Archive for the ‘Family’ Category


Pops Sporting His Six Pak

As I pondered questions posed by fellow bloggers, I decided that if I had a time machine there were a few sporting events I’d love to go back in time to see. I would journey to the 1930’s when my father was in his early twenties.  There was no television back then and my dad and his friends spent their play time doing gymnastics.  He was in wonderful physical shape, sporting a six pack where I lug what looks more like a keg.  His favorite routines utilized the parallel bars, pommel horse and rings.  The rings were his favorite. An uncle told me that dad was the guy who could make a perfect 90 degree angle, pointing his legs straight out in front of him and then hold the position forever.

I didn’t get into gymnastics like pops did, although he was relentless in his efforts to get me to straighten up as I stood on his hands. He wanted to lift me up and then stand up himself. I think I was afraid of what might come next if he got me up there. He could walk all over the house on his hands…he did hand stands as easily as head stands. Trying to get me to do it, he’d hold me by my ankles and coax me to take a few steps but I failed dismally every time.  And that was long before I grew a  keg. I wonder if I love watching the Cirque du Soliel perform because it brings me closer to my dad.

Pops was also a long distance runner. He told me about winning a 20 mile race which earned him a bicycle. Surprisingly, he was a winner even though he smoked from the age of nine until he was in his 50’s. And what a terrific swimmer he was! He tried over and over to teach me but I didn’t learn until I was about 10 years old, at camp and on my own. I knew how, I suppose, but was afraid to try. He came out to visit after I had been there a week but because I hadn’t swum my four lengths of the pool, neither one of us could go into the deep end. Pops was pissed. After he went home, I asked the counselor to let me try my swimming test. I did it without drowning. But there were no more visiting days before my two weeks was up. My fellow campers would never be privy to the most perfect swan dive I’ve ever seen.

Pops Sporting his Bathing Suit

Pops Sporting His Bathing Suit

Over the years Pops and I played street-league softball and he took up bowling after I had already been on the lanes for several years. I enjoyed the sport and was good at it. He was obsessed. He bowled 10 pin three or four nights a week and after that practiced on the 5 pin alleys, just to improve his accuracy. When he began beating me, I quit for a time. It wasn’t fun any more. Especially when he’d flaunt his score sheets. He was extremely  competitive and so was I. Pops also loved to curl and was usually the skip. I subbed for his lead man one afternoon but burnt a rock I was sweeping down the ice (nudged it with my foot). A screaming match ensued and I stormed off the ice.  That is one game I want to go back to.  I’d like to do it again so I could show him the respect he wanted so badly. Respect he deserved.

In his 60’s, he bought a pair of roller skates so he could go to the rink with my oldest daughter. Then I heard the stories about how he used to do all kinds of stuff on skates, including dancing and who knows what else.

My dad had no fear, or so I thought. I remember taking him on the backside of the racetrack one morning to show him my new newly-acquired racehorse. At one point he stood against the wall on the walkway at  the corner of a barn. He was calm as can be as one horse after another pranced by, some within inches of him. “Weren’t you afraid?” I asked. “I was scared to death,” he replied. So he knew fear, but never let it get the best of him. Unlike myself. I’ve always taken the easy way out.

I took part in most sports as a kid and usually excelled. I loved baseball, basketball and football and more often than not played on teams a year or two older than me. Marksmanship was my best event. At 14, I out shot seasoned adults from the first day I lay prone with a 22 rifle. About a year later, after a trophy the size of the Stanley Cup was delivered to our door, Pops came home with a Mossberg 22 complete with match rifle sights. “I won it in a raffle,” he said. Yeah, sure. Hockey was a different story. I skated on my ankles and could never make the team. I still blame the ill-fitting second-hand skates my parents bought me and to this day I hate the game.

I wish I could take my daughters and especially my grandchildren back in time so they could watch me playing baseball, football and other sports — when I was at my best. Although my father lived to 87, he and his great grandchildren never met. I would so love for them to see him in the gym, on the beach or the bowling lane. If children could see and even understand a little of the past, it might well change their future in some small, positive way. I’m convinced it would put Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in a whole new light.

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Because I am reeling from my recent hit by the big 65, my bucket list has for a few minutes taken precedence over wishes, hopes, ambitions and all else that I might have planned to do in the future. Future being the key word. Of course the list changes constantly as some become less important and others grow in stature. These drops in the bucket are pretty current but are by no means in any kind of order.

My “B” list involves travel to a large degree. For me, sometimes it’s the journey not the end that counts. It also involves music.

