Eulogy for my Brother

When you are the youngest of three what is the first thing that pops into your head when you think of your older siblings? Is it a wonderful time you spent together growing up or the times they held you down sitting on your chest hanging a big green luggie over your face?  For me it’s the ladder, My brother Donald could be a bit of a shit and he just loved to hear me scream I suppose. Where else would I learn about Indian rope burns, noogies and how to play or rather lose at knuckles. I was his first punching bag but as much as you hate the pain you still looked up to him. He was after all the same guy that showed up at the schoolyard when some kid who was being a pain got his big brother to come along to intimidate me. My big brother was bigger than his so though no blows were exchanged the matter was settled quickly. 

He was also the same guy that took me into the woods and showed me the trails close to our house up to the point that overlooked our home town. He showed me the way to safely climb a rock and taught me how to get down onto a ledge under the point. This information would serve me well for years as my friends and I explored these local woods every weekend enjoying cooking out over an open fire. 

He was the guy that was there on one scout camping trip as a leader assistant. I argued with my tent mate over where to set up our tent. It was my tent after all. He settled the argument and made me compromise and got me to set up the tent where my roomie Tom wanted to go. Later that night as the outer edges of a tropical storm hit us the wind blowing so hard our tent was collapsing on us. I was on my back with my arms and legs outstretched to keep the tent up in the hurricane-force winds meanwhile Tom prayed. The lightning flash was blinding and the sound of thunder roared and shook the ground. Moments later my brother was opening the flap of the tent to see how we were. On my back holding up the tent I said fine why. He pulled back the tent flat to reveal the huge Oak tree I wanted to set our tent up under was on the ground where we would have been if I’d won the argument.  My brother getting me to compromise probably saved my life that night. As much as a tormentor as he was when we were young he made good choices, had good friends and I looked up to him.  

At some during high school, he discovered beer as we all do around that age. That was a turning point in his life.  He was always pissed off at our father and a few bottles of beer gave him the courage and bravado to let the old man know. When you’re outweighed by a hundred pounds it wasn’t a fair fight but he got what he wanted, a battle, a showdown that he would keep trying to win for years. It’s hard as a kid to see two people you look up to beating the shit out of one another but that was my life as a young boy. I grew up watching domestic violence first hand.  I never had sleepovers on the weekend because I never knew when my brother would come home drunk spoiling for a fight. I was embarrassed by it all. Excuses were made why my brother had his front teeth knocked out. Why things were broken in our home. Heartbreaking to see my great aunt whom we lived with in her 90’s hitting them with her cane to stop. My mother is so upset she starts breaking dishes in the kitchen to draw their attention from each other. I sat there on the stairs not able to do a thing at my age watching this fight unfold with all too often regularity.  

In winter 1983 was when my brother died for the first time. After a day spent at a funeral for my father’s best friend’s son who accidentally shot himself in the face we retired to quiet sleep. I was having the most intense dream ever sitting at a campfire, I could hear the snap crackle pop of the fire and even smell the smoke. I couldn’t taste the marshmallows but it was very peaceful. I heard my bedroom door open abruptly and my father grabbed me out of bed and pushed me into the hallway. Not awake and disoriented I walked into a wall as the hallway was full of smoke. It’s only about eight feet from my bedroom door to the stairs by I walked into another wall till I found my way. I saw my brother’s room in flames. It was December 15th and I was standing in the snow on the front lawn in my winter boots with a jacket on in my underwear because I didn’t use PJ’s and getting pants wasn’t given as an option when my father shoved me out of my room. Our hometown uses volunteer firefighters so ten minutes is an eternity when you’re watching your house burn and your brother is still unaccounted for. A can of lighter fluid in his room exploded by the window and blew debris all over the cars in the driveway. My dad then suggested we get the ladder from the garage and see if he climbed out onto the balcony attached to my brother’s bedroom. 

On a normal day, this 50-year-old wooden extension ladder was so heavy I could barely pick it up. That night with the adrenaline flowing I not only picked it up with ease I had it up against the house and extended in mere seconds and I was scrambling up onto the balcony. My brother wasn’t on their so I had a look through the window and saw very few flames.  I stood back and kicked in the door with ease and looked around for my brother but saw nothing but charred furniture. Now this was a few years before the movie Backdraft and I’d never even heard of this term but as soon as I took a couple of steps back we got a huge backdraft of flames that covered where I was standing only moments before. What we found out from the fire chief later is when we exited the house earlier we left the front door open so that was drawing the fire downstairs towards the oxygen. When I kicked in that door the flames went for the easy source of air to consume which drew the fire back upstairs towards the now wide open balcony door.  This allowed the firefighters who had now arrived the opportunity to do a room to room search eventually finding my brother passed out on the floor of the upstairs bathroom.  When they brought him out and laid him in the snow on the front yard he was clinically dead. He’d stopped breathing. They worked feverishly for the next five minutes pumping his chest to keep his heart pumping while giving him oxygen. Eventually, he started to cough and regained colour. 

