In honour of Fred Gailus, my father, who died suddenly Friday, July 12th

My Dad’s shop broom may have been the greatest teaching tool ever invented.  It had a long wooden handle that screwed into a wooden brush and it probably cost about $3.99 at Canadian Tire when my dad bought it a couple of years after dust was invented.

That thing had splintered and cracked in a dozen places over the years and Dad patched it up and put it back together countless times.  A well-placed screw here, a dollop of Elmer’s Glue-All there, aluminum strapping, a couple of nails, duct tape, bailing twine… you name it, Dad employed it to keep his beloved broom together.  As a smart-assed teenager I remember teasing him about it.  Although he was not rich by any means, he certainly could have afforded to pay for a new one.  I could not understand why he didn’t just go and spend the 10 bucks to replace it.

Now that my Dad is gone, I find myself reflecting on all the things I learned from him, intentionally and unintentionally.  And I come back to the broom.

The broom, as often as it broke, was a challenge. Dad could have bought a new one, but that would deprive him of the challenge of finding a way to fix it.  There was, for him (and now for me) no greater satisfaction than taking something broken and useless and making it useful and whole again.  Oh the satisfaction he must have enjoyed, modifying a discarded piece of aluminum eavestrough, hammering it into shape, and affixing it to the broom to hold the two splintered parts back together! I had to admit it was an ingenious solution to a problem most others would have solved with a visit to the hardware store.

Over the years, I watched my father at least attempt to fix everything… and most often he did.  It was a skill handed down to him by his father, my Opa, Max. We joked about it many times:  “Max would have appreciated this.” or “That’s a job that would make Max proud” or “WWMD” (What Would Max Do?)  The washer, the dryer, the electric lawn mower, the cars, the van, the humidifier, the bikes. With 4 children in the house, there was always something to fix and Dad’s toolbox was never far away.

This is especially impressive when you realize my Dad had no formal training in any of the trades.  At all.  He was a salesman.  His whole life he sold things.  In fact one of his favourite quotes used to be “Nothing happens until somebody sells something to somebody”.  It used to drive my way-left-leaning brother nuts as Dad defended capitalism and free-market economics.  How ironic he would never allow anyone to sell him a new broom.

What I learned from my father through all of this is that every problem has a solution if you just think on it awhile.  Patience provides the answer to a lot of problems. There are many lessons I learned from my Dad over my lifetime and his.  How to fish, for instance.  He taught me the value in doing so isn’t actually in the catching of the fish, but in the enjoyment and relaxation of trying to catch the fish. Again, patience. He taught me how to turn a wrench and keep the car running when a trip to the mechanic was too expensive, or inconvenient. After all, why pay a guy to do it when you can do it yourself?

The DIY ethos was surely in his blood because in his final years, he worked at Home Depot. Windows and Doors. His poor health related to Type 2 diabetes made it difficult to stand for long periods, but I have no doubt he would occasionally wander over to the broom aisle, marvel at all those shiny new composite-handled sweepers with polyurethane bristles, built-in dustpans and sneeze guards (no, not really) and harrumph that they’re all a waste of money. God bless him.

I’ve spent the past 5 days agonizing over losing him, as anyone does when a parent dies.  But in recounting all of the experiences we shared, and all of the lessons I learned from him, I’m comforted knowing he lives on in me.  And he died knowing how much we all loved an adored him.

And I know he was damn proud of my patched-up wooden broom too.

Dad with remote Shaw Gateway?? This must be heaven!

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16 comments

  1. Wonderful words Chris.
    Keep your chin up, and we’ll keep your desk warm for ya.
    Take care.

    soren

    1. Thank you Soren!

  2. damama55 · · Reply

    Deepest condolences, Chris, on the loss of your Dad. I hope the continued great memories you have of him, and the lessons you learned from him, will be a great comfort and joy to you and all of his family. All the best in the years ahead.

  3. Cam and Delores Davidson · · Reply

    Chris, we are so sorry to hear that you have lost your dear Dad. Please accept our condolences and deepest sympathy. You have lost an anchor and it is a most difficult time. What a wonderful tribute you have written and shared with us all! Please know that you and your Family are in our thoughts and prayers. Take care. Cam & Delores

    1. Hello Davidsons, and thank you so much for the note! I’ve been truly overwhelmed by the response to my blog about Dad, and it’s helping me get through this very difficult time. Reconnecting with old friends makes it better. I miss you both and am thankful Darren shared this with you. Hope to see you both soon. Love, C

  4. Hey Chris,
    Thanks for this! I’m so sorry about your Dad he was a good to us during University and allowed us to flop under his roof when we needed a square meal and a healthy dose of friendly normal-ness(my word). He employed those DIY skills when we moved into that house in Calgary and got all the shades hung and puttered to get us all settled.

    You are all my thoughts and I wish you well.

    This makes me think about my own father and the little things he does that I should take note of and cherish.

    Thanks again,
    Kae

    1. Hi Kae! Such good memories… thanks for sharing them! Yes, he was a big help when we settled into that place in Rosemont… so many good memories of that time! Hope you are well. Sue was out for a visit with Erika to get her settled in a new home the day after Dad passed. I hear you’re connected to her in a coincidental way!
      Thank you so much for thinking o my Dad, and I hope we can catch up soon.
      Lots of love,
      Chris

  5. Hey Chris,
    Thinking about all of the Gailus clan since I heard the news. I am so so sorry to hear about your dad. He was such a great man who was always kind and generous especially to all the teenage riff raff that would gather at your place on a regular basis. And as we got older I remember gathering at your parents place here and there during holidays and it was always such a welcoming and loving place to be. Please send my love on to your mom, Jeff, Erica and Alison – thinking of you deeply during this difficult time.
    Big Hugs
    Julie Hrdlicka

    1. Hey Julie! Thank you so much for the note! I know he felt like you were all his little darlings and he was so happy to have a house so full of love and life. I will pass this on to my Mom and siblings for sure. Lots of love to you!
      Cheers,
      Chris

  6. So sorry for you loss and condolences to you and your family. You wrote a beautiful tribute – you and your son have big shoes to fill after your Dad and Opa Max but those life lessons will carry you both, and for generations to come. Amazing how a simple broom can become a symbol and family icon.

  7. Eileen Boston · · Reply

    Wonderful words Chris. Doug and I often think of the good times we had when your family was next door. Your father was a great man and always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. He will be dearly missed by all whose lives he touched and will be remembered fondly. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Eileen & Doug Boston

    1. Thank you so much Eileen & Doug! It’s so good to hear from you and all the other folks who’ve known my father along the way. They all seem to remember him as I do… as a warm, caring, compassionate man who loved his family and was good to his friends and neighbors. There are few like him, and he is greatly missed.

      Thanks for reaching out. Please say hello to Angie and Chris.

      Cheers,
      Chris

  8. Laura Drewry · · Reply

    I met your folks a few times when we owned the bookstore in Squamish. Lovely people. I was very sorry to hear about his passing. All the best to you and your family.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words Laura. I will pass along to my Mom. All the best,
      Chris

  9. Antonella · · Reply

    Beautiful…)

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