The Secret World of Paul Martin
Let me tell you about the Secret World of Paul Martin.
Our family is in Canada today only because of a personal intercession by Paul Martin Senior in 1950.
My father – who was a high-level civil service officer in Switzerland – had this mad dream to bring his family to Canada to farm. But red tape was so bad that he despaired ever getting clearance to come to Canada. A post-war European’s dream was in danger of being strangled at birth!
In desperation he wrote a pleading letter, in French, to Paul Martin Senior, who was Health Minister at the time, and visiting Canada House in London. It is not public knowledge, but part of our family lore, that when all hope was lost, Paul Martin personally cut the red tape and brought our family to Canada, where we all thrived in different ways in the 50 years since.
At every family gathering, for the past 53 years – anniversaries, birthdays, Christmases – my father bade us all be silent while he solemnly admonished us all to never forget Paul Martin, the only reason that we are all in Canada today.
When Paul Martin died, it was a sad day at our house; likewise when his wife passed on. To my father, it was as if a family member had died at our house.
When Paul Martin Junior entered politics and showed up on the evening news Dad reminded us repeatedly that we must never forget Paul Martin, “He’s the only reason……..”
Yes Dad, we know….
Frankly we wished that Paul Martin would keep a lower profile.
Dad continued the tradition last March on his 98th birthday.
“Yeah, Yeah Dad! We’We've heard this before. We know the story.” We wanted to get on with our visiting.
For my parent’s 63 wedding anniversary, in July – Mom is 86, and both are still living in their own apartment - I wrote a letter to Paul Martin’s office asking if perhaps he could send a card wishing them Happy Anniversary? I didn't want a card from the Queen; not the Governor-General, nor the Prime Minister.
At our house just plain Paul Martin was superior to them all.
Unfortunately – and I kicked myself for this – I had left it much, much too late – life interferes constantly as we all know - to offer anyone a decent time window to respond to such a small personal request. Let alone a Prime Minster-in-waiting who was on the run - in New York on Thursday, in Halifax on Friday, and in Montreal on Saturday. There had been weeks of this...
It was an impossible schedule for any man to juggle – let alone find time somewhere in this madhouse of a calendar, to send a personal card to an unknown old couple in Oakville, Ontario.
Quite impossible really, for anyone!
But not for Paul Martin.
To my astonishment, and our great delight, Paul Martin’s letter of congratulations – not a mere card - arrived signed with his large and generous hand.
The family was flabbergasted! I was more than a little embarrassed because I know I had given him an impossible task, too small a request, in too short a time, for the harried schedule of a Prime Minister to be.
He was not even our MP.
But it was not too much for Paul Martin!
Amazingly, I also got a separate personal letter.
But Paul Martin was not through yet!
Saturday morning, on the day of their anniversary, my mother’s phone rang. The voice said, “Mrs. Goldi, This is Paul Martin. I’ve called to congratulate you and your husband on a Happy Anniversary, and wish you Good Health for many more years to come.”
My mother thought it was a crank caller, or telephone solicitor, and put up her dukes!
Paul Martin laughed, and said no indeed he was the guy from Ottawa, and spoke to both my parents and passed on his good wishes, speaking to both of them separately, though both were obviously distracted beyond words.
My parents were overcome with emotion for days afterwards, as we all were.
Paul Martin’s secretary told me she usually handles these matters but that he had insisted that he wanted to have the phone number and make the call himself. He took time out of his busy schedule, and from his family life, to make this personal call from his weekend retreat near Montreal.
No journalist was a witness to this. No press releases were issued. Just another unsung day in the private life of Paul Martin.
When we all realize, in the hectic lives we all live today, of the many important things we forget, or unintentionally let slip by, to our eternal great regret, it makes you realize the enormous heart that beats in the breast of this man.
While assailed on all sides by people clamouring for him to deal with momentous considerations of state, Paul Martin gave pride of place to a generous private act between himself and an anonymous old couple living in an apartment in Oakville.
How close the acorn falls to the trunk.
Martin, father and son.