Thursday, July 03, 2008

I remember my first communion, I was about eleven years old, standing up here, nervous as I could be, as I had been given the task of reading a passage for our graduating group. I remember being a nervous, gawky gal, looking out in this very large congregation, I had almost lost nerve, and as I paused at the paulpet, I looked out and wavered a bit, and then I spotted Gran. She was so proud, so noble, so at peace, so serene, as she was so at home ,in this church, and surrounded by her family and through her stance, maybe her smile, it gave me courage to make the reading.

And here I am now, at the very paulpet, in the very same church, a church filled with love, in which would bring her most comfort and peace.

But today I stand without her smiling, loving face, to guide me forward...

But as I look out at this congregation, I realize, in my heart, it is here, it will always be here, it is in the faces of all who she loved. And for this, my heart, just as yours, should find solace.

My Name is Pendullum and I am the eldest grand daughter of Margaret Patricia Dribblingwitt. Or simply, Patsy, to her friends.

I have been given the great honour to write a eulogy for my grandmother.

A eulogy, when I looked up its true meaning was that of a speech in which we give praise of a person. And this puts me in a quandary, as to write a speech about my Gran, I would almost insist that you pull out a cushion, make yourself comfortable and hear a yarn of a truly wonderful matriarch who had quite the journey on these eighty seven years on this planet.

And to know my Gran, was to love my Gran.

And I would love to go back and talk of her growing up in Northern Ireland in County Down with her brothers and sisters, and of her Mammy and Da' . But I could never do it justice, as we really need her beautiful voice to tell the tale. We would also need to know the lay of the land, the smell of the air and if there was a breeze or wind blowing. We would need to hear of all the beautiful details of the fabric of the story. As it is in the telling, in which makes a true story.

I would love to tell the story of how she met her dear Paddy, my grandfather. How she met him at a dance.I would tell you how they went to four dances together, four dances which were held in the evening, before he asked her to a picnic on a beautiful, lush, sunny day. She would talk of how she was smitten,she would say of how she fancied him.
And then she would tell of her horror at the picnic...Then, in her tale, she would pause for dramatic effect, raise her eye brow, have a sip of tea, and then she would make certain she had eye contact and your undivided attention.

Her horror on this beautiful, warm, sunny, perfect afternoon day.

Was it the wind?

Nay, it was not the wind?

Was it the rain?

No, we already established it was a beautiful, sunny day.

Was it the fact that Paddy forgot to pack an essential piece for their picnic?

Maybe the blanket?

Was it, that Paddy was rude?

No, No, he was kind and ever so thoughtful and he had the best sense of humour and was fun.
He was perfect and that was the problem.

Now, how can this be a problem you may ask?

Well, Patrick John Dribblingwitt had the misfortune of being born with the most beautiful, green, Irish laughing eyes.

Now, if you are at a loss, you may not of known the point and the point is this:

My grandmother was intensely supersticious. An itchy nose was a certainty of a fight or a kiss by a fool, so she always shook your hand, thereby the fight would not be with her.She would always tell you with great certainty that if your dropped a fork a woman was coming over for an unexpected visit. A pair of new shoes on the table was a certainty of the worst fight imaginable.

But my grandmother's main golden superstition was about the Irish and green. She believed you should never wear green, especially if you were Irish, For the wee faery folk do not take too kindly if ya are wearing green, as they liked to play mischief with those who did.

And with the lead up to a perfect picnic, she told of her quandary.

'Pendullum, you can not stop seeing a man for the colour of 'is eyes.'

I like to believe this story showed how much she loved him, as she married him. She married him in spite of his beautiful green, green, laughing Irish eyes.

You have heard the story I am certain, of their wedding day and how Father Boyd who married this young couple, gave them a blessing of saying 'May you see your children's children's children.'

And with telling the story, as she often did, she would pause and say, 'Aye, I am blessed. I have, indeed, seen my children's children's children'.

And weren't they just the apple of her eye?

She truly loved her family.

She would often have tales of her life in Ireland with her boys,she would always refer to people with the pronoun Our. Our 'arry, Our 'Liam, Our Anthony, Our Martine.

And when I had written my Great Uncles all those years ago and asked what they remembered of Paddy and Patsy's home both brothers said the house was filled with love and endless laughter. I believe, no greater compliment could be paid of a family.

And Gran was a true storyteller, a story teller from a long impressive list of storytellers, not the least her Da. Gran was a storyteller, it was in her blood. She had her first taste when she was thirteen writing for the Newry Reporter and by the time she was in her fifties it was a polished artform.

When you went to visit her on Arthur Street you would be enveloped in love. You would be greeted by the warmest smile, her eyes would twinkle with delight. You would have to sit right next to her, on her left hand side, as her ashtray and her her provisions for the visit would be on her right. A pot of tea or two would be brewed,and you were to stay and tell of your news and to hear of hers and of the past. You would hear a story or two or twenty.

And as you sat, she would have you. And she would not let go, a hand on your arm, a face turned directly to you, with all her energy focussed upon your very being... She basked in 'the moment' shared. As it was a moment and she truly saw it as such.

And as you visited after the second pot of tea would be brewed, and then a meal. And when you thought there could be no more talk there would be the offering of chocolate; a sherry. And you knew how special you were, as these were items to be savoured, just as a good lottery ticket, or a new jar of Oil of Olay.

And the Past year a great deal was taken from my grandmother. She suffered. Goodness, how she suffered. And one would think that she was being 'tested'. She was in so much pain and discomfort.

But through it all, through each trial, I would marvel at how she was always kind, always polite, she never cussed or swore, she never forgot her manners. She was poked and proded, she always said please and thank yous for any act of kindness, her face always lit up with any of her family walked into her room at the hospital. We were like a vision of complete happiness in her days of extreme hardship.

But alas, the stories became no more. The delight of a taste of sherry was a thing of the distant past and chocolate but a distant dream.

And watching her, you had to marvel at the fortitude as she never lost her faith. And you wished her Godspeed for her to join her Mammy,her Da' her brothers and sisters and her Paddy with his beautiful, green, laughing, Irish eyes, as you did not want her to suffer anymore.

