Welcome Home at Last


Volume #10

Finally at long last a full four days after after being delivered into the world a full month premature we bring our new little baby girl home. It’s a bit strange we’ve been waiting for this moment nearly eight months now and once she’s in the door what is there really to do. She doesn’t care about the view from any window or the masterwork that has become her room it’s all irrelevant to her and that’s when it hits me this is a different kind of houseguest. Of course this houseguest won’t be leaving for another eighteen years but unlike when friends or family visit your home Kathleen has no concern how nice her new home is as long as it’s warm and her mommy the food supply is close at hand.


Having been held up all day at the hospital awaiting Kate’s Billy Rubin test we don’t come through the front door till after nine PM with neither JoAnn nor I having eaten and just really overwhelmed by the experience of the past eight days. I know that no matter how many times we’re interrupted from sleeping tonight JoAnn will have the first real rest she’s had in a week and as for me this is night one with a new born in the room so I’m set for no rest at all. In my quest to finish the last minute shopping we thought we had another month to achieve I came to a vast realization, why do we need a bassinet? This was one of the items on my baby-shopping list, a bassinet or a Moses basket for our bedroom but after spending over four hundred dollars on a stroller/carriage/car seat combo I figured why can’t the baby sleep in this. After all she’ll only be a month or so in our room till we move her to her own crib and it’s not like she can really go anywhere, JoAnn agreed so we set the stroller into it’s flat sleeper mode and lined it with warm fuzzy fleece blankets and put her down for the night.


Unlike JoAnn I was unaccustomed to being woken at all hours by the cries of a hungry baby so sleep was sporadic the first couple nights while we slowly learned what to expect from our little girl, or rather while I learned. JoAnn was far more in tune with Katie already and on the first grumbling before she even really began to cry she was up to tend to her. I always suspected she would make a great mom but even now at this early stage I was amazed at how well she was adapting. Me on the other hand, I’d never baby sat kids before other than my niece and nephew and they weren’t babies at the time. I had no experience with babies in fact I’d shied away from them my entire life so I wondered if I was at all qualified to be called a father, surely this was going to be a much steeper learning curve for me.


Katie seemed to us to be suckling well and sleeping lots not fussing much and we patted ourselves on the back for having a wonderfully easy going baby, that was until the public health nurse made her first home visit a week later. Her first comment was Kathleen was still very jaundiced looking which we had noticed but thought would pass in time, she’d also lost nearly 10% of her birth weight which is the maximum they will let it go before they think there is a problem. Another Billy Rubin was ordered and the test result was higher than when she was still in hospital and her pediatrician wanted her readmitted right away. Of course I found out about all this on the phone as I’d gone back to work. What worried me was the emotional JoAnn was calling not the comfortable at home mommy I was getting to know the past week. I’m not sure if she thought she’d done something wrong but it just came across that way she felt she’d broken our daughter and failed as a mother to notice her child was sick. Neither of us did and that’s why there is a public health nurse to look in on newborns and their incompetent overwhelmed new parents.


I drove the two of them back to the hospital, as JoAnn would be staying the night on a cot next to Katie to feed her and watch her bake under the blue lights again while I went home alone again after only a week with the two of them. As it turned out the doctors were able to figure out JoAnn wasn’t producing enough milk yet to satisfy Katie and even though she suckled well and long she wasn’t getting enough nourishment. It’s a vicious cycle really Katie doesn’t get enough food she’ll develop jaundice but you don’t know how much food she’s getting on the breast you just assume she’s getting enough as long as she’s suckling. So it was formula for Katie and pills to help ramp up JoAnn’s production and after one night and day away basking under the blue lights they were released home again. All indications had her Billy Rubin numbers falling and on the bottle they knew she was getting plenty of food so they took a chance on letting us be parents again.


I personally was never really that worried, I never had a real fear of doom that she wouldn’t get through this early hiccup in her development but I was less sure about JoAnn. She was more worried than I’d ever seen her less sure of herself and when she asked me if I’d call my mom to see if she’d be interested in flying west for a visit I knew she needed some reassurance. She was doing everything she could and doing it right she just wanted someone to tell her she was doing it right and what better person than a retired pediatric nurse. I think in a perfect world if didn’t have to work to put food on the table I might have been able to help shoulder more of the burden JoAnn felt but the reality of the situation meant one of us had to work.


Imagine my surprise when I drop the invite on my mom expecting her in a week or two she flies in the next day. Kathleen was not her first grandchild rather her forth but it was however the first new one she’d had in over twelve years and she was as excited as anyone to see her plus she’d be the first in the family. There are both good and bad aspects to having family live far away and I guess over the next month we were about to find out as we were booked up with back to back family visits. My mother is the only one requested by JoAnn and it seemed to do the trick to settle her down, she didn’t do anything different than she was already doing but with my mother not critizing her she knew she was doing fine. That’s the good thing about my mom she never forces her views on you, only giving careful advice where she see’s fit, the next month would not prove as simple as everyone else seemed to have advice on how to raise Katie and were less discriminating in sharing their views.


Once my mother flew home we finally had a week to get used to this whole being a parent thing and seemed to get into a grove but with Katie’s demanding feeding schedule of every three hours JoAnn was not getting much sleep. I picked up the slack on the weekends trying to let her sleep and getting up to service the baby and sometimes I even pulled it off but on other occasions JoAnn would come to the rescue of an inept dad floundering way over his head. I found it quite frustrating not being able to quell Katie’s cries the way JoAnn could just by picking her up. They did spend a lot more time together and she was mom. Really who was this hairy guy she didn’t know changing her diaper in the middle of the night and trying to feed her a bottle without burping her. I mean really what do you think? of course she’s going to throw it all up on you. I think the oddest thing was I didn’t mind hearing her cry and I loved just walking around holding her as she cried but this always brought JoAnn out after a minute or two as her mothering instinct to sooth her child would not let her sleep while her idiot husband tortured her child letting her cry. To me it was like music, just hearing this little voice I had a small part in helping create still floored me. I was just overwhelmed by the love I felt for this small very vocal package and still found it hard to believe I was a father.


I may not know anything at all about how to raise her but it didn’t matter I’d learn. The important thing was she was here. It seemed like not that long ago we found out we were pregnant and now here she is, my little girl in my arms crying for her mother. It’s been a long journey to get here, thirteen years with JoAnn and me not really sure I ever wanted to be a father really but now so glad we made the decision to do this. It’s truly the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. She’s healthy and I’m determined to make her happy and if she’ll be patient with me I’ll even learn how to be a competent father as long as her mom doesn’t kill me first. Standing in the darkness of our living room with her in my arms as the sun rises I pledge to her to be the best Dad I can be and I give her a little kiss I am truly humbled and proud she’s my little girl and she’s what I’ve always wanted in this life. It took me a while to get to this moment but now that it’s here I won’t trade it for anything, welcome home Kathleen.


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.

IMG_0406 IMG_0407

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.




