Letters From My Qanon Parents Part 3: The Perfect Childhood
When your mom tells you that Donald Trump has come to save us all from demonic pedophile rings that are hellbent on injecting us with mind-controlling microchips disguised as life-saving vaccines, your whole world is turned upside down. Especially when your parents are the last people on earth you’d ever expect to fall for conspiracy theories like this. I think the only way to illustrate just how shocking this was to me is to go back and tell you what they were like as parents.
A few disclaimers, first. First, my memories are fuzzy. I am relaying to you what I remember to the best of my ability, but it is likely that some details might be wrong. Every family has lore, as well, which I recognize. I am explaining everything to you as I was told, and as I recall, which we can all agree is likely flawed. However, many of the things I was told were backed up by experiences and evidence I vividly recall, so, while some things might not be precisely correct, this is all, for the most part, the way shit went down.
Second, there needs to be a trigger warning. Due to the nature of my dad’s work, there will be mention of things like sexual assault, child abuse, drug abuse, suicide, human trafficking, and more. If you find it difficult to read about these things, you might want to skip this part in the series.
You can read the first two parts here.
So, here goes.
I grew up on the Southwest coast of Canada, in a small fishing village where, every morning, men who reeked of salmon guts lingered over their fifty-cent diner coffees, their crispy Canadian bacon and overdone fried eggs discussing squalls and nets, and the women they left behind in their travels. Weekends were for biking with my friends to the public pool in the summer and sneaking onto the golf course water traps in the winter so that we could spin endlessly on our skates. We all walked to school without our parents, and we all went trick-or-treating well into the night without supervision. On weekends, we would leave the house in the morning, pop back in at lunch for a bit of KD, and then back out until a chorus of moms started calling our names in the dark.
My childhood was the quintessential portrait of white privilege. Nothing to be afraid of. Nothing to worry about. We were fearless in our white, stuccoed house, with our lush yard, on our perfect culdesac, in a safe little town in easygoing Canada. There existed no threats. Nothing ever went wrong. Our schools were clean, safe, and fully stocked with learning materials. There was always food on the table, clothes for every occasion in our dressers, and toys to fill our rooms.
For my dad, this created a juxtaposition that took some getting used to. Every day, he’d head off to work, where he counselled kids who were not so lucky. Orphans and sexual abuse survivors, kids born addicted to crack and cocaine. He’d spend the day with a child whose HIV-positive mother had trafficked her to the neighbourhood men in exchange for heroin. Another day, it would be a boy removed from his home, where his single father’s body had been decaying after he committed suicide.
It was difficult for my dad to switch off when he got home, but he managed to. He was so good at it, that the neighbourhood kids would come around to our house looking for him in the evenings. My friends and my brother’s friends would knock on our door, and we’d race to answer it, swing it open with a beaming grin for our besties, only to hear, “Can Bob come to play?”
Bob is, of course, my dad. Without much convincing, my dad would agree, slip on his flip flops and head out to the front yard, where he’d endlessly spin the group of us from our hands and feet while we squealed with joy. Some days countless hours would go by like this, and the lineup of neighbourhood kids awaiting their turn would grow. My dad would power through the dizziness he had to have felt, just spinning us all, cultivating our absolute delight with no rest. As darkness inevitably fell, we dreaded the first mom calling her kids home from her front stoop, “Kelly! Brian! Bath time!” And we’d be down two kids as they sprinted off towards the sound of their mother’s voice. The numbers would dwindle, and eventually, my own mom would pop her head out the window and call my dad, my brother, and me back into the house.
My brother and I would hit the sack while my parents wound down with some television and eventually slept as well. On numerous occasions, however, it wasn’t for long. My dad would be paged in the middle of the night, called out to some terrible crisis. Maybe someone needed to be talked off a ledge. Sometimes, a client would be arrested and in a holding cell in jail, completely out of his mind on PCP, and my dad was called to talk him down. There were times he’d be called out to the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver to collect one of the many sex workers he tried to help after they’d been left bloody by their trafficker. He’d spend the evening spinning privileged kids on a perfectly manicured lawn in a suburban Utopia, and then in the dark of night, he’d scrape society’s forgotten off the pavement and try to give them a reason to hang on. To this day, I can’t sort out how he managed. I just don’t think he’s built like the rest of us.
He was raised by exceptional people, and maybe that’s why. I don’t recall a lot about them, but I have vivid memories of running down an apartment building hallway into my grandfather’s arms. He’d scoop me up, take me into his living room and plop me down next to him on the couch. Somewhere, in the background of the scene, my grandmother would utter, “Bless your heart.” I’d say hi to Grandma, and when I turned back, my Grandad inevitably had his teeth out.
“Boo!” He’d exclaim, and I’d shriek even though I’d always expected Grandpa to do this.
In my memory, I feel genuine warmth. He died when I was five, but I recall this warmth so clearly that I still feel a loss to this day. He was a special man, and though I barely knew anything about him back then, I still knew he was special. He was pure love.
John Freeman Heard was a proud member of the Vancouver Regiment of the Irish Fusiliers of Canada. In World War II, this regiment, along with my grandfather, was stationed in Newcastle, Jamaica, at the New Castle POW camp that housed German prisoners of war. His duties included tending to and watching over the prisoners of war and training new men who arrived to work at the camp. While his service in the second world war was not nearly as harrowing as were the experiences of the men being sent to Europe, my grandfather still received many decorations. Among his plethora of medals was one that recognized him for his humane treatment of the prisoners held in the camp in Jamaica. When he came home, he went back to his job as a social worker for Veterans Affairs and devoted the rest of his life to helping those who needed it.
