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You were born in the Great Depression, after the Wall St. crash.

I’ve often tried to imagine that time for your family of seven, struggling with all the other families in Cabbagetown.  Everyone grew vegetables in their front yard to survive, hence the name.

That definitely shaped your worldview, your passion for politics, your keen reading of history and world events.

Reading two Toronto newspapers a day, and listening to CBC Radio every noon hour for the farm report, you passed that passion on to me, your eldest.  We discussed politics for hours through my teen years, dissecting public policy of the day, and American influence on Canadian affairs. I studied political science, then international affairs, inspired by you.

The first year I could vote, we both voted for the same leader: Pierre Elliott Trudeau.  I was proud to be involved in an election at last, and I remember your pride, as we discussed the more inclusive Canada he envisioned.

Then tanks rolled into Ottawa, where I was at university, and our world changed. Politicians were murdered, civil liberties suspended, journalists and writers and intellectuals were arrested and jailed without cause. To be a student then meant writing in public protest; to be a parent, I imagine, frightening.

I don’t know if we ever voted for the same party again.  I suspect not.  But those years shaped our heated political arguments for decades.  Those debates stretched across borders, whenever I moved for school or work, no matter what was happening in the world.

You farmed; you developed your own business.  You cared for five of us, through tough times and good — mostly tough.

You don’t get enough credit for that.

Happy 80th birthday, Dad.  For once, we won’t be arguing about politics.

TOMORROW: My father’s pen