The Pickup

During the years we owned a home in Florida, we used to comment on how fortunate we were to live in a retirement community where so many services were close at hand.  It truly was remarkable.

We benefited from facilities and utilities that we could have taken for granted.  We had running water, electric power, telephone and cable service, and internet availability.  We were close to medical and dental services, supermarkets and convenience stores, a volunteer emergency corps, and a fire department.

We had ready access to libraries, recreational facilities, and churches.  We were served by a thriving post office, a conscientious sheriff’s department, and many other organizations too numerous to mention.

We lived near five golf courses, all of which we could drive to in our own golf cart.

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We were, indeed, very fortunate.

However—there’s always a ‘however’ in these cases—there was one public service that caused me a great deal of difficulty.  It probably wasn’t their fault; in fact, it likely wasn’t anybody’s fault.  But it was one of those little vexations of life that seemed, at first, to be beyond fixing.

I’m speaking of the problems I had with my garbage.  The pickup never worked for me.  It used to be terrific to drop the plastic bags at the end of my driveway every Friday morning and forget about them.  A short time later, a big truck would crawl slowly and noisily down the street, swallowing the assorted bags that were tossed into its churning maw.  And the whole thing would be over for another week.

But then things changed, and I began to have a lot of trouble.  It started when the pickup service was moved to an earlier time of day for my street.  That truck began to show up before I woke up!

To solve that issue, I hit upon the idea of putting the bags out the night before.  That, I figured, would solve my dilemma with the early hour.  To my chagrin, it was just the beginning of a whole host of problems.

Whenever I put the garbage out the night before pickup, the scavengers got into it.  Four-legged critters, like coons and possum; two-legged critters, such as crows and seagulls.  When I would saunter to the street the next morning, after the truck had been and gone, I’d find remnants of the week’s malodorous garbage strewn across my grass.

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I tried all manner of schemes to put a stop to this.  It was amazing how ingenious, and devious, an old guy like me could become when I had to stoop over to scoop up garbage that I had already packed up for pickup!

In order to foil the two-legged critters, I began to wait until just before my bedtime to put out the garbage, after they were safely in their nests.  To prevent the four-legged critters from continuing their raids, I scattered pellets, sprayed foam, and sprinkled red pepper around the bags—but all to no avail.

Once, to my undying shame, and well after dark, I even resorted to putting my garbage bags across the street, on my neighbour’s driveway.  The next morning, there was half the load, spread across his grass.

And it didn’t really change anything, anyway, because when I went over to clean it up, I encountered him in the middle of the street.  He was on his way to pick up the spillage from the bags he had left on my driveway!  The bounder.

After a bothersome few months, I reached the stage where I realized I wasn’t putting out garbage; rather, I was making an offering to the critters from hell!

But, wonder of wonders, I eventually solved the riddle.  Looking back on it, I can’t believe it took me so long to come up with such a creative solution.  It certainly would have relieved me of a bunch of worry.

It finally dawned on me that on every warm, Florida Friday morning, garage sales and yard sales were endemic to our community—every neighbourhood, every street.  And hundreds of people—rich, poor, young, old, women, men—prowled the area in their vans and station wagons.

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So, from that point on, I would clamber out of bed every Friday at a reasonable hour, tie off my garbage bags with pretty, colorful ribbons, and drop them at the end of my driveway, with a big sign on them: FREE.

The bags were gone before I could finish my first cup of coffee!

 

 

The Reach of a Father’s Love

Friends of ours lost their only child several years ago, the victim of a relentless disease.  He left behind a grieving wife, two young children, and a sparkling future.

In the years since, our friends have doted on their grandchildren, taking great delight in watching them grow from infants to toddlers, and onward to adolescence.  They’ve invested time with them, knowing they can never make up for the loss of a father, but determined to keep his memory alive.

A while after their son’s death, I wrote a piece to commemorate his life and the legacy he left behind.  I post it here now, adapted somewhat, to mark the advent of another Fathers’ Day

The little boy is eight-years-old, and loves to visit his grandparents at the family cottage.  For him, every day is an adventure, a surprise, a delight, as he wanders the woods, swims in the lake, and fishes the waters in the old, wooden skiff.

