Today is my grandfather’s 95th birthday. I’ve written here before about how important he’s been in my life, but a 95th birthday is worth sharing some more.

My parents separated when I was three and after that my mother’s parents stepped in to help her whenever they could. That was my family – sister, mother, Tutu and Gramps. They took care of us at our house, we slept over at their house, we all went on trips together.

I still love the smell of pipe smoke because it takes me right back to sitting on my grandfather’s lap while he read us the comics from the newspaper before he and Tutu put us to bed when we slept over. I still love the smell of coffee because it takes me right back to the mornings after those sleepovers and the huge piles of pancakes.

But me and my Gramps? We had a special relationship. I looked up to him, I always wanted to impress him and make him proud. I loved doing what he was doing.

Me and my Gramps in Peggy's Cove, 1990
Me and my Gramps in Peggy’s Cove, 1990, Sketching

He was the one who taught me so many things. He was the one who helped me through so many situations. He is the person who’s advice I seek when I’m having a really hard time.

And he is the one who’s pride I never, ever doubted.

Because of how much I looked up to my grandfather I also immediately looked up to whoever I saw him admire. And when I was a kid I saw how much my grandfather admired Ed Broadbent.

When I was a kid my uncle worked on the hill in Mr. Broadbent’s office. At one point Mr. Broadbent was looking to have a desk built, and my uncle suggested Gramps. Gramps, descended from a cabinet maker, had been building us beautiful things all my life. He designed built-in bookshelves in my parents house, he made my sister and I both monogrammed toy boxes when we were born. It made sense.

So one day, when I was young, I got to go and meet Ed and Lucille Broadbent at their home, one day they came to our home, he and my grandfather exchanged letters and in turn my grandfather spoke of Mr. Broadbent with great respect.

If this man who meant so much to me was a New Democrat, and if he believed in Ed Broadbent, then I was going to be a New Democrat who believed in Ed Broadbent.

I can’t give all the credit for my political involvement to Gramps, of course. Both of my parents were politically involved and my family is full of smart people who talk about issues and news and politics openly and passionately.

One of the best things about my Gramps turning 95 is that he has had five long years to know my daughter. They first met when we went out to Regina to visit him for his 90th birthday and I wasn’t sure if he would ever see her again. Five years later not only has he gotten to spend much more time with her since moving back to Ottawa, she is now at an age where she will remember him. That is the best gift I could have received. Besides the love that I see in his eyes every time I catch him watching her in awe. And then I can tell that she’s the best gift I could have shared with him. Her, my family and our happiness.


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