MISSING MY MEN: Loving, loss, & what I have learned

This time of year is always emotionally charged for my family and I, as we mark the 6th anniversary of Braden’s passing and the 5th of Robert’s. The years have helped to soften the sharp edges of loss but not so much that I don’t ache for what once was.  These two men, along with my father, Bill, who passed 27 years ago, were the biggest male forces in my life, and I miss them.  Always.

I have loved and lost, larger than life men.  My men were comfortable wearing pink shirts or perhaps a neon green jacket, singing out loud in the rain wearing an expensive suit, not caring that it would be ruined, dancing on a table or lying down on a busy highway to get just the right angle for a photograph.  These crazy antics and so many more, describe all three of these beautiful men to whom I have had to say goodbye.  

I want to remember the best of them.  I don’t want to think of them as “lost.”  They are not lost.  They are home, in their non-physical world, watching over my daughters and I, as surely as the rain falls from the sky.  With passing of time, I have come to realize the gifts I have received thanks to the presence of these men in my life, Bill, Braden and Bob.  

My father Bill, was an adventurer with the heart of a lion.  He was courageous as a teenaged infantryman in the war and a Harley riding voyager.  He dodged so many bullets and near deaths, his friends compared him to a cat, with nine lives.  When he was “unfit” for battle, he was relegated to peeling potatoes, and dishing out meals for his compatriots, tasks he loved.  My dad was a storyteller.  He had the gift of the gab.  He knew how to reach into the hearts of people and win them over with his gentle soul and loving nature.  He loved a good coffee, was athletic long into his life, routinely swimming long distances in Lake Ontario and was happy with the simple things in life.

I have a lot of my dad in me.  I got the juicy bits from him.  You can’t keep me away from a mike or a crowd. My coffee cup is always full and I tell a mean story.  Thank you daddy, for teaching me well.  I hope I am doing you proud and I’m grateful that you are still watching over me. I love you.  I feel your spirit with me always.

Braden was the son I never had.  He was Robert’s son from a previous marriage, and Chelsea’s older brother.  Their mother had died suddenly, leaving Robert to care for his family.  A horrific car accident left Braden with global oxygen deficit.  At the tender age of 11, he lost his ability to run, move, eat or do anything on his own.  From that day forward he would be dependent on us, his family and nurses, for every one of life’s necessities.  The tragedy stole Braden’s freedom but it did not steal his courage or sense of humor.  There were few days when Braden didn’t laugh. Though he could not speak, he got every joke Jim Carrey ever told and could laugh like a trucker.  If you told him a naughty joke he would get a twinkle in his eye, that pierced your soul.

Braden was the person I ran for every time.  He was the person I thought of when I trained.  I never took the luxury of being able to move my physical body for granted.  Why would I be so selfish when there was Braden who could not run if his life depended on it?  I was a bit reckless with Braden.  During some of my training runs, I would take him out on our hilly, 1 kilometer driveway, and push him up and down the inclines and declines.  It was fun for him and I am sure he thought I was a “nutter” as Bob used to say, but the training was fantastic.  What buns I had!!  

Thank you Braden for teaching me how to laugh and appreciate the gift of movement and freedom.  I know you are looking down at us, keeping a wink in your eye and a firm hand on the rudder of our lives.

And Bob.  What has come and gone between us could fill many a page.  To say he left a giant hole in my heart is an understatement.  His absence from my life, left me standing on the edge of a cliff wondering whether to fly or jump.  I remember once, when Bob and I were cozied up together, saying to him, “Please don’t ever die because I will never survive without you.” I held onto him for dear life, not thinking for a moment that this would become a reality. And then that day came.  He was gone.

And what I am left with is a series of the greatest lessons of my life.  There are so many and they are so deep in meaning that I am writing a book to share them with you. It has taken me years to finally release my words onto paper, probably because it took me that long to open my heart again.  

Robert unlocked the sleeping parts of me.  He found my spontaneity and trumped me every time.  We were a sight at parties.  The music would come on and he would pull me onto the dance floor, warning me that he didn’t know how to dance.  But he would flash me a grin and start doing bodybuilding poses in time to the music.  There were times I laughed so hard, I went my pants.  That was how we were.  

Bob also taught me how to make the most of time. He would urge me to write even when I only had 5 minutes available.  Initially I would protest, saying that isn’t enough time to write anything and we would challenge me with this, “When you add up all the minutes and all the writing, suddenly you have a book.”  This often how I write today, thanks to Robert.

Of course he also taught me about the work ethic of training.  Lifting weights and regular cardiovascular exercise are still part of my wellness routine, again a lesson I learned from Bob.  Together we also built the Eat Clean® movement that is still roaring today.  He predicted when we first started it that Eating Clean® would become a household name, and he was right.  

So today, as I think about my father, Brady and Robert, I feel their presence all around me.  I am grateful to have had them in my life.  I still miss them terribly, but I can walk among the daffodils, planted on the hill at our home in Bob’s honour, and remember them all with a full heart.

Thank you.  Thank you. Thank you.

Love always,

Tosca