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Appreciate the love

Bill FoxBy Bill Fox/Columnist

For children, Cupid and exchanging Valentine’s cards are fine, but as I get older, I appreciate more what real love is, and how it was shown to me, especially as a youngster.

Let me give some examples of ‘real love’.

As Valentine’s approaches, I think of how, as a new immigrant starting school in Scarborough, it was suggested to my parents that my reading would be improved if they would get me my own Grade 1 reader, Fun with Dick and Jane and have me read to them every evening. So before the subway was built, my mom took buses and streetcars to get to the old Eaton Store in Toronto to buy my reader. I now appreciate how that trip must have taken all of the morning, and all out of love and a desire to see her oldest son keep up with his classmates.

Every evening as suggested, I would sit with either my mom or dad, reading to them. The benefits of that seemingly small gesture resulted in my getting all A’s in my Grade 2 year, and the school suggesting I could now skip Grade 3 and go directly into Grade 4. Recent studies show the importance of good reading skills, regardless of occupation.

I recall around Grade 7, my mom sitting me down at the dining room table to talk about some of the friendships I had developed. She was concerned that a few of my friends were bad influences on me.  I think back and realize chatting around the dining room table could have been a turning point in my development.

Many nights, my dad and I would play table hockey, and I remember even keeping statistics on my success or lack of. Later Dad taught me cribbage, and we would often have nightly tournaments.

Mom was a stay-at-home mother who took in children for the Children’s Aid Society. She once received an award for having taken in more than 50 children over the span of some years. One of these today is my wonderful brother and friend. Dad was a labourer for Scarborough Township and in the winter was often called in for snow removal, and at times would not make it home for a few days at a time.

My father-in-law, Michael Colterman, along with his brother built a family cottage near his homestead in the Upper Ottawa Valley. Each year my wife and I, along with our four young boys would spend weeks at a time revelling in nature. When the original siding was wearing thin, my father-in-law, then in his sixties, single handily replaced the siding using homemade scaffolding.  His love for the country life and that cottage has been handed down to his ancestors, and today one of my sons has taken on the ownership and care of that cottage, originally built in the early 1960s.

My recently departed brother, Brian, had no family and moved to the Oakland, California area as a sheet metal tradesman. Brian was a real outdoorsman and once even worked as an outdoor guide taking people deep into the woods, not to hunt but to see nature at its purest. When we chatted he would often tell me about the increasing value of his home in San Leandro.

I never clued in that his intent was that the proceeds of the selling of his home would benefit me and my family. I think he knew then that he had health issues, and would likely depart before me. After his passing, one of my sons came across his work diary, where you could see that often his work was very tiring in cold outdoor conditions, but he never took days off as a result. We now appreciate how love for his family had been one of his motivators.

The devotion of moms and dads symbolizes what love is really about. Hopefully, the example they set has been handed down throughout your family as well. This Valentine’s, if your parents are still with you, why not express your appreciation for their love and sacrifice. I wish I had!

You can share your love stories with me at bdfox@rogers.com.