About Me

My photo
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

Sunday, August 14, 2016


I recently had an email conversation with a friend who is working with an organization that supplies food to third world countries. Jokingly, I called him a ‘hero’. He (kindly) told me that he was uncomfortable with the term ‘hero’. As he sees it, he’s simply doing his job. That made me stop and think. What makes a hero? Who are my own heroes and why? Putting some real thought into it, I realized that I’ve had several heroes in my life and to me, they all deserved the title.

One of my dearest childhood friends is battling cancer right now…and winning. That makes her a hero to me. In Grade 11 I had a wonderful history teacher who was nice, fair and a really good teacher. He made learning fun and I loved his classes. He was a hero for me. When I was very young, my friend’s father was a hero to me. He showed me kindness that I didn’t get at home. He was an adult but treated me kindly. That made him a hero to me.

Not all heroes wear capes and jump buildings in a single bound. I think that the everyday heroes, who do good things, can be personal heroes. And sometimes, that counts more than stopping bullets or flying through the air.

I appreciate all of the people who, throughout the course of my life, have been my heroes. They made and are still making a difference in people’s lives. That counts for much in my books. So maybe they’re not heroes in the traditional sense of the word but they remain my heroes. And I’m grateful to each and every one of them.

Here’s to the everyday heroes who make a difference in our lives.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The More Things Change...

When I lived in Guelph, I belonged to a wonderful writing group. Each time we met, we would have a different exercise to do. It was a difficult, wonderful, cathartic, time for me. My writing was mostly depressing and always truthful. The others in the group were truly wonderful and supportive people. Leaving the confines of that wonderfully safe environment and publishing this particular post is daring for me.

For some reason, last weekend I took out my book of writings and started reading through it for the first time in years. So much of what I wrote back then, still resonates now. The following is a slightly revised version of an exercise entitle "Work' that I wrote back then. Sadly, it is more true today than it was back then. This is what I wrote many years ago....

All of my life my friends have all had jobs, careers and/or professions, whether inside the home or out. I have not. I have had (for various reason) only a handful of jobs in my whole life.That in no way implies that I have not worked. Indeed, I feel that I have worked harder my whole life than many "professionals". My entire life's work has been a struggle to survive. So far I have, though some days it feels just barely. I have struggled against an abusive father, abusive siblings, rape, a stalker, various failed relationships, and a failed marriage that I truly believed would be bliss until the day I died. (and let's not forget the other 2 marriages) Instead, it ended the day he walked out the door to be with another woman and I got an email telling me that he was "sorry". (turns out he was also a pedophile) I have survived the death of my father and worse, the nursing of my mother to her grave.

Caring for someone you love everyday, knowing that the end comes only when that someone dies, is just about the hardest thing I can think of to wish on a person. In early June, my husband walked out of my life forever and I was devastated. In early September my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and a brain tumor. Trying to work through the the pain of my husband's betrayal was just about all I could handle - or so I thought. The news about Mum was beyond understanding. It meant ministering to her until the day she died. Which I did. Most of those days I didn't think I'd make it. Other days I knew I wouldn't. Watching a loved one slip away daily is is most definitely hard work and it almost destroyed me. Then the end came. I'm not sure what was expected of me but I do know that the reaction to my mothers death was not what people wanted. Few people seemed to understand that I could be at peace because now Mum was too. People thought I was "abnormal" because I didn't cry more. From the time I was a child I was taught NOT to cry. I couldn't cry. I didn't know how. Just as I didn't cry when my father died. I didn't know how then either.

My life has been a constant struggle to simply keep my head above water and maintain some semblance of what will at least pass for sanity. It is incredibly hard work. Pain has become all I know and when that happens in your life, you learn to work at facades and role playing like you've never worked before. Faking your way through life becomes your life's work. It's not easy to let the world think you're okay when inside you're dying. It's not easy to show the world a smile when the tears threaten every day to tear you apart.