If my father ever had a reason to go at my brother before he had a reason now as he destroyed the house and forced us all into a trailer in the driveway. If arguments were uncomfortable in the house they were even worse in a two-room trailer where the main area was kitchen, dining room, living room and my brother and I’s bedroom.

After a week I asked if I could move back into the house in my great aunt’s room. She’d been relocated to an old age home till the house was rebuilt and her room on the first floor was the only space in the house that did not experience smoke or water damage. So to avoid the battle in the driveway I stayed in the abandoned house on my own. 

Even after my brother moved out a few years later and I was still at home he sometimes came back for a rematch with our father thinking he finally had the skill to outmatch the old man. He never did.  I was a teenager by then and one time got between the two of them as the battle moved to the front yard. Someone hauled off with a punch that missed the intended target and knocked me out. Next thing I knew I was in the kitchen with my mother who said I took the punch, got up, drove my car that was on the street into the driveway then I went in the back door and sat down. The last thing I remember was standing between the two of them yelling at them to stop. 

As troubling as all this history may sound it was merely the tip of the iceberg for where my brother’s life would go in the coming years and decades. The only thing he ever did that was positive was create his son who against overwhelming odds has turned out to be a rather well-adjusted young man. He was an abusive alcoholic husband during his short turbulent marriage. When that went south he went even further off the rails. I guess for me the line that he crossed I couldn’t forgive is when he drove his son as a five-year-old along with his then girlfriend’s five-year-old daughter both in the backseat while drunk and already under suspension from a previous DWI. I went to his house and told him if he wanted to kill himself then to just do it but don’t take innocent kids with him. My ultimatum that day was that when he was clean and sober a year to please give me a call. My phone never rang. 

I heard through our mother over the years that he was in and out of prison for god only knows what reason. I never wanted to know and I never asked.

I didn’t see him again till 2008 at our father’s funeral. At this point, it had been over 15 years since we had last communicated. No one in the family expected me at the funeral since I became a father for the third time the day after dad died. I figured I 

needed to say goodbye so I was on a plane only 12 hours after welcoming our newest daughter. Many family members were shocked to see me with my oldest daughter in tow and I made the rounds introducing myself to people I didn’t know. I’d walk up and tell them I was the son of the deceased till one person at the visitation said he was too. I recognized the voice immediately but not the face. The 15 years of hard living and alcoholic abuse had aged him about 30 years to the point I couldn’t even recognize him. Over the next few days, we mended a few bridges but the fact he was still drinking didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t want him around my daughter but he’d become a more reclusive quite drunk. Those couple nights we both stayed at our parent’s house were the last we ever spent under the same roof.  When I left to fly home to be with my wife and our new baby I’d never see him alive again. 

We chatted on the phone a couple of times over the years. He was working on a boat that was taking him to the middle east and I think he was scared of being killed in a war zone. It was understandable I didn’t have Libya or Kuwait on my tour itinerary so I got why he was nervous. I last spoke to him not too long after he became a grandfather. He eventually had two grandsons who just lived across town but he never met them even once. I’m not sure how receptive his son was and I understand his trepidation as well to have his father be around his new family. 

As was his pattern I got a text on Christmas day last year. We had a couple of exchanges and I told him mom wasn’t doing very well. Our big brother hadn’t shared this with him but then no one in the family shared anything with him. When you self ostracize yourself away from the family and intentionally have no contact it’s kind of hard to expect us to reach out to you when things aren’t going so well for our mother.  I told him on the 28th I’d let him know how she was and he reiterated to “PLS KEEP ME updated”. That was the last thing he wrote to me. 

 On Monday, February 8th I saw a text from our older brother Mike who’s been dealing with our mother since he lives in the Falls close by. Seeing a text from him to call him did not instill me with confidence because the last time I called him mother was going downhill fast. I expected a new update heading in the same direction only to find out it was our brother he was calling about.  The smell from his apartment had caused some complaints from neighbours and when the authorities entered the suite they were a few weeks too late. They were going to need DNA and dental records to identify the body at this point. The sad reality is the police couldn’t just call a close contact because he didn’t have any. They had to call our mother’s old number, find out the house had been sold and contact the realtor to get to Mike. I’m not sure when they found the body because this investigation to find the family had to take a day or so.  It’s not the end I ever expected for him. I sort of figured he’d have a violent end whether by his own hand in a car wreck drunk or beat to a pulp by someone he challenged to a fight. As I’m writing this right now his son just called me from the apartment where his father died. I can’t imagine the emotions he’s experiencing right now looking at his father’s life’s work.  Seeing the missing hardwood floor they had to cut out because he expired there. Hi slast outgoing call was made January 14that 2 pm so he died after that date. Seeing his father had a framed photo of him holding the grandson he never met did Rob in. A bunch of old paperbacks and cases of empty wine bottles. Quite a legacy but for better or worse he will always be my big brother and I guess he’s in a far better place now.  


