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I tweeted earlier today that I wish it was a year from now.

A year from now all of the work left over by my dad’s death will be done and the grief with be less raw.

A year from now I will be finishing my Masters and ready to find some great work for great causes.

A year from now things will be so much more settled than they are now. I think. Maybe.

I had plans for this summer, a long to do list. I was going to relax and learn new things and prepare myself.

And once again life threw things at me that I was not prepared for.

I have this little girl, I’m trying to treasure every moment as times flies past us, and here I am wishing time away. Wishing for something easy.

And I feel guilty for it, but it doesn’t change the fact that I just want to see past this year ahead right now. I want to gaze into my future and step out of myself. I want to feel like a normal adult again. Focused on my job and my family.

The fact is that I lost a parent and it hurts. And I’m sad. And I know that I’m going to go through more losses, and that each one will probably be harder than this. And I’m scared. I’m scared to just break into little pieces. I’m scared of my own child feeling what I’m feeling.

And I just want to skip through time. Avoiding the hard things. Stopping when we get to play at the park or laugh together. The real times.

As of today it will be two weeks that my father has been dead. He died two Saturday mornings ago, after talking to his partner and going to the gym. We found out that afternoon. A week later was the funeral.

Before the funeral, before the visitation, I made the decision to see my father. I heard all the arguments for and against and I made the decision. Part of it was the in my mind I didn’t know if I would really believe he was gone until I saw him there. And there he was. The actual first thought that went through my mind was just that – it’s really him.

And then I had the room to myself and I got to talk to him. I got to tell him that I wasn’t done with him. We’ve been building this relationship, we’ve been getting so much better. I wasn’t done.

And I’m angry. I’m angry that I didn’t get the time that I expected. And I’m angry that my daughter didn’t get that time, that he didn’t get to see her doing all the great things she can do. And he knew she’s special, I know he did.

I also had this idea in my head that I would learn from him and maybe become the same kind of expert he was in his field. I’m getting set to do my Masters and I’m ready to research and publish and specialize. I wanted him there for that. I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

The disbelief and anger lingers.

It’s not as though I saw him everyday, not even every month really. There were emails and occasional phone calls, but I haven’t yet had the chance to feel the missing piece. The other factor is that my kid doesn’t notice him missing yet. She hasn’t asked for him, even though we were at his house today and she noticed the furniture was gone. She asked me why and I told her it was because no one is living there any more.

She know that I’ve been spending the week at Grampa’s house, she knows that we have Grampa’s table now. She knows his house is empty, or almost empty now. And I’m angry with myself for not thinking to take pictures with them together. I was so focused on getting pictures of her with my grandfather because I thought we’d lose him first.

I thought I had time. I wasn’t done.

I feel so stupid. I wasted so much time.

Saturday was my father’s funeral and I decided, while we were organizing, that I wanted to speak. Of course, after I made the commitment it was difficult to figure out what to say. Then one night last week I was lying in bed, exhausted and trying to get to sleep when thoughts started coming to me, so I sat up, turned on the light and wrote them down. And it all came out.

I don’t know how my Dad would feel about me going with my first draft, but it felt right. So I went with this:

Growing up a Scanlon in Old Ottawa South, I was constantly asked the question ‘Oh, are you related to Joe Scanlon?’

I had no desire to go to the Carleton journalism program, I wanted to be a separate entity from my father. So, even though I eventually chose journalism I went to college and went away from Ottawa. I shouldn’t have been surprised when, upon meeting me, my first prof asked ‘Oh, are you related to Joe Scanlon?’

This week has been difficult because I chose to change my name when I got married and now I feel almost desperate for people to know that yes, he’s my Dad. I am a Scanlon.

In fact, I have many traits that, for years, have led my mother to exclaim ‘You’re just like your father.’

It took me until I was an adult to realize that I am perfectly okay being like my father. It means persistence, a drive for excellence, a love of politics, news and the art of language, and the inability to talk slowly. I am also excellent at sarcasm and punning. No Scanlon has ever come across a bad joke they didn’t like. 

