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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Fenske

In Celebration of Fathers

To those of you that can be with your father in real time on this upcoming Father’s Day I envy you. My dad – Harvey James Fenske – passed away May 15, 2001. Twenty two years ago. Wow – what’s happened in my life in 22 years. Today I’m reflecting on how he would have supported (or NOT supported me) with some of the crazy ideas I’ve had over this period of time.

Let me start with my best memories of dad which led to great life lessons.

1. The story is told that he was loading horses on a train headed to the Toronto Royal Horseshow (we had show ponies then) when my auntie took my mom to the hospital because I was ready to make my great entrance into the world.

Couple of outcomes from my birth – first mom “allowed” dad to go to the horseshow with the boys because I was a girl. My mom couldn’t take another boy (4 boys and 1 girl were already part of Harmony Farms before I came along) Secondly – every year on my birthday I was told the story of being dads “royal princess” and then he would sing happy birthday to me. As a barber shopper my dad had an amazing voice. If I was home for my birthday there was always a tiara on my birthday cake. Also, every year on my birthday dad and I would go riding. I felt so important that dad would saddle up and ride down the lane, along the highway and back with me. (With a breeding farm full of race horses, I rode the broodmare Helen’s Sonata – yes named for my mom).

2. Our family made a huge move from Saskatchewan to Alberta – in the dead of winter. We were a real convoy hauling horses, kids and household belongings down the highway. I believe one of the boys that was driving the semi filled with racehorses (by this time we had transitioned from hackney ponies to standardbred race horses) finally called it quits for the night and our clan checked into a motel. I was in the hotel room with mom, dad and my dog. I remember mom being very concerned about the weather and potential road conditions the next morning. Dad’s response “We have smart, level headed kids and we’ll make a family decision in the morning”. It wasn’t often that we heard compliments directly from dad – but hearing his assurance in the family was so meaningful to me in that moment.

3. I finally had my drivers license – the great part of having so many brothers is that they all had AWESOME trucks. I was allowed to take one of the pickups to school instead of riding the bus. I thought I was pretty cool…needless to say. Anyway, I got home from school that night and was promptly told that someone had told dad that I was cruising downtown over lunch break. He didn’t ask if it was true or not – his comment was – if people think you are capable of doing it then you must be doing it. Uuggh back to the school bus.

4. I was babysitting 3 of the greatest kids EVER. They were on a pig farm, and had arranged for someone else to do chores. All I had to do was look after the kids for the weekend. Friday night we had a horrific storm and lost power. No phone, no electricity – I was pretty overwhelmed. So, I packed up the kids in the old farm truck and headed to mom and dad’s. We were huddled in the cab of the truck and I was trying to be the responsible adult – the kids starting singing hymns and before I knew it we were all singing at the top of our lungs heading to “grandma and grandpa Fenske’s”. We arrived and dad greeted us at the door – full of hugs and smiles for all of us. His comment to me was “I raised you to be wise and this was a wise choice”.

5. Dad was dying. He had chosen to stop treatment and wanted to die at home. He was exhausted. Cancer was winning. The family had planned to all be at the house on Mother’s Day. In advance of that weekend visit, one of my brother’s and I drove to Calgary to see dad. I don’t think any one of us were facing his current condition with courage. On that particular day dad was coherent and almost back to his typical strong german persona. His nurse came in to replace his cold clothes with newly soaked clothes. Dad promptly told her “Can’t you see I’m spending time with my little princess – don’t be in here”. I put the cold clothes on him and while I was doing that we were both in tears knowing that he was so very close to the end – 5 days later he was gone.

Here’s what I learnt from my dad – Common sense prevails all – allow common sense to be a guide. The perception of others supersedes reality – allow the perception to be that of a good person. Wisdom is learnt and heartfelt – if you have it people will know and trust in your wisdom – let them. Focus on your priorities in the moment – don’t allow others to interrupt those priorities.

After Dad passed, I was given his motorcycle (a Goldwing 1500cc with a lehman trike on the backend, but that’s a whole other story). He had originally been diagnosed with cancer when he was preparing for a ride for site. He and mom were at their cabin at Glennifer lake – he went to close a window and shattered his arm. Mom took him to Innisfail hospital and afterwards they learnt he was “full” of cancer. Although he rode after his diagnosis – he wasn’t able to attend another Ride for Site in his lifetime. It was important to me to get dad’s bike through the ride.

It was one of the most stressful, overwhelming, emotional days in my life. My then ex-husband agreed to do the ride with me. Although we were on our own bikes we had helmet to helmet mic’s and he encouraged me every mile we rode. Joining the ride in Devon, we were headed to Rocky Mountain House as the first stop. A very dear friend of mine was parked on the shoulder of the highway cheering me on as she understood what this ride meant for me. When we pulled into Olds at the end of the ride, so many people came up to talk to me. It was a unique bike previously ridden by a unique individual. I heard so many stories of a side of my dad I had never known. It was a powerful day.

Don’t get me wrong – my dad and I didn’t always see eye to eye. My dad and I didn’t always agree. However at the end of the day I am the woman I am today because of his influence.

So, again I say, to those of you who can be with your father in real time on this upcoming Father’s Day I envy you. My dad – Harvey James Fenske – passed away May 15, 2001. Twenty two years ago. Dad – 22 years later I still miss you, appreciate you and respect all of your influence.

Learn from those around you to strive for your own excellence.

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Brenda Denton
Brenda Denton
21 juin 2023

Laurie, I am so moved by the words it came from your dad and you

The lessons we learn from our fathers have brought us this far in life

thank you for sharing that part of your life for your father

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