This is guest submission from long time mod and friend of the Thirst Lounge Maureen McCarthy. MoMac has always gone above and beyond for the team so it is with great sadness that this post is written. Hang in there MoMac, your Thirst Lounge family is here for you in these trying times.
The TL Crew
This morning, August 26, 2019 my 95-year-old father passed on. Let me tell you about the man who raised me. Charles William Leslie McCarthy was the second of nine children, born in the Northwest Frontier of India. Ferozepore to be exact. He is a son of Ireland, his father serving in the British Army. He lived the first seven – ten years of his life in India. Molly (my grandmother) had four children in India and they were known in the family as the Indian kids. The stories of life in India are many and hilarious, they include baseball with monkeys, typhoid, snakes, bullfrogs and a fearsome guard known as Chowkidar.
Once his fathers service was over, they returned to England and when the British entered WWII my grandfather returned to service and moved his family to Molly’s home in Ireland (for their safety) that’s a whole other story. Dad became one of the heads of the house. He was a storyteller and there were tales of going to the backdoor of the pub and getting mom a Guinness or walking to buy bread so he could have the “heel”, he loved his mom. He started working at 14 in a bicycle repair shop.
As soon as he could (in fact, he lied about his age) young Charlie volunteered with his fathers regiment the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, known as the KOYLI’s. He reported for duty where his own father was his commanding officer. In his first inspection his father said to him, what’s your name son? Dad: McCarthy, Sir. Dang, that’s cold. They discovered Dad had a great capacity to fix things, so they made him a mechanic.
He landed on Juno Beach on D-Day plus 3. That’s the third day after the first wave. His job was to fix any allied vehicles that broke down or blow them up if they were beyond help. He and his regiment followed the Canadian Troops through France, Holland, Belgium and back to Germany. Not long after the war he followed the Canadians all the way home. When we were kids, on family vacation we’d sit around at night and say, Dad tell us some war stories. He always told the funny ones, like when he hit the gas instead of the brake and drove a tank into a bar in Germany. He assures us no one was hurt. He left out the part where he got Court Marshalled.
He came to Canada in 1954 and stayed with family in Hamilton, Ontario. He got a job at Stelco and worked there for 32 odd years. He worked three shifts and had a weekend off every 21 days. He never missed a shift. He also met my mom Dorothy, and this is when the man who had travelled the world put down roots. This is where I come in and I thank my mom for picking the greatest Dad I could ever have wanted. I was born with Asthma, Molly had the same ailment and passed young at age 52. I remember stories of Dad coming off night shift and heading straight to the hospital to hang out with me. They told them I wouldn’t make it past three years, and I’ve been living on borrowed time ever since. I’m not certain why but apparently there was this purple dye that needed to be applied to my body, Dad used it to paint happy faces on my belly. 😊
I said earlier and this is important, Dad could fix anything; in our house we never saw a tradesperson or repairman. If the washer broke, he’d fix it. If the car needed a new transmission, it happened in our driveway. He built things in our house that never existed before, like the Laundry Shute that went from one of the bedroom closets straight into the Laundry Room downstairs. If it was dirty, put it down the Shute and it came back clean. Then there was the boot box, right at the side door, come in kick your boots into the box and close the door. Once he created that, everyone in the neighbourhood wanted one. He went house to house helping the guys in the neighbourhood build their own. One summer, he got a crew of guys together from work and they put a pool in our yard. From that point on my parents never wondered where we were. There was always a bunch of kids in our pool. Dad was a golfer, an avid golfer. On really hot summer days, I’d hear him pull into the driveway and I’d say to my friends, watch this. He’d stroll up to the pool, take his shoes off and leap over the side fully clothed. Once we were grown and had moved out of the house the pool came down and the spot where it had been was transformed into his own private putting green.