To say that his devotion to helping his fellow man rubbed off on my dad is an understatement. My Dad took it to a whole other level. My father’s love for humans is practically tangible.
Before I was born, my dad went head to head with various sources of funding, making the case for a much-needed crisis centre in our city. The rates of suicide in Richmond, BC, were growing, and my father was seeing increasing numbers of people in his day-to-day work who were struggling with suicidal thoughts. His dream was to launch a crisis hotline and provide emergency services for those who found themselves on the frontline of a war with their own mind. He wanted to train a team to answer calls and talk people out of killing themselves. He wanted on-location agents who could bring a human being back from the brink of self-destruction. His model would supplement the work the police did when they were called to a scene where someone was threatening suicide. To have a plain-clothes civilian there, trained with the skills of listening and de-escalating, could change the outcome in a situation where, otherwise, a life might be lost.
It was the 70s when mental health was ignored, brushed under the rug, and suppressed. A time when people suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts were looked at as weak and dispensable. It was an uphill battle for my dad and the rest of the team trying to start this centre, convincing donors and foundations that they needed funding. But my dad never gave up. He refused to take no for an answer. People were dying. People needed help. People needed this centre.
Today, the Richmond Crisis Centre is known as Chimo Community Services and has expanded well beyond just crisis intervention. In the 50 years that Chimo has been up and running after my dad and his team founded it, they have saved and helped an astronomical number of lives. While my dad was just one small part of this, a tiny cog in the early stages of all the good Chimo has done, there is no doubt, it exists because of his persistence. This alone is a legacy and a half, but for my dad, this was just the beginning.
I don’t have any clear memories of it, but when I was a toddler, my parents opened our home up to foster kids. I didn’t understand at the time, but the kids living with us were suffering. Some had PTSD from traumas they couldn’t even verbalize. Others missed their parents, who may have been in prison or heavy drug users. Sometimes, their parents were dead. They needed a safe place. They needed love. They needed my folks. I don’t really know how it came to be, but I imagine it was a result of my dad working with these kids day in and day out. I imagine it was just hard for him to leave them at the end of the day.
My foster sister loved to play softball. Naturally, that meant my parents would coach a girls' softball team. To this day, if you get my dad talking about this team, his eyes will glisten, and he’ll go on and on about the talent the girls had. I don’t recall being there or watching the games, but I was there, right alongside my parents as they coached other people’s kids and loved it.
Coaching sports was a less selfless venture than the other things my dad did in his life. He did it for himself, as well. From the time he was a child, he had always found grounding in sports. He’s a devoted Chicago Bears and BC Lions fan who grew up to play football himself for the Meraloma football team, a sports club in Vancouver. Any chance he got, he’d go golfing, and on weekends he’d drag my brother and me to the River Club, where he’d spend hours playing racquetball as my brother, and I entertained ourselves with the other kids in the playroom. My father’s unbridled love of sports would colour our childhood in so many ways and spill into the lives of our friends, neighbours, and foster siblings. For my dad, I think, this was just another way to connect with and better the lives of the people around him.
I think sports also kind of reset his mind, enabling him to tackle the inevitable horrors he would face at work the next day. My dad’s career would take him to dark places. He worked with young offenders and inmates in some of BC’s notorious prisons. He was an expert witness in numerous court cases, both criminal and civil. He worked for the government, and sometimes he worked for non-profits he either helped launch or improved. He ran group homes for kids and group homes for recovering addicts, and group homes for sex workers who had escaped their traffickers. He worked with survivors of ritual abuse, human trafficking, and would-be murder victims who escaped the clutches of Robert Picton and Clifford Olsen. He would spend hours doing play therapy with toddlers and children who had been repeatedly raped by adults they were supposed to be able to trust, trying as hard as he could to give these kids back some sort of normalcy while their abusers often went free.
He did all of this, and then he came home to us, where he showered us all with love in such abundance that I am astounded every time I think of it. How he could face brand new horrors every single day and come home and build me a loft bed that I slept in my entire childhood. How he could work where he did, hearing what he heard, witnessing what he saw, and come home and erect our treehouse and sandbox that all the neighbourhood kids envied. Or the picnic tables and sprawling deck in our backyard. How he would make beautiful stained glass art to decorate our home and craft toys for my brother, and I like the little pink car that currently sits on the shelf in my son’s room.
My dad would spend the entire night negotiating a peace between a sex worker and her trafficker, come home, pack up a picnic dinner and take us all to the beach for a bonfire with any number of my parents’ many friends. He’d testify in a court case on behalf of a child who’d been ritually abused in ways that would give you nightmares for the rest of your life. Then, he’d drive home, turn on the Pretenders, and dance with my brother and me in the living room until the sunset.
I never understood how my dad could come home from all of that and, together with my mom, never fail to give my brother and me a childhood that was nothing short of enchanting, magical, and full of adventure. I’m not even at the part where my memories begin to get less fuzzy. It doesn’t stop there. The nonstop adventure, the good deeds, the activism and progress they facilitated, and the people whose lives they touched don’t stop here. Not even close.
In the next installment, I’ll tell you how I responded to my parents' email about their current beliefs and then we'll talk more about who my parents were as I grew up so you can get a proper grasp of just how unexpected it has been to find out they fell for the Qanon misinformation. I want you to understand just how left-leaning and progressive they were so that you can see that everyone is at risk when war is waged with misinformation. If we are to fight this, we need to come to terms with the fact that everyone is susceptible. To defeat this onslaught of misinformation, we need everyone armed with critical thinking, even those who think they could never succumb.