Robert McBryde Author: CBC radio, literary non-fiction, vignettes and sketches, immigrant experience, living in Quebec and in France, childhood and animal stories, creative memoirs, satire, autobiography, family relations, raising children, aging, travel, social commentary, love and marriage, translation: English-French; French-English

Publisher’s Note: Funny, manic, and wistful… self-deprecating creative nonfiction…The author, Robert McBryde, a professional translator, has been compared to David Sedaris for the sometimes-snarky autobiographical satire characterizing his literary sketches. Many of the stories in his new book, titled My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny, have been featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio network.

Author Robert McBryde

Author’s Note:
I’ve written a new book of creative non-fiction titled My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny, recently published and now on the market. The book is based on stories that I told over the years as a writer/ broadcaster and host on CBC radio based in Quebec City, Canada.

The book is available via my website. The purchase links are at the bottom of the home page.

Apparently the Indigo platform has not yet been activated.

I will post two blogs per week, normally Wednesday and Friday afternoons at around 4:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). Stay tuned!

Here are some excerpts from a published vignette about my father-in-law and the immigrant experience. You can read the entire sketch in my new book.

This is your Father
The first time that I spoke with my wife’s father, Jozef Schlenker, was in the spring of 1980. I had been living with Anne in Quebec City for an entire year by that point, without contact with her family, which lived in faraway Vancouver. Anne’s mom had fallen ill with cancer and Anne had to hasten to her bedside. When I phoned her family home for an update, a heavily accented Eastern European voice boomed through the receiver, “This is your Father.”

I called Jozef Schlenker “Father” for the next 30 years, until his death in 2009.

When I first met Father that same summer, I quaked with trepidation. I had just emerged from a failed marriage during the course of which my erstwhile parents-in-law clearly disapproved of all facets of my annoying personality, principles, friends, and appearance.

Thus having not yet recovered from a marriage during which as a son-in-law, I was about as popular as a diseased rodent at a black-tie dinner party, I quivered before Jozef Schlenker, ready to do whatever it took to curry his favour. And at first the future augured very badly. Father had barely shaken my hand when he turned to Anne and grumped in Slovak, “Čo robí tento darebák?” (What does this lazy bum do?) Now Anne herself had just ended a relationship with a fellow whom Father considered embarrassingly hirsute and “ anyhow lazy” (one of his favorite putdowns), and at first, I was tarred with the same brush. But I literally held an ace in the hole: a paycheck stub from my first year of college teaching. Father was nothing if not literal minded and was to say the least obsessed with pecuniary matters, as befit a breadwinner who had fled his country after the 1968 Soviet invasion with $40 in his pocket, so my paycheck was like a soothing talisman…”Ah, theeeees very, very gooooood,” he exclaimed.

My second tactic for ingratiating myself with Father involved devouring titanic quantities of Eastern European edibles and imbibing every sort of firewater, especially vodka, to wash it all down. before proceeding to dinner (which the family ate at 4:30 p.m.), featuring

Dumplings with sheep’s cheese (bryndzové halušky) …
Schnitzels and potato salad ( Snitzels a zemiakový šalát)…
Pork with dumplings and cabbage (vepřo knedlo zelo) … and/or
Goulash soup (gulášová polievka) …

My first weeks with Father were thus one protracted movable feast.

After about two weeks of Operation Conquer Father, I’d gained about 25 pounds and had the addled look and bloodshot eyes of a long-in-the-tooth street-corner rubby.

My liver cried out for mercy. I could no longer sustain these endeavours to charm Father. However, paycheck notwithstanding, I was sure that he would hate me if I slammed the brakes on the consumption express. And I found Father so fierce and formidable.

I finally confided my conundrum to Anne and her sister Gertrude.

There was a long pause and then they guffawed in unison, scoffing with disbelief that anybody could take Father seriously or care what he thinks. Hence was I released from the shackles of seducing Father. I could then appreciate him as the larger-than-life character he turned out to be.

Father was quite appearance conscious and rather vain.. In his year-round Eastern European garb, consisting of suit jacket, fedora, and department store dress slacks, to complement his slicked back white hair, he had the severe beetle-browed look of a prominent member of the Soviet Politburo. When our first son was about five years old, he spotted Konstantin Chernenko, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on the cover of Time magazine. “Look!” he cried. “There’s Father!”


Father exhibited volcanic reactions to current events and to the mystifying tv broadcasts which replaced the Communist propaganda of his previous life with the Beverley Hillbillies, Bewitched, and the Price is Right. (He took a violent dislike to Granny from the Hillbillies and to Samantha from Bewitched.) The Price is Right revved him up to a fever pitch, with its lure of “fabulous merchandise” offered free of charge. “I not can understanding theees” Father would exclaim after taking in another episode of this transmogrified version of North American greed.

