When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
— Mark Twain
It was my first week in Oceanside after my 11-year nightmare in Quesnel.
“Oh,” my interview subject said. “You must be Frank Horner’s boy.”
“Um … well I am 45,” I grumped, “but yeah, he’s my dad.”
It wasn’t to be the last time I got tagged with that label. I had moved into the old lion’s turf. Some loved him. Some hated him, but many, many people knew him.
They knew him for his frequent letters to the editor, where he criticized the Qualicum Beach council for this decision or that, and for standing up to be counted on two occasions at election time, running for a seat.
He didn’t win the first time around, although it was close. Chris Burger beat him out by a handful of votes.
He put his money where his mouth was and ran again in the next election, but withdrew when his health began to fail. He didn’t think he could give the job the attention it deserved and didn’t want to have to quit part way through his term.
It was a classy, dignified move and, over the course of the nearly eight years I’ve lived in Oceanside, I’ve come to know him far better than ever before. I can truly say that this basic integrity doesn’t surprise me at all.
Some of what I’ve learned has been surprising — much of it gleaned from those letters.
I was surprised that at least one letter writer refers to him as a “loony lefty,” when I, with my teenage hormonal blinkers on, had always seen him as a strict authoritarian, a tighty righty.
There are some memories of him though that aren’t polluted by teen hormones. I remember as a toddler him driving through the streets of Montreal, chasing a bus that had flames coming out the back. He pulled in front of it and, when it stopped and the driver roared out, ready to kill, he pointed out the problem. I remember an old man leaning into the car window.
“Good job,” he said. “Well done!” Real Boy Scout stuff!”
Nobody else on Earth probably remembers that, but I do.
I remember, after returning from getting kicked out of Katimavik with nothing more to my name than $25 and a train ticket, how he showed up at the flophouse where I had taken refuge with a cheque to pay for the next week’s room and board. You don’t forget stuff like that.
This Father’s Day, if you still have a dad, cherish him. If he has wronged you, forgive him if you can and if he has helped you, make a point to thank him for it. If you have wronged him, apologize. He won’t be around forever.
And teens, your dad likely isn’t a monster. He’s probably doing the best he can and has likely given up all manner of dreams and adventures in order to get you to the point you are now.
For me, I guess all I can do is give him my assurance that whatever honours or awards, victories or triumphs come my way in future will be accepted by the person who is proud to be known, now and forever, as Frank Horner’s boy.
I love you dad. Happy Father’s Day.