Thursday, 28 June 2012

memoir writers homework/nostalgia

As a memoir writer,I love all things having to do with nostalgia,because,really,where would we be without it.Nostalgia is one of those concepts that is going to send me looking for the dictionary as soon as I'm through with this write on demand exercise.Of course I have a good idea as to what it means.Its just the precision of the words meaning that seems to elude me.In my mind,it means to be homesick,not just for a place,but usually for a past time as well.It also carries the connotation of being perhaps overly sentimental and not as realistic about that time or place as you might otherwise be.

I believe it was Thomas Wolf,a writer from North Carolina who once said"you can never go home again",or words to that effect.I always wondered what exactly he meant by that,because,obviously,I could hop on a plane or into my car and arrive at the place where I grew up and called home in a matter of hours.Such a view is,I think,unique to those who are young and foolish and haven't put much thought into the ways of the world.Of course I could go home.The only thing is,home was not the same place and really had only taken very few years to change.I left home for a reason.It had a lot to do with economic reality,but also about the perception that people where I lived were mean spirited and I wanted to be away from them.Through the years I carried around a lot of my own,mostly unreasonable prejudices about Moncton.I suppose I though there was more excitement in the big city too.Most young people do.Then,after a few years,or maybe only months,nostalgia comes to call and I want to go home.To the home I thought I knew that is.But it's so very different.Not so many of the old friends still around.All the old hang outs are occupied by a younger crowd.I got to thinking I could live there again and it seemed like a great idea when I was living far away,but I get home,and it's wonderful for a few weeks,then I'm ready to leave again. I visit all my old friends and they become fewer and fewer all the time,not because they are passing,but because,like the place itself,they've changed,and so have I.I walk across the old covered bridge at Hartland,the worlds longest,stick my feet in that wonderful old stream I used to wade in when I was a pre -schooler and pick up a stone from it's bottom.That stone has worn a hole in my pocket now.That's nostalgia.

Home has changed too much.Maybe that's just the thoughts of an old man.There used to be a road that cut up through the heart of New Brunswick.It was the main road when I was growing up,and we would take it from our home to my grandparents place 200 miles away.You would travel through woods and meadows,up hills and along the river bottom below Fredricton,where huge trees grew in the river.But now that road is gone,replaced by a straight,wide road that cuts in a line from east to west.You can get there in much less time,but you never get to see any of the countryside.It's ruined my home.Nostalgia.

Walking up the street towards the old school,there is a little girl in pigtails.A very ordinary young lady.It makes me think,there really is only one thing in my home town that has not changed very much in all these many years.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

memoir writers homework/security.

Security meant something very different when I was growing up in the 60's and 70's than it does today.Today we think about things that would  rarely,if ever,have crossed our minds back then.Security,when I was small meant that I had a home that had two parents and that I could trust that they had the best interests of my siblings and I in mind in everything they did.We had a home and food and a bed with warm blankets.When I share experiences with some of my friends it also seems to have meant that I had no worry for some of the things that befell them.For instance,a good friend of mine and her family became homeless when their father lost their home in a poker game.So far as I know,neither of my parents did anything that would put us in that kind of danger and for that I am grateful.

We played outside until dark even when I was very young and no one had any great worry.We were told not to talk to strangers,of course,but then,in my home town there seemed to be very few strangers about.Most of the people I met,I knew.Seldom,if ever did we lock our front doors.If some family member,or close friend came to visit while you were out at the store,especially if they were from out of town,you wanted them to be able to come in,make something to eat and wait for your return in comfort.It was the way in Atlantic Canada in those days.Never did we experience a break-in or robbery.Crime rates were very low.

Today,I still know people who leave their door open to welcome guests,though it's much more rare.In Toronto or Calgary there seems to be a preoccupation with home security.We never knew that in Moncton,for most of the time I was growing up.I suppose it's necessary in the larger cities.There came a time though,when I was in grades eight and nine,that our sense of security was severely tested.Just before Christmas in 1974,two policemen were killed in the line of duty.It had the whole town in a state of fear for a few days,but two suspects were quickly arrested,tried and initially sentenced to hang.They were among the last people ever to be sentenced to death in Canada,but their sentences were commuted.

Barely had that incident passed-in fact it was about six months later-when something else unheard of happened.A seven year old girl disappeared from in front of her house and was never seen again.I had a four year old sister.Everyone in town seemed to think that the world was going to Hell in a hand basket.Two sensational and very high profile crimes in less than a year was unheard of in that part of the country.Things were worse here than in Toronto,and there was beginning to be a bit of a blood lust for law breakers.It was a kind of loss of innocence for Moncton as a community.People talked of doing ugly things to anyone caught in the act of committing a crime,even a very small one.That,for me was the bigger loss of security because I began to see a very nasty side to some neighbours that I thought I knew.A thought crossed my mind:evil things happen because people lack or lose their civility.

When I visited home in 2006,I noticed how careful my sister was about locking the doors when she went out.I guess times had changed.Once too,there used to be whole swarms of children walking to the school I used to attend.But by then,the swarm had become a trickle.And not because there were fewer children.One morning ,I took a walk and noticed that a great many kids were being dropped off at the school house door by parents in SUVs.Unheard of in my day!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

memoir writers homework/an accident.

Writers note:at memoir group,this entry and the one before it seem to have been undertaken in reverse order.Luck of the draw.But I've presented them here in this order for largely literary reasons which I hope will be obvious.Creative license.

There is really only one accident that comes to my mind these days.It was needless in the sense that my mother should never have been there.She loved her grandchildren,and didn't mind caring for them.But she didn't really need to be running halfway across the province of New Brunswick on a cold February day to pick them up for the week end.But she would never have said no.

It was only about ten minutes from home.A young man coming the other direction swerved into their lane and hit my mothers car head on.Both drivers died at the scene.It's said he may have fallen asleep as he was supposed to have had narcolepsy.At least thats the story my younger sister told.

My older sister recounted how she first heard about the accident when I visited for the funeral.She was sitting there watching the evening news,she said,and the accident flashed across the screen.Of course,you couldn't see it well.You never can see such thing clearly.She told me,she watched and said to herself"I'm so happy that my parents aren't out on a night like this.A few moments later,the police called.They'd called my other sister in Fredricton too and she had driven all the way back to Moncton.As she approached the accident scene she was detoured,and she must have known how bad things were.

Neither of my sisters knew how to reach me in Calgary as I had recently moved.My mother had the address written in an address book,but of course it was with her in the car.On Sunday morning two police officers came to my door.They had the look of soldiers coming to the door and I wasn't instantly aware of why I thought they looked like that.They said "you need to call your sister"And I did.She didn't have the message I was by now expecting.My father had been in poor health for years,so,of course,that's why she was calling.She said"there was a car accident and Mom didn't make it."To this day,I don't recall which of my sisters I called that day.

A few months later I made my one and only visit to the accident scene.It was a warm June night and my best friend from high school drove me there and made a u turn before pulling up to the place my younger sister had erected a white cross.I stepped down into the ditch and touched the cross and tried to think of what that night must have been like.It looked so different.I noticed a firefly at the foot of the cross as I was standing there,then another and another.When I came back up to get in the truck I looked back down into the ditch,where a glowing storm of fireflies circled that white cross.And I knew that God is good and merciful,that there is a place where we know nothing but his grace and loving kindness,and that my mother was there and that step from the side of that damnable roadside was very short and swift indeed.

memoir writers homework/a past relic.

When my grand parents moved into town,from the farm,in the mid 1960's it's as though they brought the past with them.There were old rusty tools in a gray wooden shed out back.Many were the tools of a lumberjack or a woodcutter.There were old farm implements too.A hay rake,to be pulled behind a horse,every bit of it red and pitted with rust.A seat was mounted to it on a big coil spring and it was the most uncomfortable thing I've ever sat on,even when I didn't imagine the roughness of the fields where the horse would pull it.

My grandfathers car was a relic too.The only thing was,he didn't know that and continued to drive it.It was a 1953 Chev BelAir that used to be a light metallic blue until he repainted dark blue with a paint brush.It had hard seats with no seat belts,and years and years of dust embedded in its upholstery.The window wipers went faster the faster you drove,so that if you were to encounter a torrential downpour you would need to drive very fast indeed just to be able to see.That seemed like maybe something the engineers hadn't given all that much thought to,to me.It would push my mother way beyond her 40 mph comfort zone.My grandfather wouldn't be caught dead driving in the rain,or the snow.Every October he would take the battery out of the car and put it inside the house,on the staircase where you could spend the winter stubbing your toe on it during nocturnal trips to the washroom.

