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COLUMN: Mature maples, standing strong against adversity, a reminder of Dad

Late father taught his son the power of perseverance and perspective, love, patience, having a sense of humour, and to face adversity head-on

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Another one with you, and without you.

Without you, because you no longer walk on this Earth, watching a crazy world unfold/unravel and pondering its future.

With you, because I think of you every day and the positive aspects of my life that I am so grateful for that you played such a huge part in.

The maple saplings we planted in my (future) wife’s and my backyard 33 years ago  before we’d actually even taken possession of our Thornton home  were thinner than your wrist.

Now they’re big and tall enough for tree climbers of all ages  along with birds, bats and fireflies  to enjoy. Collecting 40 or so bags of leaves every fall, not so much.

Those saplings were from the beautiful Township of Oro (pre-county amalgamation) 54-acre woodlot you and Mom shared with another couple.

You  and eventually me, too  found a lot of solace in the woodlot.

Practising silviculture, the maintaining and promotion of forest growth, had long been in your blood and was soon in mine.

Down came the standing deadwood, damaged or diseased trees to make way for new growth. You taught me how to use a chain saw without killing myself and you set a mean pace for me to keep up to when it came to splitting wood.

As goes the woodlot, so goes life: the old makes way for the new and the future.

We had some pretty revealing conversations while we were toiling under that canopy of maples, oaks and towering pines.

Some of it was idle chatter in between the grinding of the chain saw: how work was going and the latest story I was working on, Canadian and international politics (you were a news hound, so small wonder I ended up in journalism), some of your wartime reflections (few and far between thoughts about being a RCAF navigator during the Second World War), and family. 

And some of those conversations were reflections on life and death, and finding the strength to muster on despite the loss of my brother  my older and only sibling.

It was a challenge no parent should ever have to face, but you and Mom soldiered through it and taught me the power of perseverance and perspective, love, patience, having a sense of humour, and to face adversity head-on.

And now I hope I can pass on those qualities to my own children.

I believe a lot of the strength we created for ourselves came from our time in the bush and from the trees themselves  a positive distraction from what we had no control over and being surrounded by the beautiful spirit of the forest.

When I look at those mature maples in my backyard, I think of you and the friendly foliage anchored into Mother Earth. In a way, you fathers are like trees  standing strong against adversity, providing shelter and giving us pause to consider what we are grateful for.

Like growth rings on a sturdy maple, we can remember your strength and love.

Thanks, Dad. I love you.