Some time ago, there was a daytime talk show, I can’t remember which one, where the host had a guest on, who was paralyzed by her parents deaths.
As the primary caregiver, she had been responsible for their everyday care and function, as well as advocating for their healthcare.
And, upon the occasion of their passing, she found that she would go into a depression, every time there was a big holiday (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving) at their birthdays… but especially on their Death Dates. Those were really hard to bear.
The advice from experts was to remember those who passed on their birthdays, try to build new and different traditions on special Holidays, and to try to block acknowledgement of the Death Dates, by staying busy, and planning activities that “take over” the Death Dates, and by trying to “take away their power”, by remembering the good times, and pushing the sad memories away.
I have, for the most part, been able to focus on the memories I have of them, from when they were alive, and the “treasures” I have, that (for me) helps to remind me of them, and keep their memory alive.
It struck me recently, that this year will be 20 years since my Mum passed, and shortly after, we started on the roller coaster that my Dad’s health journey would become, for his last few years.
In many ways, I think I was very fortunate to stumble upon that talk show, on that day. It certainly has helped me.
But, on this day, it suddenly, and without warning, shocked me that 20 years had passed. I guess that is the power of dates, over time.
And so, I shall raise my mug of tea, in toast… and go back to keeping busy.
Today is the Birthday of a Social Media friend, who I first met through Twitter, and then extended my friendship onto Facebook.
He lived in Pittsburgh, and we never met in real life… but through the years we would talk about hockey… music… and as we got to know one another better, our past struggles with Depression.
Then one day, he was gone…
No warning. No last post. No rants about Facebook or Twitter trolls.
Just… suddenly… nothing.
And for the last few years, upon the occasion of his Birthday, it causes me, and his many other perplexed friends, to post on his FB wall, and to put out Tweets… hoping against hope, for a response.
But there are none.
I think we’ve all had friends who, upon encountering online trolls, or discordant opinions, have taken breaks, or retreated offline. I myself, have had periods where there is just “too much muchness”, and going offline seems the easiest way to quickly quiet, a sometimes overwhelming and noisy world.
But these retreats by me, and by others, are usually prefaced by a “Taking a break for a while” note… or alternately, a rant complaining about the ugly sides of Social Media. Some come back, and others do not. But in most cases, there is a build-up or explanation to the reasons for the interruption.
In Matt’s case, there was none.
He called his online profile ‘Spazz Matt’.
And, so today, it made me wonder…
About the nature of friendships, and how we are naturally drawn to some people. How we form bonds of commonality, traveling roads (whether real or virtual) together, and enjoying “shared” experiences together.
And it makes me wonder…
How someone could, after years and years, suddenly give up on all those friendships.
And then I wonder…
Beyond the facile friendships of an online community, if the struggle behind the persona, overcame the person themselves. I hope not.
But… in all likelihood, I’ll never know.
So, on the occasion of his Birthday, I post this Simon & Garfunkel video, in honour of Matt, who would (in my recollection) doubtlessly, mock my choice.
And, with apologies to S&G, I present… “For Matt, Whenever We May Find Him”
And, because I would agree that the tone isn’t quite right, I give you (again) the greatest song ever written…
“I’m Going To Go Back There, Someday” by the Great Gonzo.
Was pleased and excited last week to hear about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player, being selected in the NFL Draft.
Then, this week, I saw this video about the number WHERE he was picked… 249th overall.
The NFL Draft comes on the heels of NBA player, Jason Collins, announcing that he is gay.
The biggest difference between the two, is that Michael Sam has not yet “proven his worth” at the professional sports level, (he was drafted out of College, where he was extremely successful) whereas Jason Collins was nearing the end of his career, and had become a free agent, (prior to his being signed by the Brooklyn Nets in February 2014).
No doubt, it is difficult to be first. There has to be a massive amount of consideration, prior to announcing something that is private, and frankly, SHOULDN’T MATTER TO ANYONE.
Why would any team or sports organization want anything BUT the best players, regardless of color, sexual orientation, nationality or whatever other criteria you want to divide people by. And yet, it apparently still does.
In one article I read recently, this quote floored me…
One NFL coach, speaking anonymously to Sports Illustrated after Sam came out, said: “I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet.”
I sincerely hope I am wrong… but the Teams who are giving these players their opportunities, seem to be struggling to find success. And both Teams received a “bump” in merchandising revenues, when these signing announcements were made. And that got me thinking about ‘tokenism’.