My grandfather modernized his car in about 1976.Sold the 53 Belair to my father and upgraded to a 1961 Ford,to stay more current with the times.We went to pick up the old blue chevy and bring it back to Moncton.I wasn't sure how such a car was going to go over in Moncton.It might clean up well enough to be considered a classic at some point,but as it was,once it was parked on the back lawn,it was likely to send the neighbors a very clear message.We are the folks that Jeff Foxworthy warned you about!

That trip is one I recall so well.My father was there and so was Phillip Wilbur,to drive my fathers car back.We stopped at Davidson Lake on the way home.The lake has a beautiful sandy bottom and,as it was a very hot day,we swam until late at night,then decided to wait until morning before driving the rest of the way home.In the morning we loaded up the cars and set out for Moncton.When we came to the place on the old highway that's called Cambridge Narrows,we came upon a sight straight from Hell.During the night,a fuel truck had gone off the road and plunged into a small gully on the opposite side of the road where it rolled and exploded.It started a small forest fire the time we came along,they were retrieving a body from the ruins.I was amazed at how few those ruins were.What was once a tractor trailer was smoking and probably small enough to put in a small basement.What was once a human being was just a skull and a hip bone.It was a good thing I guess we decided not to press for home the night before.No point risking car problems in the dark with that old relic.We would likely have been very close to right on scene for that tanker truck accident.I knew then,standing at the roadside,smelling kerosene where everything was blackened,that some very bad things could happen in this life.

River levels are high here in Calgary and once again as well as in communities south of the city.Everyone is watching the skies with nervous anticipation as more rain is being forecast for today.Not what would really qualify as torrential amounts,but more than we need at the moment.

To the eye,the Bow River seems to have at least twice it's normal amount of water flow,all of it muddy and filled with debris.Some of the lower islands are nearly submerged upstream of downtown.But the Bow is not really the problem child of rivers as Calgary and southern Alberta go.It has fairly larger banks to contain it,and though there are some low lying areas around,most of the buildings are a fair distance back from the rivers edge.

Not so with the Elbow however which snakes its way in from the southwest,forms a huge reservoir behind the Glenmore Dam then cuts through a number of very high end residential areas,past Stampede Park and into the Bow east of downtown.On the Elbow,dwellings are often built right up to it's banks,as is the case on 24th Ave,S.W. where I lived during the June floods of 2005.Usually the Elbow is a pastoral little stream winding through the heart of a large city,and is lovely to have literally in your backyard.But it does not have high banks at all and can flood easily even with moderate rainfall and snow melt.The Glenmore Dam holds back a lot of water,but it's old and in 2005 there was a need to release some of the water behind it.Water over ran the banks and we were forced to evacuate for nearly a week.The stock footage of that event  that was played over and over by The Weather Channel was filmed at the very bottom of my street.Local news today is showing very similar scenes,though I no longer live in an area that causes me as much of flooding.Still,people seem to be gearing up for a flood,much the same as they were then.The situation doesn't seem nearly as dire as in 2005,but that could change very quickly if we get the rain that's anticipated.Watching the radar is rather spooky this morning as there seems to be storms all across the west,including a rather big, nasty looking one in Montana,about 200 miles away as bad weather flies.There is a concern of tornadoes east of here as well and there are watches and warnings out all over the place.It's calm right now,but the sky is smudged with gray all about and it's cool and damp with a slight wind.Kind of like what might be called a pregnant pause in the weather for now.


Monday, 25 June 2012

memoir writers homework/joke,tricks

I seem to be getting behind in my homework.Over the past few weeks the memoir group to which I belonged while living in Toronto has taken on some most interesting topics and you are likely to see a few appearing in this weeks offerings.This topic is from the Monday,June 18 meeting

I think as kids we all love a joke,or trick and most of us don't seem to ever get over it completely until some short minute before we die.what else could account for the fact that everyone who has ever gotten married seems to end up with an array of cans tied to the back bumper of their least that was still true while cars still had bumpers that allowed you to tie cans to them.A very innocent trick,familiar to the point of cliche.But we once tied nearly forty oil cans in a string to a car of a friend of mine who had just gotten married.Oil used to come in cans.Those cans used to be made of aluminum and were big and very hollow and made a lot of noise.But at the very last moment,just before he was about to leave the church,we all did one better than that.While some of us distracted the newly weds,some others brought out a milk can-the kind you use in a barn to collect milk before sending it to the dairy-and chained it to the back of the car.When the married couple drove off it sounded something like they were dragging an entire scrapyard behind them.

There were always the standard jokes or tricks,of course,like the one that involves a doorbell,paper bag and contents and a small fire.Everyone knows that one.Most everyone has pulled that off to perfection at least once.There was one miserable old woman who used to fall victim to this trick every year.We even invented a variation to this theme once.The variation involved a pair of latex gloves,a jar of peanut butter and a small parking lot beside a doctors office.No fire though.We did this trick on April Fools Day,but never on Halloween.

On a washroom wall in a gas station across from my high school,there was a little white box that sold a certain product not nearly as commonly used in the 1970's as it is today,and not nearly as available either.You see,we hadn't heard of AIDS then and virginity seemed to be somewhat more popular then too.But,finding these things,you just know that boys are going to be boys and at least one really good use for the product will be invented.Aside from the one it was actually intended for that is.Well,we found two new uses for them.One involved the product,of course,and the tailpipes of cars in the teachers parking lot.The other involved some helium from the chemistry lab and some of the airspace directly outside the principals office.In fact,considerably more airspace than we imagined it might.It seemed to be a very durable sort of product,but getting the end tied off was a bit of a trick.It sure was funny though to hear a loud"what the hell..." coming from the hallway,halfway through class.


Often I look to our southern neighbors with a kind of morbid fascination,especially when they've elected Republicans.Up here it seems to be somewhat of a pass time laughing at or ridiculing Americans.And while it's true that you have to come north of the border to get a decent doughnut,there are some very important things the Americans get right.Even the Republican ones,or to be more correct,perhaps,the right leaning ones.And it doesn't even pain me to say so from my somewhat left of center political viewpoint.

One such thing is the way Americans deal with dangerous criminals like child molesters,specifically,in this case Jerry Sandusky a former football coach at Penn State University.I am not certain what sentence Sandusky faces,but it will likely be much greater than the two miserable years handed to former hockey coach Graham James north of the border.In fact,most of the articles I've read suggest that Sandusky is unlikely to ever see the outside of a prison again.And for that alone I salute our American friends.

As a liberal,I often argue that we need to be putting fewer people in prison,not more.But to be more specific,we need to be incarcerating more of certain kinds of offenders for longer periods of time.People like Sandusky or James.People who lurk in the shadows of respectability with the sole intent of destroying young lives and tarnishing the institutions they represent.Americans get this.Canadians do not.Republican get it,most certainly.I suspect most Democrats do as well.But this is not about partisan politics on either side of the border.It is plainly about common sense and informed self interest.Children must be protected.That is the bottom line and the only thing I care about.

So,in a few more years,after the sentence is appealed, Graham James will be off to serve his sentence here in Canada.But,with parole eligibility and time served,I wonder how many more days it will be until he is happily living in some neighborhood unknown to all the families that also live there.And this is not his first time at the rodeo.It's been nearly twenty years since I first heard of this beast.By comparison,Sandusky will still be rotting in a Pennsylvania prison in a few years.No further generations of young players will be subjected to his perverted appetites,because he is likely to be there for life..And I don't know many people,even among my liberal friends who are calling this draconian.Most people seem to favor the word "enlightened."

Child molesters ruin children, often beyond repair.Its long past time Canadian leaders grew a set and started providing forever protection from these monstrous individuals.If you  molest children I have no difficulty at all in saying you should be locked away in the dungeon of a prison in the far north,out of sight and out of mind until you rattle out your last pathetic breath.I'm not interested in your rehabilitation or your redemption.You can look to God for your mercy because you'll get none from me.I'm not even interested in your comfort beyond insuring you the necessities of life,like food and water and basic medical care.Do you hear me loud and clear?Molesting a child is a forever decision and it should have forever consequences.I don't want to worry about such persons in my neighborhood.I want to be safe in knowing that they are forever sequestered in their own neighborhood,that being a federal prison until they die,and Hell thereafter,providing that they still have not repented.

What kind of makes me chuckle though is that there is likely a Canadian,conservative politician who will read this and come to the conclusion that I'm far to radical.Well,if that's not a case of the Red Tory calling the Liberal a cracker!But again,it's really all about common sense,not partisan politics.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

memoir writers homework/black sheep of the family.

