January 14, 1990 was a noteworthy day for several reasons. An odd little cartoon show made its debut and no one at the time expected that 22 years later “The Simpsons” would still be on the air. I went with my friends Derek, Keith and Stuart to watch the Lethbridge Hurricanes play a hockey game that was broadcast nationally on TSN. As they cut to a commercial break you can see me in my standard seat – Section J, Row 4, Seat 4…the best spot in the Lethbridge Sportsplex to watch the WHL goalies ply their trade. If I were to dig through the dusty boxes here in my basement (and I could actually find a working VCR) I still have a VHS tape of that game.
Something else happened later that night that forever etched the date into my memory. That was the night we got the call saying my dad had finally lost his battle with cancer and died.
22 years ago. I was only 17 at the time. When you factor in my early years where I have no memories it’s not hard to imagine he’s been gone almost twice as long as he was around for me. So many of the memories are still vivid – fishing at Lake McQuillan for hours on end. Buying my first car together. Him coaching my tee-ball team. Christmas parties down at the fire hall. Him driving in the Coaldale parade and letting me operate the siren in the fire truck. The day a storm came up when we were in his fishing boat on Payne Lake and we barely made shore. Him hanging over the fence with the neighbours talking for hours on end. Saturday lunches at Burger King. Him teaching me how to drive a manual transmission. Camping weekends in the Crowsnest Pass. Our vacation to Kalispell, Montana where he crushed the campground owner’s sprinkler with his van.
We don’t have a ton of pictures from back then. The digital age was still a decade or more away so film processing was expensive. The pictures we do have were undoubtedly captured with the little Kodak Instamatic X15 camera which was witness to all our family vacations and holidays.
We live in an age where people use applications like Instagram to give their modern day photos the faded and aged look. Many of the photos of my dad don’t need those filters, that’s how they came from the camera. This one, from Christmas dinner in 1978 is a classic Overes family moment. My dad, his face caught with an odd expression giving my grandmother a bit of a sideways glance. A stubby bottle of Labatts Blue sits off to his left. My aunt Roberta dutifully looking at the camera, her fork poised over her plate waiting to take the first bite, not knowing most of her was going to get cut out of the frame anyway. My uncles Kevin and Lyle sort of looking down at the table not wanting to look at the camera and my grandmother, her eyes closed, just waiting for the awkward “Smile everyone!” moment to pass.
A plate of food sits at an empty chair, undoubtedly the spot my mother vacated just minutes before as she got up to find the camera and take the photo. Already, in her absence, our cat Jingles has jumped into the chair and has one paw on the table – ready to make a move on that sneaky turkey.
A fleeting moment captured. Sort of like life itself. One day you’re a seventeen year old high school senior who’s biggest concern in life is who you’re going to take to the prom and the the next thing you know it’s 22 years later and you wonder where the time went.
Eleven years after that Christmas dinner photo was taken my dad would be gone – it’s been double that since he died. I try and do the math to try and put some context around the time that has passed. It doesn’t help. It’s like when I try and comprehend that my dad would have been celebrating his 80th birthday this April. 80? How is that possible? I guess to me he’ll always be 57…