For the older folks, these activities hearken to an earlier time with another fair-haired lad, and they treasure the memories, even as they create new ones.

A while back, the little boy was in the musty basement of the cottage with his grandpa, when he made a great discovery.  “Grampy, what’s this?” he cried, pointing to a bright-yellow model boat.

Sitting astride its pedestal on top of an old workbench, the craft was almost three feet long—a racing boat, bred for speed, its tall sails still unfurled.  Three small passengers huddled in the cockpit, as if awaiting the starting gun for an impending race.

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“Oh, that?” his grandpa replied.  “That’s a boat your daddy built a long time ago.  He used to race her on the lake with his remote control.”  He lifted a dusty metal box down from an overhead shelf.  Two toggle switches protruded from the top, and a long antenna jiggled slightly as he set it down.  “This is how you make the boat go where you want it to.”

“Can I make it go, Grampy?”

“Mmm, I don’t think so, l’il guy.  I don’t think she works anymore.”  Together they lifted the cowling off the boat, behind the drivers, and peered at the mysteries of the small motor inside.

“It smells funny,” the little boy said.

“That’s oil you smell,” his grandpa replied.  “Your daddy always made sure he kept her cleaned and oiled.  He really liked this boat.”

“What’s her name?”

“Your daddy called her The Yellow Flash.  Here’s her name on the back, just the way he painted it.”

“Can I make her go, Grampy?” the little boy asked again.

The old man shook his head.  “The batteries are probably dead,” he said, “and look at these wires.  They’re corroded at the junction plates.  The sails are pretty ratty, too.”

“Well, can we fix her?” the little boy said.

His grandpa stared at him for a few moments, a faraway look in his eye.  “Y’know,” he said finally, “maybe we can.  Shall we give it a try?”

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Over the next couple of weeks, the two of them dismantled the boat in order to clean every part, separating the batteries and wires that would need replacing.  They opened the remote box and cleaned it out as best they could, removed the sails for a gentle cleaning.  On his next trip to the city, the old man took the hull and box to a hobby-shop, where the owner walked him through the steps needed to restore the boat to operation.

On the little boy’s next visit to the cottage, they began the rebuilding process.  As they soldered new wires in place, the little boy was fascinated.  His grandpa let him set the new batteries in their proper slots, showing him how to ensure the contacts were touching.  He watched as the little boy lovingly polished the hull, restoring it to its original gleaming glory.

Together, they replaced the sails, and tested the remote box, working the toggles to control the boat’s tiny propeller and rudder while it still sat on its dry-dock pedestal.

“She works, Grampy!  She works!”

“I think she does, l’il guy.  Shall we put her in the water?”

And so they did.  Carrying her gingerly down the slope to the dock, they lowered her carefully into the lake.  From a silent vantage point on the rocks, I watched them—a grandfather and his son’s son, with his son’s boat, launching their labour of love.

“Which one is the driver?” the little boy asked, pointing to the three small figures in the cockpit.

“Well, this one is you,” his grandpa said, indicating the figure in the middle.  “You’re the skipper.”

“Okay,” said the little boy.  “Then this one on the right will be you, and this can be my daddy over here.”

The old man had to look away for a moment to collect himself.

“What if the waves tip her over?” the little boy asked, suddenly apprehensive.

“Well, it’s pretty calm right now, l’il guy.  I think she’ll be okay.”

“But what if she goes way out there and we can’t bring her back?”

“She’ll come back,” his grandpa said.  “She’ll come back.”

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As they perched on the dock, legs dangling over the water, the old man gave the boat a push away from shore.  The little boy, the remote box between his knees, began to steer her—hesitantly at first, with fitful starts and stops, over-correcting erratically.  But in moments he was sure, and the boat skimmed atop the surface, speeding and curving gracefully, immediately responsive to his commands.

I watched the boat for awhile, then turned my attention to the old man and the boy.  Their faces were split with grins, happily alight, as they raced The Yellow Flash to and fro along the shoreline.