1. Visit my daughter Keri-Lynn, her husband Raymond and grandchildren Iva, Cody, Tristan and Benjamin. They live in Kelowna,  BC and I haven’t seen them for three years! They might not wish to see me, however, as I am always late with their Christmas and birthday presents. I sent their Christmas presents two weeks late and in the box I put some clothes I had bought for Ben’s third birthday. He’ll be four in less than a month. (Late flash…Keri called and they fit!) (I finally got there on March 1st and spent two great weeks with the family. It had been SIX years!)

Kelowna Grandkids

Kelowna Grandkids


2. I want to see New Orleans during Mardi Gras, although I’d gladly settle for anytime. I would head straight to a venue that offers Zydeco. That squeeze box makes me feel like dancing!  

3. I would like to tour Ireland. My interest has been sharpened by the books of Fr. Andrew M. Greeley. I found his Nuala Anne McGrail novels, which take place both in modern and historical Chicago and Ireland, fascinating and hilarious. I might consider inviting Michelle along, herself being half Irish. But, in order to make the ticket, she’d have to learn to make cabbage rolls and plum perogies from someone on the Ukrainian side of her family.

4. While in the vicinity, I would certainly go to Scotland and visit the Mull of Kintyre, made famous by Paul McCartney’s beautiful song which draws tears every time I hear it.

5. Speaking of Scotland, I have always wanted to learn to play the bagpipes. I love all kinds of music, but the driving Scottish pipes and the haunting lament of Irish Uilleann pipes fill me with a rush from above my nose to the end of my toes. In my 20’s, I used to haul my stereo outside and crank up Farewell to the Greys, by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, much to my neighbors’ delight I might add. Especially at 8:00 am after they’d been up partying ’til 4:oo.

6. An absurdly impossible dream, but I’d love Joan Baez to sing her version of Amazing Grace when my family tosses my ashes to the wind.  Or, her cover of The Band’s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down while I’m still on the way out.  That song tugs pretty hard. Joan Baez is one of my faves.

Joan Baez

Joan Baez

7. Afognak Wilderness Lodge, Seal Bay, Kodiak Alaska. I made some friends several years ago while working in the booth next to that of Shannon Randall and her sons Josh and Luke at various International conventions.  The Randalls own and operate this fabulous lodge which offers photographic opportunities and hunting and fishing purported to be second to none. I salivated whenever they spoke about their lodge and have wanted to visit them ever since. I was awed when Luke described his crab fishing adventures in the Bering Sea years before “Deadliest Catch” aired on TV.   Someday soon.  NO NO! I don’t mean I want to go crab fishing.  www.Afognakwildernesslodge.com

8. I want to reclaim the passion I need to write my best. I for one cannot write without a muse, or at least, passion. 

9. Visit New York City Absolutely fabulous. Been there a few times now, but that’s another blog.

10. Holiday in Maui  Best holiday ever. Whale watching was my favourite pastime. That and drinking Kona coffee and reading on the lanai with my binoculars at my side. I could have done it all day long if it hadn’t been for Michelle dragging me off from one beach to another in an effort to find the most powerful undertow and challenge it to a fight to the death. I think she found it at Big Beach. After a long, drawn out battle she won but it took two young fellows to pull her to her feet. Still, I’d go back in a heart beat.

11.The one that meant the most to me –  getting a hug from my beautiful autistic granddaughter. I sobbed like a baby.

Grandpa and Cyndi at the Cottage

Grandpa and Cyndi at the Cottage

12. I would like to learn to speak Spanish, if for no other reason than as a tribute to the late great Ted Labanowich, the Hamilton Spectator’s horse racing reporter who constantly walked up and down the press box muttering phrases he’d just learned.

Ted Labanowich

Ted Labanowich

That’s it for now. If I don’t stop here, its constant state of flux will make more work for you and me. Thanks for coming!

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De Baiting Game

I finally enrolled in University in my very late 30’s and it wasn’t until my graduating year (1989) in a Creative Writing class, that I found out I loved writing poetry. But it was axiomatic that creation required passion. I wrote De Baiting Game while my first born daughter Keri-Lynn Janis (after Janis Joplin — “thanks a lot, dad” she told me after reading about the 60’s songbird) and I were arguing about what I can’t remember. What I realized about the two of us while writing the poem, was that we were very much alike.

De Baiting Game – Paul Turney March 1989

Take one headstrong young adult

Add one parent, much the same

Toss in some silly issue

And you have de Baiting game.