So I have to thank my Dad for the traits he passed on to me. I have to thank him for bringing the five of us together this week and allowing us to develop a closer relationship. I want to thank him for bringing Kathleen into our lives. 

Dad never told me he was proud of me. He never told me he loved me. But one last thing I’ve learned from my father, and all the people sharing stories and condolences, is that actions speak louder than words. 

He didn’t tell each of us that he was proud of our accomplishments or hard work, he told everybody else. And now we have those words reaching out to us, giving us comfort. 




An interesting thing has happened in this whole process of visitations and funerals and wakes and I wanted to pass it on.

You see, my dad knew a lot of people in his life. Like A LOT. Many of these people came to the visitation we held on Thursday night. Many more came to the visitation we held on Friday afternoon.

During these visitations the five of us, Dad’s kids, and his partner of 15 years moved around the room talking to people, listening to stories. I actually planted myself near the door on both nights because for some reason I felt comfortable greeting people.

Now, here comes the “seriously?” moment:

More than one person approached Dad’s partner and said something akin to “do you remember me?”

Now, this puts a person currently going through grief in the situation of either pretending that they do, in fact, remember you or admitting they don’t, in fact, remember you and embarrassing you both.

So, here’s the rule, when you are a friend or colleague of the deceased, no matter how close you were, when you walk up to their partner, children or other immediate family member you say: “Hello, X, my name is Y, we met at Z, I’m so sorry for your loss.”

This is not about you. It is not about making you feel good that you were such a good friend that of course everyone remembers you. Even if they would remember you under normal circumstances, these are not normal circumstances.

I was so exhausted when I got home yesterday I was surprised to remember that we have a dog.

The dog that I have tattooed on my ankle.

The dog that turns 10 this year.

These are the people you’re dealing with.

Just tell us how you knew him:



Name Game

Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting | Personal - (Comments Off)

As we’ve been cleaning out my father’s house and dealing with his affairs we’ve noticed something that I always knew – he had a name problem. My sister says he’s a librarian’s nightmare.

He was born Thomas Joseph Scanlon but always went by Joe, which means people always knew him as Joe. We he published he was usually either T. Joseph Scanlon or Joe Scanlon, though sometimes he went by TJ Scanlon. We’ve found a few things of his – one an award – which were given to Joseph T. Scanlon. My poor brother has to figure out who he was where.

When I was born they were going to call me by a shortened version of my middle name but within a few months my parents changed their minds. I expect because they went through the same confusion that we go through now with my daughter who also goes by her middle name.

It’s sort of a tradition in all our families – my dad, my grandfather and his two brothers, Joe’s dad and I think he father as well – to go by the middle name that I just missed out on. But it’s a hell of a record keeper’s dilemma. joeandcake

We got a phone call yesterday. Totally unexpected. My dad died. Through some weird phone relay my cousin got in touch with us and my sister called him back and he had to tell us. Dad was just gone.

Now, this is a man who was in his 50s when I was born and still running marathons. At 82 he went to the gym regularly to lift weights and also spent a lot of time walking or biking. His mother, my Granny, lived into her 90s and I absolutely expected that we had at least 10 more years with him.

My relationship with my father has been complicated. There was a long period in my life when I didn’t like him very much at all. But this past 10 or 15 years were pretty good. He still never remembered my birthday, but he did have real, intelligent conversations with me. And I knew that at some point I had earned his respect, which was all I ever wanted.

Lately my mother and father, who separated when I was 3, started having polite conversations with each other while in the same room. It was a whole new world.

While I took issue in a lot of ways in how my father was a father to me, I had absolute no problem with the grandfather he turned out to be. My kid is his ninth grandchild (six girls, three boys) and he would proudly show her off to his friends. And I know that he would be so proud of how smart she is and how much thirst for knowledge she shows.