I guess I was destined to be a black sheep in my family,but perhaps not the only one.In fact I sometimes wonder if we are not a whole family of black sheep,with maybe just a single white one thrown in to make life interesting.For certain we've all had our troubles,but the one doing the pointing and saying "black sheep"has never even tried walking in my shoes,so I really don't care?Except that she is my sister,the other black sheep,so I guess I really do care.

I've never really understood the term black sheep anyway.It seems to me that it means rogue or outlaw,though not always in an uncomplimentary way.Sometimes it just means non-conformist,to which I proudly admit,being as I am somewhat of an iconoclast.I f you want to be an iconoclast,being a black sheep is part of the job description.

There seem to be a number of ways of becoming a black sheep,aside from normal sheep genetics. But since I'm, in part from Western New Brunswick we won't get into sheep genetics.The mere mention of Sheep,DNA and Western New Brunswick in the same sentence has been known to make some people uncomfortable.

One of the dynamics that sometimes goes on between people from Atlantic Canada and those who live in Atlantic Canada,but are not from there is this whole"from here" and "from away" kind of thing.It's really a sort of racism,which I'd always heard of but never been quite aware of in my own life until just recently.I've heard of school kids being beaten for "being from away."In fact,I recently, in a web search to locate my fathers sister,my aunt Rosanna,discovered that she was making a big deal in her home community about her grand daughter being bullied at school by students objecting to her Alberta origins.But I never dreamed it would happen to me.I've always considered myself an Atlantic Canadian,just as a routine part of my identity.But it's not my whole identity.I've lived away for many years,out of necessity for the most part.But this last time I went back,I find I'm being accused of not being there for my family for all those many years.I'm somehow morally lacking because I moved to Alberta in 1979,even though my parents supported me in this decision.So I wish the families black sheep would explain how I came to "be from away"Because I really don't understand it.

rhetorical questions.

Lets just ponder some rhetorical questions today.If a tree falls in the forest with no one around does it make a sound?Does a bear poop in the woods?Well,the answer to the second question would seem to be yes.And from that it would seem to follow that the answer to the first question is yes as well.Unless the requirement for the making of sound is the presence of a human to hear it of course,and that's just way to anthropocentric for me.Can God make a stone so large that He can't move it?You get the picture.By rhetorical I mean a question that doesn't require an answer so much as it needs to be asked for it's own sake.

Now lets suppose you lived far from your own hometown.And lets suppose a tragedy befell your family.One of your family members was suddenly taken away.You travel to your hometown for the funeral,and,if necessary you would be prepared to stay and help with the family,though that would involve sacrifice.You see,the person taken away was the sole caregiver for their ailing partner who had been in poor health for a number of years.

But all seems to be well when you get home.A sibling has decided to take over the care giving duties and that sibling is a professional caregiver by trade.All is looking very well.You can return home with complete trust that your surviving parent is in good hands.You have a heart to heart discussion with your sibling about transparency and how you,as a family member expect it,and that sibling agrees that not only is it appropriate,but also in the best interests of caretakers in general.And so you set off to the airport thinking that this is going to turn out as well as can be expected.Only to be confronted at the front door by that angel of mercy,you sibling,who is now very angry with you over...what?Some seemingly insignificant thing.But the point is that it was done when you were on the way to the airport,bags in hand ,and of course,had no opportunity to answer back?Rhetorical question.Would this be called an ambush?Just wondering.But more to the point,would you now be justified in feeling somewhat more uneasy trusting the care of your parent to this sibling?Rhetorical question.Does there seem to be more going on here than meets the eye?

Rhetorical question.Should you have been able to see any of this coming?Well likely.There were small signs all along it seems.The baby monitor that was used to monitor your parent's care being placed right next to a window that would allow the whole neighborhood to listen in.My God,if your parent were going to the bathroom the neighbors could here the grunting.You made mention of this but were brushed off with"I don't have time to move it"to which you replied "it only takes a few seconds to move it."The answer you receive to that is"a few seconds could be used to get a cup of coffee."Rhetorical question.Aren't caregivers supposed to believe in and uphold human dignity?What does human dignity look and sound like?Grunting an the sipping of coffee?Or maybe that's just a stereotype you have about all caregivers.Never mind,but,rhetorically,where is your level of concern now compared to that time the angel of mercy was telling you about transparency?

Rhetorically speaking,life goes on despite your concerns,which are now not being answered on a daily basis.But I guess you should have expected this.In fact,a number of years pass,then your remaining parent passes from this world.Rhetorically speaking,don't you find it odd that you still cannot get any answers from your parents caregiver as to what was going on over the last few years?Of course you want to believe the best,after all who wants to believe that an angel of mercy has tarnished wings and a soiled robe,but,rhetorically speaking,isn't it just a bit naive to go on believing at this point,especially when the only real answers you've  been getting is to "go pound sand"or something to that effect,but with slightly more to offer in the way of expletives and hate charged invective.

One more rhetorical question.When confronted by a person who is extremely defensive,as you now are,don't you normally find that people become extremely defensive because there is something to be defensive about?

Remember,these are just rhetorical questions that don't require an answer and may or may not have any meaning in the real world.But even rhetorical questions serve a purpose.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

After a three year absence from the province of Alberta,I arrived back here just as a provincial election was called.And despite a change in the political landscape,in the form of a new political party(The Wildrose Party),it appears to my eyes and ears that the more things change,the more they stay the same.Political conservatives,or perhaps a better term would be the political right, have been in power here for as long as I've lived here and for some decades before that.From time to time the party names may change,but the ultra right wing nature of their thought seems to be as untouched by reason as it ever was.In all honesty,I must say that some of the rhetoric frightens me.

Well,the election has come and gone,and the Conservatives have been re elected.If you listen to all the political pundits,they are the least conservative of the two parties,with the Wild Rose Party being representative of the far right side of the political spectrum.It seems that Alberta conservatives are perceived to have been gradually drifting to the left,hence the legitimacy of The Wild Rose Party.But I'm under no illusions that there is anything remotely leftist about their leanings.Still,I think that we've done well not to elect some of the scarier personalities that have run in this particular election.

Take the Reverend Alan Hunsperger for instance.In a blog from more than a year ago Mr.Hunsperger wrote that homosexuals were bound to spend eternity in a lake of fire.Fast forward to April of this year:Alan Hunsperger finds himself a candidate for election in a South Edmonton riding.And his party leader backs his right to have made the statements he did because they maintain a policy of not silencing their candidates.All the better,I suppose because then I get to hear what it is Alan Hunsperger really thinks.Evidently enough other voters got his message too and decided not to elect him,an event for which we can be truly grateful.

Finally I located a copy of Mr.Hunspergers speech,and I must say that, as a Christian, I have a somewhat different take on the issue of homosexuality.Nevertheless I did not find Mr.Hunspergers blog to be overtly homophobic.His basic take was that it is an error to think that because one is made a certain way,that one can act on that nature without consequence.He further goes on to note that all persons were made a certain way and that if they died that way,that is to say unrepentantly sinful,they would face eternal damnation.I am certainly glad that he made that statement with respect to all sinners,and not a selective few whom some "Christians"have chosen to revile more than others.That way,I don't have to elaborate why the church house gossip is in as much peril of damnation as any homosexual.Understand this Christians,we are all sinners.And while we are all sinners,God chose a means in which we could be reconciled to him.And that means does not exclude homosexuals so far as I can read anywhere in scripture.

Where Mr.Hunspergers statements start to cause me slightly more concern is his mention of people perceiving that because they were born a certain way,they have a "right"to live that way.Specifically what are Mr.Hunspergers views on rights in general and the rights of homosexuals in particular.As far as I know God does not force us to live his way should we chose not to.Though obviously as a Christian I believe that if you die rejecting God,God will ratify that choice for all eternity.My question for Alan Hunsperger, then is,if you were elected,could we expect to see an erosion of rights based on religious belief(yours)?And.of course,how far would that erosion of rights take us?Looking historically at right leaning governments of the past,I'm not extremely confident that you would not impose your own beliefs on those who did not share them.