Blue Light Special and the Yellow Baby


(Written as a post script to the events that happened just after our first daughters birth in 2003. It’s hard for me to even recall the events and emotions I felt at that time so I’m glad I kept this record)

Volume #9

So now I’m a father with all the responsibilities and rewards that go along with that title and right out of the gate we have problems. Our brand new daughter has shoulder dystocia, which happened during the difficult last couple minutes of birth when Kathleen’s heart rate was dropping and the doctor did what he had to do to save her life and get her out into the world. The end result is a left arm that has no mobility as the nerves too it were damaged or in a worst case scenario severed but she is able to grip things in her hand so there is hope she may recover some if not all function in her arm. Were greeted by a physiotherapist that gives us a series of exercises to perform on her once a day, the reason being to keep her young muscles working while the nerves work on developing and regenerating.

Just in case that wasn’t enough they give our little girl a blood test called a Billy Rubin which indicates to them the presence of jaundice which would also explain the yellowish color in her eyes and mouth. I’ve heard the word jaundice before and know it’s some sort of liver aliment that turns the patient yellow but short of that I know nothing, it can’t kill her can it? Again the doctors give us the worst-case scenario of liver failure due to her premature arrival but assure us that with preemies this is normal. Her young liver may or may not be ready for full-time processing duty but given a little time she’ll probably come around. I wanted to ask what happens if it doesn’t but was more afraid of the blunt answer I’d hear so I kept quite. Here we think we have this perfect little girl she sleeps lots doesn’t cry a lot is pretty lethargic while awake which we find out is all bad. Already we’re having problems and we haven’t even left the building yet, are we really ready for this?

In order to remedy the jaundice the pediatrician has ordered light therapies, which were told, is painless and can happen in JoAnn’s room so she can stay close by and still breast feed her as needed. It’s just a rolling stand with a light unit holding four blue fluorescent lights that is positioned directly over her crib, Katie is given time on her back and tummy at regular intervals like cooking a roast in an oven. They cover her eyes with gauze than place a headband on her head to hold the gauze in place, they also take off her diaper and fashion a sterile mask on her bottom like a string bikini. They place a clear plastic lid on the clear plastic crib she’s in and ta -da you’ve got the blue light special “shake and bake baby”. She only cries a little and before you know it she’s fast asleep in the warmth of her little cocoon her arms over her head enjoying the rays as if she were laying on a beach in Hawaii.


Kathleen is two days old and she’s got a seemingly endless staff of doctors and nurses looking in on her and two overwhelmed concerned new parents that were not prepared for this sort of start to her life. I think JoAnn and I both saw us having a healthy child and in two days heading home to our new life together much like the couple in the next bed did earlier that day but fate had something else on it’s mind for us. Our first test as parents was upon us and neither of us studied this chapter “your newborn with health problems”.

On top of this I have nurses casually asking me about JoAnn’s mental state as they notice she’s pretty emotional which I agree she is. Is she freaked out? “Yes”, is she emotional? “Yes”, is she upset? “Yes”, by all accounts the staff was just doing their job but after thirteen years I think I know my wife. After four days in the hospital leading up to the birth with an IV every four hours day or night plus stuck on the same ward unable to leave she was already going a little stir crazy. She just needed to be at home where she was in control of her own life. Being as JoAnn is usually the one organizing other’s lives when she’s at work she was not wholly used to the idea of having little to no say in what she could do or where she could do it. It bothered me to see her this wound up and I set out to try to relive her tension. If they wouldn’t let her go home I’d bring our home to her.

Hospital food being what it is we’d been bringing in take out every night and after six days of this we both needed a change so I went out picked up some supplies and went home and made her some of our favorite foods, BBQ chops and grilled veggies and packed them up with our own cutlery and dishes and brought the whole works to the hospital for a picnic. My somewhat romantic gesture had it’s intended effect and it brought JoAnn’s mood up to a point where through all the stress of the situation we faced I could see she was still the same happy girl I married eight years earlier and I knew once we were home she’d be fine. Apparently my gesture did not go un-noticed as it was all the talk around the nurse’s station and I think I inadvertently put a lot of pressure on all the other husbands visiting their wives.

The next morning after a pretty good night with spirits up we had the wind knocked out of us again when the pediatrician visited Kathleen and told us her Billy Rubin number from that morning’s test was actually higher than when they first diagnosed the jaundice. He had one look at the light set up and told the nurse it was all wrong as the clear lid all but counter acts the effect of the light thus rendering the past twenty-four hours of treatment useless. The nurse that originally set up the light was there and our feelings were very easy to read, we were quite upset that our daughter had been getting worse right in front of us because someone didn’t know how to administer the light therapy properly. I made no bones about how mad I was and JoAnn tried to calm me down while she became very emotional, we were both out of control we just manifested it in different ways. It’s about now another nurse asks me about JoAnn’s emotional state and I tell her it’s not her but me you better worry about because I was ready to hurt someone.

It’s not to say I take postpartum depression lightly in fact Kathleen’s name sakes older brother, my great-uncle experienced it to the maximum degree in the 1940’s when his wife smothered their new-born then committed suicide but I didn’t feel we were anywhere close to this ourselves. I just needed to get JoAnn home where she could be surrounded by her own things and make plans for herself and where she could sleep in our own bed, if they didn’t release her today I didn’t know what she’d do but I knew she was at her breaking point, any reasonable person would be. The nurse who set up the light felt terrible and quite honestly she did what she thought was right, I just wish the doctor hadn’t waited a full day before checking that his orders were being carried out correctly.

After a few hours of moping around the room and counseling one another looking at our little girl again under the lights (correctly set up this time) I left for a walk to find a coffee. I took a long walk and tried to figure out what I could do to help JoAnn through another night in the hospital. I felt as if I let her down blowing up in the nursery in front of a group of nursing students and though I felt vindicated to do so I was ashamed. I wasn’t there to help her I forced her to try to calm me when truly she was the one under more stress having just given birth, a new mom with a sick child and stuck in the hospital herself. I came and went as I pleased, spent every night at home and truly failed in my role as support to her. It just proves to me that women are a lot stronger than men ever give them credit for.

When I finally return in a few hours still pretty down on myself I find the JoAnn of old happy and up beat packing her bag as Kathleen’s Billy Rubin numbers are headed down dramatically they decided to let them go home, maybe it was my threat that scared them but no matter they were both being released. That is provided Katie passes her child seat stress test, which my little girl does with out so much as a peep as she’s ready to go home to.

So now we find ourselves in new territory as we say goodbye to the nurses that took care of them the past eight days and the second roommate she’s had in a week and we walk off the ward as a family for the first time. I’ve come and gone so often out of the hospital I forget this is the first time in a week JoAnn has gone down this elevator and actually left the building. At long last we were all finally going home, a moment I’ve been waiting for but still can’t believe is finally here. We could hardly contain our joy as we left the hospital and strapped Katie into the car for the very first time for her first ever car ride. We knew the coming days, weeks, months and years were to be full of firsts but this was the first of all firsts us leaving as a family as we set out to begin this new chapter in our lives.

What’s the Story?