Something for Dad


Volume #235

I started this blog basically to satisfy a resolution I made to myself one New Years that after over 10 years of writing about my kids I was going to actually let someone other then my hard drive read any of it.  Slowly I’ve added posts here when I find the time to do so but I have no preconceived notions that anyone is actually paying attention.   Nor does it really matter to me in the big picture, I’m not looking for platitudes from the family which is why I’ve never shared any of my posts via social media. No one I know even knows about this blog and I kind of like having this anonymous relationship with the world wide web. Whether anyone is listening is not the point, that fact I finally put it out there for consideration is. To that end, I thought it was time to broaden what I write about occasionally beyond my kids. If you’d allow me to indulge myself I’d like to share something new of interest in my life.


I’m not sure if it was my 49th birthday last month but something clicked in me earlier this spring when I had to renew my driver’s license. As I stood there in the line at the license office I saw the computers for taking the written part of your test. The last time I took one of those tests was over twenty years ago when I upgraded my classified license from a class three to a class one which then allowed me to drive any combination of motorized vehicle legal on the roads. Well, all except one, I could drive the biggest trucks around but I still could not drive the smallest which was a motorcycle.  In a moment of pure happenstance, I asked what the cost was, $15 was not a lot of money to get your learners permit so I decided to take the test.  I was allowed to get something like 6 out of 50 wrong and still pass which I thought would be easy. I breezed through the general driving and signage questions but when they asked specifics about motorcycles I was a bit lost. I was down to my last wrong answer with half the test still to go yet somehow I prevailed. I now had a learners permit so what was I going to do with that?


I remembered a couple friends of ours recommending a local guy, a former bike cop that was now retired and did lessons out of his house. I looked him up and booked myself into the course. I hadn’t been on a bike in 15 years.  Even then I still had no experience and I just learned the basics to move a bike around. You see I was working on a TV show and our main hero picture vehicle was a motorcycle. In fact, since it was the star’s ride we had 2 identical bikes for picture and two other different bikes painted the same for stunts. In the second season on the show, we added another character that rode so then we had 6 bikes. As a part of working on the show as the transportation captain, it’s nice to be able to move anything for the camera when asked by the director. As the head of my department on set, I just hated getting one of my guys to always do it for me. If a Teamster doesn’t know how to ride a motorcycle is he really a Teamster some would ask?  Well I didn’t want to face that question so I learned how to start a bike and get it from A to B but I never had a license and I never rode a bike outside of whatever closed set we were filming. At the time getting my license was something I was very interested in doing but finding the time when you’re working 100 hours a week is not the easiest thing to do.  I even made a pact with my wife while we were in Ireland in 2001 during my hiatus. She wanted to get a tattoo and I said if she was doing that than I was getting my bike license. We walked into a tattoo parlor in Limerick and looked around politely but the level of cleanliness left us uninspired and quite honestly scared. When you’re in a shop and a fly who is used to walking on shit flies in and says “Whoa this place is filthy” then turns around and fly’s right out you have to think twice about letting a needle pierce your skin. She did not get inked that day but when we returned home she got her Celtic knot tattoo but I never got my license.  When our first daughter came along a year later that pretty much changed our focus completely and with every new daughter we added what I wanted becoming less and less important.


This year I finally put myself first.  OK maybe not first but I finally decided to do something just for myself. I’m not sure if it’s my age since I’m turning 50 next year. I never put “get my motorcycle license” on any bucket list or New Years resolution. None that I recall anyway but I did still made that pact 14 years ago and as JoAnn’s Tattoo fades and needs to be touched up I thought it was high time I followed through on my end. Some of my favorite TV series have been about guys on Motorbikes. Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor going around the world or Charlie on his own TV show touring countries including Canada and the US a couple years ago. I’ve read countless books by my favorite rock drummer Neil Peart as he chronicles his own adventures from the saddle of his bike touring the back roads of whatever country the band was touring. It seemed like such a great way to get to a gig.  So I’m not a biker, I’ve never owned a bike or had any desire to do so but something keeps drawing me to all these images and stories about riding.  I’ve had a long-standing dream to ride a bike across Canada as a result but I’ve never taken the first step to making that a reality. Till now.


The one thing all these riders I’ve followed have in common is they all ride the exact same bike. A BMW R1200GS so even though I’ve never even sat on one before let alone talked with someone who has that is the bike I covet.  After reading about this bikes adventures in 4 books and watching in excess of 50 hours of television with this bike at the heart I guess I have good reason to be enamored. None of the riders talking about this machine have a bad thing to say about it and I guess the TV stars won’t since it’s product placement, however, it’s a comment made by Charlie Boorman that’s always stuck with me. For the first series, they filmed that took them around the world they were trying to secure a deal with his preferred bike manufacturer Ducati. That’s what he liked to ride at the time and what he wanted to use for the show but the deal fell through so BMW stepped up. At some point during that first series, Charlie said he’ll never ride anything but BMW again and every show I’ve seen him in since he has been on a BMW. That coming from a seasoned rider meant a lot. BMW should be using that quote in their promotional material. When I think of what I’d like to ride now how could I consider anything else? Every Teamster I know who rides also has a Harley so maybe it’s just the stereotype cliché I want to avoid. I always did go counter to every stereotype that the Teamsters had had thrust onto them over the years by a small subset of the membership but if the cliché fits it’s hard to break. Thankfully I’ve never been one to follow others or fall into the trap of peer pressure so regardless of what everyone else might think, I’m not buying a Harley. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course, for me when it comes to old school muscle bikes my interest lean towards Indian.