And when you looked at her, you had much time to reflect. Through that time, there was time to have made to have given thanks for her,to her. You gave thanks to have been given the blessing of knowing her, to have heard of some of her stories, to have heard her laughter, to know that all of us are better people for having known her, to have known her witt, to have known her love of song and to have known her stories.

I know in my heart she is the cornerstone to who I am today.

She is an intergral part of all who are in this church today. I can hear her voice in all of her children, in the way they can tell a story, how all inherited a love of a good story, and I can hear it in my cousins as they tell a yarn. It's in our blood, it's in our history, It's in our history with Margaret Patricia Dribblingwitt.

And in this time, I would just like to sing the praises of Margaret Patricia Dribblingwitt and thank her for the great visit and we all look forward to the tea, the sherry, the chocolates and the stories when we see her again.

Thank You.

Love You Gran,
Your Always,
Loving Grand Daughter,

Friday, April 25, 2008

He'll Always Be Seven to me...

I was born with the face I have now.

My mother suffers from the same type of face. If you knew her in kindergarten chances are you would recognize her today.Life with all its forces have not altered the 'look' of my mother, no matter the course of her life, her face remains the same. My mother's face, though more weathered, is still that of primary school, I have the same scourge.

My siblings, as my father, do not face the same woe, their faces have altered through the years, their faces, somehow through time, their faces have evolved, have transformed, their childhood pictures, do not seem to reflect the people they metamorphized into today...They have grown into their faces, through time, and one would truly have to pause and search their refined features to recognize them from their gawky days of childhood and teen years.

I guess the best way to illustrate this would be through the Beatles. Bare with me in this illustration...

John, Paul and George, changed through the years, their young faces from the fifties, with their greased back hair, changed with the Beatle hair cuts, and slowly altered even still in the seventies and one would have to take pause, when identifying the three from their past unto the seventies...

But not with Ringo... No matter what the era, no matter what the 'look' of the day was, Ringo looked; as Ringo does today. There would be no problem pointing out with certainty Mr. Ringo Starr.

I have the face of Ringo. Time tested and true. You can always spot Ringo no matter how much he ages, just as you could spot me.

A plight that some of us have to face, but I suppose there could be worse.

Of course, this face is going to take you on a wee bit of a journey.

I will brings you along with me as I venture onto the subway. A day like any other...

I am riding along the subway emersed in my wonderful, inner world with a conversation of things 'to do' swirling in my head when a gorgeous man strides onto the train. He has shoulder length, dirty blond, wavy hair, he is wearing great fitting jeans with a funky weathered belt, washboard stomach and these fantastic biker boots along with a knap sack slunk over to one shoulder. He is relaxed and calm with himself and the course of his day. He has a truly charming smile. He smiles as he sits across from me. I smile back and go back to my inner world with the aid of reading the advertisements above the gentleman's head.

And when I look down again, I notice that he is still smiling at me.

A sheepish smile, but a smile nonetheless.

I smile back, and lower my eyes to show my embarrassment for the attention.

And then he stands and meanders across the train and stops in front of me.

I look at the great boots and slowly scan up, pass the belt, the washboard stomach, pass the pecs,pass the cool necklace, and stop at the friendly smiling face.

'Excuse me, but are you Pendullum Dribblingwitt?'

'Yeeess?' I reply. I answer more in the vein of a question, as I have no idea how, this gorgeous Adonis, would know my name.

And then he pauses with my answer. And looks at me with hopeful eyes, a glimmer of familiarity floats through their sparkle.

He repeats my name again with conviction, 'Pendullum Dribblingwitt... Well, I'll be....'

Now, I am getting a tad embarrassed and uncomfortable with the fact that this man knows me, and I have not a clue who he is, and I am also aware that everyone on the subway is watching our drama unfold as this man certainly controls the car by his very presence.

'Pendullum, It's me, Alan Rubinchko.'

'Alan Rubinchko?' I repeat looking for clarification through saying the name again. Slowly, carefully, annunciating each syllable of his name, hoping to find him, and our connection through the pronunciation and projection of his name. And through this dance, I am buying my memory; time. Time to mingle with my brain and find Alan Rubinchko in the dusty, webbed-corridors of my cluttered mind.

He, at least is gallant enough to see that his name, even with the greatest of concentration on each syllable is not bringing any kind of connection to me.

He is not unnerved by the vacant smile before him. He decides upon sitting beside me, so, he can give me eye contact and maybe through the persuasion of his eyes I may be transfixed to a memory as he clearly remembers me.

He settles beside me and says ' I sat behind you, Mrs. May's class.'
'Mrs. May's class... That was when? '
'Grade Two'
'Yeah, Grade two'

Okay, my memory and my brain can work with that....But boy, that was a lifetime ago... And boy this will take a great deal of needling between the memory and the ole brain...

They converse and then...

Magically, I am teleported back, I can see the classroom, the dimly lit classroom, the beautiful penmenship of Mrs. May on the board, the children working quietly, I am being poked from behind, and the boy behind me is drawing attention to his latest project, he is tossing his pencil up into the air to have it join the half a dozen other pencils he has stuck to the ceiling, I can see Mrs. May surveying her class, I can hear her shrill scream, I can hear her fury....


And then it all truly comes back. Alan Rubinchko with the thick, thick glasses, Alan Rubinchko with the black and beige pocket protector in his white oxford shirt. Alan Rubinchko with the spindly body which carried baggy flood pants sinched together with a thin black belt, black socks and white adias running shoes. Alan Rubinchko always laughing and finding new projects in tormenting Mrs. May. Alan Rubinchko always at the front of the class for some mischief he had gotten himself into. Alan Rubinchko always finding some kind of delight spontaneous commotion, much to Mrs. May's dissatisfaction and all of our delight.

And here was an Adonis before me, certainly not a spindly body, and not a pocket protector or coke bottle glasses in sight...

I scramble and now repeat his name, with conviction having found the man in the name.'Ah, Alan Rubinchko, it has been a lifetime... Geez hasn't it?'

'Pendullum Dribblingwitt, you have not changed a bit. Not ONE bit!'

Thanks, I guess... Well, Alan, you certainly have.

'Well, yeah, most people change... But Holy Crow, you have not! Geez, I could spot you anywhere....' And his voice cracks as it would when we were kids. And now he can relax, as he is not insane and he does indeed know me, and now the 'work' is in my court.

