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Archive for November, 2010

Culture of entitlement


I finished a hearing in Sudbury, and it once again reinforced (sadly) how there exists in Canada, a culture of entitlement.  People just do not take responsibility anymore.  When unfortunate events happen, it’s so much easier to blame somebody else.  Case in point.  This injured worker had a minor event at work, that resulted in back pain.  She was immediately offered light duty alternate work by her employer, but confessed that she did not understand their offer.  At about the same time, her landlord gave her notice that he was selling the house she had up to now been renting.  She could not afford to buy the house  so she moved back to her childhood “camp” on the native reserve.  That move added 60km each way in additional commute to get to the employer.  And her son ended up a couple months later totalling her truck, thereby removing her ability to commute.  And, her alcoholic husband had left them a few weeks prior to her work injury.  And, her pain medication now made her groggy so it was not possible to drive, yet she could not present any medical opinion to that effect.  And, her back injury was superimposed on pre-existing degenerative problems, sacralized discs, osteoarthritis.  But now, according to her, all of her life had been thrown upside down because of this work injury.  It’s hard to be sympathetic to people who assume life owes them everything.  Take responsibility for some things.  Don’t be a welfare case in the most stereotyped definition of that phrase.  It’s people like you who give legitimate welfare and workers’ comp recipients a bad name.  Pull up your man pants and take charge for your life.  Grow the f..k up!

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I’m listening to a Frank Sinatra album, reading the liner notes.  Check out this passage, kind of humbling.  I have a long way to go before I can consider myself a good writer. 

The sun had plunged into the Pacific, somewhere southwest of Bel-Air.  In Studio One, Sinatra, like the Pacific, makes his own waves.  Fluorescent light turns the singer a slightly tighter shade of grey.  And amid this neon’s irreverent hum, the singer looks out into the plastic, humming world about him.  He stands at the microphone, singing in depth.  Doing his best thing…sharing.  Sinatra’s songs, soon to scatter worldwide the belongings of one man’s soul.  He tilts his voice into a microphone, just as he has for three decades.  Decades spent in living, in recording, and in singing small but poignant truths about loving.  This ambiguous man, with clear, touching insights.  Sinatra at a microphone, nurturing a bouquet of emotions, then plucking them in full flower, without first checking for possible thorns.

……Stan Cornyn

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My son brought home a button and pencil from school, with the following caption:  “Be kind to me….bullying awareness and prevention week”.  Apparently the school district has designated this week as bullying awareness week.  Whatever happened to the concept of kids being able to police themselves and look out for their friends?  A better application of my tax dollars would be to pay some martial arts and boxing instructors to attend at school and teach kids how to defend themselves.  But that would be politically incorrect!  Can’t do that anymore.  Do the teachers and school officials not see that even the kids recognize how ludicrous it is to place such an emphasis on this issue?  You are never going to get rid of bullying  just like you will never eliminate war.  There will always be bonehead bullies who don’t give a damn.  The only way to stop them is to serve them a dollop of their own medicine in the schoolyard with the help of your friends.  All this touchy feely warm  education and talk is so much BS.  We’re educating a generation that will practice conflict avoidance and ignorance.  Leaders do not come out of a system that avoids conflict.  And don’t twist my meaning here.  I don’t advocate seeking out conflict, but you have to recognize when discussion has failed and action is necessary.  Why do you think we’re in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban?  Do you think they have any interest in sitting down and talking about the issues there?  We live in strange times.

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Words of wisdom


If the father expects little of his child, the child will achieve little….James Robison

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Flying at 25,000 ft above Ontario, on my way back from Thunder Bay.  Time to reflect on the past week, a period that was filled with activity, rich with memories but also with stress.  Its taken its toll on me as well.  Lost 8 pounds.  Have not exercised for a week.  Can’t wait to get back on my bike and go ride.  Yet ahead is the need to wrap up administrative details with Dad.  Notifications to various government agencies, submissions of death certificates, cancellation of cards.  Thank you cards to be mailed.  And lots of hugs for Dad.  My work pales in comparison to what lies ahead for him.  I think of the 63 years of marriage.  He was with one partner longer than I have lived.  Depression and loneliness will set in after the rush of visitors dies away.  Its nice to think that people will look out for him, but once the freshness of Mom’s passing has faded, its only natural that people will also move on with their lives.  And Dad will be left sitting in a house full of memories.  There is probably a dangerous line between how many photograph albums you should review in order to keep the memory alive, to not lose that love, and when that kind of reminiscence becomes maudlin and pathetic.  Or is there?  It’s such new territory, everybody reacts differently to their grief.  Will Dad be one to gather strength from the memories or will he sink into an abyss of loneliness?  How will I react?  How will this journey impact on my family?  So many paths to go down and no mentors to guide the way, other than the portfolio from the funeral home.  It does provide some good advice, but so generic.  But like Milvi said “Just look after your health so that you have the energy to keep going.”  So that is all we can do, look after our health and just keep going.

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Home at last


Entering one’s own house after time away, I feel a  massive weight dripping down my arms and into the ground.  A lightness comes to my step.  The heavy burden of the past week begins to dissolve.  I’m home.  Z and I stopped for another visit to Gramama’s grave on our way home.  I’m so glad we did.  It gave me the chance to shed tears and speak to her again.  And it was good for Z to see that  even his strong Dad could break down every now and then.  That emotions were meant to be shown.  I held my arm around his shoulder as he gripped my waist and supported me.  To know that he could give his father strength was an empowering moment in our lives.  I took a red rose from Mom’s gravesite and brought it home.  It will be a palliative talisman for  me, a reminder of what a remarkable person my mother was.  Forever remembered and loved.

