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.