When I hear the rhetoric of an Alan Hunsperger I wonder how it is that he is able to fulfill his commission to bring souls to the Lord at all.Often I think that we as Christians are so nasty in our approach to homosexuals in particular,that the tendency is to leave a whole group bereft of spiritual guidance.That is a tragedy.It destroys the quality of our witness for Christ when we cause others to stumble.We need to realize that when we encounter other sinners,we may be the only picture of Jesus that that person ever gets to see.For me,the beginning of all things Christian is in John 3:16."For God So loved the World..."While hell may very well be real,there is no point preaching it dogmatically unless you also preach Gods love,grace and mercy that provide the opportunity to avoid such torment.

I will not deny that God says something very definitive about the practice of homosexuality(as opposed to the "being"homosexual.But I do not know the condition of anyone's soul,and with respect,neither does Alan Hunsperger.That being the case I'm prepared to let God be God,and not allow the divisive issue of homosexuality to move me from what He has asked me to do-preach the Gospel,love my neighbors,value justice and mercy and walk humbly with God,among a multitude of other things.Mr.Hunsperger,will you stand with me?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Fathers Day-Epilogue

I've given my fathers history,and how I viewed it in considerably more detail than I had intended to when I started out.Really,I just wanted to give a straight forward tribute to my father on Fathers day.However,I find that there was really nothing all that straight forward about my father.I don't think I've nearly approached all of this subject and much more is likely to follow as I begin to write memoir,some of which will be shared in this blog

But I had several things to say before leaving this subject behind.Firstly,was my father a good or a bad man?I really don't have the whole answer to that and it is fitting, I think that children should not,necessarily be all knowing in this regard.Simply put we need our fathers,and we need them to be persons who can be looked up to,quite apart from whether or not they are actually worthy of our reverence.The fact is that  God commands us to look up to,to respect our parents.To do otherwise is,in fact an affront to God,who portrays his own relationship to us as being paternal in nature.I don't mean though that that relationship is SIMPLY paternal or that it can in any way be reduced to the status of a human paternal relationship.It is much greater than that.And that brings me to another point.God is all those things that our earthly fathers are not.So,before we sit in judgement,we would do well to remember that our earthly fathers are not all powerful,or infallible or all knowing.The world is a difficult place,full of difficult problems that demand decisions that are not easy to make or be accountable for.Being a man is not easy.Criticism is the lot of any adult regardless of what decision is made.And we do not know or see this when we are children.Therefor,our fathers are worthy of being judged with compassion.

As to my own father,what would I say?I never thought I could do enough to satisfy him.I always thought that no matter what I did,or who I was something more would be demanded.But that is not always a bad thing.There were times we didn't seem to agree on anything,especially after I became an adult and I asked myself"why does this man hate me so much?"In fact I don't think he hated me at all.People can and do change there basic beliefs over time,and if they do,is that not a sign of open mindedness?In my life I've chosen to emulate my father in some things and not in others.I don't enjoy the use of alcohol,for instance and that is a direct product of my upbringing,though not in the way that one might think.I believe,by the way that it bothered my father that I would never sit and have a drink with him.

But here is what I think of my father.He was an imperfect man in an imperfect world,trying to do his best.And he didn't do badly.He kept our home together and he provided for us.He was never in jail,or falling down outside the tavern.I never knew him to be unfaithful to our mother.At times he could seem downright unreasonable,but mostly he made a solid effort to get along with people and to be a decent man,a good neighbor and a good father.Moreover,many of his failings,especially in later years seemed to me to come about as a direct result of poor health.There is,to my thinking,no reason why his children,down through the centuries to come,should not think well of him.

There is one more thing that needs to be said.It's something I've often noticed regarding fatherhood,but I don't know as I've ever written this down before.As I noted above,there is a difference between our fathers here on earth and Our Heavenly Father.I'm not just stating the obvious here,people have told me this.A great many people seem to confuse the two,especially those who have had less than ideal fathers.It is understandable perhaps,but we need to remember,Our Heavenly Father is nothing like our fathers here.He is perfect and not only loves us,but knows how to love us perfectly.Many people though seem ,to my eyes to be unable or unwilling to put their trust in a heavenly father as the result of a less than perfect relationship with their earthly father.This is tragic because,taken to it's final end ,it will result in a child that is lost for all eternity.It points to the huge responsibility of being a father,but also to our need to be kind and forgiving with fathers who are not always as they should be.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Fathers Day Part VI

Walter Bruce Davis was born in 1934 and lived until 2009,when he passed from this world on February 15,just two days short of three years from the accident that took away his wife and lifelong companion.

I have no idea what those three years were like for my father.I hope he was cared for in a dignified and decent way but,in my more cynical moments I greatly fear that he may not have been.He was in the care of my youngest sister,who thus far has refused to disclose details of the care she says she provided.I only say that it was wrong not to allow oversight.In and of itself,that was wrong and my father deserved better.As to any other wrong doing,I will not give voice to my fears,as I don't know what those years were like.I only know that,for certain that God sees and knows.

On the day my sister called to tell me of my fathers passing,I was sitting in a chair and trying to learn a chord progression for a new song on the guitar.It was I though an extraordinarily beautiful song about a metaphorical bird.And it spoke to my fathers life.The odd thing was that I was having no luck finding the proper chord progression until after my sister had called.When I was through talking to her,in a short while,I picked up my guitar again,and the chords came to me,all of them,in less than ten minutes.That was on Family Day,2009.

My father was laid to rest in the cemetery in Canterbury,New Brunswick,beside my mother and there they,and perhaps a cat,sleep together.At the funeral they sang "Church In The Wildwood" and "Peace In The Valley."And I hope he has found his peace and that he sleeps well.


Father Day Part V

There were only two times that I can recall seeing my father drinking hard liquor.The first was in June of 1978,before I started twelfth grade.He was very drunk then,and he told me a story.However,I do not have a great deal to say about that just now.The second time was about a year later,and I'm slightly less informed as to what might have caused this.It was a hard time I believe,with myself just leaving the home,a sister a year younger,and my younger sister nearly ten years younger than me.My father was a long way from finished when it came to parenting.There was a lot of talk of layoffs and closing government facilities,including the one where my father worked.My father I'm sure was a homebody who did not want to be uprooted in the final years of his working career.His own father had just passed a year or so before and his mother was in declining health.Moving must have seemed an unbearable burden to him.He always wanted to be close to Springhill and close to my mothers family as well,and would likely have viewed any inability to stay in Moncton as a sort of failure.And as much as he supported my move-it was the thing to do in those days-I'm not sure he understood it fully.I think he expected it to perhaps be temporary.1979 must have been a very stressful time for my father.

When the strokes began I'm not certain.I'm inclined to think it may have been as far back as the mid 1970's.Once my father showed us that while his right hand was flowing with blood and warm,his left hand was ice cold and white.I don't recall that anything ever came of that,but at the time it seemed spooky.It seemed much spookier recalling it later.

Certainly by the time my parents visited Alberta in 1981,my father was not nearly as hardy as he was when I'd last seen him.We met in Edmonton and planned to drive down to Mt.St.Helens in Washington state.It was a wonderful vacation,the last together as a family,though not all of us were there.My father seemed sickly though and couldn't or didn't want to drive the car.So my mother and I drove along highway 90,where it was 107 degrees in Moses Lake,and my father was curled up in the back seat of the car.Visions of the crossing into California from the "Grapes Of Wrath"came to my mind,and I think that it was then I realized that my father was truly not well.He sipped on a lot of beer during the trip,to the point where he was quite jolly and not just a little bit silly.We were unable to get to Mt.St.Helen's because it was still closed,but we spent the most of a whole day at Mount.Ranier,and my father seemed pleased to point out the size of the trees in the park.He was I think reliving his visit to British Columbia,which he was quite taken with.

The silliness of beer overtook him on the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria and he met this girl who was crossing on a bicycle to make a trip around Vancouver Island.He introduced me to her,tried to set me up in fact,but I was not really interested.Once off the boat we set up camp and sat around our campfire until early morning.My father asked me,very pointedly if I did not find the girl on the boat attractive,to which I explained that I was not interested.At that point,he,again drinking beer,asked if I were a homosexual.He need not have worried.I had more than one lady friend in my life at that point,though I'm not certain any of them were a serious interested.I explained that I did not want to be married,but my father said that was nonsense,he expected me to find a suitable wife.Unknown to either of us,that would be accomplished in less than a year.For a long time I was offended about being asked if I was a homosexual,but with time I came to realize my father asked it out of worry and concern.

We visited my fathers cousin in Port Alberni and it was a good thing as she was to pass away a short time later.We had a picnic by a wonderful waterfall and when we left for Vancouver my father seemed reinvigorated and happy.The trip seemed to end much better than it began.