This is the end of the "mostly original writing". The addendum:

Since this was originally written, I have dealt with the death of my brother. I was still living in Guelph when I got the phone call telling me that my eldest brother had died in a hunting accident. I was not welcome at the funeral. (or so I was told) This was as hard, in some ways harder than dealing with my mothers illness and death. Not only was my brother gone so suddenly, but I was denied closure. It's very difficult to mourn someone close to you when no one around you knows that person. I learned that the hard way.I did the best I could and with the help of the same writing group, even had a memorial service of sorts. It was incredibly hard work and at this point, I didn't even want to make it. But, for some reason, I plodded on. Then it got worse. (again) I finally moved home to Dartmouth about 5 years after my brothers' death and found out that the "hunting accident" had never taken place at all. My brother had committed suicide. The way my brother died is most definitely not the issue here. The fact that I was lied to from start to finish about all things surrounding his death,most certainly is. I was not, I discovered, "unwelcome" at the funeral, as I had been told. The amount of work that went into portraying a normal existence through all of this garbage, and having to mourn my brother all over again, was all but crushing.

It's been 10 years since my brothers' death and I still struggle. I struggle with the weight of lies. I struggle with the fact that he is no longer with us. I struggle with the fact that I was excluded from everything that might have brought me closure. Closure that to this day I have not attained.

Even now when someone asks me what I do for a living, I feel shame. Even when I look back on how hard I've worked to stay alive, I feel shame. I work every day at putting a smile on my face for others. I work at being whatever it is others want me to be. You would think that by now I would have this art perfected but it's one of those things that can't be perfected.It just gets more and more difficult. And more and more painful. It's a job that never goes away. And I fear that someday, I won't show up for work.

(For the record, this was an incredibly difficult thing for me to write originally and even more difficult I think to rework. Publishing it in my blog is, for me, one of the scariest things I've done but for some reason, I felt it had to be done. If any one of the few of you who read this can perhaps offer a suggestion as to why I felt it needed to be done, I welcome your suggestions.) .

Thursday, December 17, 2015

My Two Katies

It's that time of the year again. Time for love, laughter, fun, and for some of us, introspection. This Christmas will not be an especially good one for me as I've been fighting the battle of depression all season. This is the first year in many that I will not have someone special in my life for the holidays and it's tough. However there is something that this Christmas has done for me. It has made me look at those I love who are truly enjoying the season and watch them. Truly watch them. Not, that I haven't been watching them for years anyhow...I have, but to watch them as they prepare for Christmas has been marvelous. I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

When I lived in Guelph (over 5 years ago) I had two stepsons. Those stepsons had wonderful girlfriends, both named Katie. THAT made things interesting so I decided to solve the problem of two Katies by calling one Kate and the other Katie. For the purposes of this little story, I'll do the same thing. The elder of the two girls is Kate. She was young, vibrant, effervescent and such fun to be around. When I was preparing for my wedding, she was there. All of my friends were either home in Nova Scotia or busy, but Kate was there for me. Fortunately for me, she also lived just 3 or 4 doors away. I did my own wedding invitations and she was my critic, my champion and even, my printer. I can't count the amount of times she ran back and forth between our two homes, printing off versions of the wedding invitation until it was just right. Always helpful, always cheerful, Kate was a bright spot in a world where I didn't want to be. It's no secret that I hated living in Guelph but she was one of the few people who made it bearable. This in itself is remarkable but what made it the most remarkable to me was the fact that she was a young girl. She was a teenager when we met but she was there for me like a daughter and a friend. She was amazing. Then she and my stepson moved to British Columbia. It was a very sad day for me. I hated to see both of them go but I wanted what was best for them, so I said my "good byes", held in my tears until after they had pulled out of the driveway, then cried for a very long time. That was the last time I was to see Kate. And the last time I was to hear from her in many years.

Then there's Katie. A different stepson, a different girlfriend, the same name. Perhaps here it might not be amiss to note that, when I was young and thinking of having children of my own, I had always thought that if I ever had a girl I would name her Kate or Katie. (true story!) One of the few true loves of my life. Katie. She was everything I could have asked for in a surrogate daughter. Bright, witty, understanding and a smile that could stop traffic. But Katie was so much more than that. I know that she had problems of her own, but in a way that was far wiser than her 16 years, she managed to put aside her problems and be there for me. This child/woman who was "my Katie" was a true treasure. Her compassion knew no bounds. She visited me when she knew I was down. She didn't quite understand what it was like for me to be away from home, but she empathized. Katie was an adult in ways that so many people I know today are not. She is wise beyond her years still and a young woman I will treasure always.