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I buried my mother today


It has been a week that has taxed all of us. Mom was laid to rest today in her final home.  A beautiful hilltop burial plot overlooking the Bay.  One that my frugal and intelligent father had bought 30 years ago.  We laid red roses on her casket, a generous and compassionate addition by my buddy Andy.  I made it through the eulogy with some deep breathing and pauses to collect myself.  Dad allowed himself the opportunity to let it all out.  I don’t think anybody in the chapel had a dry eye when Dad let his emotions pour out.  My poor father, 63 years of marriage and now its all over.  Kudos to the funeral home for arranging and taking care of so many details.  I think about 80 people attended the interment and memorial.  Pastor Hannes presided with accomplished grace and composure.  One of his comments will stick with me forever.  When Mom attended a seniors meeting shortly after Pastor Hannes received his formal accreditation as a minister, they were sitting together and my Mom, his ex-school principal looked at him and said;  “I have taught you, and now you will be my teacher.” That poignant moment and phrase captures so well what Mom did.  She taught, but was also receptive to learning.  Our beloved Gramama.  We miss you so much.

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We’re as ready as anyone can be to say our final goodbyes to Mom.  Just have to drop off the guestbook and a video at the funeral home.  I’m so glad I have a video record of Mom.  Dad could not handle watching it yesterday, seeing her “live” on screen was a little too stressful.  But it will be streaming on my PC at the funeral home.  Mom’s friends will enjoy seeing her cryptic and sometimes sardonic sense of humor.  It’s been good getting a decent night’s sleep here at the hotel.  And today we get to share lots of memories of Milvi with others.  When you think about the impact Mom had on people, especially as a summer camp director, I can only hope to leave this earth having done as much good as she did.  I’ll be posting various memories here, don’t think I’ll post the entire eulogy.  Maybe that is something that should remain live.

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Day three of a difficult journey.  Yesterday was a whirlwind of activity, so many things to organize and do.  Hall to rent.  Bureaucracy to overcome, gone are the days when all you did was pay some cash and show up with your wine and music.  Now there is a Special Occasion Permit needed from lcbo to serve the stuff.  And you need servers with “Smart Serve” certification cards, can’t pour the wine yourself.  Liability insurance to buy, and that is not available from just any insurer, seems that only one company provides that, and it takes a ten page on-line document to apply.  But the hardest part is keeping my Dad occupied.  He is so confused.  It is so unreal for him.  63 years of marriage and now he’s alone.  Dad sheds more tears in the past three days than I’ve seen in his lifetime.  And that’s a good thing.  It’s not like tears have not been flowing from my eyes either.  But I can only offer my shoulder and kindness to Dad, nobody can empathize with his pain.  Sympathy sure.  But until you’ve had a life partner for a few decades, and lived through the hell they did in escaping from Europe, ahead of the advancing communist scourge, you just cannot understand.  I’m very careful to not say “I understand” because  I don’t understand.  Nobody can understand what Dad is enduring until you’ve also lived that kind of journey.  Maybe one day I will, but until then there are still very heavy days ahead. 

The funeral home professionals did an amazing job in preparing Mom.  After seeing how she had withered away in the past few months, I was prepared for the worst.   Dad wanted to see her today before tomorrow’s visitation.  I thought it a good idea so we went to the nursing home.  As we approached the casket  I kept an arm near Dad, ready to catch him in case he  collapsed.  And what beheld our eyes was a miracle.  The alchemists and magicians of the funeral home had transformed my wizened mother into a sleeping beauty.  She lay there in her traditional folk dress, curls peeking out from the folk hat, just a trace of a smile on her face, just the right amount of pink color in her cheeks.  My Dad and I looked at each other and broke into tears of, well joy doesn’t sound right, but there were smiles on our faces.  Mom did look like she was in a restful sleep.  Let’s hope we can keep this feeling through the coming days.

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Heineken on my right.  Hotel suite exit door on my left.  Memories flooding me straight ahead.  Acadie providing inspirational background.  I struggle on.  Just spent day one of what will become a five day journey as I help my father navigate a minefield of emotional trauma.  My mother died yesterday.  As I sat next to her, I knew I would not see her breathing ever again.  So I brushed her hair and soothed her confusion with warm and gentle and exciting memories of our life.  She could not speak.  She tried, but words were beyond her grasp. So I talked.  Conjuring up shared experiences of her life journey and our travels.  Mom on horseback in the jungles of Costa Rica, heading through the night to my obsession, my passion, yet never complaining about what was surely a most unpleasant ride.  Four hours she endured the twisting and turning cow path, mostly in the pitch black of night as we conserved our flashlight batteries.  Mom was an extraordinary woman.  Born before the guns of Paschendale splintered bones of young men.  Witness to obscenities so incomprehensible, yet courageous enough to forge ahead and carve out a new life in Canada.   I look forward to drafting her eulogy in the coming days and sharing it with you.  God bless you Ema, you were truly an inspirational and exceptional mother.

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