Intelligence, I think, is something he valued above all else. He had little patience for people who could not say what they meant or explain what they needed quickly and succinctly. That’s why he was such a good journalist and journalism professor.

And I, like many of his former students, hated the lessons that he was trying to teach me at the time, but then grew to understand them. In recent years he became one of the people that I went to talk to when I was trying to figure things out.

My dad was the one who planted the seed of taking the Masters program that I will start in September. When I asked him for help with my tuition this year, a loan, he told me that his children’s education is the number one priority. Always.

The last conversation I had with him was via email. I told him my convocation date, and he replied that he was out of the country until the day after and was sorry to have to miss it. I replied and told him that he’d just have to make sure he was there next year. And now he won’t be.

I am the youngest of my father’s five children. There is a large age gap between my sister and I and our half-siblings, but in recent years my dad started emailing all five of us together, and we’ve all started talking. Yesterday we reached out to one another. It used to be we only saw each other on Thanksgiving and Boxing Day – at least, whichever of us were in town – but now they feel a lot more like family.

But Boxing Day, the day the whole family gathered at my dad’s house and he lit a fire and baked a ham and we all talked around the room as though we’d seen each other only the week before. What’s going to happen to Boxing Day without my dad and without my dad’s house?

He still lived in the house he and my mother bought when they got married. It’s where we congregate. There was Boxing Day and Thanksgiving, sometimes Easter, and since my sister and I lived right around the corner he left a spare key and allowed us free reign over the attic space as a play house. He didn’t even seem to care when we tried to redecorate. There may still be some Teen Beat posters up there.

Boxing Day and Halloween will always be the days that I think of my dad. He loved Halloween. I don’t know what it was about it, but he loved answering the door and handing out candy and would report how many kids he got each year. For my kid’s first Halloween I drove across town so she would trick-or-treat at my dad’s door. Last October Joe was out of town and we just went to dad’s house and trick-or-treated around my old neighbourhood.


Boxing Day this year is going to be very quiet.

Crazy little thing

Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off)

I don’t remember when it started that I would get these ideas in my head that I just can’t let go of, no matter how little sense they make.

There was the idea to go out for roller derby three months after my daughter was born, out of shape and never having been on roller skates before. There’s this idea that I need to write a book that’s always been around and doesn’t seem to be going away.

There’s going back to school. That idea has been around since I graduated. Presumably if I do finish my Masters in 2016 then that inkling will go away, but who knows?

Last winter I grew a desire to learn how to cross-country ski. Having never been on skis in my life this seems like a terrible idea, but I’m still thinking about it. What is that about?

Lately – I mean always, but a lot lately – I have been desperate to be creative. We went to Show Tune Showdown (and if you haven’t been, you should go, and what better time than their 10 year anniversary next year… but I disgress). We went to Blog Out Loud Ottawa. All of these creative people doing their creative things, things that they love.

I need to write and draw and write and create. I need to do something. It’s an undying urge that’s totally separate from all the other things that I do – school, work, kid. It sits there and it doesn’t go away and I need to feed that thing. Soon.

Sometimes I do draw

Sometimes I do draw

A rose

Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off)

Since before she was born we had plans to call the kid by her shortened middle name. That’s always who she was going to be, and it fit her completely.

Last week she told us tentatively at dinner that she wants to go by the full name, no shortening. We told her that was fine, if that’s what she wanted. It’s her name, her identity.

We wrote a note to her teacher letting her know and we began the process of trying to remember to call her by her full name.

Except I’m really, really bad at it. It’s so hard to remember. She’s such a Maggie. She just is.

I might be the first parent in history who, when angry or frustrated, shouts out the shortened name of her child.

The thing is that before I was an Amy I was something else. My parents were planning to call my by my shortened middle name too. For the first few months I was Beth. (I don’t remember this period, obviously).

For a lot of my life I have felt not entirely comfortable with my name. People used to call me by my last name (pre-marriage) and that was almost more comfortable. I also always wanted to have a nickname and never really had one.