“Take a turn, Grampy,” the little boy yelled, handing the remote box to his grandpa.  And he squealed with delight when the old man almost capsized her, righting her just in time.

“Grampy?” the little boy said after a while.

“Mmm?” his grandpa replied, seeming lost in reverie.

“I love my daddy’s boat!”

“I love her, too,” the old man said, leaning in close to his grandson.  “And I love you, l’il guy, very much.”

I left them on the dock, locked in silent communion.  And it may only have been my imagination, but when I stole a glance back, I could swear I saw a third person there—ephemeral but real, lovingly watching them both.

At once apart from, yet a part of, the old man and the boy.

And I marveled at the reach of a father’s love.

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A Pompous Ass? Me?

Across the span of almost fifty years, I still recall the awful moment when I learned I was a pompous ass.  I wasn’t told directly, nor in those words, but rather through an overheard remark from one early-twenties lady to another—both of whom I had earnestly been trying to impress.

The actual statement, I believe, was, “You know he’s full of shit, right?”

Had I not stopped unexpectedly just after leaving their company, bending out of view to tie a shoelace, I might never have known.

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There I was, a handsome young man (if I may say), gainfully-employed, socially-acceptable—though, perhaps, a tad taken with my own opinion—hearing for the first time that my efforts to ingratiate myself in their favour were unappreciated.

Even worse, mocked.

Surely not! I raged.

It took me some time to digest that unwelcome revelation; in fact, my first instinct was to reject it.  Further attempts to win over the winsome duo proved fruitless, however, and that fact finally forced me to re-examine my approach.

Whatever I eventually changed must have been enough, thankfully, for I have been happily married for fifty years to a lovely lady who apparently did not share the opinion of the others.

I mention this episode now, not because it still bothers me—for I have long-since accepted that, sometimes, I am indeed full of shit—but because I have been watching a relatively-new actor on the world’s political stage strut his stuff.  And I wonder what those two young ladies would have thought of him.

There are words that come to mind:  charlatan, popinjay, imposter, fraud, narcissist.  None of which would matter in the slightest if they were applied to me.  Alas, I am writing of the president of the United States of America, and whoever occupies that office does matter.

He, in my opinion, is a pompous ass.  And it pains me to think I might ever have been regarded in that same light.

He poses theatrically when the mood strikes, tiny eyes narrowed to what he must assume is a steely gaze, lips pursed, chin thrust forward aggressively.  And he holds the pose for as long as his attention span will allow—seconds only, but enough to engrave it on the public consciousness when repeated often enough.

He reminds me of nothing so much as a fascist leader of the 1930’s who affected such Caesar-like poses.

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He boasts openly of a callous, abusive approach to women who are not significant to him, except insofar as they might mollify his carnal desires.  He grabs them at will, and….wait for it….according to him, they like it!

What are we to make of this mountebank?

More importantly, what do other world leaders make of him?  At a recent gathering of G7 leaders, as he was pontificating over a statement about his country’s changing stance on the Paris climate change accord, those leaders were seen rolling their eyes and smirking at his buffoonery.  Openly.

Did he even notice?

At a recent Arab-Islamic-American summit in Saudi Arabia, he was feted in a manner which he must surely have deemed his due.  Among the kings, emirs, and sultans of fifty nations, he primped and preened like a man to the manor born.

But how do those eminences really regard him?  As a competent and effective leader, their equal in diplomatic affairs?  As a trusted ally?  Or as an easily-duped patsy, susceptible to flattery and fawning, and groomed now to help them accomplish their own geopolitical and economic goals?

We shall see in due course.  But his colleagues on the world stage remind me very much of the lovely young ladies who gutted me so expertly those many years ago.

A pompous ass?  The president of the United States of America?

Surely not!

The Right to Be Wrong

Among the inalienable rights we enjoy in democratic societies is the right to be wrong.  We have an unfettered right to make a choice about our fundamental values, our publicly-stated opinions, and our actions—and to express these choices.

We bear a burden for holding this right, however, in that we are expected to (and can often be made to) accept responsibility for the consequences of our choices.

