There are so many things I want to say. So many things I want to share I’m quite unsure where to start. So I’ll just go. And bear with me, I’ve a feeling I’ll be all over the place but I don’t want to take the time to put it all into a neat little package. This is an emotional post. It’ll be raw. There will be a total lack of formality. I care not. I wanted to write something one year ago today but couldn’t. This is more for me and my sisters, Susan and Sonny (maybe even Mom) so, I’ll totally understand any readers who decide this is TLDR…
You, Laurence H. Rogerson (Larry to some but Laurence to your dearest friends) were born on September 11, 1942, in Vernon, British Columbia.
At the age of 11 months (I think!), you and your mother moved to Montreal, to what is now the very trendy area of the Plateau Mont-Royal. Of course now when I pass the streets of your youth, I can hear you say Jeanne (pronounced Jean and not Jeanne à la française) Mance or St. Laurence (was never St. Laurent to you) or Clarke…. In this neighbourhood – and I think you also hung around what is now known as Mile End, just north of the Plateau, you and your buddies: Sonny, the 2 Jerrys, Henry, Sid, etc. with nicknames like Pickle, Bear and Weasel, to name a few, got into trouble and did whatever boys did in the Fifties.
I only wish I had taken notes every time you told us stories of the “olden” days when you were a kid. How you and your buddies tormented “Shtunks” (Mr. and Mrs. Stringer – who owned a small general store in your ‘hood) constantly by either sticking labels all over their storefront windows at night when all were asleep, or entering the store and turning off the lights and touching all the chip bags just so they’d freak out wondering what you stole! Or worse, when you guys put a bag of poop on their front stoop and lit it on fire. Seriously! Hadn’t these poor people been through enough by surviving the Holocaust? You guys probably sent Mr. Stringer to an early grave… I’ll never forget when you introduced me to Mrs. Stringer. She still had the store! She let us know that you had been a real brat in your youth! Right after visiting her, you brought me to Wilensky’s – brought to fame in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, based on Mordechai Richler‘s book and made even more famous by the movie starring Richard Dreyfuss. Only place where asking for NO mustard costs MORE!!! (‘Coz you’re changing the special!)
As the oldest of five children (even though the other four are half-siblings, you NEVER used the term “half”), you became quite the provider at a very young age. A hustler, if you will! You could sell anything! And I mean ANYthing! You were a salesman from the time you started working at 12-13: magazines, bread, real estate (where you were THE BOMB!), mutual funds, name it, you could sell it…
What a handsome young man you became! I mean, seriously, who could resist buying whatever you were selling? This must have been one of your first professional head shots from your early real estate days. You were a young father-to-be and you had decided you were done with schlepping bread from Mr. Christie’s from one end of the Montreal Island to another so you marched into a real estate office (can’t remember the name – I really should call Sonny….) and offered your services to sell houses. No experience. Well, bloody hell, you got the job! In a short amount of time, you even managed to finagle a deal where you got to live in one of the model houses in Boucherville so it would be easier to sell. Did I mention you didn’t even have a car??? You definitely had a gift.
You met Mom and married her in August 1962 at St. Kevin’s Church in Côte-des-Neiges. You even lied about your age! You were a year younger than she and only going to be 20 the month after the wedding.
Your best friend in the world was Sonny. If Mom had been the type, we probably would have called him “Uncle”, as some do for close friends. For me, he is part of the family.
Looking at that picture above… man oh man I miss that mirror! When I bought your house, it came with. Then we took it down and I can’t for the life of me remember if we broke it by accident or decided it had to go. I kinda regret it now…
Well, as nature wills it, a couple often doesn’t remain so for very long. Especially in those days! So, along came moi in April ,1964, not quite a year and a half after marrying your first love of your life (you were lucky, you got two; but I’ll get to that later!)
Three years later, in September 1967, Lisa arrived
Three years later, on your birthday, you received a special gift, Tracy, in September 1970. You were to forever be linked on September 11th.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING made you more proud than your girls.
You so wanted boys, Dad. You know, to carry the Rogerson name…. Sorry. Wasn’t in the cards! Three girls are what you got! But you couldn’t fool us even if you tried. You were sooooo proud of us – loved showing us off whenever we achieved something or another. I came to realise that even more as I got older. I’d look back and remember that it was YOU who came to my games, tournaments, practices. You did for all of us, no matter what it was. And, you did admit, once the boy cousins started arriving in the family… you were lucky to have just girls!
As well as the “olden day stories”, we also had to listen to many corny jokes “New Blue Cheer” comes to mind. I can’t even remember the friggen punch line but I’m laughing anyway because I can hear you saying part of it “Sauce, sauce, sauce dans le New Blue Cheer; Rinse, rinse, rinse dans l’eau froid”, sung in a nasally voice! That one we heard over and over. Maybe that’s why I’ve blocked it out!!
Or, how about making us watch the movie Lies My Father Told Me so we could hear the old man singing: “Rags! Clothes! Bottles!” For you, this represented your childhood and it was important to you to make us understand just where you came from. You came from Welfare and were determined to change your fate. You hustled, you did what you had to do, you succeeded at whatever you tried. Truly, you were an inspiration that again, I only truly realised once I was older and had a family of my own.
Sorry… got side-tracked there!
