The Parallel Parliament

by Glen Pearson

Tag: father’s day

More Than DNA


“THE HEART OF A FATHER IS THE MASTERPIECE OF NATURE.” Really? Antoine Francois wrote that a long time ago, but I sense I have fallen far short of that kind of nobility of soul. Because fathers never stop learning, it is almost impossible to arrive at anything near a “masterpiece”. Fatherhood itself is a series of rites of passage – births, first days of school, graduation, marriages, grandkids – which, no matter how many times they are experienced, leaves one with the feeling that we never get it quite right.

Most people are cursed with the idea that if only they could acquire something externally that they would be better people. Extra money, a better job, more patience or kindness, a sense of purpose – these are the usual suspects rolled out as objects worth procuring if we are to be more complete as humans. Because children, as they mature, constantly press the boundaries of their respective worlds, fathers always have to respond to so many challenges over the years that it can easily leave one with the sense that they can never be good enough to be the “masterpiece” dad.

Fortunately, in the great Circle of Life, there is a remedy inherent with humanity that eventually exposes the fallacy of such thinking. Over the years we come to realize that the great virtues of personality are not something external for which to reach but impulses that reside within us that must emerge over time. The cure for our underperformance is already housed in the very desire we feel to be better fathers to our children. The great religious teachers, moralists, and philosophers have always shown the way on this but in the pressures of living they are lessons often overlooked or forgotten entirely. The belief that we are better than our performance would indicate is one of the great drivers in human progress – and in fatherhood.

In this is the great genius of life and guardianship. We don’t become better guides for our children in order that we might assist them through life. It is actually the opposite: their very presence in our lives is what makes us fit to supervise their journey into adulthood. Those who witnessed the life of Abraham Lincoln never comprehended the depths of his soul until they saw him rolling on the floor with his children. The tenderness of such moments transcended the pressures of leading in wartime and introduced the world to a man of vastly deep treasures of human compassion.

In a very real way it is our children, through the very experience of raising them, that make us fit to mentor them. Love is not only the greatest parenting strategy there is; it actually is the great former and shaper of the parents themselves. It is their children that call those deep resources within their moms and dads to live at such a level where love can be free to operate.

For this reason many of us will never get over our fathers. We were never meant to because we, as their children, had a hand in raising them, in broadening understanding, in deepening their hearts. God put children in our lives for that very reason. People don’t become perfect, then have kids. They are blessed with parenthood and then learn to fill that responsibility as the years progress.

With seven children blessing my life, it is likely that any real strength of character or compassion that I have shown was refined by their very presence in my life, gracing my years and making me a better person. For all my failures, I have succeeded when they have been free to shape me. And now that I have four grandchildren, it is likely that such a refinement will continue until my final breath.

At times I wonder what it must be like for my kids to have walked along with me in this life. How do they see me? For all the benefits they have brought to me, have I sufficiently helped in preparing them for the rigors of life? Do they see me as a companion or some kind of distant moral instructor? I would hope it is the former, because that is what I have desired most. I have always concurred with Martin Luther King’s great observation that, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But that bending best happens in companionship and friendship, and I can only pray that my kids see me in such a light.

It is my ultimate hope that my relationship with my children is more than just about DNA. That’s a natural passing on of the building blocks of life. But the other stuff – the love, respect, gratitude, lessons learned, and just sheer companionship – is what I hope they can perceive. To a very large degree they raised me, protected me, drew out some of the better parts of me. On this Father’s Day I can only thank them for their ongoing love and faithfulness. I have become a better man for their very willingness to engage with me and point me in the direction of a better humanity. On this special day, if there is any gratitude to be expressed it is from one blessed father to his remarkable children.

What Can I Possibly Say To This?

I just received this note a few minutes ago from my son, Ater, for Father’s Day and I wept. To be loved like this is life’s great honour. I can only pray that God will help him through those dark days when I am gone. I am so blessed.

I love you, Dad. You were always there for me when times were tough. When I had no father, you became mine, and I’m glad you’re the father that I never really had. It’s like I was falling but you were like a pad – you saved my life. Sometimes I get mad, but I will always love you.

