funeral home pickup agreement was arranged.

Dad, I moved you from your side “drainage position”, lay you on your back which was now skin bones and a tumour — wiped the brown vile bile toxins from your face and tried to close your mouth.

I called in my dear stepmom Myrna, brothers Dan, James and Andrew — into the room & we stood, quiet. We knew our lives would never be the same.

The service was put together quickly and filled the church to the overflow area. Me and three more brothers spoke, told stories that none of these people understood about this dear old man. His challenges his struggles, his adolescence, the stuff he liked to do when he was just being Lorne. We made an audience laugh but it was mostly for our own good.

Afterwords in a dizzying array of small sandwiches and cookies, I was inundated with faces I hadn’t seen for 30 years and people I’ve never met told how Dad had impacted their lives so much — I could barely stand up or breathe.

Then there was a gravesite. No one seemed in charge, James blessed the grave, we sang a song, the workers lower the box and tidied the dirt and I just held onto my brothers for dear dear life.

I see him every day, and most days I cry, and so many times I want to pick up the phone and say “Dad I’m having a hard time” — i’m grateful for the times we spent together in the months leading up to the terrible news.

He was the healthy one of us then and we rambled through west end neighbourhood to his old houses where he stayed with namesake Uncle Lorne during sunny Vancouver summers at English Bay, (Incidentally Uncle Lorne was the long time maître d’ at the noted venue The Cave and often took the stage to sing with the Ink Spots or Sammy Davis (Sr.) though he used his pseudonym of Lloyd Hamilton instead of Lorne Head so his cufflinks still matched), to the Ukrainian deli where we ate cabbage rolls the size of our forearms. His picture is in the window of the Mapleleaf Deli on Burrard if you’re curious.

He told me before he died he was proud of me — and for being the “Black sheep” — that’s alright for me.