So here we are in 2015, looking hard at 2016. I have reconnected via email and other social media with both girls. I am fortunate enough to be able to watch, as my Katies, now all grown up for real, go about their lives. I am astonished and amazed. These are two of the most resilient, intelligent people I know. Sometimes I find it incredibly difficult to grasp just how far they've come. Neither one of the relationships with the Katies and my stepsons worked out, but that's for the best. Both girls are in such a different place in their lives and have moved on so gracefully that I am left in awe. These girls who I knew and loved when I was in Guelph, have become women. Not just women, incredible women! They have created world's for themselves that are wonderful and while no one and nothing is perfect, these two girls have become young women I am so proud to know. I am so blessed to have once been part of their lives and am still able to watch as they live out their own stories. As hard as it is for me to comprehend, these girls have become wives, mothers, and two of the bravest women I have ever known. Kate's husband is in the military. That's challenging enough but, she has managed to embrace that life and create a family and home for herself, her husband and her child. Katie's child was born with Pierre Robin Syndrome. Watching her deal with her child's health issues was both heartbreaking and inspirational. She dealt with it so (seemingly) effortlessly that I am still awed. Fortunately she had a supportive husband and family, and now the baby (who is no longer a baby) is fine.

This Christmas, watching my two Katies with their husbands and children (albeit from afar) I want to thank them for allowing me to continue to be part of their lives. I thank them for all they did for me when I lived in Guelph and I am humbled by all they continue to do to create happy, healthy lives for themselves.

Before finishing my little story, I have to take a moment to thank Chuck and Corey. These two men have made my two Katies lives even fuller and richer than I could have hoped. They have stood by their wives and been exemplary husbands. Guys, I owe you...big time!

I'm not entirely sure why I thought that it was so terribly important to write this except perhaps to let the world know that there are such people out there. In a world where families are failing and young people being so often troubled, I just wanted to tell the world that there are at least two young women who went above and beyond to make this life a better place for all those in it. These young women are an inspiration. They are smart. They are savvy. They are joyful as they plan their individual Christmases. They are loving. They are brave. They are...my Katie's.

When I grow up I want to be just like Katie. It doesn't matter which one.


Monday, July 6, 2015

The Dilemma Of Being A Caregiver

It's been a long time since I'v written in this blog but I thought that maybe it was time to re visit it.

I recently found myself in the role of sole caregiver to someone who had a great need. Congestive heart failure is a scary and difficult thing to deal with, not only for the person who is ill but for the one who is caring for that person as well. This post is about caregivers and the lack of community help available to those people.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are many services available to sick and housebound people in need. Many not for profit organizations provide help for the housebound and ill but, no one seems to be there for the caregiver. Being the sole caregiver is tough. Really tough. Especially for those few of us who done't drive. And even more especially so, I discovered, in rural communities. There are programs for caregivers in the major cities here in Nova Scotia but if you're in a small town, as I was, there seems to be far less help. That's beyond unfortunate. Caregivers, and there are many everywhere, need to have an out. Someone, or some place they can go to unwind and relieve some of the stress. I really don't know what that would be for others but I know that for me, it would not have been all that difficult. Or is it? Is it too much trouble to drive me to a park for an hour, go back and sit with the person in need of attention then return to pick me up. Good mental health is a very important part of recovery for a patient in need of a caregiver. Good mental health is almost equally (if not equally) important to the caregiver. I know. I saw the result of my being indoors for almost a month straight, and the toll it took on both me and my patient. So much so that, one day, that stress became too much and I took it out on my patient. That's not good. That's not good at all.

