Ode to John

On July 19, 1968 John made his debut on earth. He was the (unplanned) newest member of the Mikler clan. After two girls they were expecting a third. Her name would have been Charlotte. But fate intervened and (Are you sleeping, are you sleeping) brother John joined the pack.

What a happy baby! Content to let his older sisters treat him like a doll. He endured a lot. And he did so with a (mostly) easy going manner that is his hallmark to this day.

Saturday mornings were the best. Three kids piled into the basement family room in front of the tv absorbing everything Scooby Doo and others could tell us. Waiting for mom to bring down the spoils of her trip to the market. Greasy sugar donuts still warm from the Mennonite baking ladies and packed in a brown paper grease-stained bag. John preferred a bag of cheese curds. He munched and squeaked happily until the bag was empty. Mom would appear with a damp cloth to wipe our hands post snack. If she was not perfectly thorough John would touch his fingers together and proclaim: dem dill dicky. Mom knew that meant his fingers were still sticky and she would apply round two of damp cloth.

John loved his soother. We called it “schnully”. Instead of having the outer ring on the top of his lips he liked to keep the bottom part inside his gums. Schnully was always near at hand.

His eyes were brown and soft with happy kindness but they lit up like saucers at special occasions. Not just Christmas or birthdays, but also when mom made his favourite cherry cheese cake. John had a fondness for anything cheesy and we quickly made up silly names for his obsession: Ebenezer Cheeser was one that stuck. To this day “it’s not easy being cheesy” is a go to.

But somewhere along the line, amongst the various names we conjured and concocted, Houndie is the one that endured. There’s a great story in there but I can’t remember the how and why. I’m sure my sister will have the definitive explanation.

John loved to sing. Unfortunately he didn’t inherit tone or pitch. Glee club was not in the stars but loud refrains to his favourite tunes in the shower were a regular feature in our house. Rhinestone Cowboy was a hit.

As the youngest he was the last to start school. Both older sisters were leaving him in the morning. Him and mom were on their own. It was a harsh adjustment. Call me lonely. I’m sure mom had a fun time trying to decipher Johns gibberish; he and my sister Tina developed their own language. They had a close bond and were the greatest playmates. She was in charge and John gleefully acquiesced.

One day, before we could even imagine it, our happy chubby juicy cheesy hound dog suddenly grew tall and lean and smart and athletic. Gone were the days that we could tease and torture. Now there was a girlfriend and The Police (his new favourite jam) and volleyball. And a few encounters with a friends dads wine cellar. I think one of the influencers in John’s life at that time was his chemistry teacher (also coach) Mr Neigh. The seeds of science sprouted.

It was at university that John met some interesting characters that would shape the next few years. A couple from high school ventured to Hamilton too but it was the new pals (Ray, Kasper, Paul) that completed the group. They had a blast and John was the final kid to launch out of the nest.

He loved adventure a lot more than he loved deadlines. But somehow he got things done. Without confrontation or ado. And became a wonderful father and provider in the process. He’s just a cool dude.

Today we celebrate 51. Love you, Houndie.

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