‘Relay’ evokes memories of Dad

With this past weekend’s “Relay for Life” event to support cancer research, I was reminded of my father. We lost Dad to cancer over 15 years ago and though the disease eventually took him, it will never take the memories.
Dad was a pretty ordinary kind of guy—a product of his generation. Born during WWI, he entered the work world in 1929 just as the Great Depression entered the stage. A whole series of jobs from delivering groceries to cleaning floors, to working on farms took him through the worst years of the Dirty Thirties.
The second war found him working in Atlas Steel in Welland, Ony. running a trip hammer, forging heavy guns. A young family and a critical war-time job exempted him from military service, but like many others he simply signed up in 1943 and in 1944 he was sent to Europe as a paratrooper.
Returning in 1945 he rarely spoke of the horrors he experienced- just the good times. Dad spent the next 50 years working, raising a family, burying two wives and two grandchildren and… changing.
We all carry with us the baggage of the society we are born into—the prejudices, the bigotry, racism, and intolerance. Some say we never change, but Dad changed. Blacks, Jews, Asians, Catholics, and gays which as a youth I remember him referring to with ethnic slurs, as he aged became acquaintances, card playing buddies, and some even became part of his family.
Other attitudes towards the female of the species and her place in society changed as well. But what never failed him was his sense of humour. A good story or a funny incident would have him in a belly shaking, tear producing, gasping laugh.
When I hear a great story, I think, “I must remember to tell that one to Dad,” but then of course he’s gone
Once we were in the local McDonald’s and Dad came back from the restroom a look of total disgust on his face.
“Gad! (his favourite expression) What kind of a goll-darned town is this?” he barely managed to spit out, his lip trembling to emphasize his fury.
“Whaddya mean?” I queried mystified by what had upset him.
“Why, they’ve got the baby changing table in the men’s washroom! They expect women to take their kids in there to change them. Bunch of inconsiderate perverts!” he stuttered still barely able to contain his wrath.
“No Dad, that one is meant for the men to take the baby in and change it. There is another change station in the women’s washroom,” I gently explained unsuccessfully stifling a chuckle.
Dad’s eyes opened as did his mouth. A look of wonder spread across his face. After eight kids, and more grandchildren, it had never occurred to him that a man could or would change a diaper.
I’m not sure if the joke was on him or on the rest of us.

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