I went into my first riding class really knowing very little which meant no bad habits to break so that might be a good thing. The first question my instructor asked us was why we wanted to get a bike license. Something I’d been struggling to answer on my own and now I had to try to express why I wanted this. Was it the influence of the media I had read or watched? Was it to satisfy a 14-year-old pact with my wife? Was I really that annoyed I had a license to drive the largest vehicles on the road but not the smallest? or was it because I was turning 50? I think I can safely say everything was an influence. When you spend over a decade reading about a guy biking to work in a different city every day it starts to become part of your subconscious.  I have been dreaming of riding across the country on a bike for years because of these book and TV shows yet I didn’t own a bike or even have the right to ride one yet. Now I finally took that first step. The first day in the saddle riding around a church parking lot was an eye opener. I wasn’t sure if there were any symbolism in the fact that we were learning to do a very high-risk dangerous activity in the parking lot of a church. A place your family maybe parking to say goodbye to you if you really screwed up. I had a friend (who was also Teamster) who lost his life on a bike a few years back so that was on my mind.  I don’t attend any organized religion myself but I’d be remiss if I didn’t look up and say a short prayer to please watch my ass.  It was shocking how quickly the basic skills of maneuvering the bike came to me. One of the other students in the class was really struggling with it and didn’t pass the basic skills test that day.  I don’t think the fact her dad dropped her off for her lesson on his Harley then stuck around to watch helped her confidence much.


The next lesson we were on the open road and though I know the rules of the road I instantly felt very vulnerable without a protective metal jacket. I seemed more intently aware of all my surroundings on a bike. Simple maneuvers like going through an intersection were far less routine.  The whole leaning of the bike to turn on winding roads was a bit foreign to me but I quickly got the hang of it even if it scared the shit out of me at times. The first time we got up to over 80KM an hour the wind hitting me really freaked me out. I had a hard time keeping up not because the bike was slow but the sensation of becoming a human kite kept going through my mind so I was backing off. Did I really want to ride all the way across Canada on one of these things or would making it as far as the next town safely now satisfy me? As the weeks went on and I got more rides in I stopped holding the handlebars like they were going to be ripped from my hands. The wind no longer bothered me at speed and my main focus was always keeping up with my instructor and I was doing pretty good. I was getting comfortable in the saddle.


Like with learning anything new sometimes to take a giant leap forward you take a step back and that happened to me last week. One thing we get more than our fair share of here in BC is rain and last week at the very end of our ride we got stuck in the middle of a short downfall. The rain on my helmet visor streamed away nicely so that wasn’t the issue I expected it to be.  When a light changed suddenly I figured I was going to get separated from my instructor briefly which was nothing new, he’d wait. However, he made the stop fine, the rider behind him who was on his first open road ride ever hit his rear brakes way to hard to stop and I watched him put the bike on the ground.  I’d never seen a motorcycle accident happen right before my eyes. It was all in slow motion, I saw the entire thing, his front wheel still going straight while the back of the bike swung around to his right till I was looking at the side of his bike then it went down, it felt like it took a minute to happen. The bigger problem was I was on the exact same piece of slippery road as him, on the exact same kind of bike and now I didn’t want to hit that rider who was on the ground. I hit my brakes way to hard also and unlike the slow-motion drop I just witnessed my own experience was much quicker. I was down laying on the pavement with the engine still running wondering what happened in the blink of an eye.  I guess it’s inevitable at some point when you ride you may put a bike down for whatever reason. No one plans on having a car accident either but those happen all the time too, thankfully my last one of those was decades ago. Now here I was on the ground and in shock at what just happened. I got up right away but my foot that was on the brake pedal as the bike went down took quite a hit. The crushed foot peg I saw when I got the bike up told the story, that’s where my foot was and it’s now crushed, no wonder my foot hurts so much. I was angry at myself for such a stupid mistake but at least neither of us was seriously hurt.  I had the bruised foot from hell, a bruised hip and a nice road rash on my right elbow even though my jacket showed no sign of damage. Not sure what I hit my left hand on but I imagine it was pavement as I hit the ground and it didn’t give much play. Riding lesson over instantly only blocks from completion as neither bike could be driven back in this state.


Two days later I was back in the saddle on the same now repaired bike facing any lingering doubt before it had time to manifest into a larger fear. I needed to know that was an anomaly not the norm when riding. Yes, I could have handled it better by not over reacting and hitting my brakes so hard but I’m looking at this as a learning experience. I’m planning on not hitting my brakes so hard the next time I see a rider go down in front of me. Lesson learned. I’m just glad if it had to happen it was after many hours of riding and not my first ever ride like the other fella that went down that day. That might have ended it for me right there. I’m still hobbling around with a swollen foot and a bruised ego but my desire to keep riding and get more comfortable in the saddle remains intact. First, I get the license then I’ll worry about how to tell the wife I want the motorcycle that goes with it. I don’t think she really believed me when I told her I have a class one license and I don’t own a truck when I told her I was going to take bike lessons and she was sure I was going to buy a bike right away. Of course, she was right and I don’t think I even believed the BS I was shoveling when I said I didn’t want a bike.  For now, I’m just going to keep riding towards that license and keep my eye on the prize and in the future I’ll try stay on two wheels at all times.