It was to be nearly two years until I was to see my family again and by that time I had a wife and a son on the way.My father had seemed to lose ground again,though he was still working ans it must have been some time before he had his stroke.Still he did not seem at all well.He took to Susan well and accepted her as a daughter and was truly happy to know that a grandchild was on the way.In all ways that I can recall it was a happy visit and Matthew was born in October of 1983.

As far as being a grandfather was concerned,my father took an active role,though his health was declining.We saw my parents nearly every year through the 1980's and every year my father seemed worse off.In 1987,in Ottawa,the weekend of the tornado in Edmonton,he seemed convinced his time was not long,and talked to me about his will.I didn't perceive it as an especially urgent matter and this seemed to annoy my father as he tried to tell me what he wanted done at his passing.By this time he was not doing any of the driving,my mother was taking a greater and greater role in running the household,and in my fathers care too.He had had at least two strokes by this time.A year later,we met in Ottawa again and drove back to Moncton.It was a hot summer and the trip seemed to drain my father to the point where he was tired and sick for the remainder of our visit.

My youngest sister moved west and in 1990 was ready to give birth to my fathers second grandchild.My parents came to visit and stayed at my place in Edmonton.Zachary was born on September 11 and they all went back to New Brunswick by car shortly after.My father looked frail and as weak and tired as I had ever seen him.

A year later,Susan and I separated and later divorced,and I believe my father had a hard time with the idea of divorce.Still he supported me in going back to school,even financially for a while.He seemed proud when I graduated,though whenever he called he must have been under the influence of powerful medication,for he became harder and harder to understand.Tracking a phone conversation with him was very difficult by 1995.What was transpiring was a continued series of strokes that was to last for the remainder of his life.

By 2000,I'd moved to Calgary,and it must have been a year or two later that my mother and father set out by train to visit me.I was looking forward to the visit,and called on the night they were to have arrived only to find that they had cancelled their reservation.It turned out that my father had had some sort of an attack on the train in Toronto,and they'd turned back.After that he became quite sick,so that he'd not even talk on the phone.I was not to see him again until 2006,after the car wreck that took my mothers life,and left my father severely injured and without his wife and caregiver.So unnecessary,I thought,and still do.He seemed so small and frail and I knew that this was a thing he would never really come back from.I could not be certain what it was he knew then.He had a hard time tracking conversations and didn't seem to grasp,at least not all the time,that my mother was gone.I heard him from time to time call out her name.At other times I didn't think he recognized me,at least for a few short moments.It was such a tragedy and I thought,no matter how good or bad he had been,he deserved better than where his life had left him.He had deserved something more merciful.

Fathers Day Part IV

We are born I think,thinking our parents are invincible,able to do anything.Mostly it's because we are small and there are very few things we have learned to do.We depend upon parents for everything in our early years.

And in my early years it seemed my father could do everything.Read a newspaper or a bedtime story.Write things in letters that were still a mystery to me.He could teach us to write too:words like cat and hat,or even cow and dog.He could drive a car,a machine that was impossibly big and dangerous,yet he could take us anywhere we wanted to go safely.It was truly a miracle,for it resulted in us being able to see others,such as our grandparents,or in us being able to bring food home from the store.And he knew all about the places we were passing and told us all about them,be they an old building or a barn or a road.He could even fly a plane too,though I only saw him do it once.But he knew all about any sort of car or plane.Moreover,he was tall,good looking,fast and strong.He could run or push a swing or carry my sister or myself if we tired of walking.He was powerful enough to protect us from whatever dangers might come to the point that we were never aware that there were dangers.He knew,too that we needed to learn to be good people,to do right rather than wrong.He read us all the Bible stories about Adam and Eve,Noah,David,Jonah and Moses.He told us about Heaven and Hell.Heaven,to him was a place good people go and we should want to go there.So we needed to tell the truth,and not steal or swear and to honor our parents.And he made the flames of Hell seem so real that I wanted very much to do only what was good,though I didn't know if I could ever be good enough to avoid burning.But I knew that my father was there to teach me,and,being small I placed my confidence in him.His discipline could be swift and harsh or very subtle.

But we grow,and eventually discover that our parents have feet of clay.We start to see that our parents may not always tell all of the truth all of the time,that they may take things that don't strictly speaking belong to them,or that they don't always talk kindly about their own parents.And sometime they tell us"don't do as I do,do as I say."Then they fall back on that commandment about honoring your parents, and God,and Hell with it's burning fires is a very big stick.But if my father were so invincible,why the need such a powerful weapon.The truth is,and we soon start to see it, is that there are thing happening that have command over our parents too.They are very powerful things and in many instances they are so powerful that they cannot be resisted.

Such was the way my fathers life was.He had his weaknesses,while trying hard to do well and to move his family forward.One of the first things I noticed regarding his fallibility was that he never went to church with us,and so I never knew what he believed,or why.For a few Sundays when I was perhaps ten,he came to church and I believe it must have been at my mothers urging,as I was getting to be of an age where I didn't want to go to church either.My reasoning consisted solely of"if Dad doesn't go,why do I have to?"At home he never spoke of God and for that matter,neither did my mother to any great degree.Church belonged mostly to Sunday morning and we were not a greatly religious family aside from that.I came to know in later years that the Father should be the spiritual head of the household,and my father simply wasn't.For one reason or another he simply wasn't able.I don't hold this against him in any way,though I do believe that I was not subject to the parental example I needed to have at the time.

As I grew older,my father began to be more obvious in some of his weaknesses.He seemed angry much of the time,for reasons unknown to me.He didn't seem to associate much with men his own age,and it may well have had to do with his having only a grade eight education and being perhaps self conscious of that reality.Because of this he seemed subject,more than he should be to the influence of others.When a neighbor began spending more time around our house and making political pronouncements to the effect that the French people in our midst were trying to take over our country and cause us English people disadvantage socially,my father bought in to the idea.And so did I.And it's always been a matter in which I wished I'd had more of the right kind of guidance so that I would not have had to unlearn a lot of bigotry.My father could be civil to anyone,and was far from being hate filled like our neighbor.I think he truly believed in the goodness of people.But he allowed our neighbor to be a greater force in his home than he was himself.At those time he just seemed to swing in the wind,though I saw a different side to him when we were alone.I wasn't necessarily able to define what that side of him was though.

Throughout all of my childhood my father liked to drink beer.I never really though much about it until I reached my teens.I knew beer could make you drunk,but I'd never seen my father drunk,and wasn't sure what the significance of drunkenness was in any event.I'd never viewed my father as an alcoholic,and in fact still don't.But I may be wrong about that.When I was a teenager my father and I would make many short trips away from home,usually to the cottage,or Springhill or some such place.Almost all of those trips involved a trip to the liquor store for a six pack of beer.Six didn't seem very many and hence the idea in my head that because he didn't drink much,he couldn't be an alcoholic.The problem was that it didn't take much to make my father quite silly,though he never became mean when drinking.But still,nothing functioned normally after he had had six beers.No conversation seemed to make sense and whatever we had come to do never seemed to get done.If we were putting a new roof on the cottage,it would remain unfinished.Sometimes we would go to town and I would end up driving home when I was just learning to drive.I still trusted my father at these times but cognitive dissonance could take up a big space in my life then too.

My father I think was having a hard time hanging on.He still went to work everyday,and still provided for us,but his life must have been uncommonly difficult.But as always he sheltered us from all that,believing,I suppose that it was a good thing to do.But as I entered my last year or two of high school I realized the my father was in decline.When I moved to Alberta it became more noticeable every time I returned for a visit,or every time my parents would visit me.At some point he began having strokes and his decline was long and difficult to watch.Because we did not see each other everyday I could see how far he had slipped every time I did see him.It was very obvious when viewing it that way. 

Friday, 15 June 2012

Fathers Day Part III

I said my father was an enigma.There were truly some things that confused me about him.I guess in that I am hardly alone.Most people I know say the same thing,and to a greater or lesser degree it seems true of most people too.Partly it's necessary,I think that we not know all there is to know about our parents.I often think of the Biblical story of Noah.Not the flood,but the story of his sons discovering his nakedness and what each of them did about it.It is not,on the one hand,good for children to know of all things in a parents life.It can diminish respect.On the other hand,parents are there to be role models.Children,though don't always understand what is being role modeled to them.I wish I knew more about my father,my whole family in fact.But they were not the type to boast,so I was not raised immersed in family history and so I'm left to the damnable state of drawing my own conclusions.