06/02 /2015

Volume #216

You know those calls you get from time to time that you really don’t want but inevitably they always ring. I’m not just talking about telemarketers during dinnertime but rather that calls that bring the bad news that someone you know has died. Last Friday it was actually a text from my sister-in-law Ann letting us know her dad Harold had passed. Not entirely a surprise as he’s been in the hospital and this was the weekend they as a family were going to need to make some hard choices about his future since he wasn’t making any progress. He took the pressure off their shoulders and made it easy which is I guess the role of a father or parent, taking the pressure off their kids and he did this right up till the end. The second you get this sort of news you immediately reflect back to the last time you saw the dearly departed. For me I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time with Harold and his wife Alma last summer at my mom’s 80’s birthday open house. I certainly didn’t get to have any deep discussion but it was sure nice getting a bit caught up and I was ever so glad that he got a chance to meet all my girls.


Back in the 90’s when I was in my first home in Niagara Falls I saw an awful lot of Harold, usually cake or presents were involved. His grandchildren are also my niece and nephew and we were always on the same guest list for any family function my brother and sister-in-law put on. I can honestly say I had the great privilege to learn a lot from him. I was at the very beginning of my handyman life and he was closing in on about 50 years into his so he had lots wisdom to share. Both my brother and I listened and learned and I know we’re both better off in our ability twenty years on from his suggestions.

Version 2

Alma and Harold Barnes August 2014

These moments in life always leave you with the feeling you wish you’d said more, or visited more often. I was ever so pleased that I do have a great photo from that day last August of both Harold and his wife. I don’t know if it was the last one taken of them together but they both look great on this day and I’m glad to have it. I always hate when I realize later I missed a photo opportunity. At that same party last summer I never found the time to get a photo with a few old friends, which I regret. Even last week when JoAnn’s Dad took off back east after a couple of weeks here in BC did I realize I never got a photo of both him and his wife with all the girls. It’s not just about the photo book I create each Christmas for family but rather I’m trying to keep an ongoing record of the girls with their extended family. Right now these photos may mean very little to them but an inconvenience in having to smile but in a few decades one of these photos might mean the world to them when the people in the photo are no longer reachable at the end of a phone. I think of photos of myself with my dad and I have two from when I’m still a boy and we’re holding fish up at the cottage. I have one of my two brothers and I all being sworn into the union with dad in a suit as proud as proud can be. The only photo I have of myself with both my parents is on my wedding day, twenty years ago this summer. I had thirteen more years after that event to grab another photo with them both but I never did. I still remember when my parents left my house to head for the airport after Thanksgiving 2007. My dad shook my hand as he left which was a bit out of character for him and I watched from the front porch as they backed out of our driveway and waved as they drove out of view. I had no way of knowing that was the last time I’d ever see my dad alive. I don’t think I took one photo of either of them during that last visit together. Regret I didn’t call for a photo just before he left?….maybe just a little. Yet here I just let JoAnn’s dad do the exact same thing seven years later, you’d think I’d learn. The moral here is to always take that photo when you have the chance. It doesn’t really matter at all if they protest at the suggestion of a photo, just do yourself a favour and make it happen. You have no idea how much you’ll miss the photo you didn’t take for years and regret is something that can actually be avoided.

S&J Wedding

Our wedding August 16th 1995 and the last photo I took with both my parents.

I think the other important factor with photos is to take the time to put names on the back or at the very least a date. My wish would be for a story of what’s going on because again years from now someone who cares about you is going to come across old photos and they’ll have no idea why you took it or why it was important enough to capture that moment. Last summer I was going through a shoebox of old photo’s from my late grandmother at my mom’s. It was interesting to see my grandparents as a couple my age or younger, out on the town with friends. I recall my grandmother telling me stories about these days every summer up at the cottage but do you think I recall any of those stores now? I know my grandfather was a bit of a pool and card shark and they called him Hap in those days, short for Happy since he always had such a happy disposition. Something I totally understand as I rarely ever saw him upset. My grandmother told me about the other couples they rolled with back in those days…The Bozo’s I believe was one of them. That name sort of did stick with me. Now here I was years later looking at this great photo from the late forties or early fifties of my grandparents all dressed up, drinks in hand, lots of pigment in their hair unlike the white hairs I knew them as growing up. Everyone looking right at the camera, obviously a bit drunk and I had no idea what year it was or who the other couples were. I can imagine this is the photo that goes with the half story I still recall being told as a boy but that was over three decades ago.   When my grandmother had gotten this photo developed if she had scratched “Dance Club on James Street Hamilton with the Bozo’s New Years 1948” I’d be able to fill in the rest. If I knew who else was in the photo I can guarantee their ancestors would also love to see this photo. It’s bad enough that all our personal memories are lost when we die if we didn’t take the time to share them but it’s almost worse to leave a photo with no back-story for someone to wonder about. Not everyone wants to be Sherlock and try to solve the mystery you left behind.

My grandparents are the centre couple at the table.


It took Facebook and a chance meeting with a guy named Trevor in Northern Ireland dropping by the page I created for my ancestral home in Tipperary to answer the nagging question of who was in a photo I’d had hanging in my living room for decades. I knew it was a family member since it came from my mother’s house but anyone who knew who this couple in the photo from the turn of the last century might be was already gone themselves. Mom just knew it had to be important since it was in with her grandmother’s photos from when they immigrated to Canada. Trevor told me his great-great grandparents names, which were in turn the same as mine. It turned out his great grand mother was my great grandfathers sister. When I shared this photo with him (which had been taken in Belfast, Trevor’s home town) he was able to immediately confirm this couple was his great grandparents. For over two decades I’ve been looking at that photo and finally I was able to put names to the faces. Really would it have been so hard to do that at any time during the 100 odd  years since this photo was taken for someone who recognized them to put that on the back?

Eleanor Nina Trant and her husband Rev. Richard Herbert Nash

My Great grandfathers older sister Eleanor Nina Trant with her husband 1870?


I guess the real moral of the story here is to be sure to give your photos a back story and some depth otherwise it’s just a cool old photo of someone you never met that you may or may not be related to doing something interesting. A few months ago JoAnn took the extraordinary steps to fly east to go through my mom’s home with my sister-in-law just to photograph and document the stories to go along with all the artifacts she’s collected in her life. God forbid anything should happen but mom is turning 81 this year and it’s best to capture these details when the only person who knows the story is still fully cognizant and most importantly still with us. We just want to make sure that when the time comes to downsize the house or when putting her affairs in order that anything that my folks picked up at an auction sale is not given the same status as an actual family heirloom. Pieces connected to the family help tell the story and give a tangible connection to the past for ancestors in the future. It’s sort of a time machine in a way. It’s interesting to hold something you know some one else in your family purchased a hundred years ago. When we took a handful of postcards my family brought with them in 1909 back to Ireland it was fascinating to find those locations now. It took three trips to Ireland and seven years before I could actually piece together the complete story these postcards told. All taken from different vantage points on the coast of the town of Tramore they last lived in, all the postcards were pointing towards the same high bluff coastline where their last home “Seaville” stood. The fact it was no longer there made tracking it much harder but if anyone had taken the time to explain on the back of any one of a dozen postcards what they looked at I would have known right away.


