Nine Lessons I Learned from My Father by Murray Howe

I will not rate this book. It is not a book a chose to read for myself and one that I didn’t get to finish as it should have.

Unrated.
Paperback, 240 pages.
Read from August 2019 to December 2019.

I will not rate this book. It is not a book a chose to read for myself and one that I didn’t get to finish as it should have. This book means far too much to me now to rate it. I bought this book almost a year to the day for my dad on Father’s Day 2019. It was a day that I couldn’t physically be present for since I live halfway across the globe from my family currently. It had also just been, at the time, just over a month since my dad was given 6 months to live.

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My dad with the book I sent him on Father’s Day 2019 eating his favourite cereal and wearing his old-timer team’s shirt. We would often get this cereal for him on father’s day as a treat because he would always share with us and it wasn’t something we were regularly allowed to eat.

My dad was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer in August 2018. His cancer had spread to his bones despite him doing all the right things like getting regular doctor’s check-ups. Even with the late-stage diagnosis, we all thought my dad would breeze through treatment and we would have a good and solid two or three years with him, especially considering how young and healthy he was, it’s what all the doctor’s told us too. Unfortunately, after a variety of failed treatments that nearly killed him, twice, he opted to enjoy the remaining time that he had left. Sadly, that time was short, a mere 6 months.

Anyone that has lived with someone who has cancer or has had cancer knows the difficulties. It’s something that can’t be explained if you’ve never experienced it. The utter exhaustion, the despair of not being able to do more or relieve the loved one’s pain or take their cancer away, the frustration of unfairness, the denial of how bad things will be or are going to get to shelter yourself and the cancer sufferer, and for myself, the guilt of living so far away. I lost count how many times I flew home to support my family between August 2018 and November 2019. Some of those times were terrifying, having almost lost my dad then, while others were wonderful, albeit still difficult as my dad declined. I planned my wedding in two weeks so that my dad could be a part of it in the spring of 2019 and spent a month and a half over that same summer with my family.

It was during that summer I spent with my family that I started to read this book aloud to my dad. He rested while I read and sometimes my sister would come and sit and listen too. I had never read aloud to anyone, I can’t even remember what gave me the idea to do it. As I read this great story of Murray Howe recapping his childhood and talking about what a legendary man his father was, I couldn’t help but make associations with the qualities of Gordie and my dad.

My dad loved hockey and most team sports. He played football growing up, was even a quarterback despite his small stature. For most of his adult life he played baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter, he was also a runner. We ran our first marathon together. My dad was a leader who had a sense of justice and fairness that couldn’t be taught. He was passionate and caring about people so it was no surprise that he was a leader in nearly everything that he did. He was a manager of a credit union for nearly 40 years, he was the president of my swim team when I was a kid, he coached my sister and I baseball and soccer, and he would eventually come to run the old-timers hockey team that he played on for more than 20 years. Past his professionalism, he also had an endearing and absolutely goofy sense of humour that followed with a kindness that is hard to come by. My dad would help anyone.

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My dad and I at the Kelowna Marathon, October 2012.

Gordie Howe wasn’t only a good hockey player, he was a man of honour and he lived his life by his own code. Each chapter in this book is an example of a lesson that Gordie taught his son as he exemplified it in his own life. As I read the remarkable story of Gordie Howe’s life to my dad and the impact Gordie had on so many people, I couldn’t help but think of the lives that my dad also touched throughout his life and how my own dad lived honourably. Some passages were beautiful and really struck me, to the point where I had to swallow tears to continue reading. Sadly, I only made it to page 98 before my dad passed away, a page that will forever be bookmarked.

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My dad at The Heritage Classic in 2011.

My dad passed away at the age of 58 in November 2019. All the people he loved most in the world were present in the room when he passed. It was peaceful. It was beautiful. We were lucky. Murray Howe wrote an amazing tribute to his father. Murray may not have been the hockey player his dad or brothers were but he is a fabulous storyteller. This book came to be while Murray was writing his father’s eulogy and it was a source of inspiration for me when I also wrote my own father’s.

