How ironic is it, that today happens to be Father’s Day AND the day I write about the people who have most inspired me throughout my life? First, let’s cover off the details of Father’s Day, shall we? Father’s Day was created by Sonora Smart Dodd after sitting in church listening to a sermon about Mother’s Day. She decided she wanted to create a holiday allowing her to honour her father’s memory as he had passed. The first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 9, 1910. It took a long time for the holiday to gain popularity, and it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon signed Father’s Day into law as a permanent, yearly holiday.
With all that being said, can you take a quick stab at who I’ll be writing about today? I would be remiss if I passed up the opportunity to write about one of the most influential men in my life: my father. His name is Peter Cook and he was born on May 4, 1952 in Saint John, New Brunswick. My father’s life did not have an easy beginning as he was given up at birth. It wasn’t until almost two years later that my Grandmother Anna and my Aunt Iris went to the orphanage and found him. My aunt took one look at him and said, “He’s smiling at me like Peter Rabbit…” And so my grandmother decided to name him Peter.
My father grew up on the island of Grand Manan, which is island in the Bay of Fundy on the south-western corner of New Brunswick. It’s a very small island, but my grandfather was a fisherman and my grandmother was a nurse at the local hospital. My father spent many a day walking along the beaches, exploring the sea and joining my grandfather on fishing excursions.
My father developed a strong love of nature, which he ultimately passed on to me. He moved to the main land and graduated high school in Sussex. From there, the following years are a mystery as he took to travelling around the province with a backpack. He’s never told me the tales of what took place during those wandering years, but he made his way to the North Shore and found himself in Dalhousie, where he got a job with the Province’s power authority: NB Power.
He met my mother through some mutual friends and within a year they were married and had me. My mother already had a son from a previous relationship, my brother Stephane. He immediately adopted my brother once they were married and my brother became his son. As I’ve written in previous posts, my brother was afflicted with several serious medical conditions that required constant care and medical attention.
My father didn’t hesitate for a second, and spent most of his time working overtime to afford sending my mother and brother to Montreal, where my brother received treatment by several specialists. The important thing is that my father always made time for me when he got home from work, no matter how busy or tired he may have been. But he sacrificed just about every part of himself for his children.
In the early 2000’s, my father began developing severe pain in his back. Although many people experience back pain, his would turn out to be far more extensive. Within the years that followed, my father would develop Degenerative Spine Disease, which would result in the loss of the use of his legs and confine him to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.
My father is currently living in a care home in Northern New Brunswick. He lives out his life in a wheelchair, but makes the best of it. Like most Cook men, he has a fiery temper and does not suffer fools lightly. He gave up all of himself in order to provide for his family, and never spoke a word of regret. Despite the lot life has thrown him into, he’s never voiced that he would have done anything differently or any regrets he may have. Oh, sure… he bitches about his food and living conditions CONSTANTLY, but who wouldn’t?
My father is a gentle giant… A massive man who speaks softly but isn’t afraid to let his voice boom when the situation warrants it. A strong love for nature and for family, coupled with his ability to keep pushing no matter what life has thrown at him has made him one of the most inspirational men I know. And that’s important isn’t it? Everybody has heroes and it’s nice to look up to them. But I was lucky enough to be raised by mine. ☯