“What was the happiest moment of your life?” Todd asked me while we sat around a cup of coffee. Exhale….Pause….What a question!…. My brain scanned through hundreds of mental images looking for one that stood out above the rest…… Finally the answer came: “Any moment and every moment where I had 100% of my father’s attention.”
Although I was one of 6 children born to Steven Mitchell, I knew that I was the boy after his own heart. He was my hero and I followed him wherever he went. At the age of 4 I followed him around our 4 acre property with my toy power saw in hand, cutting down imaginary trees while he cut down real ones. At the end of the day my lips were numb from making pretend power saw noises. As a young child I worked by his side hauling brush and piling wood to heat our home for the winter. Quite often he would reward me with a surprise trip to Tim’s.
We’d be on our way to the hardware store to pick up something we needed when the car would suddenly swerve into the Tim Horton’s parking lot. He’d look at me, his eyes dancing, slowly put his finger to his lips, and whisper, “Shhh. Keep it our little secret.” There was rarely enough money to go around, and in a family of eight, one-on-one times with Dad were precious.
Tim Hortons was, for us, a sacred place; a place where father and son memories were formed, where hard work together was celebrated.
It was in these moments around Tim’s coffee and doughnuts that I felt Dad’s loving eyes fixed upon me. No distractions. Just Dad and me. It was in these moments that my self-worth soared. I could do anything in the world because my father believed in me.
At the age of 42, Dad was diagnosed with early-onset Alzhiemer’s Disease. He was forced to resign from his job, and my 5 siblings and I began the long, slow process of grieving. Slowly, ever so slowly, he journeyed towards death, forgetting our names and how to take care of himself. Seven years later, Dad died in the Alzhiemer’s ward of the Digby hospital...
But today his legacy of love continues.
The Tim Horton’s tradition lives on! I now have 3 daughters of my own. My daughter Bella and I go to Tim Hortons every Saturday morning for “Daddy/daughter breakfast.” At Tim Hortons, I give her the gift that my father gave to me: his undivided attention. Although she never met her grandfather, she knows his story. “Shhhh, Keep it our little secret,” she’ll say beaming as we walk into the coffee shop together.