In this digital age when we all have a camera in our pockets at all times it’s easy to just shoot and shoot but never really capture anything. I know I myself have close to fifty thousand photos on my hard drive taken mostly in the past decade. My parents used to shoot one 12 exposure roll a year, on a big year maybe they’d used a 24 exposure and we’d see two Christmas turkeys and a bunch of fish. It’s just so easy to capture every moment but in a hundred years without a bit of context you’ll have just left tens of thousands of questions instead of the dozens I’ve inherited and those took years to solve. Just think of your great-great grandchildren trying to figure why you took so many photos of a cat. Take the time right now to write Fluffies name on the back along with the year. Tell a story in a coupe words why Fluffy was so important. Believe me your ancestor’s are going to thank you and that story will actually be just as valuable, even more so then the photos you leave behind.

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.




Memory Lane Triggered


Volume #214

The human brain is a truly wondrous machine. Alan Turing knew this all to well back in the 40’s when he devised his test to see if a human interrogator could tell the difference from responses from a machine or a human being. Pretty ahead of the curve when the computer was still a relative unknown outside of his own mind (It’s also a very good movie “ The Imitation Game”). Hard to even imagine life today without one especially since they pretty much run everything. Sky-net and judgment day may not be such a fictional idea after all.


My own views of the marvels of the human brain come mostly through interactions with my girls as they are putting things together. Watching them figure something out be adding up information they’ve accumulated over time is pretty remarkable. I will never forget a few years ago when all the news was reporting N1H1 flu virus and Kate’s final analysis. She was about 7 or 8 at the time and she figured if she got sick the likely hood was that she was going to die. That’s what they kept reporting on the news, focusing in on the deaths. You can get a virus via contact as it makes it’s way into your body so for a few days she stopped swallowing. That was her final solution; if she didn’t swallow she couldn’t get infected which meant she would not die. It’s a pretty sound assessment for a 7 year old. The problem being when you don’t want to swallow at school you will get sent to the office for continuously spitting on the floor. It was the first time I witnessed one of my girls add up all the information they’d collected from different sources to arrive at an apparent conclusion. As wrong as she may have been it was interesting to see how her young mind worked. I won’t even go into detail how she dealt with the E-coli outbreak last year.


I like to think my cognitive skills are a bit more advanced then that by my age but still I wonder at what the human brain can do with the flick of an invisible switch. Case in point, last week I was on my bike riding a 10KM course around our neighborhood on streets and trails I see a few times a week (weather permitting). This was the first really warm day we’d seen in a few weeks and I was out at the peak of the mid afternoon heat. I turned off the main road onto a small side road where I passed the cattle farm with very familiar farm aroma of fresh manure. This transitions to a single lane road that runs along side a creek, which eventually leads me to a pedestrian trial alongside this same creek. This paved trial was once the same single-track road I was just on but it had been closed to car traffic years ago when a new subdivision went in. Just a little ways up it was also the site of a couple scenes from the film Jumanji as was the afore mentioned cattle farm. At that exact moment as I approached the barricade to the trial I was hit with the smell of creosote covered lumber baking in the sun. A familiar smell to most of us but in an instant it triggered a memory far from my current location and thoughts during the middle of my ride. I was instantly standing on a dock as a boy with a fishing pole in my hand with my grandfather just a short ways down the dock on my right and my father to my left. We were at a place called Low Island in the town of Little Current on the largest freshwater Island in the world called Manitoulin Island. The stupid thing was that Low Island wasn’t really an Island at all; at least it had never been in all the years I’d been summering there. It was really just a peninsula but what’s in a name really. The dock it’s self was covered with this same creosote tar I smelt on my ride and you always had to be careful where you sat on a hot day otherwise you’d have a blotch on your shorts that mom just couldn’t get out. I think what shocked me was the clarity of the image in my memory and how quickly it came to me when I hadn’t been on that dock in decades. As I pedaled further on up the trail I was having all sorts of memories of that favorite fishing spot on the North Channel of Lake Huron facing another small Island called Picnic Island.


We came here to fish nearly every day on our vacations to Manitoulin for decades. Sometimes we skipped it if we had a fishing boat and the weather was good but for the most part my grandfather never liked to skip dipping a line here in the afternoon from that dock. For me my memories of this place span decades and it all flashed through my mind just on the simple trigger of that smell of creosote. There was me in the water swimming with my mask and snorkel under the dock looking for lures lost over the years. The dock we now stood on was built on the crumbling deck of the previous dock and so on and so on. I even recall the one year we arrived with the water so high we couldn’t get out too our favorite spot on the dock without boots. It’s been a few decades since I visited this place so I can only imagine what it looks like now. Thanks to the help of Google earth I was able to see where we once fished from was now no longer connected to the main dock that is still maintained. So my memories are sort of marooned offshore to a place I could never again visit unless I felt like getting really wet.

Pop 90

My grandfather standing on the dock at Low Island circa 1984.

What I was revelling in was the amount of varied imagines of this place that flooded into my head like silent movies only I could see, no time stamp as in all these images I couldn’t see myself to gage the year since it was from my eyes and the people in them like my grandfather never seemed to age. My grandmother was sitting in the car in the parking lot at Low Island reading a book as she always did. She never came out on the dock ever, but she always wanted to come along for the ride and the change of scenery from the cottage I suppose. My dad teaching me how to cast with my first rode off that dock as a boy. All these memories flooded my mind triggered by the smell of some tar-covered wood. I wish there was a way to actually download these sorts of images to a hard drive to share with people because other then a few holiday snap shots I have very few actual photo’s from this place. It doesn’t make the memories any less important by not having a photo to recount the moment and maybe that even makes the memory even stronger, I don’t know. I’ve got hard drives with tens’ of thousands of digital images of the girls so pretty much every step of their growth has been documented. I wonder if any moment in their lives won’t have a digital image to mark the occasion


Me and my dad circa 1975 with a fish I caught off that dock.


In the seventies during the era of the photo mat and cartridge film cameras we generally only took photos at Christmas and during our holidays to the Island. Many years when we finally paid to have the film developed we’d see two Christmas turkeys and a bunch of fish all in the same envelope full of prints. The only other people I could even hope to share this recollection with that may have the same emotional connection to this dirty old dock are now dead. They are just the moving images of friendly faces smiling at me during my flashback. Even if they were alive that still doesn’t mean this location meant anything to them other then a place we went fishing. It’s a precious moment from my youth but it might have meant very little to them. With all the photo’s I have in my possession it’s the ones only I have access too that are the most precious. It’s a bit sad to think when we eventually die all these thoughts and memories go with us. I wonder if someone could develop a Turing like test that was able to transfer the emotion a personal memory triggers to another person. Maybe someone will invent this in my lifetime. I guess I’m doing the next best thing trying to transfer this memory to you who read this but it’s not quite the same as having been there yourself. If you’ve never been to this Island in Northern Ontario it really won’t mean so much with no shared experience of a place. I guess that’s why when you share a memory of a popular destination with someone else who’s visited the same place as well there is an instant connection. We might both be sharing thoughts about a place but we were never there at the same time so it’s just the location you’re reflecting on not the shared experiences of the place and what it meant to you. Each person has their own memory they just happened to be at the same spot on earth.