The Big Gig Revisited


Volume #220

“It was Twenty years ago, today Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play” and I also got married. I know this blog is called Daddy Files and this post has little to do with our kids but when we got married twenty years ago that’s when they all became a possibility.

One thing I never really did when JoAnn and I got married twenty years ago was spend much time thinking of where we’d be a few decades later. I didn’t even give much consideration to the an idea about kids other than I thought having both a son and daughter would be nice even thought I knew my likely hood of every having a daughter was slim. Boy did I get that wrong. When I finally decided to pop the question on my self-imposed deadline of five years from when we first started dating I didn’t think much about what it meant. (I rode that one right to the last-minute as I proposed on the 5th anniversary of our first blind date.) Why rush in, I still had minutes left and she said “Yes” anyway. For us we had already been living together for the better part of four years and we’d moved across the country the summer before so what really would change. Realistically JoAnn would just have a shorter signature. So we decided to get married after never really talking about it much at all those first few years. It’s just one of those subjects that never really came up. I’m sure it was on her mind but I’m a guy so you have to excuse me for being a bit obtuse. We did have fun the Christmas before when we were in Vegas and we video taped our walking up to a wedding chapel and looking in, then we cut the tape and sent it to our folks. A week later frantic calls asking if we went through with it arrived on our answering machine.

After we got engaged we set the date for exactly two months later and we told everyone we were going to do this thing our way or not at all. Our parents wanted the big epic event; her dad wanted us to be married in their church of course. But we were having none of it. It was going to be our way if we came back east or it was going to be a very quite affair in Vancouver with no family. JoAnn never wanted the big dress, just another clue I picked the right woman to marry. For me having worked as a DJ for hundreds of wedding receptions I knew everything I didn’t want this day to be so we went out of the box, way out. We wanted it to be casual, no ties, in fact since I lived in shorts and t-shirts, that’s what I wanted to wear on the day and JoAnn agreed. Ok the shirts were custom-made baseball shirts with hand painted stencils but it still wasn’t a tux. I had never been to a wedding where the bride and groom were in shorts and sandals and we both knew that was the way to go. As lovers of the great outdoors we wanted this to take place outside which seeing as we were talking August in Ontario that could backfire with either rain or staggering heat. Both would threaten the day at different times but in the end neither materialized. We also wanted this to be a real family affair since we no longer lived close to family we wanted to see everyone on our day so this was a kid friendly event. We had planned picnic games with prizes for the little ones. It was also to be a catered BBQ with every item on the menu being finger friendly, ribs, corn, kabob. We called it “The Big Gig” and our favorite cartoon character Opus the penguin was all over the concert style t-shirts we got our bridal party to wear. (My brother and his family). Other then the day it’s self and all the family and friends we invited I personally never thought much about where we’d be or what this day would mean decades later till this summer as our 20th anniversary approached.

I thought it was high time I finally watched all the video footage from our wedding and put together a video for JoAnn and to share but I had no idea what to expect. I knew what happened that day as I have a pretty good memory for the broad strokes of the day but as they say the devil is in the details and when I got into the footage that’s what blew me away. Other then a quick scan of what family had recorded for us after we got home twenty years ago the tapes have been sitting in a box with one of the cameras that captured the footage. So old it didn’t even have a digital plug so I had to order one just to get the footage onto my computer to be able to edit. The first thing you start to notice is all the faces in the crowd you haven’t seen for years and how much younger we all looked. My memory of the ceremony it’s self was pretty accurate though on that hot afternoon the only thing JoAnn and I were watching were the beads of sweat that rolled down the preachers arm like a plinko chip as they hit the hairs on his arm.

Then there were video interviews with family and friends to get through. The first time you see and hear someone who’s long passed happily smiling and chatting up the camera you have to stop for the tears. To hear my father’s speech from that day when he’s been gone now seven years ended any further work I could do that day. This was supposed to just be a fun video flashback and a great way to mark twenty years together. All of the sudden this day, this footage was taking on an even bigger significance because some of what I was seeing was the last footage in existence of many family members. JoAnn had all four of her grandparents in attendance (I only had one) and none of them are here today to see this video. JoAnn’s uncle Bert who sadly passed very young a decade ago was especially hard to see. When his son (who’s also featured) saw the video he asked if we could give him the raw footage, as it’s the only video he’s ever seen of his dad. Each interview I saw became harder to watch not because you were afraid of what they may say, but you just didn’t want the clip to end, you were hanging on every word unlike when they were alive and you knew you‘d see them later. I did somehow get through it all and get it edited, mostly because I put music over it but just the images were still enough to bring tears to your eyes. The music was sort of an obvious pick since we used the lyrics of a John Lennon song on our invites and my buddy Phil played the song live while we signed the registry. I did select a second song that both JoAnn and I really like a lot, and old Beach Boys song reimagined by Natalie Maines. I’m not a big country fan, well truth be told there are only two kinds of music I don’t like “Country and Western” but she really nailed this song and the lyrics seemed to really resonate for me when I thought of what each of the people who attended this day meant to us as today.