My father was ever one to sacrifice for his family.He drove eighty miles each way to work so,as he once told me,we would not have to go to school in rural northeastern New Brunswick,where some of the worst funded schools in the entire country were located.In Moncton we would have a lot of conveniences not available to us if we had lived closer to where my father worked.All very true,and so he drove,eighty miles to work and eighty miles home,day after day,year after year.It took a toll,for he often seemed tired,not just as a hard working person might,but as someone more weary than normal more of the time.I've no doubt that it weakened him and ultimately shortened his life.And it's difficult not to admire the sacrifice,for it truly was a good one in terms of what our quality of life was.

A few years ago I found out something about my fathers sacrifice that I did not know.And this is where the enigma rears it's head.I'd met Steven Wright here in Calgary more than a decade ago now and of course we fell into talking about people in New Brunswick,including my father.Steven is related to people on my mothers side of the family.During this conversation,he related to me that my father could have had a transfer to a military installation in Moncton,just a ten minute drive away.The only stipulation was that he would have to learn to speak French,at the governments time and expense.He refused,for whatever reason.I,of course was not aware of this at the time.At the time relations between English and French in Moncton were not always the best.But I truly did not believe that my father would have been motivated by hatred to the point of not wanting the opportunity to improve himself.This seems now to be especially inane in view of the fact that he traveled all the way to Chilliwack,British Columbia,in the fall of 1968,for upgrading that his employer also required.And so,the sacrifice continued,eighty miles,twice a day.But I really don't understand the nature of sacrifice,I think.How necessary was it?I can accept it as being one of those difficult choices that adults sometimes have to make.

It's so difficult to fully describe my father and to say nothing of his health,and the effect it must have had upon him.I can never recall him being in really good health for a long period of time.When I was young he had the bigger part of his stomach removed because of ulcers,and I had no idea how serious such an operation was in those days,or of how it must have worried my mother.He had a gall bladder removed when I was a bit older too.

Of course,in his later years he was ravaged by strokes,one after another,until he was dependent on others for his care.All of this had a great effect on how I viewed my father,and on how our relationship went during most of my adult life.But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Physical health was one thing,but I believe my father had some mental health issues he struggled with as well.Still he went on providing for us,and,I believe,sheltering us from the state of his health.Another sacrifice.Aside from the view of having very little power within himself,there was at least on incident I recall that would cause me some concern,if I had only knew then what I know now.Our street was in a residential area and was posted as a no truck route.Still the trucks took a short cut through and this made my father angry.So angry in fact that he backed his car out on the street on morning and blocked a truck from going past.During the incident,the truck drove into the side of his car,and the police were called.As the years passed,my father spent a lot of time at home sleeping.Far more time than normal.He spent a lot of time away at the summer cottage too.I never though much about any of this at the time,but in looking back it seems my father had a lot of occupations that might have been though of as a means of avoiding...something.I wonder now what that something could have been

Sometime after returning from British Columbia my father took a second job selling cars.I should mention that he always regarded British Columbia very fondly,and at times talked of transferring there.It seemed to me that the time right after he got back was a very happy time for him and he was very enthusiastic about life in general.Never have I seen him look more happy and natural as he did in a photo of himself with a couple of fish he caught in the Vedder River during that trip.So,it was likely that vigor that motivated him to take his second job.He worked at it for a few years,maybe ten or so,then quit,but his boss always remained a friend.

It was my fathers second job that caused a number of people to come into our life,and our home,and to bring about another part of his enigmatic nature.He seemed to like mentoring young men.He sold a number of these men their first cars,and at least two of them became friends of the family.Dana Weaver and Lawrence Wilbur,then later,Lawrence's brother Phillip.My father was best man at Dana Weavers wedding,and during the mid to late 1970's he and the Wilbur boys became good friends.They were often out doing things together.And this troubled me somewhat.Not that I could articulate that at the time.I suppose there was a bit of jealously to it if I were to be perfectly honest.But there were times when I guess I needed my father to be there and he was not,and so I never got the benefit of his point of view on some problem I was having.

I think the truth of the relationship that my father had with the Wilbur boys was that he found friends that he could hang out with,and perhaps share a beer with.When I think of it now,there were many people that my father knew,but I don't believe he had a friend roughly his own age with whom he could relate to on a purely friendly,man to man way.I think that is what the Wilbur boys became,at least for a while-neither sons,nor father and not exactly peers either.

Fathers Day Part II

My father was troubled.There is no doubt in my mind about that.His troubles reveal much about him.It makes me hope that God will deal justly and mercifully with him,as we know he does with all of his children.

In looking over my notes of recollections for this entry,two incidents that my father described to me come to mind as being especially revealing in terms of how his life was,or at least how he perceived it to be.

When he came to Goose Bay,in what I take to be the years before my mother entered the picture,my father describes a meeting with a man he calls a "minister"-that is to say a clergyman,though I'm not sure of what faith.According to my father,he was in a military barracks of some sort and had gone to take a shower.He never really said what prompted his behavior.It may be that he slipped on a wet floor or because of some other misadventure or simply because that was the way he was accustomed to speaking in those days,but he found himself in the privacy of his shower"swearing and cursing and taking the Lords name in vain"There was another man in a nearby shower stall and as they both finished showering and began drying themselves,the other man introduced himself as a preacher and noted"you certainly know how to curse."In telling the story,my father notes that he found the incident"embarrassing"though he doesn't say exactly why.Was he embarrassed by the words he was using,or by the chance encounter with a preacher while using those words?When we were small,we were not permitted to swear,and my father kept a good example in that regard.But that seemed to fade as we grew older and I came to realize that there were few words that my father would not use.He contained his habit for the good of his children,but it was a habit nonetheless.It speaks to me of his life being quite troubled shortly after he left Springhill,for what person who uses profanity is not troubled?

The second of the two incidents that my father described being involved in,or,to be more precise,the second and third incidents,involved roadside encounters on his way either to or from work.Most of his working career he commuted eighty miles each way to work.Late one night he encountered a man on the side of the road that he described to me as an "Indian."He stopped and offered the man a ride only to eventually find himself at knife point for some reason that he never fully related,though I do not believe he was being robbed.He managed to get the person out of his car at some point and escaped harm.Of course he vowed never to put himself in that position again.Eventually the situation arose when he faced a  similar choice and drove past a stranded motorist believing he was doing the right thing.In the morning,he said,he found out that the person he passed had been found dead on the side of the road and he took it very hard.I've no idea if the incidents really happened.There seemed to me to be a lot of missing details,such that the stories might have been allegorical,to be used as teaching tools.But they seemed to point to what may have been my fathers worldview.That he had very little power within himself to do the right thing no matter how hard he tried.That he would always be criticized,that any given action would somehow turn out wrong."Damned if I do,Damned if I don't"was a phrase I heard him use more than once.And these stories were given to me in the context of a conversation on learning to do the right thing.

My father would go out of his way to help people.At times he seemed the sort of man who would give you the shirt off his back.At times he seemed exactly the opposite.But what made him change from one view to the other I don't know.He seemed to think,at least some of the time that no one would ever lift a finger to help him and so no one was entitled to his help either.It may have simply been a response to something going on in his life at that particular time that he did not share with us.I think that is the likely truth.I also think he was positively influenced by his wife and our mother.Simply put,he seemed to be a better person when she was around.

Fathers Day

Fathers Day is not until Sunday,but I believe I will get started writing about it a day or two early,because this may take more than one post to complete.

I wish I could offer up a more or less glowing tribute to my father,as I did with my mother a month or so ago.But I'm sorry to say I cannot.You see,the man was largely an enigma to me.Most of what I'm going to say is informed by either things I've heard him say about himself,or from years of watching him,mostly in childhood years.Still I'm not certain I got it all right.I don't want to judge him morally.That is not the intent of what I'm doing here,though there are some who will more than willingly read that into it,just so they can be justified in taking offense.So be it.

Firstly I need to clear up some misconceptions about my father and myself that have been out there for a number of years.While riding in the back of a car through central New Brunswick,Canada a number of years ago,I was informed that some thirty odd years ago,I left home because I didn't get along with my father.This was,for whatever stated as though it were Gospel fact and for all intents and purposes it was said as though I were not even in the car.Now it may be that the person who said this was lying,or simply misinformed.But to be certain,neither they ,or anyone else for that matter has ever mentioned that to me,never mind checking their perceptions or asking my side of the story.Well,suffice it to say,for now that my reasons for leaving home had very little to do with anything other than economic reality and that,as far as I am aware,not only my father,but both parents were supportive of my decision at the time.But I repeat,it was not a decision that had anything to do with the state or relations with my father.I expect to more fully explain my decision at some future date,either here or elsewhere,but if you're not willing to ask,then you'll just have to wait.

