“Hey, Dad…thank-you”

Back in December of 2012 I wrote this post about my dad, Bob Gilson. Almost 10 years later as I ponder Father’s Day 2022 tomorrow I find myself reflecting on Dad passing away on June 28, 2014 just a few days after the last time I was able to visit him. We saw him two days in a row, the first day he was pretty out of it, Randy (my brother) had said it wasn’t looking good so Chauna and I hurried up to Edmonton for a quick visit before wrapping up what was my first of five years working for Westwind School Division in Southern Alberta. As we sat with Dad he was tired, sleeping most of the day, and not responding more than a few nods and “uh huh” type comments.

The next day we were pleasantly shocked to enter the common area to see he was up, dressed, bantering with the nurses, as he turned to say hi to both Chauna and I. It wouldn’t last. Grey’s Anatomy had an episode once where they referred to the “bump” some patients experience as the days are winding down, an exhilarating brief return to a level of alertness that certainly gives hope…for that visit it was great. We watched as he greeted other patients, called us by name and generally was pretty with it, though he asked how I was doing teaching Jr High, something I hadn’t done since June of 1989, but that’s how Alzheimers works, no use correcting just roll with it and enjoy the conversation.

My dad, Robert (Bob) Matthew Joseph Gilson gave big chunk of his life to helping others. I covered a great deal of it back in 2012. As I write this I’m reminded that among all the coaching he did, high school volleyball as a community coach at Sir Winston Churchill in Calgary in the 70’s and Bitty-ball (8 ft rims for little guys/gals to learn the game) for years in Edmonton, he would be particularly upset today reflecting on his two years in Ukraine. Mom and Dad served a mission in Ukraine and while there he was instrumental in facilitating the delivery of child’s size wheelchairs and instituting a full Bitty-Ball Basketball league for the youth he served in the Ukraine while on his mission there for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I can’t help but think that Dad would be concerned for the young people he coached, for the all the people that he served as Ukraine fights for its survival today fending off someone who mistakenly thinks he’s a modern day Peter the Great, in an era where conquering others is not really all that great.

In a little more than a week Chauna and I will head to Vancouver Island to celebrate the graduation of our oldest grandchild from high school. Masen was dad’s first grandchild, he would have loved to be there.

Last night, June 17, 2021, I was honoured to receive the ASAA’s highest honour, the Robert H. Routledge Award. My life path has been greatly impacted by Dad. He helped support my involvement in sports as an athlete, he modelled the commitment required of a coach. He flooded the backyard to make a hockey rink, somehow managed to sneak a homemade basketball standard into the backyard another year on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure he was always quite as sportsmanship minded as I would have liked, one historic outburst toward a volleyball official coming to mind. He attended the games I coached, particularly when my Grande Prairie teams would come down to Edmonton for Provincial Playoffs. I think even my players from the 1995 team would remember dad on the sidelines as we went into quadruple overtime and he would haul exhausted linemen up from the snowdrift and help them get back into the game. Dad would have loved to be there in person last night. Mom made it, Alzheimers now manifesting it’s challenges for her, my brother and youngest son and daughter-in-law representing the family on this occasion. It was a great night.

At the 2022 ASAA Awards Banquet

My dad was not perfect. Neither am I. Perhaps there are perfect dads out there but I doubt it. However it is always a good thing to pursue perfection knowing in the pursuit there will be days of excellence along the way. My dad loved that idea espoused by Coach Lombardi, he expected it of his players and he encouraged all of us boys to work to be our best selves. Any “I wish…” statement I made drew a quick reply from dad, “wish in one hand, spit in the other see which one fills up faster”…the point being if you want it, get to work. Plain and simple truth.

Thank-you Dad, I will see you again, but I’ve got lots of work to do first. Take care.

Remember when …

You know sometimes it’s pretty easy to forget just how blessed life is. This past summer most of our children and all our grandchildren gathered for a bit of fun at Lake Windemere/Fairmont. It was awesome.

IMG_3757.jpgThe most recent addition at the time, Laken, got her introduction to the nuances of mini-golf with her playing partner, grandpa.  She was an excellent partner as we registered the low score for the day. The extended family Par 3 tournament was another success, not too much concern about scores, just a great time had by one and all.  No holes in one this year, though there was one pretty good shot at it on the last hole, complete with a gallery to witness as the ball rolled up right online about 4 inches short…too bad.




The Jet Ski – Pontoon Boat day was one of the most fun things we’ve ever done, so much so we did it twice.  As sons and daughters took grandchildren out for spins on the Jet Ski the rest of the crew relaxed on the pontoon boat and enjoyed the view, the laughs and the fun.


A nice 60 km bike ride from Cranbrook BC to Kimberly BC (check out the trail) to Lake Wasa with a couple of my brothers and some of our children and their spouses, and several rounds of golf rounded out the week.

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the business of life while forgetting to live life.  I’ve been guilty of this on more than one occasion that’s for sure.   I’m not suggesting events like a week at the lake are the only way to live life, nope there’s been super days before, since and will be many great days in the future.  That said,  these days were, and remain, days that reset and restore an element of balance necessary to have enough in the tank to get through tough days that are simply part of the deal that is life.  At least they do for me.

It’s not just grandchildren or children that say, “remember when…” there’s a reason for that.



Invaluable support

We all need it, even if we fail to acknowledge the hand at the time or turn away from it later in life, we need the timely support of others in our life.

At a critical point in the final chapters of the Lord of the Rings Frodo’s burden of the ring has reached a near fatal weight. Sam is aware of his place in this epic journey, he is a support, the responsibility of the ring is not his, the weight of that burden clearly hangs around the neck of his friend. The other day over the Christmas break as my son watched the film again I was struck by Sam’s comment to Frodo, in that most desperate of moments as Frodo teetered on the cliff of despair about to give up the journey, Sam acknowledges he can’t carry the ring, but “I can carry you” and scoops up Frodo to continue the journey. LOTR_King208SeanAstin

We are, at different times in our lives both a Frodo, in need of support and help on our journey and potentially someone’s Sam, a person in a position to offer support of a kind perhaps unaware of the critical impact it may have on the direction of the life we are supporting. It would be nice if in each instance there were clear signs of the need, the request for help, and even clearer signs of gratitude for the help received. I’ve found it is easier for those who provide assistance to revisit those waters if they have been thanked for their help in the past – not necessary for some but generally helpful for most. Similarly it would be easier if people would just ask for help when they need it, but that is not easy to do in a society bent on rewarding independence. Remember Frodo never asked Sam really for anything…,in fact on more than one occasion he turned on the very source of support and loyalty when he needed him most

Help, not replace

I particularly like to ponder the awareness of Sam in this instance and consider how it might apply in the life of family, friends, students, and colleagues. It bares repeating, Sam, blessed with greater physical strength at the moment, did not remove the ring and burden from Frodo. Rather, he provided the support he could, he did what Frodo, at that point, could not do and placed his friend in a position to succeed in his mission.

Let me do it for you…is not the same

Showing someone how, helping someone where they are and in the manner they need is not the same as taking over or doing for. One builds capacity, the other replaces, substitutes, and likely contributes to a failure to grow as a result of the absence of the test. I hope to learn better how to see the need and provide the appropriate assistance in a timely fashion. I hope too that I am better able to accept the support of others when offered, perhaps that is the true double sided edge of the Hobbit sword and this experience of Sam and Frodo.