If you aren’t sure what tokenism is, here is the Dictionary.com definition:
TOKENISM:1) the practice or policy of making no more than a token effort or gesture, as in offering opportunities to minorities equal to those of the majority.2) any legislation, admissions policy, hiring practice, etc., that demonstrates only minimal compliance with rules, laws, or public pressure: Admitting one woman to the men’s club was merely tokenism.
In light of recent ugliness on Social Media by Boston “fans”, directed towards PK Subban (an African-American hockey player), it makes me wonder how far we’ve come, towards being an “enlightened” society. Many retired hockey players admit, that they do research on the families and friends of opponents, in order to be able to “rile up” opponents in on-ice scrums. But, as hockey fans, how do we so easily cast aside the legacy of Boston Bruin Willie O’Ree (the first hockey player to break the color barrier in 1958) and call out a player who is a visible minority. PK Subban is a well spoken, skilled hockey player, who works hard (on and off the ice) to promote hockey as a sport for everyone.
Hopefully, the selection of an openly gay football player, Jason Collins’ announcement, more and more visible minorities playing hockey, and inclusive organizations such as You Can Play – are just the beginning of a more open and inclusive sports environment, and the culture of sports will become more enlightened. This would, I think, help move sports fans, and society as a whole, to a better place.
I don’t think that there should be quotas, or requirements, or any such “rules”… but simply allow the best players to play in the top sports leagues, without their ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation being of ANY concern. I believe the only thing that any of these athletes wants, is to be considered on an equal basis, against the others competing for the available positions on the teams.
I don’t think ALL the idiots will ever go away. But, in the last while, sports fans have seen a LOT of examples of team owners (such as Donald Sterling), team management (Michael Sam getting passed over 248 times), and team coaches (see the “anonymous” quote above), indicating that many of the idiots are still RUNNING the Teams.
I haven’t had an opportunity to read most of the articles, and I don’t know enough about the various discussions and debates to comment on them… and to me, any discussion about this is really quite pointless.
When I see a Red Poppy, I think of my Dad, and my Grandfather.
Before the Second World War, he fought against the injustices of the time, for those with skin of a different colour… at a time when the British Colonials thought nothing of their two-class system.
When the war started, he managed to get his family and wife safely onto a freighter, and stayed behind to help fight the Japanese invasion of Singapore… which didn’t last long. All the guns were fixed… pointing out to sea. The Japanese invaded through the mainland, and Singapore quickly surrendered.
My Grandfather spent the remainder of his life in Changi Prisoner of War camp, which is where he died.
On September 3rd, 1939, my dad was a young man who had just celebrated his 20th birthday a few days earlier. He had just started working for the BBC in Scotland. Then, at 11:15 in the morning, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany. A day later, my Dad was a soldier.
Like countless others, he signed up immediately… and through 1945, he was assigned to various units as a radio operator on the front lines… until he was wounded. Then he would get sent to a hospital, to get patched up, and he would be re-deployed to another unit, on another front.
He fought in Italy, Crete, Sicily and Africa.
He was a young man, named Robert Harold Gray, who lived on Hamilton Road in Rutherglen, Scotland. Funnily enough, he knew three OTHER Robert Grays who lived on the same street in the same town. Not so funny, was the reality that my dad was the only one of the four who came home alive. And my dad knew full well that it was only by fluke that he made it home. There was a particular moment during a battle, when his unit was being overrun by the German Army, and amid the retreat, he let a fellow soldier go ahead of him. That soldier was immediately killed by a grenade blast. My Dad was evacuated, with more shrapnel wounds, but lucky to be alive.
After the War ended, he was discharged, and went home to Scotland. The first thing he did was burn his uniform, and put away his medals.
He didn’t ever glorify war or hold a grudge. One of his eventual best friends when he came to Vancouver, was a German neighbour, who lived across the street, who had been a bomber pilot during the Blitz.
My Dad didn’t sit around telling war stories. He didn’t like or want to talk about it.
He only allowed us two windows to peek through, to catch a glimpse of the pain he had seen and endured during the war years:
– During my teenage years, on Sunday nights, he would listen to Dame Vera Lynn’s record, over and over. Often I would come in, as he was singing along to the song “We’ll Meet Again”, to find him with tears in his eyes, lost in another time.
– During this time, he and I started watching Remembrance Day services together… until he passed away in 1999.
Since then, when Remembrance Day comes, I don’t go to the Cenotaph… I observe the Ceremony, spending time with my Dad’s memory, and thinking of the sacrifices that he and his friends made, to try to bring sanity back to the world.
