Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Dad

I don't have a digital picture of my Dad.

I doubt that I have even 5 old-fashioned pictures of him.

We just were not "picture people".

It's too bad because today I would like to have opened this entry with his picture.

My Dad was Raymond Allen Brill.

Ray was a masterful salesman. A professional presenter of material, and probably the best mentor, teacher, coach, and as inspirational as a boy could possibly have for a Dad.

Born in London, Ontario in 1932, Dad and my Uncle Fred were brothers. They played baseball and hockey. They loved both, but they will admit they loved baseball more. Dad would draw pictures of himself stretching full out at second base to make that diving catch.

Yeah, they were Detroit Tiger fans.

He would tell me stories of growing up playing ball, and drinking beer in the hotels. And how good that beer would taste after a hot ball game. He talked of those days so passionately that those stories are primary reasons why I would later move to London myself, play ball in those same leagues, and drink ice cold beer after at those same hotels.

I only saw my Dad drink the odd beer. And it usually caused him severe stomach pain afterwards. But you could see he appreciated it when he did.

Dad worked very hard with my brother Paul and I, teaching us to throw behind the ear, charge the ball to field it on the short hop, and lift the elbow to hit consistent line drives. We could be on our way anywhere, dressed any way appropriate for our destination, but if Dad spotted an empty ball field he pulled over. The equipment bag forever in our trunk, we took infield and batting practice, Mom playing first or outfield shagging fly balls.

We loved it so much. We never fought or bickered playing ball. It's just what we did.

Dad was also a sailor. A self taught sailor. We learned together as a family and those memories are as special as any other. We started with a tiny little 13 foot Sunfish. Advanced to bigger waters in a 17 foot Viking which we sailed on the lakes of Michigan and docked in Mitten Bay. Moving to Minnesota when Dad climbed the ladder with 3M, Dad bought a Coronado 23. We would sail on week long adventures, taking our floating camper to different corners of Lake Peppin - the mouth of the mighty Mississippi - tossing out anchors - swimming and camping on the boat.

Dads' biggest dream was that we lived where it was always warm.

In 1975, 3M gave my Dad three options to move as a regional sales manager:
  • London, Ontario
  • San Diego California
  • Atlanta, Georgia
Having just lost both his own Mum and my Mother's Mum a couple years earlier, Dad entertained moving back to Canada. But during a trip mixed with a family reunion, he realized it would not be the place he wanted to live - he wanted us to live.

Why Dad chose Atlanta over San Diego, I may never know. Most likely Atlanta was still within travel distance to come back to Windsor and London. I often wonder how different I would have been as a surfer dude from the coast beaches. I still have a slight southern trace about me in my manner - and I wonder which would have been better - good ol' boy or surfer Dude.

In Atlanta, Dad found my Brother Paul's interest in Tennis. He helped Paul rise to the Top ten juniors in Georgia, and the Top 5 in Louisiana. Tennis was big back then, and Paul had this natural ability to just beat the crap out of most anybody.

When Paul was a freshman at our high school - Berkmar - he was of course on the Tennis Team. He played in the county finals against a senior who had won last year. This kid expected to walk all over Paul - because Paul was little. But this kid had no business being on the same court as my brother.

Paul wore a horrible plaid pair of golf shorts, and a different pattern plaid shirt. He didn't take the match very seriously. At the beginning of the match, the kid was condescending to Paul. After Paul took the first set 6 - Love, the condescension turned to outrage. The kid complained about every call, and Paul just rolled his eyes and laughed at the kid. Paul won that match 6-love, 6-love, 6-love. He had to be escorted off the court because the kid kept trying to get at him to beat him up.

And my Dad watched as proud as any Dad could be.

But my Dad also loved smoking. And in the end, it was that love that proved to be fatal. He survived with emphysema after having pretty much half his internal organs removed for Cancer in 1983. He lived with my Mom in the same apartment my Mom is in now from 1984 to when he died in September of 1990.

It has been 17 years now. And I miss him.

There was a wealth of knowledge there to tap, that I did not tap.

I don't know what he would think of my life choices to now. Maybe he would have talked me into taking those jobs at Apple and IBM. Maybe he would be upset that I chose to live in Windsor again, after he worked so hard to leave.

But one thing I know. He would have loved my wife. And he would have cherished my two little girls.

I can see him there with Alannah now, positioning her leg, lifting her elbow, telling her to watch the ball all the way to her bat. "Atta-girl" he would say as she smashed the ball against the fence on the other side of the yard.

"Atta-Girl".

Happy Fathers Day

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fred,
I just love reading your blogs. This one in particular brings back memories of the ol' man. He was the best dad. You should try for a column in a daily. You certainly have the talent for it.

Fred Brill said...

Paul,

yeah Dad was the best Dad. A complete thinking man. And a do-er.
I am proud he was our Dad.

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