A long time ago, in a podunk far far away I was born. The town was called Hopeless (at least that’s what I call it). My father and mother made their living there. It was a town where I would make few lasting friendships, and a place that I really only look back with fondness when I think of my parents and their love for me.
This past week was a week of remembrance. Even though Starbucks took to the holiday season early (November 1st) and faced a trivial controversy of issuing a holiday cup that was plain red, people still took time out of their schedules to pay respects to the veterans who have served their countries in times of need. I am not going to write about the right or wrong of the conflicts as that is not for me to say. I could easily look back and comment on the horrors of war, and war is horror. But I am not writing about that. This week I am writing about a Jedi that I knew and loved. He was the first real Jedi I would ever know – and he still is a hero to me. My father. You see, I had a much older father than any of my friends did. He was not young and foolish. He had already lived a full life by the time I was born. Some people say that it is not fun to have an older father, but I am so thankful that I did. By the time I was born he had already grown into the man he was. He was kind, intelligent, and he always had time for me, even though he worked hard. He was a welder by trade. But he had also been a soldier. My father was a paratrooper. He served with the First Canadian Parachute Battalion during the Second World War. He was a young man when he joined the army. He joined not because he felt a moral responsibility. He did not join because it was the right thing to do. He joined because he was supporting his brother and sisters – my father was seeking employment. The army promised him a steady paycheck, and the parachute battalion offered even more money because of the danger. He didn’t really know what he was signing up for or how long the conflict was going to last. I am sure there was also a moral pressure among the Canadian men at that time. As a younger man I wanted to know what he did, as his son I wanted to know even more. My father told me many funny stories about his time in England. His stories all seemed to stop on June 5th, 1944 – the eve of what we now call D-day. The paratroopers dropped the night of the 5th, before the land invasion happened. He never shared with me any battle stories. I had friends who were in the military and who served in Afghanistan. I watched my father once speaking passionately to one of my friends who was a soldier. When I arrived to join the conversation I could tell I was not to be privy to their discussion. I was jealous. Though I was his son, there were some things he wanted to keep with him to his grave. When he died in 2006 I learned a few more things of his active service. On November 11th, I do not think of the glory of the battles. I think of the horror many young Canadians have faced in all our conflicts, then and now. horrors I can only hope never to encounter. I remember the sacrifice many gave to protect people like me – the sons and daughters, brothers, nieces and nephews, mothers and fathers, friends of those who served and who continue to serve. It makes our every day trivial things seem very insignificant. So what if Starbucks did not put snowflakes on a cup during the holiday season. Why do we have to make that an issue? Personally, as I looked around the crowd that had gathered on November 11th, the red cups that many held blended in a lot more than illustrations of Santa, elves or reindeer.
When the ceremony was over, my daughter and I waited patiently in line to approach the cenotaph and we chose wreaths to lay our poppies. We took a total of a couple hours on November 11th to remember people like my father. While others were too tired, too busy, or too important to do so, we paid our respects – not as a memory of war, but as a respect for those who fought and fight so we don’t have to.
I wrote my father was a Jedi. He was. He had compassion. He never hurt living creatures. He saw the fragile beauty in life and the world. He genuinely loved people. He was a kind man. He had been a warrior when it was required. He never resorted to violence when I knew him. He was a man of peace and love, of respect and of honour. He had been a hunter in his youth (out of a necessity to live and to feed his family, not out of glory for a head on a wall). He taught me many things in life. The only time I ever saw the warrior within him was when he drove me one morning to the discovery of one of the priests who had abused me. As he dropped me off at the lawyers’ office he said “If you only had told me what happened to you back then I would have been out of jail by now.” Now that I am a father I understood what he was saying. A Jedi stands up for what is right according to their cause. There is no greater bond than a father and mother protecting their family. I knew my parents would do anything for me. I believe I would do anything for my children. My father’s love was strong. Love is what surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. My father, a guardian of love, died in 2006. His love is still felt in our house. He is still very much alive in our hearts. He was truly a Jedi to me and to my family. The Force was strong with him. I respect him and others who did what they had to do – right or wrong – they did what they did so we may have. Lest we forget.