The Poppy to me is a symbol of my Dad’s and Grandfather’s generation… most of them, now gone… who gave us gifts that we still enjoy. Freedom and choice.
I do not diminish or discount the importance of having discussions and debates about the issues of Veterans’ support, peace-keeping efforts and the role of armies in the modern era. However, I shall recuse myself from that discussion. To me, the intent of Remembrance Day is to remember those who gave years of their lives, or in some cases, their actual lives, to fight for the intangible values of Rights and Freedoms, that we now enjoy.
The Poppy doesn’t glorify war. There is no glory in war. There is only sacrifice and loss, and that is what we honour on Remembrance Day.
I shall wear my Red Poppy, and with it, cherish spending a moment of Remembrance with my Dad, and the Grandfather I never knew.
We’ll Meet Again
We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where.., don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.
Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do,
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds, far away.
So will you please say hello,
To the folks that I know,
Tell them I won’t be long,
They’ll be happy to know, that as you saw me go
I was singing this song.
We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where,don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.
We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where, don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.
Songwriters: Arthur Wilkinson, Ross Parker, Hugh Childs
Published by: Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing
It has been a crazy time at our house, as appliances and lights stopped working, and THEN we discovered Carpenter Ants had taken up residence in the front of our house.
For everyone who is asking, here is what the front of our house looked like, about an hour ago.
|Removing the rotten/eaten supports, framing & headers.||Stripped back to wood untouched by water or cooties|
Cue the music… Here is The Bangles… Manic Monday !!!
The word “Family” means different things, to different people.
My parents emigrated to Canada in 1956, from Scotland. They didn’t know anyone here, but my Uncle John in Liverpool had traveled the world, working on ships, and his endorsement of the beautiful city on the Pacific, tipped the scales for Vancouver over Montreal. Dad thought he could find a job in broadcast radio in Vancouver… so he and my mum packed up their lives into a couple of steamer trunks, and with two young daughters in tow, set sail for Canada, leaving all relatives behind.
A few years, a few houses and a few different jobs later, my Parents had me.
To me, when I was a little kid, the word Family meant my parents, and my sisters.
My parents made many friendships in their newly-adopted country, and growing up, we called most of these people “Aunt” or “Uncle”. As I grew a bit older, I learned that these people weren’t actually related to us, but were Aunts and Uncles “in name only”. I also learned that there were OTHER people I talked to on the phone on Christmas Day and sometimes heard, on exchanged reel to reel tapes, who I was related to. They were the ‘Overseas Relatives’.
As a teenager, my Mum and I went to meet the ‘Overseas Relatives’, and spent three weeks meeting Aunts, Uncles and Cousins… all over Scotland and England. Being a typical teenager, I wore the unfortunate cloak of being self-absorbed, while lacking in both self-confidence and self-assuredness. Quiet and shy would be an understatement… so I busied myself behind the lens of a camera, taking pictures. After that trip, I was able to match faces and personalities to the Overseas Relatives. During my teens, there were also a few trips by various Overseas Relatives to Canada.
Later, when I got married, my Family more than doubled when I was embraced by my wife’s family. Through the following years, our Family also grew to include four lovely nieces.
Then the growth stopped… My Parents both passed away… and Lorie’s long list of Aunts and Uncles started dwindling. At the same time, the Overseas Relatives were diminishing in numbers, as my Dad’s two siblings and my Mum’s four siblings slowly succumbed to age and diseases. Until all were gone, save my Mum’s brother John.
Uncle John turned 80, last April. He and his wife, Aunt Patricia had been very kind when I went to Liverpool as a teen. It had been Uncle John who, when I went with my Mum to see my Grandmother, Sybil, for the one and only visit, after 15 minutes, took me for ice cream, as it was apparent (even to my teenage self) that Sybil was more interested in the Wimbledon Tennis results on her TV, than in talking to me, as she had placed a wager on the results.
After Uncle John’s recent birthday, John and Patricia’s son and daughter-in-law – David and Louise – started making arrangements for a family trip. So, this is how six of the Buchanan clan: Uncle John, Aunt Patricia, David, Louise, and grand kids Rebecca and Luke, came to be in Vancouver, for a visit.
From the first greeting at the airport, there was an immediate comfort, warmth and ease talking with all of them… and lots of laughter amid the “getting to know” everyone. I have always known that the Buchanan men have a distinct “look”… deep-set eyes and black hair that turns gray early… and I can now “see” myself in Uncle John, David and Luke, and them in me.