Secondly,there seems to be the rather vicious rumor floating around that once I proclaimed myself Christian,that I came to the conclusion that my father was "going to Hell."Again,I did not and do not think that,not only of my father,but of any other person.Simply put,it's bad theology to hold a belief in any way similar to that.I simply do not and cannot know the condition of another persons soul,nor will I even try.I can see or hear the way a person behaves without necessarily knowing what motivates that behavior,so I will try to regard others in a way that is free from judging their soul.The person who started this rumor should do likewise,or at least come to the source and ask if they believe this to be true.As it is,this seems like an attack on Christian belief with no regard to collateral damage.Nothing new there.

In preparing this blog entry I made several pages of notes,and it's hard to know where to start.Let me say,I don't believe my father was a bad person.I do believe that he carried a heavy burden through this world.As with most burdens,one never knows how heavy it is until one puts it down.And I'm not at all certain that my father ever put his down.He believed in justice,in right and wrong and in trying to live a good a decent life.He believed in doing the right thing,though I'm not certain many of the people he met in life would allow him to do that which he saw as right.You see,being a man is never really easy.Mostly it's being under a state of constant attack no matter what you do.The most you can hope for,it seems to me is the support of one or two dedicated friends that truly know you.I'm not even certain my father had that.I believe that his life was troubled,even haunted by demons that he had no idea how to rid himself of, as much as he may have tried.Years ago,when I was perhaps eight or nine he asked me to be certain, when he died that "Peace In The Valley"was sung at his funeral.I believe peace to have been the greatest longing of his heart.

Before I continue,let me say this.Our father was a good provider.There was always food on our table and a comfortable house to live in.We were not wealthy,nor did we really want for much that we really needed.I did not often hear my mother and father fighting or even openly disagreeing.There may well have been challenges in their marriage.In fact I would be surprised if there were not.But they believed in staying united because of their children,and,ultimately because they promised each other that they would.You don't see much of that in today's world.It is a credit to the man who was my father,whatever else his shortcomings may have been.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Alright!I finally discovered how to get pictures into my blog.Hopefully I will now be able to produce some more interesting blog entries.Thanks for your patience everyone.

Monday, 11 June 2012

memoir writers homework.

Once again here is a writing exercise undertaken by the members of my former writers group from Toronto,Canada.This one was based on the topic"If animals talked back"from the session on Monday,May 28.

We had both dogs and cats when I was a boy.The main difference between the two was that when you spoke,the dog,a white and brindle little mutt would listen attentively,while the cat would usually ignore you in favor of whatever it is cats think of.In truth,while I spent a lot of time talking to our dog-believe me,it beats imaginary friends-I have no idea if he understood me or not.

Dogs are just so fundamentally different from us,I'm not at all certain what it is a dog thinks,much less what one would say if he could talk back.Cats are another matter.Trying to explain what a cat is thinking to me would be like trying to explain Existentialist Philosophy to...well,to the cat.And even as I sit and ponder that analogy,I get the nagging thought that,in some cruel form of feline karma,the cat actually gets Existentialist Philosophy but can't or won't explain it to me.It's those kinds of esoteric thoughts that made me prefer canine company to feline or even human companionship.Dogs,you see are kind of straight forward and simple in terms of having no hidden agendas

I'm sure my dog was trying to tell me many things,but you see,he couldn't speak.Still,one of a writers skills is interviewing and I would be remiss in not sitting down with my dog and trying to gain his perspective on the life of our family.

Question:Tell me,what is your philosophy in life?
Dog:If you can't eat it or hump it,then pee on it.
Question:is it true that dogs don't like cats?
Dog:well,when you come to live in a family you have to make compromises within the context of your overall philosophy.So you have to try to get along.You see,the cat is too small to hump,and doesn't like humping anyway.And people take a dim view of us eating cats-who would have guessed...unsightly,unsanitary etc.So when it comes to the cat,there's only one thing left to do...
Question:why do you always jump into the drivers seat of the car when we stop at the store.
Dog:well I could say that it's because I like to be in control.But that would be a cat answer.Really though,it's because I've always wanted to drive.I could drive to the butcher shop everyday,then stop by and see that golden retriever that I never get to see because you always take the wrong street when we are going for a walk.And besides,if us dogs could drive,well,the freeway would be a lot safer.

Question:You seem to not like our cat?Can you tell me why?
Dog:What good is he.He eats my food when I'm not looking and he won't chase squirrels,even though he can climb trees and I can't...I've always been insanely jealous of those sharp things on the end of his paws. All he ever does is lay around and thinks about something he calls Existential Philosophy.What good is Philosophy of any can't eat it or hump it.On the other hand,"if you can't eat it or hump it,then pee on it."Pretty hard to get more existential than that.

Question:Whats the funniest thing that ever happened to you living in our family?
Dog:That's a hard question.Do you remember that time you were chopping wood in the yard and your mother was planting flowers...and that church lady came to visit.And I started humping her leg...well,you see she smelled like that golden retriever...really.But that's not very politically correct of me.So I'm going to say the funniest thing is that time when you went fishing and the end broke off that dry branch you made the rod from.Then what did you do?Spent the next 20 minutes throwing rocks so I would go out in the water and grab that stick and haul the fish in.I could have grabbed that thing right away,but you looked like such a buffoon .It just made sense to play along for a while.

Question:Did you feel like you were well treated in our family?
Dog:for the most part.But I never could understand why on the weekends your mother would cook bacon and bread and the smell would drive me crazy.But then at dinner time all I got was Alpo.But still I got to do a lot of great things...swim,go for car rides,chase cars,run in the woods...and there was that long car ride out west where we stopped and I found that gopher colony.Millions of gophers to chase.It was the most fun I've ever was a dogs life.And I did get even with your mom about the remember that time the church lady came to visit?There was a time or two you forgot to leave me fresh water,but that was ok.There was lots of cool water in that big white thing.That big white thing was funny too.One time that cat,you know the one that fancies himself a philosopher when all he's really doing is ignoring you,well one time he tried to pretend he was a dog and he fell into that big white thing...funniest thing I ever saw...well,I guess you had to be there...and be a dog.

Well,it might sound something like that,but I really don't know.I really would like to hear the dog's perspective on driving though.And one or two times it's occurred to me that it might be interesting to present my story through the eyes of our dog.He's far more likely to provide an unbiased view than I am.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Apologies for the lack of posts.Not much happening and I've been quite busy.But I will have more posts next week.

The weather still seems to be a bit of a story here.Skies are gray and it's been raining some but mostly the sky just looks really dreary.The Bow river is up,higher even than at mid-week,and it keeps rising a bit everyday.All the other local creeks and rivers are swollen too and I'm watching them a bit anxiously and remembering 2005 when I was flooded out.I lived along the Elbow river then,and in Calgary,that is the really dangerous river.The bow,though bigger tends to stay within it's banks better.I really don't want to go through another flood,as it is a really stressful event.In 2005 I was evacuated to a local college and stayed nearly a week in a small dorm room while the water rose daily and eventually seeped into the basement apartments of the building I was living in.My own apartment on the second floor was unharmed.This time around I am optimistic that the Bow won't flood it's banks.Even if it does,nearby houses are farther from it's banks than those on the Elbow.But all that could change with a lot more rain,and June tends to be a wet month.It's an anxious time.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Video Bar