'So Alan,' I gasp, as this Adonis before me is slowly transforming a mixture of the Adonis but definitive tinges of a wee boy of seven years of age with black socks and floods.

'Alan, well, what are you doing with yourself?'

And with this, he laughs with reassurance. He pulls his shoulders back, regains his amazing posture, looks directly in my eyes and charmingly says with a flirtation twinkle to his eye... 'Well, Pendullum, I am a male stripper now.'

'Ahh... Uhhh??? You're stripping?'

'Yeah, Really, great money... Amazing money in fact. A lot of women like to see men naked.'

'You are a stripper?'

'I guess Mrs. May gave me a taste of what it was like to be always on stage.'

' Yeah, but you were clothed... And detention never had music...A stripper.' I now say with conviction trying to coax my memory, to let go of an image of Alan of the past and of the black socks and wirey legs and knobby ankles.

Somehow Alan with the pocket protector, the thick glasses with black rims, the floods, the black socks and running shoes are now just all before me and my mind's eye. My memory will not let go.

'Yeah.... Pendullum, you should come and see me some time. There's always a line up, but here's my card. This will let you in no prob. and you don't have to pay the cover. I could take you out to dinner or something. Get caught up...'

And with that statement wavering. My stop arrives on cue.

I say my quick good byes, collect my things and exit with his stripper card in hand.

I wave goodbye as the train pulls away.
He smiles and gallantly waves.

And then glance down at his card as the train is out of sight and I am walking up the stairs.

ALAN the Carpenter. Chip N Dales.

And I know I will never use the card.

I will never go and see the Studded Carpenter because to me, to me, he will always be Alan Rubinchko, a young seven year old boy with black socks and a pocket protector....

And I will always be the young girl who sat in front of him.

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's All In the Way You Look At Things....

Mr. Thompson died.

He died as he had lived.

He stayed the course and was true.

Everyday he instructed his twenty five year old son to shave his face, to brush his hair and make him presentable so that he may face the day.

Everyday, his son took this task as an honour and a great privilege.

Everyday, though bedridden in a hospital, was a brand new day with infinite possibility.

Everyday, Mr. Thompson lived. Everyday Mr. Thompson savoured his moments left on this planet.

Everyday there would be a line up of people coming to say 'Good-Bye' to Mr. Thompson.

Everyday, his room would be filled with laughter, and wonderful, reflective, warm conversation, as cancer ate away at Mr.Thompson's body,But cancer could not and would not take away his giving spirit.

Mr. Thompson's room was filled with countless cards, countless photographs and countless moments of people retracing their paths with him, retracing moments of true friendship with a learned friend and colleague.

Mr. Thompson made cancer a dignified experience.

Mr. Thompson held court. And taught people how to live, through his passage. He made cancer easy. He never mentioned cancer, he wanted to hear your news, and share a moment, cancer was not part of it. He was lying in a hospital bed, unable to move from the neck down, but this, 'affliction', this 'insideous disease'(as Mr. Thompson put it) would not define him.

I was due to see Mr. Thompson on the day he passed.

I had printed out my blog, as a letter and was going to go up to see my dear teacher.

It was not meant to be. Mr. Thompson died before I could read my story to him. But I was not in want.

I had already told him how much he meant to me so many times. I already poured out my gratitude before the illness. And through the illness, I had the chance to give him a kiss on the cheek and tell him I would miss him and our lunches. I had the chance to meet his wonderful wife and his great grown children. I was able to share my moments with Mr. Thompson, with them. And they could see another side to their father. As one's life is never just one defining moment, it comes in so many arrays and pieces that make up a person. I was glad I could bring one of the many facets of Mr. Thompson's life to them while he was still alive.

Cancer gave me that, as much as it took away my friend.

I was at peace, as I knew that Mr. Thomspon however brave, would not want this illness to linger and for this fuss to be longer that it needed to be.

And so Mr. Thompson had his 'wish'. And so, I was not at a loss, with his passing and leaving us behind.

But I knew his friend was. His friend of thirty years could not think of his years ahead without his trusted friend. He was in total despair. The past was of no comfort.

I forwarded on my letter to Mr. Thompson, to his grieving friend. I forwarded on my letter, to my ole gym teacher. I forwarded it on so that he may realize that we were unified in grief. And somehow, I felt the letter would bring comfort to him. If for a moment it may bring his dear Leon back to him.

And my dear, sweet, primary school, gym teacher could not open it. It could or would not bring his beloved Leon back and he was emmerced in his grief. And at the visitation, in the funeral home, he could barely look my way without tears. His heart was not allowing him to let go.

And where I was able to talk with Mr. Thompson's family and friends, Jim, my ole school teacher could not.

And in the wee hours of the morning before the funeral, I went to my computer to get the final details of Mr.Thompson's arrangements, and as I logged on, I received a phone call from my gym teacher, Jim. Jim had been waiting until I 'logged on and was awake before he called.

Jim called and cried.

' Pendullum, Pendullum, I, I,' he sobbed, ' I read your e-mail yesterday. I read your e-mail. And I, I, oh, gosh, I did something...'

'What did you do?'

'Oh, Pend, you have to understand, we have had weeks of this... Weeks to prepare for this funeral, and we have been trying and trying....'

'Trying to do what?'

'We've been trying to write Leon's eulogy.'


'And we finished it early last night...'

'Well, that's good...'

'No, no it's not...'

'Okay, it's not...'

'I read your e-mail late last night... And there, there was Leon...There, he was... And well, I forwarded on your e-mail as the official eulogy to be read by Barry... I am so sorry... I should have asked you first... And now I am calling you... Could we???'

'I would be honoured... Truly, I would be honoured...'

And with that, my letter was read to Mr. Thomspon as he lay in his casket.

My letter was read to a congregation of three hundred plus mourners. Three hundred people who were blessed to have known and had shared part of their journey through life with Leon Thompson.

And as it was read, there was a great deal of laughter, there was a great deal of light. For this funeral was indeed a celebration. A celebration of how very lucky all of us were to have met such a wonderful man. We were so lucky he was part of our lives for a brief, glimmering moment.