To start, youngster regurgitates

Some “truth” she’s learned of late

From someone in her high school class

An acquaintance, or a date.

She throws it out in front of you

Then waits with bated breath

For her wise old dad’s opinion,

It will come as sure as death.

She knows that he will disagree

But she baits him anyway

She’s not prepared to listen

She just wants him to play.

He argues from experience

Though he knows he cannot win

If he throws enough against the wall

Just once, it might sink in.

Her “theory”, as oft as not

Will be essentially inane

But that’s the bait that’s needed

To begin de Baiting Game.

“I didn’t ask for your advice!”

She baits dad once again

“It’s not advice but simple truth,”

To deaf ears, this refrain.

The evidence that backs his case

Is daddy’s last resort

She baits him with “You’re playing God”

(The ultimate retort.)

He won’t tell her she’s ignorant

(The “prophecy”, he fears)

It could be self-fulfilling

And would surely lead to tears.

And so he’ll wait with bated breath

‘Til she admits her theory’s lame

Or ‘til she becomes a politician

Getting paid to play de Game.

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This post was written by Paul Turney and originally appeared in the Daily Racing Form Friday, October 4, 1996. It is about one of his favourite topics…his Dad. Enjoy!

Fort Erie, Ontario – Pops is coming for a visit. At 83, he’s somewhat eccentric, but loves the horses.  He’s been punting at Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs for as long as I can remember, but the only other track he’s been to is Hastings Park, in Vancouver.  My brother lives on the West Coast and when dad visits, they make it a point to take in a few days of racing.

I can’t wait to show off Fort Erie.  Pops has always been one to appreciate lush, manicured greenery.  I know that because of the way he made me trim the edges of our own lawn when I was a youngster.  I grew up hating the sight of shears.

He also loves to wager – lotteries, Oscar the Mouse and horses.  Even now the first thing he asks when I call him in Winnipeg is, “How’s the horse?” Not how are you, how’s the family, but how’s the horse. Pops is also quite an armchair trainer.  He diagnoses ailments from 1,500 miles away, but his prescription invariably calls for a change in distance.

Pop’s been buying Daily Racing Form since before I was born, but I’m sure all he reads is the total money won and place of birth.  Naturally, he bets on the horse which has earned the most cash, especially if it was foaled in Kentucky.  His most important source of information, however, is ethereal.  He sees numbers in the clouds, numbers in his dreams, and numbers in coffee stains.  He lives to see numbers and then reroutes them onto tickets at the track.

I’ll never forget the time we were walking into Assiniboia Downs and he stooped to pick up a nickel from the asphalt.  Studying the coin, he mumbled “1962.  Nine and one is 10, six and two is eight. It’s going to be a 10/8 double.”

He trundled over to the wickets to place his bet, while my friends roared with laughter.  Just before post time, I snuck away and bet that same double and put a fair bit of money on 10 in the first.  The horse was a longshot, but I knew how lucky my pop was. Ten came home on top and I was up a chunk.  Pop was grinning like a cheshire cat and my friends stopped laughing.  We all be the 8 horse in the second – although the “guys” were somewhat tentative because this horse, too, was paying boxcars.  I went to the $20 dollar wicket. Sure enough, here came Mr. 8, ears pricked and prancing at the front.

Pops was really happy now.  He’d made about $130 but more importantly had something to talk about.  I was up well over a grand but preferred to keep it quiet in case he wanted royalties.

I’ll be bringing pop to the races this weekend.  I know that once he gets over the initial realization that a track can be an aesthetic wonderland, he’ll love it here – there’s a whole new bank of ticket sellers to entertain.  You’ll know him when you see him.  He’ll be the guy with sparks in his eyes when you tell him he can’t bet a 1-1 exactor.  He doesn’t like the new rules and figures he’s been betting 1-1 for 40 years and should be allowed to continue.  I’m sure glad he wasn’t here Monday when Mike Newell sent out his 1 and IA entry Layfield’s Locks and Royal Don to run one-two in the second race.  The exactor was paid off on one-three, as Scottie Jr. ran third.  Pops would have been a tad upset.

And me?  I’m eager to see if my dad’s luck transcends geographic boundaries.  He’s cashed some handsome wagers at Assiniboia and at Hastings, but after all, this is Ontario, a whole different country as far as racetracks go.  Moreover, it’s Fort Erie.  You need to read the Daily Racing Form.  I’ll introduce my dad to Ken Jones at Handicapper’s Corner.  Kenny deserves an opportunity to learn a different way to pick winners.

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