Gran and Pop

My grandparents standing in front of the last cottage we ever stayed in on one of the last summers they ever spent here. 1988


I’ve tried to share this place with many of the people I care about in my life by bringing them to the Island to experience it for themselves. I’d like to think it left a mark on their memory but it’s probably nothing like my own memory of the place. Even though I haven’t been there myself in over 20 years, four people I’d still like to share Manitoulin with are of course my kids. I hope to one-day take them and I hope they’ll  soak up a bit of the magic that truly transformed their father’s life. After spending all my formative years vacationing in this place with my family for the better part of two decades it will always hold a dear place in my heart. It also apparently has a lighting connection to my brain when the correct nose trigger sets off a flood of memories. Somehow I’m sure it will be the same bored yawns from the back seats we heard last summer when we took the time to tour the girls through both their mother and my hometowns. Because they’d spent no time there it meant nothing to them and they weren’t at all interested in hearing stories about their parents youth. They perked up a bit when locations connected to the people they were named for came to light but even that was fleeting. I guess I won’t know for decades how the girls perceive their surroundings and if certain sights or smells trigger fond memories. I’m not sure what social media will look like or what plans Google has for connecting all data in our lives may look like so maybe all memories will have an image. I guess once they get cameras installed in everyone’s eyes then everything we see will be accessible.


Till that time arrives I’ll just marvel at the power of the human brain and it’s ability to blind side you with a trip down memory lane you had no intention of taking. Especially when I’m already in the middle of a bike ride. Maybe I’m going to have to call that unnamed trail on my ride “memory lane” because it certainly fits.

What do you mean you’re in the hospital?


Volume #6


In this volume I planed to write about the last finishing touches to the nursery, stocking it with supplies and making last minute preparations while we watched the clock tick down to JoAnn’s due date. That’s what I was planning but that’s not what I’m going to write here, something funny happened on the way to typing this memory out, in a mini van running around town a phone rang. Actually it was my boss on a radio telling me to turn my cell phone on as JoAnn was going to call me. His voice was ramped up so I knew it was serious and since we had a paralyzed cat dying at home I feared the worst, through the tears and sobbing I deciphered “my water broke”, this was Wednesday morning. Now guys if your driving when you hear this all I can recommend is you pull over till your heart stops racing and figure out a clear course of action before you set off racing across town. “Where are you? You’re at the hospital good, how did you get there? You drove yourself…. You did what?” My wife never seizes to amaze me, her water breaks my cell is off so she calls her doctor who tells her to come in which she does driving herself in the frantic freaked out state she was in.


Now you have to remember we are still over four weeks from her due date we thought we had lots of time left and though all the lists and plans we made in preparation for Ziggy’s arrival not once did it ever cross our minds that this kid would show up early. It never occurred to me, we both make our livings in jobs where schedules and timetables are the basis for everyday life and we made the mistake of trying to put Ziggy on the same schedule too, well I guess we both forgot to fax him a copy that had her arriving in mid September because he was coming to dinner early.


Once I calmed down a bit I started to drive across town towards the hospital and wouldn’t you know it I got behind two little old ladies having a drag race to see who could get to the next red light last, I think I hit every red light on the way, lights I’d never seen red changed color and I felt my blood begin to boil. Relax I told myself remember the pre natal class we have hours before delivery after the water breaks. I was thinking of all the things we hadn’t done that were on the agenda for the weekend, all the major purchases were done but we had a couple big ticket items left still and we hadn’t even really considered packing a bag to have at the ready for when this moment finally did arrive. As I drove with my mind racing I figured I needed to make a plan so I called the hospital to ask how JoAnn was and what sort of time I had or if the baby was on it’s way now. As I suspected I had a little time so I carried on home after finally getting past the little old lady drag team and started to pack a bag for JoAnn and the baby.


I figured this should be easy we’ve traveled lots I know what she packs and I quickly stuffed some of her favorite things in her suitcase, I then went into the nursery to gather up some stuff for Ziggy already knowing what the hospital would provide from our tour I figured this would be easy. I grabbed diapers and receiving blankets and a bunch of cloths all of which were brand new on hangers with the tags still on them as washing them was a future plan, I left the tags on and stuffed them in, then I see a couple store bags on the floor. I inspect the contents to find post pregnancy nursing cloths; of course you idiot and I promptly dump the contents of the bag out on the floor and start loading in all these new cloths for JoAnn also with the tags still on them. In her bathroom I’m lost I don’t know what she’ll want so like a guy I take what I would pack a hair brush, tooth brush and a tube of toothpaste.


As the van I’m driving is a work vehicle I leave it on the street for my replacement to find and I make my way a half block to the skytrain station which only one stop later stops at the hospital. I’m excited and would love to yell out “MY WIFE’S HAVING A BABY” but I refrain and quietly board with the other passengers. I don’t sit, I can’t sit I’m too wound up I’m about to become a father and it really hits me what’s about to happen. I knew this day would come but even when you plan every last detail to still get blindsided like this was a shock. I’m just glad I set August 1st not September as the completion date for the nursery. Earlier in the week JoAnn started buying supplies for the room and she thought she’d budget herself to one store per week as she’d already found out the best places to buy everything she needed and had lists for all the stores but I said “the heck with it buy it all use the credit cards we’ll pay it at the end of the month, I’d rather have it in the house then have to scramble for it later” this was no time to be cheap, one of the smartest decisions I’ve made in years other wise it would be me out there doing the shopping and that just wouldn’t be pretty.


At the time I wasn’t all that keen on the hospital tour I just saw it as stealing a Monday evening at home away from me but truly it was great as when I walked through the front door I knew exactly where the elevator was which floor to stop at and how to snake my way through the hallway to the labor and delivery ward with out asking anyone, as if I’d stop to ask directions come on I’m a guy I’d just wander aimlessly till I found it but I knew where I was going and was thankful of that.


At Royal Columbian Hospital they have a room with four beds where they do there inspection and asses the patient as to how far along they are and set out a course of action, this was where I found JoAnn in bed number 1. She was freaked out scared and emotional and I knew I needed to be the rock to support her; we were in big trouble that was for sure. Once she’d updated me on what she knew was going on, her doctor at the clinic upstairs sent her here I was berated for having my cell phone off while she told me the tale of how she finally got a hold of me. She called her union hall to get the number for my shows production office then she got connected to my boss whom she knew would have some sort of radio contact with me who did just that and finally I got the call almost an hour after her water had broke but in my defense her due date was over a month away I shouldn’t be getting this call now but this was no time to argue.


The doctor did his inspection releasing another gush of water which freaked me out this time and his recommendation was we’d wait twenty four hours then reassess her condition to see if labour had begun on it’s own and just like that he was gone and JoAnn was sent upstairs to the maternity ward where she was like a couple other woman with out baby’s waiting to deliver. Or in her case waiting for her thirty-five week cervices to realize her membranes had ruptured and her premature baby was anxious to make his debut. We knew we weren’t going to be parents today which was good we got another night to collectively get ready for tomorrow and besides who wants to be born on the thirteenth? Sooner or later your birthday will land on a Friday not that we’re suppositious but the fourteenth had a nicer ring to it. Had this happened the day before it would have been on our eighth wedding anniversary. I also was driving the creator of the show I was working on to the airport the day before. It was JoAnn’s favorite writer Stephen King and when he found out my wife was due on Sept 19th (his birthday) he asked if I would name the child after him. Steve wasn’t that far of a stretch so I agreed. I guess I’ll have to get word to him I wouldn’t be fulfilling his request.


