When I was a kid, I used to stare at the population signs posted at the entrance of each town and city. A very literal child, I would ask my mother how they knew when to change it, and did someone come out each time a child was born or someone died. She remarked that while she guessed they were changed annually, if I thought about it, the two numbers would probably balance out most of the time, and the tally was close enough.
Burlington has to change its signs this morning. We lost John last night, and I highly doubt that any number of waves pouring onto the sand will be able to erase his imprint on this city. For those close to home, more information will be forthcoming. For anyone else, I'm just going to reprint here the Motherlode I wrote a month back for this great man. I'm glad my boys had him as long as they did; I'm only sorry the ride was so short.
Football Games And Life Lessons: Thank You, John Boich
Monday, February 7, 2011
If you ask my sons to tell you about their grandfather, they will reach for photo albums or retell stories they have heard so often the words are smooth with wear. His mannerisms, his favourite foods, his epic temper, his stunning gentleness in surprising moments. When I tell Ari, 16, he has Dad’s strong frame, or Christopher, 19, that he debates in the same infuriating way, I see the quiet pride. My boys are becoming men my father will never see, but that reminds me the long shadow cast by his death also contains a brilliant light.
In high school I was taught English by a remarkable woman who later married a remarkable man. While Arlene continues to remind me she isn’t nearly old enough to be my mother, her husband, John Boich, is only a handful of years younger than my father would have been. This has never been lost on me, and he has assumed the role of grandfather to both Christopher and Ari.
But it’s been more than that. A former professional football player, he has brought to them an older male role model they never had. Athletic, accomplished, political and kind, he has shown them what it takes to be a gentleman while never suffering fools. He has demonstrated all the traits I love in a man, and done it with a polish my Dad would have admired. My father would have liked John. I wish they could have met.
For half a dozen years now, my boys have watched every Grey Cup and Super Bowl in the company of men. They brag to their friends who covet an invite to eat too much of John’s famous chilli while placing bets on the game and roaring at the television. They smile in awe at the insight they get from a real football player. I watch them try to reconcile this gentle man who moves through a room equally at ease with royalty as riff raff, with the former jock who never really left the game.
I find out days after the fact that Christopher has stopped by for a free meal, but stayed to discuss his interest in education and politics. This with a man who has mastered both, and dispenses his knowledge with a generosity that defies description. As my younger son pursues a field more foreign to John – the trades – he is no less supportive of the importance of an ability he considers as valuable as any of his own.
John has filled a space I hadn’t considered was missing; losing my Dad when we did was too soon for lasting tactile memories. It rarely occurs to me my sons could miss something they had never known, until I see them engage in a relationship with a man of this age, a man of this substance.
Arlene assures me this blast of boyness is as important to him. I’m not sure how it could be, but I treasure this idea anyway. That my sons could bring joy to a man who is helping them become men is a heart-clutching thought for any mother. There is such goodness here. There is such love.
John has surrogate grandchildren already, but when my boys showed up, he moved down the bench to make room for them. Just like that. They were added to his life so seamlessly, so graciously, it’s hard to believe they haven’t always been there.
I thank you, John. And I’m sure my Dad does too.
Labels: thank you john boich