As we age and remember long gone parents we continue to improve and expand our understanding and appreciation of them. My father, Albert Hedley Palmer was born in 1911 and became a young adult at the beginning of the depression. He rode the rails (in boxcars) between his childhood home of Biggar Saskatchewan and the Fraser Valley where he came in the summer to work on farms (including the farm of my grandparents where he met my mother) and returned to Saskatchewan for occasional work for CNR in the winter. He got his first permanent job as a nickel miner in Levack,Ontario at the age of 30.
In all the photos that I can find of my younger father he always looks the same. Like he doesn’t give a damn. Usually with his shirt half done up, his hands in his belt loop. Often with a cigarette in his mouth. Often a sneer on his face. Usually looking like someone I might cross the street to avoid if I saw him ahead of me.
But then I remember, he grew up in the depression, worked hard jobs (and then underground mining) slept in boxcars and then sheds on farms where he was working. Probably the greatest joy in such a challenging life was a cigarette and a drink. Do I expect him to be dressed in a suit and looking prissy?
He was a hard working man who always went to work even when sick (that was once a virtue before Covid turned it into a vice). Always extremely honest . Never wanted anything that wasn’t his. Frugal but never interested in wealth, only what he needed . Amazingly accepting of life and death. Always prepared to help neighbors and strangers in a way that only growing up in hard times can instill in you.
When I was younger I was occasionally embarrassed about my underground miner father with his grade eight education and sometimes imperfect grammar(which improved throughout his life- he was my mothers work in progress). Particularly when I attended Osgoode Hall Law School where half the students came from wealthy families. But I learned. The years have removed most (but not all ) of my arrogance.
Wealth and education will not bring contentment. My father was content. He was honest and hard working. He was also nonjudgmental (a bit of a contrast with my mother on that trait). Perhaps I failed to mention one of his most important traits to me. Although a “tough”man in his youth when I came along when he was 45 he was a fantastic father. He did so many things for me and with me. Quite simply he always put me ahead of his own interests.
So I have gone from mild embarrassment to aspiring (and in many cases failing) to be like him. And he is my role model for being a father. Apparently the depression may have been a better teacher than University.
To my father who has not physically been in our lives for thirty years, Happy Fathers Day.
Posts copied from FaceBook.