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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For everything there is a season and a time

My father was a true Renaissance Man.  He could change a gas line, fix a furnace, re-wire electrical systems, build a building... all with his own hands.  He also was a university philosophy professor, an economist, a researcher, a public policy advisor and analyst; he was a think tank guru, author, speaker and general go-to guy.  My Dad was regularly meeting with government ministers, Premiers, and Prime Ministers.  He was one of a few lay people to address parliament. 

Impressive by any standard.  Yet if you were to speak with anyone whose path crossed his, above all the praise for his abilities and accomplishments, the one resounding thing you would hear is what a generous, warm individual this man was.  It mattered not if you were a CEO or the lady who empties the trash, you always received his genuine, infectious smile and an encouraging word.

Throughout my childhood I adored my Dad.  Not really for any of the above reasons, though.  I cherished his sense of humour, his ability to make me smile when I needed to smile most...  I loved being with him: it mattered not if we were at the park, playing catch in the backyard, or skipping through the parliament buildings to one of his meetings. (See, I often accompanied my Dad on his activities.  From a very young age, I remember him leaving me briefly with the Sisters at the check out desk at St. Michael's library while he scurried off to quickly get some books from the dusty stacks.  And, yes, I have fond memories of my Dad, all 6'3" of him, wearing a grey suit and carrying his briefcase, skipping with me, his youngest boy, through the halls of Parliament.)

Not that I didn't enjoy his mind!  During my adolescence, some of my fondest memories are of me sitting with Dad at the kitchen table, just talking, for hours at a time... this is something we did every evening.  He was a walking encyclopedia and a joy to be around because he loved teaching and loved learning.  The one thing, though, was that Dad insisted all us boys do our own work.  He would always be available to help, but there were no free rides in the homework department at our house!

When I was in first year at the University of Toronto I was registered in Arts and Science with my sights on Physiology.  My breadth requirement was partially going to be filled with Eng 101-- a creative writing course.  I remember the intensity of being in first year, something so very different from grade 13.  As "luck" would have it, I developed a pretty bad bronchitis and was wiped out for more than a week.  For the first time in my life my Dad took total mercy on me and completed my writing assignment, which is to say  he did the whole thing-- from start to finish.  He even submitted the paper on my behalf.  Believe it or not, I had not even read the thing!

Two weeks later, after I was back at school, I arrived home at dinner time to be greeted at the door by my eldest brother, Peter.  He reached for my shoulders and said, "Dad's dead."

My father had died in his home office of a massive heart attack while working on a paper he was to deliver at Memorial University.  He was 47.

A few weeks after the funeral I received back my first assignment from my creative writing course.  The man who had written a Ph.D. dissertation, hundreds of briefs, speeches, articles- even books- had gotten an A.  "I've never given an A to a student in first year on the first assignment!" the professor noted.  After my eye had digested the large red A on the cover, my eyes flashed up to the title and I began to slowly read:  For everything there is a season and a time...

Today, June 25th, Dad is celebrating in Heaven what would have been his 69th birthday.  Today, though I miss Dad dearly, I celebrate knowing I had a very special man as my father... and tonight I will be enjoying a slice of one of his fave's, black forest cake!

Happy Birthday, Dad!  I love you.

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