He loved sports, yelling at the TV during a game was almost like the family business and no one did it better than Dad. I was a kid in the 60’s and the Leafs actually won Stanley Cups back then. He’d get those cheap end zone seats for Ti-Cat games and take us kids from as early as I can remember. Then there was the church of golf. He didn’t just play; he was the ultimate fan. He and Mom went to many Canadian Opens. They’d come home so excited and bring us these weird contraptions they bought with mirrors so they could see above the crowds. One time my Mom came home and whispered, I touched Lee Trevino, and I knew that was a very big deal. Every Sunday we’d be in the living room watching some tournament, but The Masters was The One. In our house everything stopped for The Masters. Every year, to this day I work my schedule around The Masters. One year, after Dad was retired, my youngest brother Sean got them tickets for the practice rounds at Augusta. I picked them up from the Airport and he talked about that trip all the way home and for weeks afterwards. Finally, he said, I can die happy, I’ve walked Augusta. The die happy thing was a two-parter that included his first hole-in-one while playing when they lived at their retirement home in Florida. Where in Florida, you might ask? Why it was in Dunedin of course, home of the Toronto Blue Jays training camp. We loved going to Jays games in the 80’s and 90’s. Always the cheap seats in the outfield at the stadium affectionately known as the Mistake-By-The-Lake. For the Super Bowl and Grey Cup, he’d make up a pool and we’d all pick our spots out of a hat on the final score. My tendency towards degenerate sports betting didn’t just happen, it’s in my DNA. Mom gets some credit for that; she loved a good game of 31 with us kids and had no problem taking our quarters.
We would come home from school to find Dad cooking dinner as often as we would Mom. A lot of those “traditional” roles did not exist in our house. Both my brothers are good cooks, because Dad was a hell of a cook (except he always salted the potatoes twice) he did housework and laundry and he told me I was smart as often as he told me I was pretty. When he said I could do/be/have anything I wanted, I believed him.
While he was doing all that, he taught me. Here’s the deal about my Dad, he honestly believed (and I’m talking about the 60’s and 70’s here) that it was as important for me to learn basic skills and he passed on his knowledge of all things decidedly not girly. Whenever he was working on a project, he brought me over to learn what he was doing. The house needed a new roof, there I was with three of my friends banging shingles with everyone else. He showed us what to do and trusted us to do it. He was smart and if I asked a question, he’d get the encyclopedia and say, lets look it up. He gave me my love of reading, our visits to the Terry Berry Library were a huge part of my childhood. He told me, books are your best friend, they will always be there for you.
He taught me how to change a tire and change the oil. When I got my first apartment Dad gave me a toolbox and all the tools, I needed to fix stuff. If I didn’t’ know how, I’d say Dad can you give me a hand? His reply, every time… “Bring me my gun and point out the fella”. Stop for a minute right there and think about what it means for a young woman to hear her Dad say that. We both knew there was no gun and no fella, but dag nab it I loved hearing that from my Dad. I’d often call him and say Dad, can you do something for me? Just to hear him say, bring me my gun and point out the fella. And we’d laugh, I loved my Dad’s laugh and he loved mine.
There were more than a few times when I made a gutsy move and I will never forget the way he laughed. One time I was driving his van (he always trusted me at the wheel) in Ottawa at my cousins wedding. We were to follow some others to the reception and lights changed and I was going to lose them. I just gunned it, ran a red, turned that corner on what felt like two wheels and caught up. Both of my brothers looked at each other like, holy shit she’s so screwed, and Dad just laughed and laughed.
OK, we all have our Dad character building story and it’s time for mine. Miles for Millions 1970 or 1971. I was 10. It was a 30-mile walk and you got sponsors for every mile you walked. I don’t even remember the charily. At about the 20-mile mark I was separated from my guardian, a teenage neighbour who entered with me. It was miserable, raining and lo and behold I recognized the street that led to Auntie Myrt’s house. I went there. She put me in a bath and called my parents. Mom and Myrt said, she can’t go on, she must quit. Charlie McCarthy didn’t raise no quitters and I said, I want to finish I just need someone to go with me. Dad said, she’s going on. We got back on the route and sometimes Dad carried me on his shoulders and Mom followed along in the car crying like a baby. There were check-points every mile and you handed in a card to be stamped every time you reached one. At one, I handed in my card and the woman said, it’s too wet, it’s destroyed! Dad replied, stamp the fucking card. Deadpan. She did and on we went. I finished the Miles for Millions and learned that Dad always had my back. ALWAYS. We had Pee-Wee’s pizza that night and I felt like a boss.
I had the good fortune to be raised by Charles William Leslie McCarthy. I love you Dad and I thank you for everything you’ve given me. Rest peacefully.
Your daughter, Maureen