That’s part of the reason I wanted to give my child a name with many, many nickname options. Both her first and her middle name can be used in a variety of ways and I wanted to give her this option, to choose what she eventually would be called.

I just didn’t think she would make the change until she was a grown up.

I mean, that’s my baby girl. It’s such a grown up name.

IMG_2682I’m not ready.

But I’m also thrilled that she’s thinking about herself and really evaluating how she feels about things like this. I almost take it as a sign that when she gets older she’ll think about different and bigger decisions and consider them the same way. She’ll try out a few different ways of being and she’ll figure out what really feels like her.

These are the steps to being happy, really. And it’s taken me a lot longer to figure it out than it took my five year old.

Wake up call

Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off)

While last month marked 10 years since our first kiss and the start of our relationship, there is a very important role that Joe plays that I’ve never touched on.

Joe does something for me that I have never been able to do for him.

For almost a decade he has been my alarm clock.

I am terrible at getting myself up early. I have always been a stay up late kind of person. In high school I had it down – I could wake up at 8:30, get dressed and catch the bus to be at school for 9 o’clock.

It was awesome.

And then, through some cruel irony, I started a job that I loved, but it happened to involve a 7-3 work day. And when a campaign rolled around I had to make the 6 am bus – the first one that rolled out.
Now, if I’m bad at getting up early, I’m even worse at doing it by myself. Keeping the lights out, being quiet, not resenting the still sleeping person…

Joe gets up with me, often before me, makes the coffee and see me out the door; despite the fact that this is something that I could never, ever, bring myself to do for him in return. (And the fact that he has no expectation of that makes it even more selfless).

And even when I’m at home, still snoozing, he’ll make the coffee and bring me a cup. Seriously. That’s love.

Get your brave on

Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off)
Upside down - it's the way to be

Upside down – it’s the way to be

Sometimes I think that I was given the child I ended up with through whatever greater power – as an aside, she once informed us that she chose us – to demonstrate for me a better way to live my life.

I mean, just for starters this kid opened me up to love. I’m not very good at love – giving or receiving – but I sure am good at loving her.

She’s taught me about putting someone else’s life ahead of yours completely. She’s also taught me that sometimes you need to take care of yourself first in order to take care of someone else.

She’s shown me that I can still be creative, that I’m more goofy than I ever really knew, and also that I am hilarious. Seriously funny.

She’s instilled in me a new kind of confidence that I never knew I had. And a fierceness. I will do anything to get her what she needs. And now, more and more, to get me what I need.

She’s taught me that I am an awesome mom, which I never expected.

Sometimes I sit back and watch her and she’s like a metaphor. All the little things she goes through somehow relate back to me and the things I’m dealing with.

It was a beautiful day and I took her out to the park after she got off the school bus and we dropped her backpack at home. We haven’t had many chances to play outside so far this spring. It’s not a big park, the one right down the street, but it has swings and things to climb on and she’s still little enough that it entertains her.

This little park happens to have a set of monkey bars that she has been eyeing since we moved here two and a half years ago. At first she wasn’t tall enough to reach them, but she had us hold onto her while she grabbed the bar and then she would hang for a bit. But she would always watch so closely when older kids would come and go back and forth on those darn monkey bars.

This day, too, she was watching a friend not much older than her, a little girl from the school bus, who had already mastered them. But my kid, she would just reach out and hang, or kick her legs up and turn upside down.

And then she came over to see me at the bench where I was sitting, holding on to the dog. She told me she really wanted to do the monkey bars, but she was scared. And I told her I knew that and that she could just try and practice for now, because if she drops she knows she’s not going to get hurt.

So back she walked, climbed up on the platform and tried.

And lo and behold she was successful. She went easily from one end to the other and the look of pride on her face was something I’ll never forget.

She was scared, she didn’t think she could do it, but then she tried and it turns out she could and she was not only fine, she felt great.

Yep, that definitely seems like something I should take to heart.


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