You just never actually know when the last time you will be with someone might be. In this case, I never could have guessed that my last time I would ever see my beautiful daughter Teagan would be the morning of December 8th, 2014. As it turns out it was one of the most ordinary days that Teagan and I ever had in Vancouver. When I look back on it now I would not change a single moment, as it was really just perfect.
As background, our family happily went to great lengths to ensure Teagan understood and more importantly felt like she was part of our family. Both she and her brothers knew that there were no favourites and that everybody was equal in our household. Our youngest Jack would likely disagree but we all love him for that. As for Teagie-Bear, we did a variety of things to close the distance from Ottawa to Vancouver…
Every week we would have a family webcam. Technology allowed us to stay close all year and in some cases the webcam would last 2-3 hours.
Every month I would spend a weekend in Vancouver with Teagan. We loved staying at the Hyatt downtown and our standard itinerary included swimming, Granville Island, Science Centre and of course White Spot.
Every quarter Teagan would spend 2-3 weeks in our Ottawa home where she had a fully stocked bedroom – the largest bedroom of the kids as her older brother reminded us often.
Every year we would all travel to Vancouver to spend a week on Teagan’s home turf. That way she could show her brothers her favourite spots, her school and meet her friends etc.
Then we opportunistically took advantage of chances to be together like visiting Saskatchewan last fall for harvest, having a quick phone call or, relevant to this story, a quick one night visit when I happened to be in Vancouver on business. I had just spent a weekend with Teagan in late November in Vancouver but had to be back in town on business shortly afterward. The week prior I had been in Orlando for a trade show so by the time I landed on December 7th I was feeling pretty bagged but anytime I got to see Teagan adrenal kicked in. Because this was going to be a short visit and Teagan had her first appointment to get braces the next day we stayed out in Surrey close to her dentist, as opposed to the Hyatt where we spent 90% of our visits. I was supposed to get her at 11am but, as was fairly common, Teagan’s biological Mother booked something during my time so they did not arrive until about 2pm.
Nevertheless, I was just excited to see Teagan and with her Christmas visit only a few weeks away I really did not care. I was checked in and waiting in the lobby when they arrived in the car Teagan would be found dead in only 72 hours later. I met them in the parking lot and Teagan showed me some pictures on Lisa’s phone. I loved the big hug and kiss I got each time Teagan greeted me. As we walked into the Sheraton Teagan noticed my shoes (which I had just bought in Florida) and said, “Daddy I really like those new shoes – they work for our visit but I bet you could wear them to work too!”. Such a typical Teagan thing – always making you feel better about yourself.
Once we got to our room I asked Teagan what she wanted to do and, of no shock to anyone who knows her, she said go swimming. We decided to do a quick webcam to say Hi to everyone in Ottawa so we did that for 15 minutes. What I really wanted to do was take her to the mall nearby and get a read on what she really wanted for Christmas, so I told her we should go the Mall first for a snack. She agreed and off we went hand in hand for the short 2-block walk. I loved the simple conversations we would have about her friends, school and what was going on with her brothers – she asked me to tell her Jack stories over and over again. Once in the mall, we hit the food court to stick with my script and she had Orange Julius and a hot dog. Of course, ketchup ended up everywhere and she spent time explaining to me why the original Orange Julius was much better than the strawberry and how maybe next time we should go to A&W for the root beer.
With that out of the way, I guided her to a few kids stores but once inside she spent all her time explaining and showing me the things we should get for her brothers. I did manage to pry a few ideas out in the Lego store but for the most part, I learned less than I had hoped. So then I figured I would just take her to ‘Justice’, which was one of her favourite clothing stores. What could go wrong? Here she spent all her time explaining the clothes we should like to buy for Stephanie. Teagan was just so empathetic it literally seeped out of her pores. Chuckling to myself I said let’s go to Purdy’s to get you a little treat for later. Even then while in Purdy’s we ended up buying her eventual killer a Christmas present (chocolate snowman & card).
With our shopping complete we headed back to the Sheraton for the moment Teagan had been waiting for for…the POOL! We got ourselves dressed, which as usual ended up with Teagan half dressed in a mangled attempt to put on her suit asking me to “Just fix it Daddy”. We headed down in the elevator and then to the outdoor heated pool. When we arrived the pool cover was on and I could literally see disappointment flood my baby girl’s body. Relief was quick as I showed her how to remove the cover and my Daddy-fixes-stuff status was having a very good day. It was strange in that she usually was very active in the pool and we would do play-acting of many dramatic moments. In recent months it was shark training with her as the teacher and me as the bad shark student. However, this time she mostly just floated around the pool with her arms around my neck talking about all the things she wanted to do with Stewart and Jack when she got to Ottawa.
We headed back to the room and were actually stopped by a hotel staff member who said she reminded her of her own daughter and told me how happy Teagan looked. And she did as she was skipping down the hallway when she stopped us. The next big decision was dinner and we decided on room service – we both ordered kids meals with Teagan getting the usual ‘mac & cheese’ and a grilled cheese for me. It was so fun as we both just ate parts of each meal while we watched some kids TV. We finished the night by crawling into bed and reading her National Geographic Kids magazine on my IPAD.
As usual, I woke up with Teagan wrapped around me in the morning, which was just the best way for a Dad to wake up – in the loving arms of his daughter with the sound of her breathing gently filling the air in the room. After getting ready for work there was the usual gong show of me trying to do her hair after her bath. It was more important on this morning as Teagan had her Christmas concert rehearsal that day. I managed an OK job and Teagan reminded me (as she always did) that Stephanie did a much better job. She looked gorgeous and I so badly wish I had taken a photo that morning. In fact, I have no pictures of Teagan that weekend…. because I had just seen her and would again in two weeks I guess it just was not on my mind. About my only regret of that night.
We then had a quick breakfast at the McDonald’s beside the hotel, which was always the Hotcakes plus her eating a good portion of my bagel. At the dentist, Teags was getting her spacers put in which is a very short process but any trip to a dentist is scary for a kid. I distinctly remember feeling so proud of her and simply loving holding her hand as they went in. Every time she squeezed my hand I felt so fulfilled as a father.
With that complete, it was off to the grocery store to pick up lunch and snacks for school. We picked up the usual and as was always the case I started to miss her the as we left the store…. which Teags referred to as me getting “huggy”. Then it was the short drive to school where I had to sign her in at the office before walking her to the classroom door. I remember giving her a quick kiss on the head and watching her walk into the classroom. She looked back, gave me one last little smirk and gave me the little motions with her arm of getting going…I never saw her again.