For now we were in a holding pattern, she wasn’t in labor but she couldn’t leave as they had her on a antibiotic drip every four hours so I set off to finish the shopping and get the last couple things we really needed before the baby arrived tomorrow. I was convinced we were having a boy not just because of the predominates of boys and lack of girls born in my family the past century but only a boy would show up early, I was always on time, it was my job and it was obvious Ziggy was a lot like his dad. I looked forward to meeting him tomorrow and I set off to find out where JoAnn parked the car and do some last minute shopping. It was going to be a long night for all of us.

Stranger Danger


Volume #212

I knew it was bound to happen but you never really see these sorts of things coming. JoAnn asks me, “If a guy you don’t know offers to buy you candy what would you do”? It’s a loaded question from the get go, I just didn’t know where she was going with it when she asked. Of course there is only one correct answer and when I saw the sheepish look on Kate’s face when she heard my answer confirming her mothers it was obvious she made the wrong call. She and her good friend walked down to a local store that sells candy. They had a about a dollar each which was more then enough to satisfy their quest for sweets. When they arrived back home with cash in hand all proud of themselves they had a bit of a rude awakening. Apparently an older gentleman in the store at the time had purchased the candy for them. They just thought he was a nice guy but hadn’t really put together all the things either of their mothers had been telling them for years. Do NOT ACCEPT CANDY FOR STRANGERS. (Yes, this is what they meant and when that statement comes into play). They both said he seemed nice enough but when asked if they knew the man they had to confess they did not and had never before seen him. Thus he fits into the category of STRANGER.


Now we’re not the type of parents to panic right away, OK one of us isn’t. JoAnn called the store to speak to the clerk to query her but she was already gone for the day. Luckily one of Emma’s best friends parents are both police officers so a friendly conversation could be had without over reacting and actually making the call to the police. After all there is the chance it was just a nice grandfatherly older man from a different era that just didn’t see the harm in buying some treats for a couple young girls. When I was a kid we were never taught to fear or suspect strangers and we would have been over joyed if someone ever bought us candy.   Kate is nearly twelve so you’d think she’s have used better judgment but even she told us she though it may have been wrong but they weren’t on the street, they were in the store with the clerk right there so they felt it was OK. I can see her argument but that’s how these things start. The kind older gentleman who see’s you next walking home from school stops his car to talk and you recognize him from the store, (no longer a stranger) and he offers you a ride home then who knows what happens next. That’s the stranger danger your mother has been warning you about. It was the first time I had that pang that being the father of girls is going to be a lot more complex then I thought. As I dropped their sister off at Sparks later that evening I saw a police cruiser in the parking lot of the arena and I nearly went over to talk to him but decided we needed to first hear from that clerk and talk to our parent police officer friends before any real investigation happened. We may live in a sleepy bedroom community but not that many months ago by a ravine between our home and the friend Kate was with in the candy store a guy tried to pull a woman into the woods but she got away and screamed for help. That’s less then a 1 KM from our home as is this candy shop the girls were visiting so you can’t say it can’t happen here.


The conversation JoAnn had with the store clerk the next day at least confirmed this was merely a case of a kind-hearted man in the wrong era. A local grandfather who plays lotto all the time at the store always leaves some of his winnings with the clerks to be distributed to any kids buying candy. Normally this is 100% anonymous but on this occasion the kind gentleman was there to see it happen. Apparently he was a bit embarrassed, as he’s not looking for recognition. It’s kind of sad that a good-natured gesture in this day in age has to be treated with suspicion but that’s the era we live in these days. Quite honestly I don’t think it’s less dangerous these days as it was when I was a kid, there were creeps around then too, it’s just social media and the speed with which stories can travel have made even small local events world news.


I still recall dumpster diving behind a strip mall not far from home with a friend back when I was all of about 7 or 8 when a guy stepped up on the edge of the dumpster and he offered us chocolate bars. He looked like a high school kid we thought so we took the candy happily and then he asked Jo (short for Joan) to help him out. Of course she said, as this was a good guy he just gave us a full size chocolate bar each. He took her hand in his as he pulled out his penis and used her hand to stroke it till he climaxed. Neither of us really understood what was going on as at our age sex was the furthest thing from our minds. Once he was done and departed we stopped to examine what came out of his penis with a stick, we had no idea what it was. We then just went back to digging in the dumpster eating candy and never spoke of that incident again. Till I wrote it here now I’ve never shared it with anyone. It wasn’t till years later I realized what had happened that day and I often wonder if Jo recalls that day herself. At that age we both looked like boys especially since Jo was such a tomboy the creep probably didn’t even know she was a girl and it probably really didn’t matter, she was just standing closer to him so he grabbed her hand. If I was closer this may be a story about my own personal sexual assault. I haven’t seen Jo in over four decades but now the gravity of that incident and the fact I’m the father of four girls weighs in my mind. I sat and watched a female minor be sexually assaulted and I didn’t do a thing other then eat a chocolate bar. I hope if anyone is witness to something like this with one of my own daughters that they’ll actually speak up and say something.


JoAnn has been very clear about what is and isn’t acceptable. She was quite graphic in letting them know that NO ONE touches you in certain areas. If anyone does you don’t keep it quite you must speak up. If this takes place in public you need to be very vocal and get the attention of anyone around. It’s if this happens in private in what you hope is a safe place that things get a bit more difficult. She’s even been so careful to tell the girls going on a sleep over that if they ever feel uncomfortable around males they don’t know to just call and she’ll come get them, any time of the night. Statistics tell us most sexual assaults on minors happen in these sorts of environments. It could be an older brother, or a friend of a brother or an adult in the home. JoAnn has been very watchful of whose homes the girls go to sleepovers with. Generally we always know the parents and the one time we didn’t recently I think she only let Emma go because it was a slumber party with 5 other girls. There is strength in numbers I suppose.


Times have changed but I think the real change is awareness. We just didn’t know to even say anything back then in the 70’s and I was certainly never given any sort of talk about predators as a kid. I never saw this situation played out on TV, we didn’t have the Internet sharing stories of abuse. It just wasn’t getting any coverage back then but you know it was happening,


I hope our girls who have all been warned about stranger danger are never afraid to speak up. Even though Kate and her friend took the candy from the store clerk at least they told us so it’s obvious they already knew it was odd. They were warned to never accept gifts from strangers so this seemed to fit the bill but it was the third party of the store clerk that seemed to skew their perception if this was in bounds or not. Since this specific scenario was never mentioned we can’t blame them for not really knowing and maybe we need to add a few caveats to what’s taught to Sam and Dani in the very near future.