I think the hardest part of this entire process was both keeping it a secret from JoAnn and getting it done in time. I thought I had more time then I did because our anniversary wasn’t till August 12th but we were leaving on our family vacation on the 6th. I had to have this project done before we left, It’s not like I could be editing our wedding video in the cottage we were staying at and not have her notice what I was doing. Once it was done I wanted to show her right away because I knew it was going to hit her just as hard as it hit me but I had to sit this for over a week. That was hard. I was afraid she’d see the finished video clip on my desktop so I renamed it a very odd title but I didn’t notice I had also left a folder titled “Wedding Video” there that she could see at any time. Thankfully she never uses me laptop preferring to do all her browsing on her i-pad.

On August 12th as she showered, I drank my morning coffee and quietly uploaded the video to Facebook being sure to link in every friend who was in the video to the post. I hit upload and waited. While I enjoyed a pancake breakfast with the girls she sat down with her i-pad and instantly saw what I’d done. She was a little skeptical because she doesn’t really enjoy being photographed but within seconds of the video beginning I knew I’d scored a direct hit as her tears started to flow. When she saw any of the family we’d lost her reaction was the same as mine. Her first comment about the video being seven minutes long vanished, as she couldn’t believe it was over so quick. We sat there at the table with tears in our eyes but the girls didn’t seem to notice.  View the video by clicking the photo or here.

Wedding 1995

Her gift to me was also related to our wedding day as she’d gone out and had a 20th Anniversary reunion shirt that mimicked the tour shirts we had made for our wedding party. Only now she added tour dates to the back and she did a list of all the places we’d visited the world over since we’ve been married. I’ve been wearing one of these tour shirts every year on our anniversary for 19 years only this year since we were away from home I’d forgotten to pack it. Now I was able to keep the streak alive with this new shirt. A little reflection is a good thing and it’s especially powerful when there is video to back up that memory.

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Now I’m wondering what I can do for our twenty-fifth anniversary. Actually I already have an idea and the song picked out but I’m sure I’ll leave it to the last minute as usual. It’s been working for me the past couple decades so why change now. Happy Anniversary.




This is it…I think


Volume #8

(A quick note, I’ve skipped over Volume #7 which chronicles the four days of waiting which explains how this post begins)

I wake on Saturday morning and instead of springing from the bed I hit snooze…a couple of times, I have coffee and I walk the dog. What’s the real hurry anyway it’s been three days so far with nothing happening why would I believe yet again this is the day. This is something I’d never read or seen in any video the fact that once the membranes rupture and release the flood they are containing that it can be days before a baby is born. I was always under the impression as false as it may have been that once the water breaks your having a baby, oh how little I know.

I catch the train like I’m going to work and already knowing what they have on the menu I buy some breakfast for JoAnn and I at the hospital coffee shop and report to the third floor room 3338 where I find her resting after a bad night of cramps. They give her the anti biotic drip and their idea of breakfast then they load her into a wheelchair to take the familiar trip downstairs to labor and delivery. We’ve made this trip so often now with so many nurses it’s not daunting at all it’s more routine and our potential excitement is dampened by the disappointment this trip has brought us the past three days. We get bed two which is the first time we’ve had this cubicle in all our trips to the examination room and we set up playing cards and like the past couple days I can’t buy a winning hand. When Dr. Wong finally does come in to examine her there is no surprise till he announces she’s two and a half centimetres dilated and we are all smiles like we just won a free ice cream. We figure another dose of prostin gel and we’ll carry on playing cards upstairs when the doctor tells the nurse to put JoAnn in delivery room 7 and ready the oxytocin drip we’re going to have a baby today.

It’s taken four days to get here but finally we made it into a delivery room and today at some point were going to have a baby…or at least that’s what they’re telling us, I’ll believe it when I can hold it in my arms. They hook up all the baby monitors and pulse monitors to JoAnn and ready the oxytocin drip all the while we’re having fun playing cards (me losing) not really very nervous at all. The first three days of waiting have loosened us up to a point we may actually enjoy this at least neither of us is stressing about it anymore.

Our nurse starts the drip about eleven AM and in no time at all JoAnn is experiencing labor pains. We keep playing cards for a while till she can’t concentrate any longer then she just rocks back and forth in the rocker she’s in like a maniac. They give her nitrogen gas to suck on to help ease the pain but as it turns out it’s really just something to do to focus on because apparently it did nothing for the pain. Me I’ve got my foot on the rocker trying to keep her from flipping the chair she’s pushing back and forth so hard, she doesn’t really want me to hold her hand or touch her for that matter and the happy look she brought into this room is fast being replaced by one of real panic. The contractions can be seen as a spike on the monitor but I can tell when she’s having one by just how hard she’s pushing off in the chair.