This notion has become more significant for me recently, as I watch in horrified fascination the shenanigans of the so-called ‘leader of the free world’, and his enablers, in the great republic to the south of us.

The circumstance of being wrong is a subjective concept.  How do we know, how can we determine absolutely, when someone is wrong?  Is there a conclusive test?  Do we always know right away, or does it sometimes take a long time to figure it out?

In fact, there are societal norms in place to govern our interactions and behaviours; but most of them evolve over time, as each succeeding generation shapes the world to its liking.  An action considered wrong for my Victorian grandmother (like appearing on the beach in a two-piece bathing suit) would certainly not be condemned today.

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The norms come into existence in one of two ways.  They are legislated for our common good by duly-elected representatives, or they are adopted by people at large as benchmarks for social intercourse.  Regardless of their source, they become truly effective only when they enjoy a high degree of acceptance among those for whom they are intended.  It has been called governance with the consent of the governed.

An example of the legislative method is the imposition of speed limits for vehicles on publicly-owned roadways; it is clearly wrong to exceed the posted limits.  An example of the adoptive method is the attitude towards smoking, particularly around other people; even in jurisdictions where smoking is not yet illegal, it is definitely frowned-upon to subject others to second-hand smoke.

Of course, in neither form, legislated or adopted, do our societal norms enjoy universal approval.  There are countless scofflaws in the general population who pay only lip-service at best to those they consider trivial.  Have you, for instance, ever exceeded a posted speed limit?  I confess I have.  And there are people who, despite both the social opprobrium and scientific evidence attesting to the effects of smoking, who still choose to light up.

More importantly, and more dangerously, we have fringe groups among us who vigorously, sometimes violently, oppose those norms they disagree with.  If that were not the case, abortion clinics would not be bombed; temples, mosques, and churches would not be defaced with hateful graffiti; and people would not be denigrated and harassed because of skin-colour, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

Thankfully, such violent actions are widely considered wrong in a democratic society.  And, wherever possible, punished.

In the distant past, Isaac Newton famously hypothesized that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Known as Newton’s Third Law of Motion, it pertained to the physics of interactions between two opposing forces.

We might think of the relationship between behaviour and consequences in a similar, though not identical, manner.  The first begets the second.  If I drop a crystal goblet on a tile floor, for instance, the goblet shatters; if I stroll through an afternoon shower sans umbrella, my clothing becomes soaked; if I bite down on my tongue while chewing, I experience pain.  Such natural consequences are the result of the behaviours immediately preceding them.

Logical consequences are different, but no less substantial.  If I drop that crystal goblet while examining it in the store, I will almost certainly have to pay for it.  If I speed through a residential neighbourhood (even if I am fortunate not to strike a pedestrian), I may be cited by a traffic cop, leading to the payment of a substantial fine.  Logical consequences are imposed as a result of our behaviours by outside authorities empowered to do so.

All of which brings me back to my dismay at the disarray I witness almost daily in the USA.  People elected to govern on behalf of the people who elected them behave, instead, in their own selfish interests.  They make decisions, not on the basis of how a particular matter might benefit their constituents or their country, but on whether it will improve their chances for re-election.  They take positions, not representing those who voted for them, but the moneyed interests who finance their pursuits.

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They spend their time, not enacting legislation to benefit all citizens, but fighting their partisan, internecine battles in a sadly-ritualistic dance to the death.

And at the forefront, a bombastic, narcissistic showman, ignorant in the ways of leadership, determined above all to have his way.  To win!

Can the great republic be wrong in the fateful choice it made just six months ago?  And if so, what will be the consequences for the nation, and for the rest of the world?

We have an inalienable right to be wrong, it is true.  But never in my memory have the potential consequences of being wrong been so enormous.  I want to cry out—

How can you be so stupid?  Fix this!  More important than your right to be wrong is your duty to be right!

And, helpless to affect matters, I continue to watch.

 

 

Who Said That?

For several years, I’ve had a brilliant idea for a word-game bouncing around in my head.  Given my general laissez-faire attitude in my retirement years, however, I’ve done nothing about it.