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My dad; happy, handsome, and healthy. As he should be remembered.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to but in December 2019, I decided to finish this book. Not only did it help remind me of happier times with my dad but it also helped to remind me of the lessons that my own dad taught me and process some of my own grief. It’s only been seven months and this is my first Father’s Day without him. I saved this review just for Father’s Day in hopes it would help bring me back to better times when he was still here and to make the day a bit more bearable for me.  

My dad was too young to pass. I am too young to be without my father. However, I am still thankful as many are not as blessed to have what I did or that I was able to be loved and love so deeply. No one deserves to die from cancer or to be taken before their time. I feel robbed in so many ways. For myself, for the children I may yet have, for my mom, my sister, and especially for my dad. Grief is ridiculously complicated, and in this instance, also prolonged. Grieving started from the moment of my dad’s diagnosis. Reading has often provided me answers and so it was one of the things that I turned to. While I received no answers this time, it was books like this one that has helped to ease the sorrow.

You don’t have to love hockey to appreciate and enjoy this book. Despite the circumstances that made start reading this book I’m glad that I did. The story is light, full of love, and really about the man that Gordie Howe was both on and off the ice. Even for those of us who know little of hockey, this book is still an enthralling read as it’s a story that is showcased in such a concise and loving manner while also breaching the topics of life, love, death, dying, old age, and grief. Gordie Howe was one hell of a character and it was a pleasure to read his story. Especially with someone who mattered so much to me.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

“As we count up the memories from one journey, we head off on another. Remembering those who went ahead. Remembering those who will follow after. And someday, we will meet all those people again, out beyond the horizon.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 238 pages.
Read on August 17, 2018.

I tried twice to get this book from Netgalley, that is how badly I wanted to read it.  I mean, come on, most of the book is narrated by a cat! How could I not!? Thankfully I was able to a copy and absolutely devoured it one sitting. This book has been published since November 2017 but will be published in paperback on October 23, 2018.

I have noticed that I have an affinity for translated Japanese and Korean books. There is something about the style that really speaks to me. Haruki Murakami (who also likes to write about cats) and Han Kang are two of my going favourite authors at the moment and I may have to add Arikawa to the list as well. This book is translated by Philip Gabriel, the same man responsible for translating most of Murakami’s works, and I get the impression he is the best at what he does.

I am not a crier. I don’t think I have ever cried reading a book but damn, this one brought me really close. sad-cat-gif-21.gifI was on the brink of a sad but uplifting-ugly-cry with this story that will bring just about anyone to the same soppy-state.

Nana, as you come to know him, was a stray cat for most of his life and proudly so. He regularly sat on top of a silver van in suburban Japan and one day a young man greeted him. His name is Satoru. Satoru begins to leave out food for Nana, which he cautiously eats. Humans are fickle and are not to be depended on. However, one day Nana gets hit by a car and is left with injuries, that, if left untreated will kill him. He slinks over to where the van is located and screams as loud as he can for Satoru, the only human he has a remote connection with. Satoru takes care of Nana and gives him his peculiar name. Nana is similar to a cat that Satoru grew up with and was tragically separated from after the tragic accident that killed his parents. After caring for Nana for a few months, Satoru however, abruptly decides to try and rehome Nana with no explanation to the reader, despite his clear reluctance to the idea and his extreme attachment to Nana. Satoru takes Nana on a road trip to visit his old school friends in order to find a comfortable and suitable home for Nana.  None of the homes seems to fit the bill but with each visit, you learn more about Satoru’s elusive past and the tragic reason why he feels the need to find a new home for his beloved cat. Nana tries to pretend that he is fine with being rehomed but as the trip progresses he realizes that he does not want to belong to anyone else but Satoru.

Love, family, friends, and loyalty are some of the main themes in this novel all which are sure to hit you right in the feels, even if you are not a cat-lover, though ESPECIALLY if you are a cat lover. The narrative style is light and easy and the author does a great job of slowly piecing together the life of Satoru for the reader and in creating intrigue with Satoru and his mysterious troubles. By the end of the story, I will say that the majority of readers will be in some form of crying; whether withheld tears, free-flow or the all-out ugly-cry.

This story is accessible to every reader and is an easy book to recommend to nearly any family member or friend. This is actually one of those few books I will go out of my way to add to my physical library so that I can re-read and lend out again and again.