And near the end of the service, Leon's ninety year old, spritely, mother-in-law, leapt to the pulpet...

She surged forward with an bouyant energy, an energy which could not be contained, an energy which catapulted her petite, wirey frame, to the front of the church, it seemed to take her by surprise as she stabilized herself by clutching large black patent leather handbag and cane...

She reached the front and belts, ' I am compelled to speak! I need to speak, I need to have MY say!!!!'

And with the confidence of a matriarch she marches in front of all the flowers and announciates Leon's name.

She turns to the casket and lovingly touches the box, she pauses and places her handbag and cane beside the coffin, she turns to face all of us and then opens her arms wide, raises them above her head to the heavens and exhalts to the entire congregational body.

'My son-in-law, my son-in-law, Leeeeoooon, was all about L.O.V.E....He was LOVE...
To know Leon, is/was to love Leon...
One of the kindest souls, I have ever had the pleasure to have met!
I have always loved Leon. And now, Leon is watching over us, and for once, for once we are without our master of ceremonies... But his voice is within all of us...We are all truly blessed to have been loved by Leon Thompson.'

And with those words, it caused me to smile. It caused me to laugh. It caused me to feel so very, very happy as he would have been so embarrassed with such an announcement... But silently proud. It 's all how you can look at these things...

And at the end of the funeral, Mr. Thompson had planned a huge sit down luncheon where we could all sit and mingle and remmenice. We laughed, we joked, we even marvelled that Leon ensured that there were endless cakes, as he so had a sweet tooth. And we felt as though he was watching from above, happy with how we were all getting along and bringing him into the room with our stories.

And when I came home, there was my beautiful family waiting for me...

They knew of all that I have had with Mr. Thompson and all that I seemed to have lost.

But life has a great deal to hold.

And through the knowing of Mr. Thompson and of his love, I know that all is possible.I have a certain set of roots thanks to him. I have a sense of telling a story all the way though. I have a sense of his laugh and twinkle of faith in my heart.

It is all in how you look at these things...

And through all these moments where my heart has been tested, there has always been something life reaffirming. There has always been gratitude in my heart for all that I have experienced with some truly remarkable people.

They may have gone, and there certainly is a true feeling of dysphoria in my heart, but only because I know of the lives they have lived and have shared with me. And I am certain, I am who I am today because their stories, their beings,their life experience are within my heart even though their bodies have left this fair planet. I am a far better person for knowing and loving them while they were here, I suppose it is all how you look at it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dear Mr. Thompson,

I have just returned from seeing you for what I think will be the last time, although your memories and gifts of friendship will fill my heart forever.

It was hard to enter the room.

It was even harder to leave.

The drive home with your broken-hearted friend; a fog.

It was hard to remind your friend, of thirty years, to stay focussed on the fact that you are still here: for a brief glimmering moment, and to take the finite time, to retrace some glorious memories spent, before you silently leave.

My heart is sad for what will be lost.

And while I contemplate what will be lost, I want to tell you what I have through you.

I was so fortunate to have you as my grade five teacher. I think of you in your powder blue suits, your gold glasses,your marvellous Gyanese accent and the sound of your melodic laughter. I think of eyes with compassion and a strong self assured person who could command thirty, crazy, high-strung kids, with the greatest of ease.

Grade five was a blessing. Your class was a reflection of you. I loved how you would start our day with a current events story. Everyday, you would pull down the map point to the country in question and talk, lecture about the events of the day it was all so fluid, so spontanious, so rich. You knew so much. You never talked down, or looked down, you always opened up horizons and borders, enlightened us about countries and traditions abroad. We would sit on the carpet and marvel at how what would appear to be a 'simple news' story brought in by a student, could and would be so much grander in its ramifications on the world's stage.

I loved how you found humour in your disciplining the 'rabble rousers'. I loved how you had a rubber billyclub that you nick named 'The Persuader'. I loved that you would pull out from under your desk, and with a walk of a king, you would hit the bully club in the palm of your hand for dramatic effect, and while it squeaked you would walk over to the rabble rouser and stand over the offending body. You never hit anyone, but that Persuader always had kids in fits of laughter when the Persuader had to be called upon.

I remember on the day you became a legend, when you saw John Betley get ready to send a spit ball over to Ricky Collins, the Persuader was pulled out, we all marvelled at how you 'knew' what was about to happen even though you had never looked up from your desk and Ricky Collins swallowed the spitball rather than admit that he was indeed a rabble rouser.

A great deal was learned in your class, far beyond the three R's. Your classes were great lecture halls, you encouraged minds to explore, you encouraged respect for others, you taught that we all had social responsibility to each other and the community.

I loved it when you had 'yard duty'. Ingrid, Maria and I, would love these times as we would hang out with you in the school yard, follow you around and hear your opinions on our concerns and fears.

I loved the fact that you gave us gangly gals; us oddballs; the monniker of 'Leon's Angels' and through this monniker we felt so special, so important, and so loved.

I adored how you would sing 'Maria' from Westside Story, to Maria. Whenever I hear that song, I am instantly brought back to the ole schoolyard and your beautiful voice and how it was sung with a smile of the heart. A time of true happiness with a fun, compassionate, caring, teacher.

Ever so often when I walk through the my old school grounds I can envision you standing in your beige parka holding court.

I loved how you stood up for what was 'right and just'. You always were a believer in education. No child was ever left behind. No child was lost in the masses. I can marvel at the fact some thirty year later, during our lunches, you can tell me every single one of your students strong suits. You could even tell me the profession of some of your students through intuition, you were never wrong. I was always so surprised at how we all mattered.

After your Leon's Angels moved on to post secondary education, you were promoted, and then promoted again, and again, to where you were one of the big cheese's of education. You were always a humble person. You were always true to your profession and calling. You never lost sight of the task at hand and that was the education of children. And even when you retired you still helped with literacy, how you still volunteered your time to teach children so that they may reach their true potential. How lucky and fortunate those children were to have you by their side.

You were a great man who gave many a child wings so that they may go forward and add to the world. Everyone has something to give, sometimes a child may need a bit more time to see it. And you always made the time through gentle persuasion, to open a child's heart up when they were discouraged and to bring them back to the books to enlighten their souls.