In the city, there are avenues available (to those who have transportation) to support groups for just this sort of thing. The problem here is that even a support group can be difficult when you don't have transportation. Logically, I know that something as simple as going for a walk is beneficial to someone who can't get out otherwise. A support group is probably an even better idea. That being said, it's so much easier said than done. Being the sole caregiver is tiring, stressful work. Sleepless nights and long, stress filled days take their toll on both body and mind. One day in particular, I had a bad day. My patient said something that was unkind. Under normal circumstances, I would probably have been able to let it go. These were not normal circumstances. I blew up. Not my best moment, but there it is. Stress took over and I did something I shouldn't have done. I followed that with something worse. I was so angry that I stormed out of the house. I was smart enough to know that I needed to get out, but too stressed to be alone (apparently). I walked about 4 blocks before realizing where I was and that I had crossed three intersections to get here. I had no recollection of getting from point A to point B. That's just not good. It's most definitely not safe and I realize that I was very lucky to have gotten to where I was in one piece. That's what stress does. That's downright dangerous. It was this incident that made me really question the role of the community toward the caregiver. As I said, there were things available to my patient, (though I had to dig pretty hard to find them) but they were there. I finally decided that I needed to take better care of myself and set about trying to do so. It wasn't to be. At least not in the town of Truro. I discovered support groups in Dartmouth (approximately 100 kms. away) but even those would have required bus rides from where I live. It was terribly frustrating. I knew that even if I were in Dartmouth, I was simply too tired to get on a couple of buses to get myself to a support group. Is that really so hard to understand? I didn't think it should be, but I suppose I am biased.

So, what's the answer? Is there simply not enough money in the province to help caregivers? Why is there money for support in the city but not in rural areas? It's not as if Truro is a tiny, backwater hamlet that no one has ever heard of. It's a fairly large town that, if nothing else is something of a tourist attraction. People know it's there. Why the dearth of help for caregivers? I truly don't know the answer but I do know that the town of Truro could very well have had another causality on their hands had I been struck by a car while trying to de stress. Sometimes it totally defies logic.

I'm interested in comments and thoughts that others may have on this subject. I called just about everyone I could think of (believe me, that meant many phone calls) in an effort to get some help for myself. It doesn't exist. There is some support in the cities, but if you're unfortunate enough to be outside the city, you're on your own. That's not good news for caregivers or the people they are caring for. One full month of getting out once a week for groceries is simply not enough to balance care giving and good mental health. It also takes a toll on the person receiving the care. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been, no matter how hard I tried to hide it, to watch me every day become more and more stressed. That in itself would be stressful for a patient.

I have no answers. I've looked and looked hard, but there just doesn't seem to be anything available for caregivers. I see this as a danger. How many care givers have had breakdowns because they've had no stress relief? How many care givers simply give up and walk away, because there is no relief for them? These are honest questions. Questions to which there is probably no answer but valid questions just the same.

Watching someone you love fade daily is probably the worst thing any human being can go through. I know. I nursed my mother to her death when I was in my thirties. Now, as a much older person, I discovered that it is no easier. In fact, because of my age, I think I tire more easily and that adds stress.

In my oh so very humble opinion, providing care for caregivers is almost as essential as providing care for the person who is ill. After all, if the sole caregiver burns out, where does that leave the patient?

Thoughts to ponder.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

11 Years Ago, A Lifetime Ago

September 10, 2000. It was a Sunday. I remember that only because I was getting ready to watch the Emmy Awards on TV when the phone call came. I have absolutely no idea what I did that day. It was my day "off" from taking care of my mother, who was dying.In September of 1999, she had been diagnosed with cancer. It spread rapidly. My older sister and I did the lions share of her daily care. Saturday was my sister's "day off" and Sunday was mine. Today had been Sunday and it was almost over. Having just put on PJ's, I was readying myself for an evening of TV, then bed. Then back to Mum's in the morning. Then the phone rang. That I remember vividly.

