Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fathers and sons ----and enviable relationships

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OFTEN the obvious isn't so obvious.

It was while I was researching a book on the life of Izzy Asper that it finally occurred to me what life is obviously about.

Life, at its essence, is about relationships.

Relationships ranging from God, if we believe in one, to money if we have any.

But, at the risk of stating the obvious again, relationships aren't easy. Especially the relationships with our relations.

The family members we are supposed to love.

And are supposed to love us.

Which is why I feel compelled, on this Thanksgiving weekend, to tell you about this enviable relationship.

Between a father and a son.

I first met Kenny Boyce 18 years ago -- long before he became the city's manager of film and cultural affairs and a friend to visiting Hollywood stars.

We became friendly over the years -- Kenny is one of those guys who's naturally friendly.

And then last week, his closest friend died: Charlie Boyce, Kenny's 89-year-old father.

It was the day after the funeral, and I was standing in the Fort Rouge kitchen Kenny shares with his partner Alex, listening to Kenny talk about how his dad used to call and wake him at 7 o'clock every morning.

Charlie's high-rise apartment on Corydon Avenue looked straight across into Kenny's house on McMillan -- they were that close.

Ironically, Charlie never knew his own father.

He was killed in a car accident just before Charlie was born in 1918.

Kenny bonded early with his dad.

He remembers waiting for his dad to come home from his office job with the justice department. Charlie always brought his little boy something to eat.

And then there were the Friday afternoons when Charlie would take little Kenny out of school so he could accompany him to auctions -- which is how the family ended up with an accordion.

"He wanted me to learn how to play an accordion," Kenny said. "It wasn't exactly the Cadillac of musical instruments. It wasn't a piano. It was what they could afford."

But the more useful and lasting lessons came from his father.

About overcoming his shyness by helping his dad bid at auctions.

About meeting immigrants from Pakistan on the bus and bringing them home for dinner.

About spending $8,000 to plant 2,500 trees in Israel at a time when their North End house wasn't worth much more than that.

About Charlie serving Meals on Wheels until he was 85, and Kenny made him quit.

And about becoming a "fixer" of people's problems, which has served Kenny well when Hollywood comes to town.

"My dad always wanted to help people. He taught me to be a human being," Kenny said.

Kenny's relationship with his dad had its testy moments, so it wasn't perfect. Neither was Charlie's marriage to Kenny's late mother, Patricia, although Kenny said they never stopped loving each other.

Kenny's parents separated when he was 13. The two older children, Geraldine and Richard, stayed with their mum.

But Kenny went with his dad. "I didn't want him to be alone."

Neither of them knew how to cook or even do laundry. So they learned together.

I asked Kenny about his fondest memory of his father.

He said it was the day the family took Charlie to the Fort Garry Hotel's Palm Lounge for his 85th birthday, and gave him a plane ticket to Israel.

"Because," Kenny said, "here's this little old man who's so excited because he's going to go on this plane trip."

So excited that he was weeping.

They sent him back again when he was 86 and 87 and 88. Until this year, when his failing heart just couldn't take another trip.

After his dad died, while Kenny was cleaning Charlie's apartment, he found something.

"It was a wooden box full of things he wanted me to remember him by," Kenny said. "Photos, letters. He didn't want to go out of this world without letting me know he was somebody."

Kenny paused.

"But I already knew that."

Then he said something about their relationship that we can all learn from: "We loved each other every day."

As I was saying, sometimes the obvious isn't so obvious.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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