You were a favourite by many, as you did see light in all of us no matter how foggy it may have seen to us at the time..

I was so blessed for that fact that we reconnected five years ago. I have loved our lunches together as adults. I have adored the time with you and Wayne and Bill. Who would have thought that I would have the honour of being a friend to my grade five and six teacher, as well as my gym teacher? It strangely felt like family. It always felt like I was meeting with my 'oddball uncles'. I loved how you would meet me around Scooter's schedule. Always in my neck of the woods, I loved how all of you had a vested interest in my daughter and of my stories of our beleaguered school system. I loved how you 'knew' Scooter through me. And how when I told you of the story of Scooter's race, you laughed, gave that all knowing look you could give, and reassured me that 'Scooter is just like her mom as a kid.'

I loved the friendship. I cherished it. And I loved the wee notes you would send of encouragement, they were always filled with great wisdom and insight. You were always so supportive to me in all my endeavours.

And now, Mr. Thompson, I am so sorry you are leaving us.

I am so sorry for all that the world will lose in your passing. A true hero. A true educator, who gave wings and futures to so, so many.

I am so sorry that we will not have another lunch together.

I am so very happy, blessed and honoured that you were my friend and my teacher.

You were one of a kind.

And you have left your mark with so many and for that I should feel blessed, and I truly do.

But at present, I find it hard to get beyond the loss of you as I leave you behind in the hospital.

So with all due respect Mr. Thompson,( I could never call you Leon, as much as you berated me to) in all due respect Mr. Thompson. I shall miss you.

But for whatever it means, you gave me wings, Mr. Thompson.

You made me part of who I am today.

You taught me a great deal when I was a kid, you continued to teach and support me as an adult.

I thank you, thank you, the earth has lost a true angel, Mr. Thompson.

And God's Speed, dear friend.

The heavens certainly will welcome you with open arms, as you certainly helped a great many spirits, soar.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I believe in Angels.

I believe in beauty.

I believe in the spirit and energy of my fellow man.

I believe that we have angels who walk amongst us.

And if we are lucky, truly lucky, we see them, and appreciate our moments with them.

I believe angels come in all shapes and sizes, in all ages, in all colours, in all creeds. There is beauty all around us. And sometimes we just need a wee reminder of that fact when we can be caught up in moments which truly do not matter, and petty problems that can cause us to lose heart. Negative moments, actions, or inactions, which can seem to matterso greatly at the time, and which can cause momentary angst, but really does not weigh in, with the catachism of the soul.

I believe that angels can make your heart soar to the heavens, and remind and comfort your soul to know that there is greatness in everyone. And sometimes these Angels can lead you gently back to yourself and remind you of the beauty in your world in which you live.

You do not need to go on vacation to an exotic destination to experience the heavens, a great deal of the time it can be found through your own back door.

I believe miracles and beauty truly happen without fan fare. And sometimes, we are just too busy to see...

And then there are times when we can just stand in awe.

And be grateful...

A few weeks ago,my daughter, Scooter was going to a track meet. She, now ten, was preparing to run with a bunch of girls, she was going to have the sun on her face, and the wind to her back, on a beautiful fall day. It truly can not get better than that. A track meet with a great deal of the grade fives from my city... But as she was preparing, it brought out the notalgia in me.
It brought me back to my younger Scooter.

It brought me back to when Scooter was all of six years of age, and was going to her first track meet ever in the park. It was a perfect day for a run in the park. It was a perfect day to be six and to be running with your friends through the autumn leaves.

And when my wee gal lined up with all the girls and the starter pistol blared, my heart skipped with pride, as she darted through the pack. But then, Scooter saw a leaf fall from a heavens, a magnificent, beautiful, red, leaf, with a touch of green and yellow, and the way the sun hit the leaf, it caused my wee gal to stop in her tracks and watch the magnitude of it all, and when it landed she had to pick it up as such a gift from the heavens had to be shared. And off she ran to pick up the leaf, and as she did this, an old friend, or as old of a friend as you can have, when you are six years old, saw Scooter, and called her name from the side lines.

Scooter, who if anything, is a social butterfly ran over to her friend, embraced her,and gave her friend, the gift of the magical leaf. My husband could not believe his eyes, here all the children, were running around our daughter, as she caught up with her old friend.

"Scooter!' He cried,'Run!'

And Scooter heard her father's command, and explained to her friend that she 'had to go' and off she ran to catch the pack of running six/seven year olds.

And Scooter ran and ran... She caught up with the pack.

And when it came to the finish line a few friends called her back, and Scooter thought it would be only polite to let them in...

And to our utter astonishment, our daughter finished in the top twenty five, thereby sending our leaf collector, dreamer, social, polite, running, butterfly off to the finals.

We were, astonished to our daughter's placing in the race and were certainly delighted that she was going on to the next level.

And of course, we were there for the next race.

But this race was different, as the children were coached as to the importance of the day. How they were representing their school, how it was about how they finished, and what place they finished and if the motivational speech from the gym teacher was not enough, Chariots of Fire was blaring in the background.

And then they were off...

And to our surprise our daughter was at the front of the pack... Heading out along the beach on a glorious, blustery fall day with the sun shining brightly overhead.Our daughter was running and enjoying her moment.

And so BoyWonder and I ran to the finish line.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

No Scooter.

Every other child had crossed but no Scooter.

And then we saw her. A good ten minutes behind the last of the group.

Her arm around an old friend, her friend was crying, and Scooter was walking with her.

Helping her along the path.

It ends up that Scooter's friend, from a competing school, had fallen, trying to catch up to our Scooter.

And in the fall she called Scooter's name.

Scooter heard her, and ran back.

Scooter helped her friend up as the pack blast past them.

Scooter dusted her friend off.

And Scooter walked with her friend around the course, amd reassured her. Scooter and her friend walked through the sand, up the hill, as Chariots of Fire blared in the background and parents cheered on their runners.

Scooter's friend burst into tears at the finish line, and sobbed into her mother's arms.

'Mamma,' Scooter's friend cried 'I, I , I wahhh, waaaahhh, wasssss deeeeead laaaahhhhst.'

And Scooter went up to her friend and tried to give solace, and said 'No, you weren't Grace, I was.'