And that’s a shame, because the more I think about it, the more convinced I am it could be a sure-fire hit.  Like when the original Trivial Pursuit first burst upon the scene, or Scrabble, or Hangman, or Words with Friends, to name a few.

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The game—in the multi-platform age we live in—can be marketed as a traditional board-game, or as a digital game adapted to computers and laptops.  It can feature competitive matches with others, or a self-play mode for those uncomfortable with universal play.  It can have different levels of skill to accommodate players with varying levels of language fluency.  It can have focused versions for different age-groups.  It can be issued in as many languages as the global market will bear.

But wait, there’s more!  So successful could it be that a television show might eventually be based upon it, like Jeopardy, for instance.  Featuring both celebrity and everyday contestants, all vying to claim supremacy, the TV version could reinvigorate the public’s interest in language and history, spurring us on, perhaps, to a new golden age of literacy.

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The only reason I’m revealing my idea here is that I remain unlikely to pursue it by myself.  Too much work for one my age.

Actually, there is a second reason:  I’d love to entice someone to follow through on the project—partnering with me, of course, with copyright reserved to me; financing the start-up costs; doing the bulk of the work; but with all profits shared equally.

Sounds beguiling, don’t you think?

The game, as I envisage it, will be called Who Said That?  Playing in turn, each player will draw a card (if playing the board-game version), or click on a tab (in the digital version), to reveal an excerpt of a famous quotation; for example:

I don’t want to belong to any club…

If the player can successfully complete the expression, (s)he will receive the number of points ascribed to the difficulty of the quotation.  And, as a bonus, if the player can identify the person who first uttered the expression, (s)he will earn an additional two points, and may take a second turn before the next player plays.  If a particular quotation has no attributed author, Anonymous becomes an acceptable answer.

Because some quotations have been reported slightly differently, or translated from other languages, some latitude in the exactness of the answers may be allowed by players; the objective is to most accurately complete the expression.

The two answers in the aforementioned example are:

I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member; the speaker was Groucho Marx, an American actor, comedian, and television star.

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Pretty simple concept, I think, but not so easy to navigate successfully.

Now, before deciding whether or not you wish to become an investor in this can’t-miss undertaking, you might want to try the game yourself.  Here are six questions of varying levels of difficulty, but all requiring high-school competency in language and history.  Answering all of them correctly, and identifying the speakers, will earn you thirty points.

  1. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day… 1 point
  2. Even if you’re on the right track… 3 points
  3. Never interrupt your enemy… 4 points
  4. If you are going through hell… 3 points
  5. Sometimes the questions are complicated… 2 points

And my favourite,

  1. The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas… 5 points

Try to answer these questions before checking the answers below.

 *  *  *  *  *  *  *

How many quotations could you accurately complete?  How many of the speakers could you identify?  And how many points were you able to earn?  Now, check the answers to find out:

  1. …teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.   Anonymous
  2. …you’ll get run over if you just sit there.   Will Rogers
  3. …when he is making a mistake.   Napoleon
  4. keep going.   Churchill
  5. and the answers are simple.   Dr. Seuss
  6. …in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.   F. Scott Fitzgerald

I could lie and claim I earned thirty points, but that would be unfair; after all, I framed the questions.  In truth, I might have earned seventeen points, had I been playing as you were.

If any of us were playing online, and after we had the correct answers revealed, we could quickly search the internet for more information on the speakers.  This game could be such a marvellous learning tool, as well as entertaining for all ages.  A sure-fire winner!

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So, in conclusion, let me address the financing and partnership aspects of the project.  In order to avoid my having to peruse long lists of prospective investors, it would be best  (assuming you are interested) to send along a comprehensive financial disclosure statement to me at your earliest convenience.  Rest assured, it will be held in the strictest confidence….or, perhaps I should say privacy.

You know, I’m sure, that this is not a confidence game!

My Old Man

In all the sixty years I knew him before he died, I never referred to my father as the old man.  Despite being acceptable in many households, that phrase always seemed a tad disrespectful to me.  And besides, my mother forbade me.

