My father is a good Dad. Every winter he created the world’s best backyard hockey rink. Well, it was the best rink in my nine-year-old world and that’s all that really mattered. It filled our large yard. It had boards and nets and benches and even lights for night games.
One frigid night my Dad was out on the rink waving the hose with that long, slow sweep that I liked to watch from my bedroom window, when suddenly, he experienced an epiphany. He went to the basement and dug out the lawn sprinkler. He carefully placed it and delicately adjusted the direction and volume of the spray. With a smile he went in to bed and slept with the satisfaction that by morning the rink would thicker and smoother than ever before.
I awoke the next morning to an odd banging. I stood in my pajamas with my Mom and brothers gazing out our kitchen window with wide-eyed amazement. It was like nothing we’d ever seen. You know, it’s the little things that always get you in the end. It’s the tiny overlooked detail. It’s the ordinary and usual that you have just stopped noticing. It’s like the clothesline that had been there forever and stretched the length of the yard and diagonally across the rink. It was the clothesline that with each cascading spray, all night long, relentlessly, had dripped and dripped and as each drip froze along it’s twenty-foot length, dripped and froze some more.
My Dad had woken up and turned the water off downstairs, walked up the basement steps, and stopped dead. Reflecting the dawn’s brilliant sun was a wall of ice, eight inches thick, seven feet tall, and twenty feet long. It was beautiful. It was horrible.
My brothers and I begged to go outside but my Mom was wise and held us close. We watched as my Dad wielded a shovel. At first tentatively, and then more aggressively, he attacked the wall’s base. He banged and chipped and chopped until with a mighty swing intended to crumble the thing he smacked its centre.
It started slowly at first; almost majestically. The entire wall swung back and forth and so he hit it again. It then became magical. It slowly swang up and then over and then up and over again. It swung clockwise over the top and around three times and each time quicker than the last. Long ice shards began rocketing off in every direction. Not knowing whether it was funny or terrifying we watched my Dad throw the shovel, cover his head, and run with ice missiles soaring over and around him.
It took a long while to cut up and remove the wall and even longer to get the rink back into shape. But that very night, to his ever-lasting credit, my Dad was back out there braving the cold and waving the hose with that long, slow sweep. We agreed that despite everything, the sprinkler had been a good idea. Even better, though, was the idea that when he could have been warm inside, he instead devoted hours alone in the frigid dark, night after night, trading his time and toil for his kid’s fun. That’s the difference between a father and a Dad.
The author, a Gordie Howe fan, on his rink.
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