It had been 31 years since the last time Uncle John, Aunt Patricia and David had been been to Vancouver… and now Luke is the age David had been, and David was the age John had been on their last visit. Someone saw a photo of their last trip, and said each could pass for the generation that followed. I am also older than the last time they visited, by 31 years… and I’m sure, no wiser.
But I know that these people stepped off the plane as Overseas Relatives, and are leaving today as Family.
Family is a Relative thing, and today, some of my Family are leaving town.
I wish them a safe journey, and look forward to seeing them again… hopefully soon !!!
Hard to believe another year has flown by, and this Wednesday, June 5th is Tim Horton’s Camp Day 2013 !!!
(The one day of the year when I *ALWAYS* switch from tea to coffee !!!)
This Wednesday, head to your local participating Tim Horton’s and buy a coffee to support sending kids to Tim Horton’s Camps. (And check out the fun and different fundraising ideas the individual franchises have come up with, to raise money for this extra special day !!!
If you don’t drink coffee, or would prefer to make your donation online, you can support Camp Day, here: http://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/social/childrens-foundation.php
Here are some details about Camp Day, from the Tim Horton’s website:
What One Cup of Coffee Can Do
Every time a guest buys a coffee at Tim Hortons on Camp Day they will help send more than 16,000 kids – who could otherwise not afford it – on the camping adventure of a lifetime. All children who attend one of the Foundation’s six camps are selected from within the communities where Tim Hortons Restaurants are located. Tim Hortons Restaurant Owners work closely with local youth organizations and schools to select children, between the ages of nine and 12, to attend a 10-day summer camp session or seven day winter camp session.
“It’s overwhelming each year see how our guests come together support Foundation,” says Bill Moir, President, Tim Horton Children’s Foundation. ” On Camp Day, buying cup of coffee and participating the many activities helps contribute to positive change in child’s life. And that’s a good feeling.”
So… hope to see you at the local Tim Horton’s, this Wednesday !!!
(And on Twitter, using the hashtag #CampDay)
Whenever an Election (at any Governmental level) rolls around, I always think of my Dad.
He was a life-long radio producer (BBC Radio, United Church Broadcasting, CKWX & CBC) who LOVED the politics of the day.
I’m not sure what he would think of today’s brand of politics, but that isn’t what this post is about.
He covered the BC Legislature for many years, and got to know and respect many of the MLAs.
One of the things he respected most, was how members of different parties could go hammer and tongs at one another in the “House”, and go to a bar after session, and continue the discussion, to try to work to a reasonable and acceptable compromise, that moved the issue at hand, forward. Now, it didn’t always work that way, but generally, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Today, the process seems to be just as much about scoring points against your opponent, as getting the work done.
I wonder how much of that is because there is an “us or them” mentality that seems to have been adopted from US politics.
When I was young, there were Conservative, Liberal, Social Credit and NDP MLAs.
Today, Provincially, we have (apart from a few Independent MLAs) a two party system.
I don’t know that it wouldn’t be a good idea to have different people, with different ideas, join in the discussion.
It certainly can’t make things in Victoria any LESS functional.
And yes, under the current system, which doesn’t allow for representational voting, that may cause some vote splitting.
So what ? *
I have always believed that I should vote for the individual who will best represent me, at whatever Governmental level they are campaigning for.
As I’m working with Elections BC, I’ve already cast my vote for the individual that I feel is best suited to work for my needs. In this case, they are from one of the two major parties.
If I lived in Maple Ridge-Mission or Mission-Abbotsford, I would be voting for individuals from OUTSIDE the two major parties.
When discussing issues, people don’t generally see things in black and white… there are a LOT of different colours in between. (Including us Grays)
I think it will be interesting to see the results of the election. Hopefully we will get a Legislature that is made up of many voices… from different parties… and having different ideas.
In that case, the different groups would have to work together, to find common ground, if there is to be progress.
And be a little bit more like the Legislature my Dad worked at… where opponents were still adversaries, but had a common goal, to get things done, as well as they could be done.
My fingers are crossed !!!
Please remember to get out and vote on Election Day !!!
* So what…
I know some folks may say that I’m “ignoring the big picture” when I brush aside any discussion of vote splitting and concerns about votes “not counting”, if you don’t vote for one of the two major parties.
1) Anyone who votes isn’t throwing away your vote.