No one was physically hurt during my experience 4 decades ago but that fact I still remember the incident in the dumpster but I don’t recall my friend’s last name tells me the incident was bigger and did leave a lasting mark. It did change me, I just didn’t realize it at the time. I just hope the guy we never reported didn’t go onto bigger crimes later in life because it was so easy for him early on, like giving candy to a child. A part of me hopes he’s seen the inside of a cell but then I’d know someone else was assaulted and maybe that all could have changed if he’d been shut down early. I just hope the guy didn’t become some Clifford Olsen type just because he had success getting his rocks off as a teen. When you speak up about an assault like this you’re not just standing up for your own personal safety you’re paying it forward to any future victims this abuser might take. I’m so proud JoAnn took the bull by the horns and have clearly street proofed the girls. Even when they did take the candy they deep in their hearts actually did know it was peculiar. I wish we could live in a world where suspicion towards kindness wasn’t our first reaction but it’s always better to be safe then sorry. It’s also fine to say “No Thank you” when you’re offered something and after the reaction to this incident I have no doubt that’s exactly what Kate will do in the future. You don’t have to outwardly fear the person or be rude; you just say, “No thank you, my mom told me not to accept gifts from strangers”. Any adult that doesn’t respect that comment should be feared but in this day in age you should just be proud because you know that kid has parents that have taught their child well. I’m not claiming we’re great parents or blaming my own parents for not equipping me with the info I needed, it was a different time, and they didn’t say anything but then again what parents did back then? I was 7 out on my bike, dumpster diving with a friend miles from home behind a strip mall. We won’t let our kids leave the street and the one place we do let the older girls go in our neighborhood they are offered candy so do you blame us for being over cautious? I didn’t think so.

Too Much Information


Volume # 5

Entering the third trimester is both a magical time and the scariest of realizations that this is all really going to happen. Up until that small bump showed up on JoAnn’s tummy we were just reading books and making plans for the arrival of some imaginary beast called a baby. But now it was really starting to look like she was pregnant and all our make belief was in fact reality. Mind you JoAnn has been eating a lot as of late with great regularity so the tummy bump may just be the early stages of Teamster gut but she claims it kicks.


I say she claims this because I’ve never actually felt the so-called kicks first hand myself. She tries to get my hand on her belly to feel the little punter but it always stops the second I touch her. Ziggy isn’t even born yet and already she hates me. How does he think that makes me feel when she won’t put on a demo for dad, we may have some serious father son, father daughter bonding issues already. I’m two months out from delivery and already he won’t listen to me, how’s a dad supposed to feel? I’m a failed father before she’s even out of the maternal compound.


So far everything has been pretty text book with the exception of a little growth spurt having Ziggy about three centimeters bigger than expected at this stage and the possibility of gestational diabetes. JoAnn was spilling sugar and though I just told her to just clean it up the doctor recommended a test that had her drink a glass of nasty syrupy orange liquid then an hour later they tap a pint of blood. At this moment we don’t have the results back yet but JoAnn’s not one to fail a test but she had nothing to study so we’ll just wait and see. The only outcome would be a modified diet plan at more regulated intervals, they tell us it’s really quite common.


If anyone ever tells you a pre natal class will be a lot of fun for you and your spouse, run. Get your fishing rod or your hiking boots go camping get tickets to a game or detail your car just be busy the day this goes down because the information that gets pumped into your head over the course of an entire day is not erasable. Up till this day my pre conceived notion of what the delivery of a baby was going to be like has been feed to me by what I’ve seen in movies or on TV, the reality of the matter is very different and far messier. The idea of this class is to alleviate any fears or concerns with regard to the delivery and the first waking days of your new baby and to better equip you for the actual birth but for me it scared the crap out of me. JoAnn too was a little overwhelmed and I think for the first time during her pregnancy a little worried. The nurse that taught the class Lois was very kind and informative but she let us in on things I don’t think either one of us had ever considered. It was a lot of information in a short time and though it was nice to talk to other couples suffering from the same thing ( pregnancy) it made it no easier to sit through. I think for me the low point was when Lois recommended that mom’s put a bunch of maxi pads in the freezer after spraying them with water and won’t it be nice for all you husbands to bring one of these little bundles of relief to your spouse. If I open the freezer months after the birth to get a Popsicle and am confronted by a freezer burnt maxi pad I think I’ll close the door and never go in there again. I’m sure this idea brings great relief to new moms but I don’t think I really want them mingling with our frozen treat supply.


When it comes to a woman’s cycle I like a lot of men have a “don’t ask don’t want to know policy” and clearly this was way more information than I was prepared to hear. I know she’ll have just given birth to my child and I will do anything to make the transition in our life easier for her, I’ll take out the garbage clean the cat’s litter box, prepare dinner, wash the dishes, do the shopping, even change diapers not necessarily in that order but I won’t be buying or fetching maxi pads from the freezer. Sorry Hun I love you and all but a man has got to draw the line somewhere.


The next main event we had to under go was to pre register at the hospital and tour the facilities where the birth will hopefully be taking place. I’m not a big fan of hospitals on any given day but I see their worth in the community if for nothing else to have debates over their funding and nursing shortage woos. The only piece of advice the nurse taking us on the tour told us that I retained was where to park your car so that’s a bonus when I need it. After that the next two hours were a blur.


The fetus removal room was a scary sterile looking affair with no windows lots of cold hard surfaces and as she showed us all the equipment I did get quite light headed and was sure I was going to hit the floor. Of course if your going to pass out and hit your head on a hard tile floor, a hospital is not the worst place for this to happen, “can I try some of that Demerol now please”? I did however much to my surprise stay on my feet and was glad for it because then she showed us one of the other eight delivery rooms, which was much lighter with lots of windows and a far warmer looking place to bring a new life into the world. The only reason she takes the tour to the nasty fetus frightening room is it’s bigger and easier to get the ten couples on the tour into. After the tour JoAnn wanted to know if I wanted to be the one to deliver the baby as she’d gladly pass that honor onto me which lead me to believe she’s not really looking forward to the whole ordeal either. I reassured her as best I could and promised her I didn’t think I’d be able to hear her screams at the end of the hall through the set of doors that separated the delivery room from the waiting area where I was sure I’d be sitting while she delivered our baby.


More than ever everything was starting to register that in two months we’d be doing this for real. Up till this point it was fun nesting, planning the nursery picking colors and doing the reno to our home to accommodate the impending change to our lives but doing the class and watching all the video’s of births and seeing the room where this was going to take place was really starting to sink in. We’ve been watching a lot of reality TV on TLC and all the shows about new borns and the delivery all looked a lot less complicated and scary than it really does in person. It’s kind of the same as watching a home improvement show and trying to replicate something Norm Abraham demonstrated so simply with nothing more than a couple hand tools that all looked the same as the ones you have in your own basement, the reality is a far harder thing to build yourself.


The more I read and prepare myself for the blessed event the less in control I feel and more scared about the future I become. An even worse thing is JoAnn who’s already been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster was starting to get worried too and up till now she’s been very confident. So now it falls to me, do I step up and stand tall and show her everything will be ok and reassure her, I guess that’s what I should be doing to ease her worry but I don’t know how much good I’ll be passed out on the floor under the bed while she delivers.

Daddy on the Spot


Volume #210

Five years ago when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics we were having unseasonably warm weather that precipitated trucking in snow to stage the games. I didn’t need a groundhog meteorologist to predict what the budding crocuses have already told me. Spring is not only getting closer but by the temperature it’s pretty much here now. I don’t ever recall seeing the local ski hills being closer so early as they usually enjoy skiing into April. It’s just been that warm. Five degrees cooler and all the rain we’ve recently had would have assured them a great season but blame el-Niño again.