Please note that my video bar is now up and running.Take a few moments to view some of these song of the day videos,featuring one of the very finest young singers I know,Heather Berry from North Carolina.When I saw my first Heather Berry video a few years ago,I was amazed at her talent.Discovering Heather was,for me reminiscent of discovering another fine young singer,nearly forty years ago.That singer was Emmylou Harris,and she remains one of my very favorite all these many years later.I am absolutely convinced that Heather has a bright future and that many years from now we will be mentioning her as a singer similar in stature to Emmylou.Please take a moment to listen to one or more of her videos in the video bar.
Today's sky over Calgary in one of the strangest,moodiest looking skies I've ever seen,and it would not surprise me at all if we were in for some severe weather.Everywhere over the whole vista there are open parts.letting sunlight through.To the south there is an arch,which looks like a Chinook arch,but really isn't since Chinooks come out of the west or southwest,out over the Rockies.It's not clear behind the arch but it's clearer and more luminous than the skies to the north of it.The sky looks to be drawing water up into itself too,out of the Bow Valley far off to the south.West is a dull gray,streaked and spotted with a lemony yellow in places.The Rockies are  barely visible for the large amount of mist lying close to the ground,but from what I can see,they are losing their snow quickly.The water level in the Bow doesn't reflect the loss of snow,but if these skies open up,all the rivers will soon be higher than normal.I've never seen the bow flood.In these parts,it's the Elbow River that causes all the problems.The North and the northeast are where my biggest concerns lie.Heading straight east,out of downtown the skies are dark almost to the point of blackness,but then as we turn north become more gray,so that they look like battleships low in the water and moving from east to west.The wind at ground level,on 36th street,where I'm standing is out of the west though.I can see dozens of pipe like little tendrils hanging down from those low lying clouds,though none of them appear to be funnels.But from experience.I know that this is the kind of sky that can show funnels very quickly.There appears to be no electrical activity in the sky yet but that too can change in a flash.There was one flash of lightening yesterday,followed immediately by thunder.But only one.It must have rained overnight as there is a lot of water lying on the ground in the downtown area.I slept well and heard neither rain nor thunder.In a word,today has an ominous feel to it,like the severe weather might strike again at a moments notice.I'm not certain how bad it will get,but today is unlikely to be a calm day.It's such a shame that my cell phone was not sufficiently charged for me to get photos of the fascinating heavens over our city this morning.It also seems as I didn't wait quite long enough to do my memoir writers homework on the subject of colours as today the sky is in full display of about a thousand of them,mostly some shades of grey,which I had no idea was so rich in variety.It's as if a huge grey peacock has partly blotted out the sun by spreading its wings over the skies.Weather may be tomorrows headlines here in Calgary.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

memoir writers homework

I don't know what happened to the list of topics from my memoir group in Toronto over the last few weeks,but I see that there is now a full list of them up to and including yesterdays meeting.It must be time to complete another homework assignment.I very much miss writing with my colleagues and friends in Toronto,as our sessions were always spirited,fun and revealing in ways I never expected them to be.Today's assignment is on the topic of "colours"and was one of May 28th's topics.I'll try to complete an assignment from yesterdays list a little later this week.

Once I took a photography class in the early1980's,and one of the students asked the instructor a question about black and white film.The instructor evidently though the question did not warrant a lot of comment,as he replied"I don't even know why anyone bothers with black and white.To me its just a waste of time since we see in color".Well,at least most of us do,except the ultra conservatives perhaps,but that's another diatribe.

However,I quite agree with that instructor.Colour is a thing we are just immersed in from the day we are born.My grandmother used to call African people "coloured"and I always thought the term strange,so I asked her what she meant by it and she said"you know exactly who I'm talking about"Colour used as a euphemism.She got really annoyed when I told her I was a coloured person too.I just wasn't brown.Well,I still think I'm right and I don't so much object to this archaic term so long as I'm included in it.

Red is likely my least favorite colour.Our house was always red and white.And our summer cottage,as well as that little two by four and plywood monument to organic chemistry that's parked beside it.All red and white.Just seems a bit lacking in imagination,since we seemed to paint these buildings every couple of years.Maybe,I'd have thought,we could paint at least one of them yellow or purple or some colour besides red.But we never did.

In an art gallery in Calgary,not so many years ago I saw a beautiful painting of a trout migrating upstream through a river,over a bed of gravel,and it reminded me of one of my favorite places,a small stream in the hills of Albert County New Brunswick.And it was not so much the colours themselves that supplied the reminder as it was the thought that those colours were not likely rendered by the artist in exactly the same way as they appeared.Neither does my favorite place in my minds eye.The place is green,of course,leaf green and frog green.It's banks are shades of earth,brown and yellow and black mud.Its stones many coloured.Moss flowing in strands of green.The water different at different times and seasons,but when you scoop up a handful,no color at all,completely clear.Lately I"ve began to wonder if it might not be a good place to have someone drop a few white ashes into the stream bed so that I might add my own colour to God's exquisite rendering of earth and water.What I imagine it to be is not truly the colour it is.I think I see the place as more of an impressionist vision than what it really is.That comes from being away so long.


Most of what I know of Goose Bay is from hearing my parents talk of the place,mostly in a fond manner.My father talked much more about it than my mother who often just seemed to agree.

I know that Goose Bay was my birthplace,as well as that of my sister,the one that is younger than me by a year.But what of the time before?Most of that knowledge was from my parents stories,but there is also a few pictures that my parents kept on slides.I've seen them all many times.Because of it's northern location there are,of course pictures of Goose Bay under a blanket of snow.And there are pictures of the road,a muddy quagmire.And there are even a few pictures of Goose Bay that don't feature mud or snow.As I recall,there was at least one photograph showing the snow removal equipment at the airport and there was a lot of it.Either as a testament to there being a lot of snow,or there being a vital need to clear runways quickly and efficiently,or more likely both.There was a picture of a parade too,in which I recall,some of that same snow removal equipment was used to haul the floats.I never was clear on what the occasion for the parade was.From all of the pictures that I can remember of Goose Bay,it very much had the look of military bases just about anywhere.The same kind of warehouse looking buildings,guard shacks with big striped gates,army trucks and jeeps everywhere and uniformed personnel walking about.There were planes too,as Goose Bay was an air force base,but not so many.A few jets lined up on a tarmac,ancient looking now but state of the art when the photos were taken.All in all,my parents did a decent job of documenting their stay in Canada's north,if only in a kind of ordinary way.

My father told many stories of Goose Bay,though I only recall a few.I think it must have been in the days before he met my mother,but he tells of meeting a preacher once in the shower room of the army barracks.For some reason he became angered by something during his shower and cut loose with a torrent of colorful language in the best traditions of coal miners anywhere,some of whom can be rather plain spoken.The preacher,showering in another stall introduced himself while they were drying off later,and noticed,"you certainly know how to swear."My father said that despite the incident he and the preacher became good friends and he noted the incident was "embarrassing."I believe the first time I heard him tell that story he was embarrassed at having told it in front of his children,as swearing was not exactly what you would most like to brag about to impressionable children.I've often wondered why he used such foul language in those days,as he tried to keep a civil tongue when at home.Tried but did not always succeed.It could have been boys being boys,or something bigger fueling the foul mouth.I've heard that military personnel have been known for colorful outbursts from time to time so maybe it was just being young and part of the culture.

At one time my father owned a taxi in Goose Bay,though I don't know when he would ever get the time to drive it.Most of his fares he said were between the Canadian and American bases.I'm sure there must have been liquor runs too.though I'm less certain that they involved a liquor store. Likely what his taxi business consisted of was picking up a few worse for wear soldiers each day,during the hours he was not working but still awake.It's unlikely he provided 24 hour service,as I don't recall him mentioning hiring another driver for the cab.The enterprise could not have made a huge profit.To look at Goose Bay in pictures,it hardly looks like the place where a lot of people would take taxis,though I'm certain the mud and drunkenness could make the short appearing walk across base unattractive.

There were things in Goose Bay the apparently most people were not intended to see.My father makes mention of having seen several helicopters inside a hanger long before they came into common use.They were,a number of them, visiting the American side of the base when they saw these helicopters partly hidden by tarps.How they managed to gain clearance to an American base during the cold war is anyone's guess,but it seems that at least some of the things being kept there were not all that secret.My father did make a comment late in the 1980's or maybe the early 1990's that I found astonishing.We were watching some footage of the new stealth bomber/fighter on television when he told me "I saw one of those in Goose Bay in 1956."My father was familiar with  aircraft in general and military aircraft in particular and it seems odd to think if he had seen one of those,that he would have mistaken it for something else.Still he had very little sense of amazement later in life when he saw one again,so perhaps new,bizarre and cutting edge equipment were not so unusual in the Goose Bay of the 1950's.Still.I have no idea as to how my father would have encountered such equipment.

I'm sure the north was a grand adventure for a young boy from Nova Scotia and that is what my father was when he first came to Goose Bay.He worked there for just over ten years as I understand it,as a civilian employee of the Canadian Armed Forces.His job was to operate and maintain a power generating station for the base,a job he held even after being transferred to New Brunswick in the early 1960's.He left Goose Bay to visit Jamaica in the mid 1950's,then again to marry my mother in her home town in 1959,and for the final time in 1962 or early 1963,after both my sister and I were born.

Now aside from all this I have no memory of Goose Bay.I hear of people saying they can remember things in infancy,though I confess,I do not.I do not believe such things are likely.So history,my parents stories and some old photographs are all that constitute my own knowledge of Goose Bay.And,in fact I no longer even have the photographs.