When I spoke directly with him, I called him Dad.  When referring to him in conversation, he was my father, or my dad.  He was never my old man.

I had no problem with others who used the phrase, though.  My friends always seemed to have a loving relationship with their fathers, regardless of how they referred to them.

But there was no denying one fact; during the last decade of his life, which ended in his 92nd year, my dad definitely became an old man—a state of being I am now coming to understand.

old man

We were different, he and I, in so many ways—temperamentally, emotionally, and physically.  From my perspective, he seemed a placid soul, tending to take life as it came (although often expressing frustration when it wasn’t to his liking).

I knew he loved me, but he wasn’t one to say, “I love you,”; in fact, when I would say that to him, his usual response was, “Thank you.”  Genuinely pleased to be loved, but unsure as to how to express it to his son.

He was a bigger man than I, and stronger, although he was not particularly active in his later years, save for a daily walk.  As I grew up in the family home, I never got big enough to wear his clothes or his shoes (although, given our discrepant styles, I probably wouldn’t have, anyway).  When I inherited his cherished Omega wristwatch, I had to have three links removed from the bracelet in order to wear it.

As a child, I think I mostly took him for granted.  He was always there, he was dependable, he was predictable—a benign, constant presence in our household.  Not until after I had become a father myself, dealing with adolescent children, did I begin to think more about our relationship.  Not until then did I begin to reflect more on our similarities, rather than our differences.

By then, he was in his seventies, the decade I now inhabit.  His hair was thinning and graying, his gait was slowing; and I’d often see him lost in apparent reverie, a thousand-yard stare in his vivid blue eyes.  I used to wonder what he was thinking about, but I never asked.  I wish now I had.

He’s been gone for fourteen years almost, and I still see him in my mind’s eye—but always as an old man.  For images of his younger self, I have to look at family albums, where I am always struck by how youthful he was.  I just don’t remember him like that.

Billy-Boo at 32 2

The clearest memories I have, however, are counterfeit, in the sense that they are channeled through me.  For example, I used to notice how graceless he looked when he bent over to pick his newspaper off the floor—bowed legs canted outward, fanny pointed skyward, gnarled hand struggling to reach low enough.

“Bend your knees!” I’d silently tell him.

At my age now, of course, I realize bending one’s knees can be quite a problem if one expects to rise again.  So, I bend from the waist, too—bowed legs canted outward, fanny pointed skyward, gnarled hand struggling to reach the floor.  And alas, I see my father in my ungainly pose.

He used to sneeze—not demurely, but prodigiously.  A-roo-pha-a-!  A-roo-pha-a!  we might hear.  Or A-ree-cha-a-a!  A-ree-cha-a-a!  Sometimes A-chintz-ish!  A-chintz-ish!  There seemed no end to the variety of forms his sneezes could take.  But always, they were six times repeated before he seemed able to stop.  I think we first learned to count by marking my father’s sneezes.

“C’mon, Dad,” I used to say to myself.  “That’s not necessary.”

Now I sneeze, too—not decorously, but colossally.  They come upon me at the most inopportune times, and I’m unable to control them. A-roo-pha-a-a!  A-ree-cha-a-a!  A-chintz-ish!   And to my chagrin, I hear my dad all over again.

I had my childhood heroes as a boy, but my father wasn’t one of them.  Not then.  He was too old, too square, too conservative.  And sometimes (to my shame now), too embarrassing.  But in adulthood, I came to appreciate that his stolid, almost-Victorian demeanour was comforting, that his sly sense of humour was refreshing, that his love for his family was unending.

As my daughters grew up, they called him Grandpa, or more often Gramps.  They didn’t think he was square; they thought he was cool.  Now that I’m Gramps to my own grandchildren, basking in their attentions, I’ve come to appreciate how much my kids’ love must have meant to him.  Which makes me very happy that I appear to have, at long last, become my dad.

As another Fathers’ Day approaches, I give thanks for one of my heroes, that old man who was my father.