Such moments are gifts, such moments are so wonderful, such moments are just a bit of heaven found on a primary race course on a beautiful, blustery, fall day.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Portrait of Friendship

Dave was a man of routine. Dave was a man who did not like change. He would diligently go to work 5:45 a.m. everday. He had his reasons for not departing from his home at 5:55 a.m. and if you were willing to listen he could list off all the reasons for the acceptablilty of 5:45 a.m. He could give you hours of explanation with great attention to detail as to why he would leave at such a time. But most of us would gloss over the information and know that Dave goes to work at 5:45 a.m. and he has his reasons and not open the book of time with him again.

Dave's job was that of a transit attendant, this job had him housed alone in a the dark caverns of a subway station, with the unfriendly flourescent lights above and no promise of the lights and shadows of the true outdoors to permiate his work space. Dave worked at the busiest intersection of my city for eight hours a day. He saw at least 10,000 people a day, as they crossed his turnstile.The patrons would duly place their tickets, or change into the toll booth and would they would push forward through to their true destinations. Dave was the gatekeeper. Dave would always greet his patrons with a smile, a wee joke or antidote about where they were going. But for the most part, their interaction would be limited and Dave, for the most part, was a faceless man in a booth. A person you greeted everyday with a smile but rarely would you know his name let alone believe he had an identity outside the walls of the tube.

But for all those people, for the 10,000 people plus, and all those anecdotes hovering in the air, it was a pretty lonely existence. Each person would have a place to go, a place to be, and Dave was the facillitator.They, the ten thousand people had about 3.5 seconds to exchange their news of the day. They had places to go. 3.5 seconds, was enough time to say his name and give him a nod or a wink as the pushed on to their destination of choice. None would give him more than a 3.5 second thought.

Dave's existence, with the fabric of thousands walking through his toll was pretty lonely. Dave never complained. It was a living.

Dave had the company of his three daily newspapers. He would go through all the papers and would diligently note any quirky newsworthy items, and he would painstakingly clip out all comics in which he thought caused a smile. He was connected to the outside world through his papers, they were a lifeline of sorts. A lifeline of clippings to friends, friends and their families. A birthday card would often be riddled with at least twelve cartoons directly related to the recipient, no one could ever say a birthday card had no thought given when it came from Dave.

Dave would come to my bar every Thursday night at 7:45p.m. after his shift as a subway attendant. He would swagger into the bar, with his duffel bag loaded down with his news of the day. The bag never carried a work out outfit or change of shoes, just his papers and the remnants of his lunch and maybe the odd pack of cigarettes, deodorant and his endless assortment of keys.

When Dave would come into my bar, he would wear his uniform. I think his uniform gave him a voice. A voice of authority, with the emblems of the station, our city and of our country stitched into the fabric. Dave was patriotic, Dave believed that his job had purpose. Dave believed he contributed to the fabric of our city.

Dave wore a hairdo which was reminiscent of the 50's. His once golden locks, now silver, were slicked back in a perfect duck tail. He wore a black onyx ring which commemorated his twenty years of service to the city. He wore it on his wedding finger though he had never been married. For if anything, the ring he showed his commitment to the subway and all her patrons.

Dave through his trustworthy newspapers, and incredible memory could ramble off endless facts, he could tell you the life span of a mosquito, just as he could with great authority tell you the temperature inside a volcano. He could recall the stats of what the average rainfall would be in London in June, just as he knew the mating rituals of the white rhino, he could tell you about the theory of relativity, just as he could tell you about the election practices of various tribes, his scope was endless. He was a walking trivial pursuit game. He knew facts, he knew solid numbers, the gray of emotions never muted through his conversations. He was always quick with a smile and a fact to accompany it. Dave knew everything.

I had introduced Dave to Stripes, aka Peter. I knew these two men would get along famously as to their natures which to some would seem entirely opposite but to me seemed like a true marriage of friendship.

And for seventeen years it was just that. Peter would laugh endlessly at Dave's stories. He truly appreciated every birthday card ladened down with endless cartoon clippings which would be sent to him. He would drive Dave to every event and they would leave together. They would hold court together and Peter always could laugh at Dave's corny jokes no matter how many times Dave told the joke. Peter never gave away the punchline.They were truly old souls.

When Peter got sick it rocked Dave to his core. He wanted to be supportive, he wanted to give back to his ole friend but there was nothing he could do. He was at a loss. He mustered the strength for one visit to his friend's bedside. No bullet proof case could have protected his heart. And there certainly were no news articles in coping with a friend who was terminally ill. And there certainly were no Hallmark cards addressing it, For if there was, I certain Dave would have at least been able to purchase it. For by buying the card, maybe Dave would not have felt so alone.

And when Peter left our planet, Dave called me.

Stripes died, Bright Eyes.

Oh, Dave....

Now, Peter gave Dave a nick name. A nickname I nearly fully understood. He called him the Captain. Captain Dave, and yet Dave never seemed to commandeer any vehicle I knew of...

But it was a name Dave embraced. A name which gave him the notion of taking charge. And he used it often when talking of his last visit with Peter.
And in ending our conversation it was arranged that the Captain would come to my home and take me to Stripes' funeral.

It did not occur to me that I had never seen Dave drive a car until he came to pick me up, it seemed so out of character to see him out of his uniform, without his duffel bag and in a car. But it did not seem real that we would be going to bury Peter so soon.

But a great deal of things that he did that day seemed strangely in character.

Like the fact that Dave never had purchased a map to go to our friend's new city. He was going to rely on a placemat that he acquired from the local Denny's.

I knew that that placemat had to have been from the last dinner he had with Peter. I knew that it was a fact that he held fast.

But being reasonable, I asked if we could stop at the gas station where I claimed I needed a water when in fact I had to purchase a map.... I would not take the place matt away from Dave, but firmly give direction through another medium. As I understand he had his issues but I had mine as well....And not getting lost on the way to the funeral home was mine.

When we arrived at the funeral without incident I breathed a sigh of relief. And I tried to help Dave along the way. I guided him into the room where we were both embraced by Peter's daughters and by Peter's lovely Joanne.

We then walked through Peter's life together.

And at the end of it all lay our dear, sweet, Peter.

And there we stood for quite a longtime and Joanne came up and asked Dave if he would do the honour of being one of Peter's pall bearers...