Your first years as a young father were pretty tough. I heard the story of buying me my first Christmas present from food stamps. Hard to believe as you made some serious coin as a real estate agent, then manager, then broker of your own business. You also were really good at spending! Trips, jewels, dug-in pool (hey, were the first in our circle)! You and Mom went at least twice per year to some fancy, Caribbean destination. Wasn’t the style back then to bring the kids like it is today…. Jamaica, Barbados, Cruises, Hawaii! Woot! And you were stylin’, Baby!
Now, that was all and good but when you get to the nitty-gritty, the most important thing for you was family and that included Sunday Night Dinners. We all had to be home on Sundays – with our boyfriends, when they came into the picture! At least once, twice, maybe three times per month, Sonny was there too. Please tell me why he wasn’t your best man? We never understood that one!
I can’t look back on my childhood with any regret. It was a good one. We had the usual family stuff and of course there were fights but there were many more loving moments to more than tip the scales. Crazy moments and lots of laughter. And the parties! Woot! We had some loud parties in our backyard…
You dreamed of having a sailboat for, well, forever. Seems to me there were “Sail” magazines all over the house for years and years. Well, you finally did it. You bought “Footloose”, a 32″ Bayfield with a fabulous bowsprit. She was your pride and joy and I think the years you had her were among the happiest of your life. To be able to sail on Lake Champlain, captain your own “ship” was a dream come true. Those were some fantastic years indeed!
Actually, on your 25th wedding anniversary, we had a devil of a time getting you off Footloose and home to where loads of people were waiting to celebrate, friends and family. This was before cellphones so we kept calling the Marina, trying to coax you off the boat and home. We finally had to tell you that one of Mom’s sisters was over for a surprise visit. Sheesh… The party lasted the whole week-end!
Well, sadly, a mere four years later, after 29 years of marriage, it was over. Those were some tough times for us all. But, like all things, we move on and life goes on.
Luckily for you, Dad, you re-met Susan, Susie to you. You finally worked up the courage to ask her out on a date, then another and well, the rest is history! A second chance at love! I can still remember poor Susan coming to Lisa’s for Christmas. She was so nervous about meeting Larry’s girls! And to her we were all so tall and loud and over-whelming. Luckily for her, I had made my now-famous fruit cake and she was able to keep herself busy munching on it. On this night, Lisa announced she was pregnant for Jennifer. The first grand-child! Then the twins, 15 months later!
Three years later came Austin, a fourth grand-child and one that stole your heart. He wasn’t around for that long but he had a huge impact on us all. I think one of the hardest things you ever had to live through was losing him. But, ever the optimist and by nature a happy person, every time you found a penny, you always put it in your pocket stating it was a penny from heaven, from Austin. You big softie. Well, we always knew you were a mushy wuss. Hell, you even loved chick-flicks!
And then came more grand-children! Well! Could you be any happier than to be Grandpa to eleven kids? You just preened like a peacock to be able to say you had so many!
We know you were super happy to have us all over for Christmas but didn’t cry when it was time for us to leave! We could be a noisy bunch, eh? Still. You just glowed organising the whole thing. Or, was that just sweat?
You always claimed you were the happiest man around. You had led a good life; made some mistakes, yes, but who hasn’t; had some great successes and overall were satisfied. You were surrounded by friends and family. Susan’s family loved you as one of their own. Mom’s family loved you even though you were no longer with Mom. You made everyone feel special.
You silly man; you used to say that you would be happy to live to 69. That 70 was a ripe age. Why in the hell did you limit yourself that way? Who could guess that you would just make it? When you got sick you jokingly said that had you known, you wouldn’t have chosen such a young age.
All through your illness you never complained. You smiled at ALL the nurses and technicians and doctors. You shrugged when you had to stay in the hospital for whatever reason. You always answered the telephone with the most upbeat “hello”… Never a whine…
You just wanted to make it to Susan’s 70th birthday to surprise her with a get-together of her family (which included us, of course!) She was indeed surprised. That was on Tuesday, May 7th. You were so bloated from the medication and had trouble moving yet you smiled through the whole thing. By Friday you were hospitalised, never to return home. You would have preferred to go to your beloved St. Mary’s but it was just too far and the ambulance technicians didn’t feel it was a good choice.
Even though you knew you would never be getting out, you still remained upbeat. A couple close calls had us all in a tizzy but you still hung on. You made sure we knew exactly what you wanted as a send-off. Where you wanted the celebration of your life, that you wanted to be cremated, that your ashes be spread up in St-Jovite on Jean’s mountain. Every last detail – right down to the music! I must admit it is a strange thing to have to discuss but we knew we didn’t have that much time.
Well Dad, on the morning of May 23rd, 2013, you decided would be your last day. You wanted them to “pull the plug” so to speak. The staff at the St-Jean hospital were fantastic and extremely solicitous. You were so very well taken care of and as per your wish, you left your body, on your terms, surrounded by your daughters, your spouse and your step-son. Earlier in the day, I had told you how proud I was to be your daughter and you responded that YOU were proud to have been my dad. We all feel the same way, without a doubt.
And we celebrated you as you wished. No matter how much we teased you about your bagpipes, you got them. Chris did the most wonderful job on the video of your life – he worked tirelessly on it and I swear every single person who dropped by watched the whole thing; many more than once! It was all perfect.
I miss you terribly and still go to pick up the phone to tell you something, realising half-way towards it that you aren’t here in body any more.
One of your selections, which just happens to be one I love and makes me think of you…
I hope you are sailing on some wonderful adventure.