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By the Numbers

By demographic definition, I am what is sometimes not-so-flatteringly referred to as a WASP—a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant.  As such, I am in a sub-group of white-skinned people currently comprising approximately 80% of Canada’s population.  Not all white people are protestant, of course, nor are they all of Anglo-Saxon descent.  And neither are they all native-born.  But a good many of us are aging.

The other 20% of the population is made up of visible minorities—mainly South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean, and Japanese—and aboriginal people belonging to First Nations.  Not all of the visible minority people are native-born, either; approximately two-thirds of their number emigrated from other countries.  And many of them are young.

Immigration to Canada originates from almost two hundred countries, and immigrants number nearly seven million people of a total population of 35.85 million today.  Among this cohort is every skin colour imaginable.

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Statistics Canada projects that more than half of immigrants in Canada will be Asian-born by 2036, if recent trends continue. At the same time, the share of European immigrants will decline by about half, to about 16 per cent.  More people will belong to a visible-minority group in the next twenty years, and the share of the working-age population who are members of a visible minority will reach up to 40%.  South Asians will remain the largest group, followed by Chinese.  In cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg, visible minorities could become the majority.

These visible minority projections do not include the aboriginal population.  A previous Statistics Canada projection to 2036 found the share of indigenous people in the population will grow as high as 6.1%, from 4.4 % in the 2011 census.

The total share of immigrants in Canada’s population is expected to reach up to 30% by 2036, which would be the highest since 1871.  Canada, as it marks its 150th birthday, already boasts one of the highest shares of foreign-born people in the developed world, and it appears the trend will continue.

Canada may also become more secular as the share of people who report having no religion continues to grow—up to about one-third of the population presently, compared with 24% in 2011.  At the same time, the number of people affiliated with non-Christian religions will reach about 15% of the population, up from 9% now.

religions3

One of the factors influencing these changes is the birth rate in Canada.  The last year the replacement-level fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman was reached—meaning couples, on average, had produced enough children to replace themselves—was 1971. In 2011, the total fertility rate was 1.61 children per woman, up slightly from the record low of 1.51 about a decade earlier.  Data from other studies, when examined, show that non-white mothers have higher fertility rates than the Canadian average drawn from all ethnic and religious groups.

For the first time, a study in 2015 found the number of Canadians over 65 to be larger than the number of citizens under 15.  Throughout the history of our social welfare system, there has been a large base of people at the bottom of the pyramid whose taxes have helped to support those at the top.  Now, that pyramid has been inverted, and the question arises as to how fewer taxpayers will be able to support pensioners who are living longer than ever before.

[Projections based on population models from the 2011 National Household Survey]

So what might all these statistics signify?  Why do they matter?

There are several implications, I think.  First, if Canada is to endure and prosper, immigration must continue apace.  No nation will survive in this age if its population is shrinking, or aging, without replenishment.

Second, our tolerance for religious and ethnic groups other than our own (regardless of who was here first or came later) must continue.  The numbers project a declining percentage of white Caucasians in an increasingly diverse, multi-ethnic Canadian population, all of whom must live harmoniously side-by-side if the country is to survive.  Hatred and vitriol will serve none of us well.

Another effect is a growing need for education, training, and retraining in order to equip citizens for the workplaces they will encounter.  With the advent of artificial intelligence and robotics, many of yesterday’s (and today’s) jobs will become obsolete.  The challenge is to ensure that young people—the workers of the future on whose productivity we will all depend—do not suffer a similar fate.

training

It is not a matter of propounding the concept of a global economy, or abhorring it; rather, it is the need to face the reality that we are irreversibly set upon that path.  The objective must be to maintain Canada’s uniqueness among the nations of the world, even as we become both trading partners and rivals with them.

As a nation, we will not be able to do that if we allow our cherished rights and freedoms to be trampled in endless, internal squabbles among ethnic groups, religious groups, and pro- and anti-immigration forces.  A free society, by its very definition, must evolve to accommodate all those who inhabit it.

I am a WASP, yes.  But first, I am a Canadian, with all that such status implies.  So, too, are my fellow-citizens, whether or not they look like me, worship as I do, speak the same first language, or honour the same traditions.  In Canada, there must be room for all of us.

From sea to sea to sea.