Were only an hour and a half into this when she decides she’d like to have the blood work done to have her prepped for an epidural. Not long after that our nurse Maryanne helps get JoAnn onto the delivery bed and the marathon of sweat has begun we’re almost there, the finish line is in site. In all the years we’ve been together and all the activities we’ve done I’ve never seen JoAnn work up such a sweat she was burning up and I took it upon myself to keep getting cool wet washcloths to put on her forehead or the back of her neck. Down the hall from one of the other delivery rooms we can hear a blood-curdling scream and thou we just look at each other I know she’s thinking the same thing I am, is that where we’re headed? She wants that epidural when they check and see she’s over eight centimetres it’s too late she’s told; we’re going to do this commando style now.

There’s little for me to do now and no one has really prepped me for what to do, JoAnn bites down so hard on the nitrogen mask I think she’s going to chew through it and the only thing she thinks to say to me is that she stinks, in this situation her own body odour is what’s worrying her. The smells in the delivery room are very unusual to my nose between her and the fluid that’s pouring out of her with great regularity, I feel the humidity of the room rising and the coldness we noticed when we first got here seems to have been replaced by a humid sweet odour.

Just over three hours after the oxytocin was started we’re ready to start pushing and it strikes me as odd as I always thought there would be a doctor present during the delivery, it’s still just Maryanne and us. Soon enough Dr. Wong does join us but we keep pushing through the contractions taking two new breaths and holding till the contraction passes whether the doctor and nurse are paying attention or not. I know this is all real routine to them but we’re new at this and a little help would be welcomed, at least show a little interest in what’s going on at the bed and not at her chart. They position JoAnn on her side facing me and now it becomes my job to hold her one leg in the air out of the way while she pushes, she’s huffing on the nitrogen like a junkie when they tell her to stop using it as it won’t help now…no kidding.

It doesn’t seem like very long before Ziggy is crowning and I see my boy has a full head of dark hair like his dad, she pushes and pushing each time gaining ground but we seem to have hit a wall when Dr. Wong makes a decision…episiotomy. The E word is something JoAnn feared from the start she even asked about it in the class we took and she held out hope it would never happen to her but here we are and it was the only way, push and tear or the doctor makes a nice clean cut. I could tell she was worried and I reassured her as best I could but at this point she just wanted him out do it, do it now. There was an awful lot of blood, more than I ever imagined and even with the cut made he wouldn’t come out he was stuck, “Houston we have a problem”.

Everything happened so fast but after the last contraction when the baby didn’t come I knew something was happening and they weren’t telling us. The next contraction hits and she’s pushing like never before but he’s still stuck, I hear the nurse make a call on the phone “Code blue” or something like that as Dr. Wong’s face turns white and I think he’s trying to pull the babies head off. The baby’s heart rate is dropping while he’s pulling when the head doctor on duty and a couple more nurses run into the room and pull JoAnn’s legs dam near behind her ears while other nurses push on her stomach it’s an all out effort to get this kid out now and I just watch in awe not really sure what’s happening at all. Finally is a last gush that hits me in the face he’s out and the Pediatrician cuts the cord and steals him away to look over this premature kid who if I’m not mistaken did not come equipped with little boy hardware.

From where they’re working on him I hear nothing, no cries no screaming, nothing at all, it’s the longest ten seconds of my life till I finally hear those lungs fill with air and cry a welcome to the world. To my astonishment and amazement I was correct in noticing my little boy was in fact a little girl Ziggy and with that Kathleen Annika was born weighing in at seven pounds and nineteen inches long with blue eyes and a full head of dark hair. I had a daughter and I was so thrilled and happy I couldn’t help but cry when telling JoAnn, I never really thought it was possible as I was always hoping for a girl and now my wish had come true. I did the ceremonial cutting of the cord or what was left of it, in the emergency of the moment they cut all but the last four inches already; no matter it was a thrill just the same.


The after math of birth they never show you in the video’s and I think the reason why is no one would ever procreate. I was already reeling from the birth and the fact my little boy was actually a girl and now there is the aftermath to contend with, the birth of the placenta went much easier than Kathleen’s entry. I was shocked at the amount of blood and fluid flowing out of JoAnn but a lot of that was a result of the episiotomies.

I brought the now neatly wrapped little Kathleen over to meet her mommy and we all shared a quite moment staring at one another, I was basically speechless as I always wanted a daughter but never ever felt it was in the cards with my families history of boys the past century so I never really verbalized it for fear of jinxing our chances. I’d read that a lot of men have a new found respect for their wives after seeing them give birth and I’d count myself in that group as at this point in my life I’ve never been more impressed with what she’s just gone through for us all. The overwhelming love I feel for her at this moment and for this new little girl cannot be described as I am humbled and in awe. I know there will be no arguments as to who’s doing the cooking or cleaning in the near future. Welcome to the world my new little girl you may now commence to steal my heart…second thought you already have. It’s finally happened, I’m a father.




What sort of Dad will I be?