Now, dear Blogger please do not take this the wrong way. Please realize that with Dave, he is a logical man, and all that he was experiencing was beyond logic. His heart ached, as his best friend in the whole world was gone.
10,000 people would not know of his pain. But I do. I know how much his heart was broken.

So when Joanne asked for Dave to be a pall bearer.
Dave balked.

He said'I dunno Joanne. That casket, that casket looks like the 3000 titanium series, and I think it weighs a ton, WITHOUT Peter in it...'

I just looked at Dave and just nudged him' Dave? What's that?' And how the heck do you know the weight of the bloody casket???

Well, Pendullum, I know, I've read upon them... Why the titianium series???My back... and the weight... and Peter...

And Joanne assured him that he would not have to lift a thing it was all on a pulley system, and he but merely had to guide it down the ramp to the hearse where hydraulic lifts would do all the work... And Peter chose to be cremated so it would be not problem as it was all ramps to the crematorium.

And with all these facts firmly in place, Dave agreed to be the pall bearer...

Now, Peter always loved a good story and he would have loved how Dave knew all those facts about the casket, he would have loved that Joanne was not dissuaded by Dave's initial abrupt refusal. Peter also would have loved the fact that I forgot to turn off my cellphone it rang right at the time the minister guided us to one of Peter's favourite passages. He would also love the various shades of red I turned when I tried to find my phone, in my overloaded purse. I could hear his laughter through everyone else's scorned looks.

But I think the thing that Peter would have loved the most...

And Peter being a good man got his one last laugh.

When we got to the crematorium, when these less than athletic pallbearers were gently guiding his casket up the ramp, these men who were taking their jobs with pride, as they guided their late friend along, these friends were jolted to an abrupt stop when the hydraulic lift broke. And the casket kinda did a plunge and they all had to take quick action to hoist their friend. And all had to carry the titanium casket to its resting place.

I know that it is terrible of me.

But when they all started swearing, arguing and heaving it was too much for me...

They all cursed the Titanium 3000 series.

I looked up to the heavens and laughed...

As Peter so did not want to leave....

But at least he left with a good story...

Monday, July 23, 2007

I buried a friend in June.

I buried him on the anniversary of his first date with his true love, the one he had been searching for his entire life. And where I would love to say they had years together, they did not.

They had 363 days together. 363 days to love each other, 363 days to bask in each other.

Around the 200th day, Peter was told he had terminal cancer. he has told he had but weeks to live. He did not believe he would die. His entire being felt too much joy and love for him to be leaving so soon. He could not leave her just after he found her and in turn found the missing part of himself.

Peter in his true zeal for life, did not accept the death sentence. He would never utter aloud the possibility that he could be dying, but he knew he was. His body was betraying his heart.

Peter loved Joanne. He loved her forever and always. He wanted to announce it to God. He wanted to marry his one true love. He wanted to marry Joanne, with his children, his grandchildren and his friends to bare witness . He wanted to sing her voice to the heavens as he certainly had a grasp of what heaven could be.

There was a complication.

A complication of thirty years.

Peter was married. Married to someone else.

Peter was married. He had been married for 30 years.

He had been legally separated from his wife for 24 years, But on paper he was still married.

For twenty four years he had his own residence. For twenty four years he had his own independent life.

Peter did not leave his wife for another woman. He did not leave because of finances or because of drink.

He left because he did not love his wife and She never loved him. No spark ever flew their way to cause the 'friendship' to catch fire in his marriage, and he knew deep in his heart that it never would. He was told thirty years ago that he would fall in love with her through time. And in the six years of marriage, two children later, there was no love, laughter or song; just misery. He could not see the marriage getting better through time, even though he was told it would.

But Peter was a romantic. Peter dared to think and believe in loves' true desire. Peter believed that everyone had a love contrary to the doctrine of his parents. Peter bore witness to many people finding their true loves.He even witnessed and celebrated as his children found their true loves. Peter celebrated each wedding of souls, And Peter, in his heart, believed that there was someone out there for him and someday he would find her.

Belief and love are wonderful things to believe in, as in honour and being true to yourself and others. In such beliefs, I think I can safely sum the core of Peter's existence on our planet. And in the twenty years I knew him I can safely say the earth was a better place because he roamed it and spread his gallantry everywhere he went.

I will now fast forward to Peter's last year of roaming earth. The year in which he found happiness.

Peter went to a picnic held by friends. He was talking with his old friends when he heard a woman laugh. He heard the melody of her voice, and he looked to find the owner of the beautiful maker of merriment.
And there she was.
His sixty year old heart fluttered. His legs felt weak.
He just stared.
His friend 'Moose' asked him if he was okay as it looked as if Peter had seen a ghost.
And Peter truly could not talk for a moment.
His mouth was dry and words escaped him, he stammered, or so he told me.
He just stood and stared. He felt like a schoolboy, this hulking six foot five man, felt uncertain of his footing, he was trying to manuever his hulking body over to this wee, powerful woman with the most magnificient smile he had ever seen. He, in his sixty years of life had never felt so alive, so nervous,so scared or so uncertain of himself.

He awkwardly approached her, he had to talk with her...

And he did.

He swirled, he swooned,his universe was complete.

He met her. He tingled all over. He was giddy. He was absorbed. He was alive.

He met her and it all made sense. His choices and the road he travelled on finally lead to her door.

All embedded in laughter and the melody of a voice. The voice of his dreams.

And they talked.

And they laughed.

And then without a moment to lose he asked her on a 'date'.

And she accepted and they saw each other the following week.

And that date.; that date sealed fate. That date with a true loves first kiss, where Peter realized all in which he had been missing. He was not filled with dread or regret, just youthful anticipation, as this, this, is what he had been waiting for all his life.It was worth the wait. All in the kiss, his world became full.

The kiss must have caused the earth to shudder and tremble in anticipation and it alerted the heavens, and the universe must have felt the collision of these two souls.

They both knew in that kiss. She at the very young age of fifty seven had met her soulmate who was sixty.

They had waited and searched long enough to know.

And they began to have a list of firsts, little did they know it would also be filled with their lasts as well....

They bought their first home together, they had their first Christmas, first new Years,first Valentine's,their first, their first...

