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.

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!

I’m Let in on the Secret


Volume #1

I was sitting in a chair in the living room of our home when the news was delivered to me like a blow to the head. She asked me if I remembered when I was twenty-five and had chicken pox which of course I did, don’t even get me started on that one. There was a chance that having this childhood aliment at that age could cause sterility in adult males but on this day she informed me apparently not in my case. It took a moment to process what she said and I sat there dumbfounded with a blank look on my face still starring at the TV. “Are you saying you’re what I think your saying? Is this your cleaver way of telling me?” Apparently it was and she had confirmed her own suspicion earlier in the day with one of those sticks you pee on. It shouldn’t really be such a surprise she stopped taking her birth control pills back at the end of August when we decided maybe we should throw caution to the wind and see what happens and I guess now we know.

I think really she was ready to take this step a couple years ago and only made little suggestions here and there but never really forced the issue. If there is one thing my wife has learned in nearly twelve years together it was never to try and force me to do anything, it was a sure way to not make what you wanted to happen really happen if you tried to force it on me. Her being the cleaver manipulative woman she was knew this and only dropped her subtle but well placed hints and waited biding her time till I finally came around to her way of thinking. She knew to be successful she had to make it look like it was my idea when in reality it was all part of her own master plan that she hatched years earlier before we even got married seven years ago, possibly while we were still living together, though I had my suspicion this plan was hatched June 8th 1990 the night of our first date.

A blind date set up by a friend of mine I worked with who was dating her best friend who selfishly wanted to piece this third wheel off so he could make some time with his girlfriend, that’s when I was drawn into the plan. Her name was JoAnn and I knew her father already as he was the guy responsible for the coffee machine where I worked and I often spoke to him when he came in every couple weeks to restock our coffee and clean the machine. The only thing I was told about JoAnn by my friend Dave was that she that she was a really nice girl and had big beautiful …eyes yeah that’s it, that was all I needed so I was in.

I was twenty-three and single for a couple years and starting to worry I’d never meet that one special girl. I never went out much other than with a couple friends and being a relatively shy person I wasn’t one for talking to girls in bars. I’d been seeing a girl I went to high school with off and on for quite a few months but for me there was little magic and I was just putting in time till someone came along to light me up. With little other prospects on the horizon I agreed to the blind date, something I’d never done before so I didn’t have the first hand knowledge to know this was doomed to failure, there was no voice telling me to jump out now, don’t worry about the parachute just jump save yourself. So blindly I agreed and hoped for the best fearing the worst but it was just a couple hours of my life I’d never get back I wasn’t giving the girl a kidney or anything radical like that.

When the car pulled up in front of the house I was as nervous as a geek in a sweater his mom had knit for him could be at meeting a new girl, did I think I’d get any action tonight? Not a chance looking like this. Apparently She’d not been given the same opportunity to know she was being set up and sat blindly in the back seat of the car while Dave knocked on the door to retrieve me. I can only imagine the words exchanged by her to her friend Melanie who was in on the fix, having already met me and my sweater weeks earlier at a local bar. First impressions are important and short of staring at her in the back seat as we sat nervously beside each other I avoided eye contact with her and spent more time talking to Dave in the front seat but when I first climbed into the back seat with her and said “hello” I was blown away by her radiant smile and beauty. She had this weird hair thing going on I couldn’t figure out at the time but I was sporting a stupid crappy looking ponytail so who was I to point fingers. Over drinks that night we sat oppisite one another and got lost in conversation after conversation as we had a lot of interests from music to favorite comic strips in common. The whole concept of love at first sight was unfamiliar to me and truly I didn’t believe in such a thing but there was indeed magic and electricity in the air and my stomach didn’t stop it’s nervous flip flops till sometime later that night after we said good bye to one another knowing full well we would see one another again. She wasn’t pissed at her friend for setting her up now and I think it was somewhere around when we were talking about our favorite Beatle song quotes that she hatched her plan of attack.

She’d date this guy for the next ten or so months spending countless hours together then she’d move into his Niagara falls home with him for a couple years while she finished college. Then she’d move with him across the country to isolate him from family and friends. After a year out west when they’d been together five years she’d get him to propose marriage then it was just a matter of time till the trap closed fully on him and she’d harvest his sperm one night and have his baby. It was a cleaver scheme only one a true master mind could hatch and follow through on but she was a woman so that gave her the edge over me and she was patient, I never even saw it coming after all those years.

We still had the formality of the prerequisite doctors visit to confirm hers and the pee sticks suspicion that she was in fact pregnant, there was always the chance this was a great miss understanding and things would return to normal as quickly as they had been upset. The following Friday was set for the doctor’s appointment and I wandered around the house nervous all day awaiting the official word, lets face it those pee sticks are about 99 % accurate so I already knew the out come but it was something to get it from a doctor trained in these things there was always a slim chance she just had a hormonal in balance or some form of cancer. The call came in a few minutes after the appointment that confirmed she was clinically diagnosed as pregnant…. With child…a mommy to be which made me a father to be and I had so little time to prepare.

After years together and seeing friends and family have children I’d shake my head in wonder at the amount of responsibility involved in such an undertaking, I couldn’t believe how grown up these friends of ours where to have children. It was remarkable and I wondered if I would ever grow up myself and take this plunge, every time I thought of it I got scared and retreated like a frightened rabbit. JoAnn was banking on the fact I’d come around. She didn’t want to face the reality of divorcing me and finding someone new to procreate with her if she couldn’t get me around to the idea myself. It was a long trip but I finally got it on my own or at least while sleeping with my dog Abbey, that’s not as creepy as it sounds we were on a camping trip.

After a well-deserved break from work I took off camping just my dog and me and we headed north not knowing where or how far our journey would last. After a week we crossed into Alaska but by the time we were through, emotionally we’d traveled a lot further. I think we were four of five days out when I found myself sitting in the Yukon enjoying the warm summer sun watching Abbey play with a little girl at the next camp site when it really hit me and it hit me hard. There was a family of four next to us and seeing Abbey play with this little girl and her brother did something to me and caused me to well up a moment. I was alone and probably that’s why it happened in the first place had JoAnn been there the spell may not have been cast but I liked the idea that this could be my own daughter playing with our dog as we had a daddy /daughter camping trip. I wasn’t getting any younger and I liked the idea of this, I didn’t think about all the hard or crappy aspects of child rearing at that moment like I was prone to do most of the time always seeing the negative. I just saw a pure moment of a little girl playing with a dog and I was hooked. Had Abbey not come with me I wouldn’t have reached this moment and it was my idea to bring her to spare JoAnn from walking her before and after work everyday and now I had to wonder had she suggested I take her? Was it really my idea or was Abbey part of the conspiracy to trick me into feeling this way. No matter I did and it freed a spirit in me I wasn’t truly familiar with but it put a smile on my face and made the rest of our trip to Alaska very fulfilling. I really couldn’t wait to get home to JoAnn. I needed to let her know after just over twelve years of trying she’d finally broke me and I was both ready and wanted to have children I needed them in fact, my biological clock that I’d been hitting the snooze button on for years finally woke something up in me, you did it girl congratulations I was ready.

Now here I am at thirty-five years old starring down the barrel of a whole new chapter in my life. So far I’d spent over a third of my life with this woman now we’d be sharing ourselves with someone new, an amalgamation of our genes someone wholly new a son or a daughter it didn’t matter because after all this time I was ready to grow up and after only a few months without birth control we’d hit the genetic jackpot my wife was pregnant and I couldn’t be happier.