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Happy Birthday Flashback for Dad, Lorne H. Olson, 2018

Happy Birthday Dad

Lorne Harold Olson AKA Dr. O

Dec. 1, 1941 (Winnipeg) ~ Feb. 11, 2014 (Surrey)

As seen at the (awkwardly inaccurately named) Old Indian Wishing Well of Capilano, circa 1976.

Annotations About Dad, Dr. Lorne H. Olson

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

Memories of Dr. O (on his birthday)

In Memory of Dr. O, though they cause me to tear up a wee bit, here are a few recent cherished memories.

Dad pulling us on bike in the Lynden Washington (Whatcom County) parade

1) Me, brother Bob & Dad at Uncle Lorne’s (Dad’s fave Uncle and a former Maitre’d at The Cave) at a cemetery somewhere in Burnaby. This photo captures one of my earliest childhood memories and my first experience with death.

2) The (almost magical) retro Lions jersey, numbered and signed by Willie Fleming (Dad’s fave all time player). He put it on most every time when we came over and never once complained about his ailments. Thanks to Brian W for the huge assist on this.

3) Several months before we learned he was ill, Dad and I did a West End walking tour to track down places he had stayed, lived etc. To our surprise, the house he lived in with Uncle, Aunt and Mom on Barclay Street had not been torn down as he’d heard, but is now the Barclay Bed & Breakfast (not Barclay House). We interrupted the none-to-pleased private event and then lurked around the back for some photos and memories.

Now living in the West End, i see the places of my Dad’s youth, spent at air cadet camp and staying on with Uncle Lorne & Aunt Jan … cooling out at English Bay, going to Lions games at Empire, and learning how to be a man as his Father died when Dad was just 11.

4) Parade pic – either in Lynden Washington with our Bachman cousins or in Sapperton where my Uncle Mark worked at Cap’s and we’d always roll out crazy bikes like belly floppers, penny farthings and so on for parades. Here my Dad is dressed as a French-Canadian Couers du Bois (huge points for uniqueness and nuance). {above}

5) Dad exited this world with me, dear Myrna & other my bada$$ brothers tending to him though he was a wee baby. I was just returning the favour seen in this pic with bro Bob.

My plan to remember Dad today: take a big swim from Dad as he loved to be in the warm ocean or a YMCA pool.

Have you met my Dad? #dossier

Have you met my Dad? Here’s a dossier:

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

He is Lorne Harold Olson, born in Winnipeg, raised in hardscrabble North-end of Regina.

Earned Ed.D doctorate from Univ of Oregon after undergrad at BYU on scholarship, enticed by the fantastic dude to lady ratio . Rolled to Provo from Canada in a 1966(?) Malibu Super Sport he still raves about.

After teaching at Michigan State when I was but 2-3 years old, he moved us west where he taught at UBC in Recreation & Leisure faculty (now defunct) before becoming a real estate czar – accolades noted on bus boards throughout Surrey.

He inspires many with his sincere, careful leadership style. He holds secrets and helps in gentle, silent ways, and shows particular skill in sorting out complex transactions and negotiating favorable arrangements (skills I’ve relied on especially recently).

He’s love of CFL football flourished in the West End during his youth-time visits to his namesake Uncle Lorne while at Air Cadet camps in the 1960s. Indeed, he earned a pilot’s license before a license to drive a car.

We recently strolled the West End capturing reminisces and remarking on familiar dreams- plus we feasted on perogies & cabbage rolls in the ‘hood (traditional Olson clan menu).

You might have met Pops at Uncle Weed 40 or elsewhere at my gigs, and hopefully captured a bit of his magic – and, if you look closely, noted the characteristics we share (not hair).

Love you Dad (& oh guess I was in Jamaica for your birthday so happy 72 )

PS retro Lions sweater is signed by Lion legend (& Dad’s fave player) Willie Fleming (with huge thanks to the renegades of The Lions Den).

For the record, written aboard a Greyhound between Chilliwack & Abbotsford with a sketchy group of riders.