Joanne knew how much Peter loved cars, and she bought him a car for his first birthday with her..His first new car in twenty years. And he loved it. He loved that car. He boasted about his car,he felt he could just go about anywhere ion earth. And when he would call he would talk about it. He would talk about his new life and you could hear happiness dripping through the phoneline.

Peter had found true happiness, Peter had found his true love.

I was so very very happy for him, for them.

Peter called me, six months into his new life...

'Bright Eyes, (Did I mention Peter had nicknames for everyone? He was Stripes, to me)Life is so good...But I kinda have a hiccup in my path...'


Yeah... Ahh...

'What sort of hiccup? ' I hate to say it, but I know the pause now , I know the pregnant pause,the gasp of air and of courage.I know when someone pauses, pauses while calling out of the blue, causes them to call to let you know they love you, and tries to make the word, the nasty horrible word,'okay' for you to hear. I know the dance of skirting around the word, the word which can causes hearts to break and bodies to crumble. I know the word which causes souls to bare up and take arms and grasp on to what they have.

Bright Eyes,I have cancer.


Ahh,now that's the question... I have it in my lungs and in my brain... A double whammy...

Stripes, Oh Stripes...

Oh,its treatable... I need to going for radiation and chemo... Day by day...It's going to be okay...

Now, it was not okay. I know this, Peter knows this.

Peter was sick and he was dying. He would never utter those words to say he may leave this planet. He would never give cancer that pleasure or that power over his fate. He would never utter those words that the cancer truly had a hold on him. Peter was strong, Peter was stubborn, Peter was an optomist and if anything Peter was a true and noble fighter.

But he felt the cancer was a time to put his affairs in order.

He loved his Joanne. He loved her with all his heart and he wanted to celebrate her. He wanted to celebrate and bask in his soulmate and share with all of us, his true happiness.Canccer could not take this away from him. He had indeed found heaven on earth.

He wanted to marry his Joanne.

He wanted his friends to bare witness.He wanted God to see, he wanted to sing her voice in a church,through vows of devotion,and the promising of souls, he wanted a wedding. A wedding and a true marriage which had alluded him until now.

All he needed to do was to divorce his first wife. He approached his first wife with the prospect of a divorce.

She could not believe her ears. He had found love? How foolish could Peter be?

And she with the doubt and scorn in her heart, she, refused to divorce Peter.

Twenty four years is a great deal of water and time under the bridge of regret. Apparently even though she agreed wholeheartedly with separation from Peter, as she too felt no love. She was not willing to believe that someone else could love him.

He was in disbelief.He was hurt.He was dumbfounded. He did not think this would be a fight.He did not think this fight was part of the plan. Cancer certainly was not part of the plan but this defiance, seemed much more hurtful and deliberate than his disease which was robbing him of time.

His wife had told him to lawyer up and that she was going to give him a fight.

Lawyer up? A fight?

Peter found it to be overwhelming. It broke his heart.He had no time to 'Lawyer up'. And in his heart he would never have the energy to 'Lawyer up'.He had no time to fight this futile battle. He knew he did not have years. He did not know if he even had months, and he knew he did not have the energy to go into fighting for the sake of fighting. And what would be what she was fighting for?

Everyone stood along Peter's side on this one. His children, his priest and even the Bishop was called in to try and reason with a woman who had a desire to try out the family judicial system.

She would not budge and she hired a lawyer as she fully intended to lawyer up.

Peter was never a wealthy man. Peter made do. There was no hidden monies in all of this. In the separation agreement Peter gave his wife the house, the car, paid support for the children while they were living in the house, paid for the children's university educations and he paid for the weddings.

His first wife was not bitter in the separation. She was fine with him living his life of solitude.

But now twenty four years later, with the prospect of Peter moving on she hung on to spite.

Peter was dumbfounded of what to do.

He had never experienced such hatred in his life. And to lack the compassion, for his plight was truly near an end left him heartbroken.

Peter's health began to falter. He was in inpallative care at home. And everyday, he would insist on leaving his bed, and going directly outside to the driveway where his magnificent car from Joanne was parked.
He would go to his car, sit in the driveway and look at his house, and there he would sit alone with maybe the radio for company. I imagine he wanted the image of his happy, fulfilled life to be truly embedded in his brain. I imagine he wanted to make up for all the moments he wished he had. I imagine he was making up for lost time, for time, he wished he could pull up to his home after a long day at the office and appreciate the moment of arriving home where his love would be in wait of him. He wanted to make up for the years of not finding the home filled with love in which he deeply desired.

When the cancer depleted him of his ability to walk he would insist to be carried out to continue his ritual. And when he had soaked in his happiness of his home and of his 'love car' and of his life, He would honk the horn, when he was done and would be carried back into his lovenest. He would be carried back to his home and into his true love's arms.

Peter was nearing the end. Peter was troubled. He could not leave her. He could not leave before doing what was right. He needed to do what was right. He needed to follow his heart. He needed to marry Joanne. But where could he turn, as certainly earth was letting him down.

He turned to the church. He would need help with his passage. And with this,the church listened and bore witness to what they saw before them. They saw true love.

And with this, Peter and his spiritual leaders, formed a plan, the church took compassion on Peter and his fair Joanne. They, the members of the church, felt that Peter and Joanne were true soulmates. The church took a stand, they felt it would be a sin not to marry them. They felt it would be a terrible injustice on earth. An injustice in which they, the members of the clergy could and would find a remedy.

The Priest and the Bishop came up with a solution to dodge the 'lawyering up', as law had nothing to do with the soul.

The Bishop married Peter and Joanne spiritually while his daughters, their husbands and Joanne's family of children and grandchildren were in attendence. They were not in a church, but in the house in which Peter and Joanne lived together. A house which bore witness to great love.The church married this young, old soul, couple. The church married the souls together. And a more beautiful couple you would be hard pressed to find.

They were married six weeks before Peter passed away from their home.

I know that it may sound strange, but I am happy for my friend. I am happy that he truly felt love's first kiss. I am truly happy that Peter found love. I guarantee he will hover over the house and stay in the driveway and look into his home for a while, and then his heart will carry him through the door. As he certainly, Peter did find his heaven on earth.