Volume #4

When you hit that point in the pregnancy where your wife isn’t experiencing morning sickness anymore and she’s just barely starting to show there is a brief moment where your life returns to a pre pregnancy normal though you should be wary of surprise shopping trips. JoAnn had already spent weeks doing research to nail down her choices for baby furniture and even though she knew what she wanted she went through the charade of showing me options and asking my opinion. I tried to act interested, I didn’t even fall asleep as she dragged me from store to store and that was a real chore. Like a good diligent husband I agreed with all her choices for all the same reasoning she put forth, the stuff was good, can we go now? That’s really all you can do at this point is wait it out and work on advanced nesting techniques. All the plans were in motion, she’d picked all the room décor and every weekend we…”when I say we I mean me”, would work on projects in and around our home to prepare the rest of the house for the impending nursery. The problem with our home being some what small was my office was really a walk in closet so now that we had to empty that room. All this stuff had to find a new home somewhere else in our house so all projects were geared at emptying the future nursery. Then we could begin construction of the nursery with a projected completion date by the beginning of August a full six weeks before Ziggy’s estimated arrival date.

While I worked away constructing shelves in the living room round about father’s day I realized this would be the last time this date passed when it was just about me calling my Dad, next year I’d be a father too. It gave me time to pause and think about my own role as a father and I realized my own Dad became a father a lot younger than I am now, I wonder how he handled this? I know he couldn’t have done a lot around the house to help with nesting, as he was never a really a handy sort of guy. Well he was always hand’s on but it was never what you’d call fine carpentry. He was a truck driver with a hammer which suffice to say a lot of swearing was sure to be heard when he had a project on the go. I know I must be doing the job right myself as swearing is one thing I do very well while working on a home improvement projects though I do think I have a little more finesse with my tools than he did at my age. Since retirement he’s gotten quite handy (his word) around their house getting under mom’s feet and messing with things that she figures don’t need messing with. When She made a solo trip to the coast to see us the one saving grace she had while she was here was my father was sick with a bladder infection so he wouldn’t be pulling a “While you were out” and adding an addition with her away for the week.

When I think of my own father I wonder what type of father I will make. As we grow up our prime focus is to not be like our parents but when we take the time to look in the mirror the apple really doesn’t fall too far from the tree does it. I like to think I’m nothing like my father but I see traits about myself that I see in him and let’s face it good or bad it’s who I am.

My father and I had the type of relationship that Harry Chapin sang about in “Cat’s in the Cradle”. Growing up I didn’t see my father a lot as he worked harsh hours, which now that I do the same I understand but at the time you just wonder where’s daddy? Then the weekends were time to relax or maybe we’d go for a daylong road trip, which is something I live for to this day. Nothing exhilarates me more than jumping in the car and driving somewhere, a good road trip no matter what country your visiting is the best vacation I can think of and I have to attribute that to my father.

One of my favorite road trips with my dad had just the two of us traveling to the east coast to PEI and back through Quebec city when I was about twelve or thirteen, I wonder if my father has any idea how much of an impression that trip left. The time we spent fishing at the cottage in Northern Ontario every year from the time I was in diapers till I was in my mid teens left the deepest of impressions on me and I long to go back to that part of the world though I think the scenery had less to do with my memory than who I was enjoying it with I think. All my fondest memories of bonding with my father were on holiday as I have very few fond memories of our home life together. I know we spent more time in the house I grew up in than anywhere else but it seems the routine of everyday life didn’t leave a real impact.

I wonder what sort of things I do now my child will remember when they’re in there mid thirties. Can you plan events that you hope will leave a lasting impact or do you just carry on with life and hope your child doesn’t shut you out? My own parents were never very tactile or outspoken with their feelings but I always knew they loved me though and as a kid I was always looking for that approval from my dad He never really slapped me on the back and said “wait a go” and I don’t think it affected me adversely. I think I’d like to give more verbal positive encourage to young Ziggy than my folks ever gave to me but I don’t think that made them wrong in there parenting technique. I was just the third of three boys so I they’d let me do just about anything by that point since my two brothers had worn them down.

Am I as close to my parents as I’d like to be is hard to say since they live on the other side of the country and for that reason I do actually feel closer to them as we don’t spend much time together so we always try to make it count. I won’t mention the road trip from Jasper a couple years back. Oddly enough my father displayed a trait I’d only ever really associated with myself to that point so it was comforting to know snits run in the family too. I guess if I don’t want Ziggy to be the same I’ll have to cut it out myself…. ok so the kid will have the odd snit doesn’t everyone?

This is my first child and girl or boy I don’t want to mess them up and have them talking to a psychologist years from now blaming everything that’s wrong in their life on their mother or me. I want to do a good job I want to be a super Dad like the one’s you see on TV that can always solve any problem in twenty-two minutes or less but the reality is this is who I am. I am my fathers son and soon enough the cycle will begin again with Ziggy. Will I make mistakes…with out a doubt, will I have regrets for things I do? I’m sure, .…will I be the best father I possibly can? I’ll always try as I know my dad did with me which at the end of the day is all any of us can do. I’ve never been convicted of a crime or done any time, smoked or ever tried drugs and apart from a couple scrapes with the law in my youth due to peer pressure I’ve turned out a pretty solid citizen that contributes to society. You are the person you are because of your parents and I can only hope I can stack up against my own dad as I think he and my mom did a great job with me. That didn’t sound too conceded did it?