I remember the first time that I called you “Dad.” We were going to Newfoundland and Labrador. We laughed. It felt different but right. I remember praying for a great Dad back in Africa, and God gave me one in you. I remember thinking to myself every time that I was mad, “I have a really great and lucky life. I have no reason to be angry because out of the children that lived in Africa, I was one of the three to come to Canada, where I have a great Dad, Mom and family. I go to school, have lots of friends, and good health, and life.  You made all this and who I am today. I pray at times that I can grow up to be like you. I see all around the house every great accomplishment that you have done that helped a lot of people, like the food bank. You work so hard for the family. You went into Parliament not because you like it (actually you didn’t), but because you wanted to help others. I will always remember that.

That’s what makes me want to be like you, and you’re so loving and a family guy. I wish you would never die because that would be like life without meaning, or macaroni without cheese:)  Life would be hopeless. But that’s the least of my worries because you’ll live forever I know because I ask God to make you live forever before I fall asleep every night. It might be crazy or foolish, but sometimes, because of all the good you’ve done for people, I think that you are God, and that you can read my thoughts. And for that reason I only think good thoughts.

I love you Dad, and I don’t need Father’s Day to tell you that I love you. I do it every day, and always will.



Not Dead … Not Yet (A Father’s Day Reflection)

My father’s friendship with Lester Pearson was reflective in nature, and sporadic.  A relationship that began in the Second World War ebbed and flowed over the ensuing years, yet was remarkable for its tenacity.  Being young during most of his visits to Calgary, I sadly can only recall some faint whispers of the conversations that were as entrancing as they were difficult to fully comprehend.  It was never politics they discussed but diplomacy.  Lester Pearson tired easily of the political shenanigans in Ottawa and found in my father someone, not of equal mind, but of a shared sentiment for Canada’s emerging greatness in an increasingly polarized world.  Looking back on it, I don’t think Dad was ever in Lester’s league, but in reality they weren’t playing a game.  They found consolation in meaningful conversation.  It was enough.

My father never really recovered from the war.  Wounded in battle in Italy, he returned to Canada and endeavoured to find a job, while my mother minded my brother and I in Scotland until it was time for us to be rejoined as a family.  It took over five years.

Every weekend Dad and I camped in Banff, or Jasper, or the Okanagan, or Shushwap or Waterton Lakes.  But he was always quiet and I was astute enough to comprehend that the war still ate away at him – his wounds, the friends he lost, his trouble reconnecting with Mom.  He found rest in his solitude but never peace of mind.  Being young, I just assumed he had been overwhelmed by war and was experiencing difficulty in getting back to a normal life.

And then one weekend we camped on a tiny sliver of beach in Penticton, B.C.  Late at night we watched the stars and were shocked by a steady movement across the sky. He got up and watched it arc across the heavens until it dropped below the horizon.  “It’s the Sputnik,” he declared.  As if it were some kind of celestial signal, he began describing to me why the war affected him so much.  It was the closest moment we were to ever share, save for his final week of life.

In short, he missed the grandeur, the belief that this farm boy from Saskatchewan was caught up in events that were world-shaping.  Though lacking in education, he had the mind and the spirit for this kind of engagement.  And it was through that world conflict that he came to love his country – not because he sacrificed for it, but because he viewed it from afar and found it awesome.  But in the years following his return, amid all the burgeoning middle-class adventure and the plentitude of money, he was never to rediscover that spirit again.

That’s why Lester Pearson meant something to him.  Through Lester he touched bigger things again, occasionally permitting himself to be drawn in to the creation of medicare and a rustic pension system.

I am a child of my father, and I can’t help thinking there a millions of Baby Boomers just like me who comprehend what I’m rambling about.  Wherever we grew up in this country, it was a land of potential, of worldwide influence, and above all of peaceful cohabitation and international intervention.  We were ennobled by the sheer thought of it and many of us sought to continue the legacy as we grew up.  But where are we now?  The greatness of the Canada we knew has become lost in our self-preoccupation and our pressing need for material advancement.

My Dad would be shocked if he knew I had become an MP, but would have been proud.  He left us in 1977, his ashes spread on a BC lake.  But he’s not dead, not yet.  My struggle in Parliament is a mere extension of his desire for Canada’s greatness.  My fight to take Canada back into the world is merely the embodiment of his blood through my veins.  To all those out there who instinctively understand my feeble words, I ask that we once again rediscover that thrill of our youth.  That Great Generation is not dead, not yet – not as long as we remember and arise to take our country back.

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