2) I believe I am looking at a longer time frame than most, because, in this way, people will increasingly see that the “first past the post” system, works to support a two party system, rather than reflecting the diversity of voices of the general public. Hopefully we will reach the tipping point on this issue, soon. (You can read more on the first past the post voting system, on Wikipedia , here)
3) The sooner that people realize that the current voting system doesn’t reflect the will of the people, and only serves to maintain an “us or them” system, the faster the discussion can begin about what system would better reflect the diversity of opinions that our Province and Nation actually has. (In this area, I am not claiming to know enough to speak to which system would be best, or the details of how it SHOULD work. I voted YES to the Single Transferable Vote referendum, a few years back, but not enough people understood how the system worked, so it was defeated, but I hope that the discussion will continue. (You can read more on the Single Transferable Vote system, on Wikipedia , here)
Through discussing what voting system would work better, and looking at other examples of Voting reform that have been implemented around the world, our Governments can only get more responsive and more accountable, as they are elected to reflect the many diverse voices and viewpoints that the public have.
Yesterday, as I was shopping at our local Save-On Foods, I came across a small laminated notice on the shelf, under the Peanut Butter.
The sign was small enough, and the print tiny enough, that it was almost invisible, amongst the bright and gaudy labels on the jars, but as I bent to read it, I thought about how blessed my wife and I are… able to go to the grocery store, and be able to buy whatever we want and need. The list is from the Friends In Need Food Bank, (supporting Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge) and was a reminder of their most wanted (and needed) items:
- Campbell’s Soup / Chunky Soup
- Side dishes (Hearty Noodles, Ramen Noodles)
- Canned Fish or Meat (salmon, tuna, ham)
- Prego. Pasta Sauce or Canned Tomatoes
- Meal in a Tin (Chunky. Chili, stew, pork and beans, ravioli)
- School Snacks (Goldfish)
- Pasta & RIce
- Peanut Butter
- Meal replacement drinks (Boost)
If you are blessed to have enough food on your table, then the next time you are shopping, why not grab a few of these basics, and share your good fortune with your local food bank ?
If you don’t have the extra money, but you have some time, most Food Banks can always use volunteers. Why not stop by ?
Or, if you have a few extra dollars, why not share with the food bank, so they can purchase the supplies they need ?
However you help, the folks at the Food Bank are always grateful !!!
Today is Pink Shirt Day.
A day, dedicated to wearing pink shirts as a way of drawing attention to the issue of bullying.
You can find out more details about Pink Shirt Day, and how it started, on their website: pinkshirtday.ca
Over the past few days, there have been a number of people in the media, who have asked the question: “Does ‘Pink Shirt Day’ help ?”
The obvious and concise answer, in my opinion, is a solid and resounding “YES !!!”
I was lucky enough to go to Elementary and Secondary Schools where, except for one occasion, I can’t remember encountering bullying.
However, I do know that my childhood and early teen years were a time of change, and a period where I felt alone… isolated… and vulnerable.
I was short… gawky… quiet… not popular and wore glasses. As it was, I largely just kept to myself, and tried not to draw attention to myself. Had I gone to a different school, or had my school had a different environment, I would have been a choice victim for bullies.
And I would have been in trouble.
Later in life, I encountered another set of circumstances and a time where the place I worked for 21 years had to close… I started a new job… I lost both my parents… and we moved… all in the period of four years. At that time, I became entangled in the quicksand of depression. It was an all-consuming, physically-painful period… where I searched for a way out of the darkness, and back into the light of “normalcy”. It was a tough go. But I made a conscious decision, that was critical (in my opinion) to my eventual success… I shared my problem.
I told friends, family and co-workers that I was having a tough time, and was struggling with depression. I took my boss aside, and let him know that I was having a tough time. I relied on my wife more than I usually do. And the thing that surprised me, was the steady stream of those same folk, who, privately, would come up, one by one, and confide that they were going through the same thing… but alone, privately and isolated… and how great it was to have someone to talk to.
They rarely did… but they benefited from the knowledge that they were not alone in their struggles.
A few years later, I worked with an Organization helping parents of kids with eating disorders to understand their children’s journey… and the most impactful lesson I came out of that endeavor with, was their catch phrase: “You Are Not Alone”… which is why I wrote this song.
So, to ask if talking about something makes it better ? Certainly… Undoubtedly… Absolutely… Yes.
It does not make it go away… Only the strength of a society where bullying is unacceptable can stop that.
But the first step is talking about it.
And so today, I wear a pink shirt… and I talk about it.