It was during this warm spell that challenged me as a father like never before. JoAnn was flying east to see family for a long weekend and it was going to be my responsibility to keep our girls alive for four full days. This also included the dreaded morning drop offs at school and the staggered afternoon pick-ups. This had me especially concerned because even though I hear her leaving and arriving home from my office everyday, I really didn’t know what time she was actually picking anyone up. She can tell me, sure but how long does it take to get across town mid day to get Dani at Preschool. I would actually be working so my hope was to leave at the last possible minute to maximize my workday. It’s possibly a bit sad that a dad that works from home hasn’t once picked his kids up from school and it’s February already. It’s just how the week seems to play out since most afternoons after school JoAnn has them off to Piano or dance or some activity she’s arranged with another mom. In the end I thought about just taking them to a local hotel for the weekend but decided I could handle this.

Is Norman home?

To catch her plane she was out of the house by 4 AM but I still got up to see her off, mostly hoping she was just playing me with this notion of leaving me and was really staying home. She was not and I soon crawled back into bed for a few more hours. She told me what time the girls normally get up, or what time their alarms would go off had any of them been set the night before, which of course they were not. I’d not set my own alarm in over a year and refuse to even set the time as it usually means we have a power outage within a few days so my clock blinks 12:00 most of the time. Morning came and I hit snooze, I hit snooze again and then one more time because I was so comfy. I mean I did get up at 3:30 to see off JoAnn. Alas by the time I figured out their alarms were of no use we were already behind the schedule that the girls usually follow. Everyday it’s a struggle to get them out the door on time and I’ve now just shortened my working time by 20 minutes.


From what they’ve all told me I was a bit harsher then mom in my wake up technique. Well I had no time to be sweet the clock was ticking loudly. I had to forfeit any thought of a shower and just go with coffee to get me through. My normal day generally starts around 7:15 to 7:30 depending when the screaming starts between whichever girl is most pissed off at their mother. Today I was first up and had the rest of them up in record time. Breakfast was fast (jut sugary sweet cereal) so now it was just getting them dressed. This too is pretty much automatic since they already picked out their cloths the night before but you do need to poke them to make it happen. Hair was the last huddle and probably my biggest fear. JoAnn is so anal about head lice she always has their hair up or in a braid. I didn’t know how to do either so it was off centre ponytails for all. I hustled them all down to my van, which was a treat for the girls as they always like to go in my car but being outside of their ordinary routine seemed to slow things down. Much to my surprise we made it to school earlier then the girls arrive normally. Since I didn’t know where everyone’s class was Dani walked me through the halls to show me so I could wish them all a good day. She may only be four but she’s made this trek every school day this year so she knows where she’s going. It still felt a bit odd taking direction from a four year old. We made it to her pre-school across town in plenty of time and by the time I got back home I was actually starting work about the same time I normally would though I felt considerably more beat then I usually do at this time of day. I got everyone picked up and even texted a photo of the girls to their mother just to prove I pulled it off. Now I just had a three day long weekend to keep them entertained and alive. How hard could that be?


I like to consider myself a fairly involved parent. I do more then just work to make the money to keep everyone feed and cozy. I will get in the trenches with no qualms. I’m balancing my level of involvement as a parent against myown fathers so if I grunt more then two words to each of them in a day I’m up for father of the year. We made it through that first day and I was never so happy to see them all tucked into bed. On most evenings this is when the volume on the TV goes down about 10 points and we as a couple can enjoy a show or two we recorded. When I say we enjoy, I mean I’ll watch while JoAnn naps through most of the episode but after today I see why. On a normal night I’m there to run interference. After dinner we’ll do the dishes together then she takes the young ones up for a bath and I can push the older girls to play piano or do homework. When you’re on your own you have to hope they’re doing what you asked when you head up to bath their sisters. I made dinner exceptionally early so we could have a movie night. When you have to prepare the meal, serve it and clean up on your own you realize there is a lot more too it. I still have 9 more meal times to get through. I’m basically a cook on the weekend sort of dad or through the week if it’s helpful but JoAnn rarely lets me through the week as I start messing with her grand plan. This weekend it was baptism by fire, I had to show up for every meal. Heck every snack, tear, tantrum, bedtime or late night scare that required a cuddle. There was no hand off, no rolling over in bed hoping the wife would answer the wailing call of one of our children.


On the second night Dani decided it she was all in on the concept of making me put her back to bed as often as possible. It took the better part of an hour to watch the first 20 minutes of the movie I started. After chasing her back upstairs countless times I ended up just scrapping the idea and went to bed to watch TV so she could then join me and pass out. Once she was asleep I put her back in her bed. And I did it three more times at 2: 18, 3:20 and finally at 4:58.


Other then the fact we had miserable weather and my boomerang girl kept me up most of the night I think over all it went very well. We did make it through with minimal flare-ups. I also put dessert out there as a carrot every night to keep the wheels greased so I got the things I wanted from them done. No one said you couldn’t bribe your own kids with sweets. It’s just creepy when it’s not your own children.


As I tucked them on the last night knowing their mother would soon be home from the airport I put my feet up and had a beer. I had accomplished something but I won’t say it was easy. It was not only a lot of work it was a lot of pressure and in the end I got a hug at bedtime. Seems like a lot for something I can ask for anytime but it really was an eye opener. I know I don’t help as often as I could and I’m going to be a bit more conscious of that now. I already know my wife is a super hero rock star. The only thing missing is her cape but I wonder how other single parents do this. When there is no option but to push on, work all day, look after your kids with no spouse to ever tag you out. I honestly never really gave the single parent a lot of thought but they were on my mind now. How do they do it? I can’t actually imagine how difficult it must be to balance it all with no one else living in the same house to support you. Most people don’t choose to become single parents, it’s thrust upon them by outside influences and though I know my team mate will soon be back but I’ve got to give to those that call what I just went through over one long weekend, their life. I just couldn’t imagine it. I’ve had nightmares about JoAnn having a horrific accident and I’d be lying if I weren’t a bit worried with her flying across the country and back. I don’t dwell on the negative but worst case scenarios always pop into my mind and her not returning from this trip fits that bill. Let’s be serious she has a far higher chance of getting hit by a car here in our own neighborhood then she ever does of being in a plane crash but it’s that sort of news worthy accident that few people ever walk away from that instill fear into us. We should all be more worried about going to the corner store for milk but if we did that we’d never leave the house. Most of my near misses have all been within 10 km of our home and JoAnn got rear-ended just two years ago with in that same distance. She’s actually safer in the air then we are at home but I still wasn’t going to relax till I heard the garage door opener grinding.


The key take-away for me this weekend was that I could actually do this on my own (for a short period anyway). I always thought I could as I’ve been watching and absorbing what my wife does for the girls but watching and doing are very different. I’m sure the girls are also much more then happy to get things back to normal with mom at the helm. The next time I meet a single parent I’m not sure what I might say but I may just ask them exactly how do they cope? I thought my wife was a super star but these people clearly are working on a different level then the rest of us. Hat’s off!