Anne’s mother lost her battle with ovarian cancer, succumbing in 1982, and Father, a decidedly Eastern European vessel in turbulent North American waters, lost his remaining ballast. He left his job at the sawmill and moved to the Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire to work as a caretaker for a Czech friend and real estate mogul, Mr. Rind. Thus began a lengthy period during which Father would visit us frequently in Quebec City. Our sons, whom he loved unconditionally and often referred to as “nice blond German boys,” came to understand what it was like to be characters in a prototypic Canadian immigrant novel and got a true hit of Father that marked them for life.

During his frequent visits, Father and his grandsons would play cards for hours on end, often outdoors during summer, in our scrubby backyard, The boys would tease him mercilessly and imitate his English, oblivious to the fact that the language that he was so thoroughly massacring was nevertheless his fifth. They would ask him about his sex life and his girlfriends; he would chortle and claim, “Ach, is all over for me.” They loved it that whenever he messed up in a game of hearts, he would whack his forehead forcefully and melodramatically, exclaiming “my brain not vorking.” Father would accept the teasing with great good humour, simply saying “my English getting vorser and vorser” and “you are very bad boys.”

Father’s unique linguistic proclivities and gargantuan idiosyncrasies are an integral part of our family lexicon and folklore and each of us has a favorite Father story to share.

The story I love best unfolded when we took him to see his first and only play. Now Father came from a tiny, isolated village in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia and theatre wasn’t even a concept for him. When the play, entitled The Pushcart Peddlers, ended, we took Father to meet the brilliant young actors who had performed so well. Father literally couldn’t fathom who they were; he believed in the absolute reality of the story and the characters. It was a uniquely magical moment, every actor and director’s dream: disbelief had been transcended, not suspended, and art had become life itself.

By the winter of 2006, incipient Alzheimer’s had made it impossible for Father to continue dwelling autonomously in his Burnaby condo, and his daughters had to put him in a nursing home. For the first year or so after admission, Father seemed happy and relieved to be in the home, where he would repeat “V krátkom čase budem mŕtvy” (In a short time I be dead) and “Čoskoro ma k sebe zavolá pán Boh (Soon Mr. God will call me to him). In many ways, he also became a new man. This freshly minted version enthusiastically participated in sing-along sessions, crooning corny campfire tunes usually reserved for children…

Willoughby walliby wee

An elephant sat on me
Willoughby walliby woo
An elephant sat on you
Willoughbly wallaby Wo-seph
An elephant sat on Jo-seph

…and beaming when he heard his own name repeated in the song.

The Father we knew had spurned sweets and especially what he called “veemen drink,” i.e. alcoholic beverages that he deemed fit only for women, according to the prevailing Slovak code. But in the nursing home, Father developed a raging sweet tooth and became a clever and stealthy thief: he would slip into the rooms of other residents who had received boxes of candy or chocolates from their loved ones and then devour the entire purloined hoard. He would also lumber about the dining room after mealtime but before clean-up and gobble all the leftover desserts. After a few weeks of this radically different diet, Father confided in us: “I not can understanding theees…my stomach growing…up.” He was expanding like the universe, and the nursing home staff called to inform us that they had acquired a brand-new wardrobe for Father, featuring sweatpants with an expandable waistband. In his new garb, Father was a wonder to behold! Gone was the Eastern European Soviet Politburo look. Father had become, at least from a sartorial perspective, a North American at long last.

By his second year in the nursing home, Father’s short-term memory was evanescing. There came a point when he didn’t remember friends and family members, and when he lost his English, even lapsing into long disjointed ramblings in German dialect. But interspersed were those moments of clarity to which anyone who has had contact with a person with Alzheimer’s can attest.

The last time that we visited Father in the nursing home was just such a magical moment. He recounted lucidly, in vivid detail, his adventures in the forest as part of the Czechoslovak anti-Nazi resistance, moving and frightening stories that we knew we had to cherish as quite possibly his last.

After recounting these fascinating tales, he turned to me and said in Slovak, “si najlepší syn, akého som mohol mať “…you are the best son I could have had. This was a lasting priceless gift.
Father died on his name day, March 19, in 2009. He had fallen, broken his hip, and never got up again, refusing to eat and withering away, far away.

Back in the days when he came to Quebec City, each time he left our home, Father would issue a blanket apology: “ If I said or did anything wrong or bad during this short visit, I am very sorry.” As I slide closer to oblivion, I have adopted this ritual apology for my family and friends. It will also serve as a fitting epitaph when my own short visit draws to a close.

If you purchase a book via the platform of your choice, please leave a review!

And if you have comments about my blog posts, I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me via my website, and I’ll get back to you asap. That’s a promise!

Here is a link to a cool group book review blog:

My Time With you Has Been Short But Very Funny by Author Robert McBryde

My Time With You Has Been Short But Very Funny, a review by Di

And this is a link to Goodreads. A great place for reading about new books and reviews.


And finally Amazon…

Happy reading! 😊

Your friend,