My sister's voice told me that Mum was near the end. I remember telling her that I'd be right up, The Emmy Awards totally forgotten. Everything forgotten. Just get there. My sister seemed surprised. She told me that I probably didn't need to be in a hurry as it would probably be a very long night and there was still time. I couldn't stay home. I couldn't take that chance. I had to go. Now. So I took off the PJ's, turned off the TV (I think) and went to Mum's. I don't remember the drive there. I just remember suddenly being there. And the TV being on. There were the Emmy Awards. Volume turned off, but the Emmy Awards just the same. And Mum. Unconscious. Grey. Stint in. Dying. Still.

Most of my brothers and sisters were there though I vaguely recall Michael not yet having arrived. My brother in law and one of my nieces were absent as well I think. They had had to go to the emergency room but were ok and showed up later. (I think) I remember watching my sister and sister in law wipe Mum's mouth out with a sponge type of thing that had been given them by the nurse for that purpose. I was shown how to do it but somehow couldn't manage so left them to it, feeling terribly, terribly inadequate. For the most part, we simply stared at the mute TV. How exactly are you supposed to watch your mother take her final breath? I don't think any of us knew. I know I didn't.

This had been a year coming. A very long year watching my mother be eaten alive by this horrendous disease called cancer. Watching her slip away a little more everyday. And watching her do it with a grace and dignity that defied anything I could ever replicate. My mother dealt with this disease the way she had dealt with life. Courageously, quietly and with grace. That was Mum.

It turned out that my sister had been surprisingly wrong in her prediction that Mum would linger that night. In fact, she died shortly after I arrived. Then the long night began. Again, I'm not sure how one is supposed to react when a loved one dies, but I do know how I felt. Numb. Odd. Bereft. Different in a totally undefinable way.

And so we sat. Brothers. Sisters. In laws. Boyfriend. Nieces. Nephews. And Mum's lifeless body. Yup, she died at home. Blessedly. And equally blessedly, the people from the funeral home were gracious enough to allow us all the time we felt we needed to say our good byes before taking her away. Odd the things you remember. But I remember that, and the gratitude I felt toward those people. There was some kind of odd comfort in Mum still being there, in the room with us. Finally, we had all said good bye and she was taken from the house. Again, a totally odd feeling. My mother was dead. The last of my parents - gone. I remember thinking "I'm an orphan" with some shock. It didn't matter that I was 41 years old. I was now officially an orphan. Like I said, it's odd the things that you think of at such times.

We spent that night in my mother's house, my brothers and sisters and I. It was, looking back, so civilized as to be almost uncivilized. But it was what it was. And it seemed to work for us.

I have no recollection of leaving. I know what we did as a family that night. I know it was very early in the morning before anyone left. I know I had a drink of scotch - neat (unusual for me), I know Mum's priest showed up at some point. I know I took her rosary with me when I left. I know the man who would become my husband drove me home. But I have absolutely no recollection of actually leaving. But I did leave. And went home. Home to my own home, where I had spent little time the past year. But home.

The worst part of being home was that it suddenly seemed wrong.....or something. Again, that undefinable something. Weird, off, odd, different. There.

Now the worst began. The moving on process. The learning to live without Mum. The horrible newness of life without her.

So it begins. I must heal. I must go on. Without her. This sucks.

So why, after 11 years, am I finally writing this? I'm really not sure. Possibly because so shortly after she died, my life changed in yet another huge way, in that I moved to Ontario. So soon after my mother's death, I left everything and everyone I loved to move over 1000 kilometers away. It was, it turns out, a mistake. But I didn't know that then. So I left in December. Probably not the smartest thing to have done but hindsight is always a 20/20 thing.

Having been home just over a year now, I find myself seeing my mother in crowds of people where I never did before. After all, I wouldn't expect to see her in Ontario. It's been an odd year for me. This first year home. A year of "firsts" in many ways. Dealing with my mother's death and my brother's death all over again in a different way has been something of a challenge. But it is happening. Slowly. And, I suspect, will continue to "happen", until it has finally hit home that now, both are gone. Mum. Michael. Both gone. And now I'm back. And dealing the best way I know how.

I will always miss her. Just like I will always miss my father and brother. But today especially, I am remembering Mum and her courageous battle in life and her dignified death. I love you Mum.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where Love Lives

Love lives in the hearts, minds and souls of those daring enough to step out of their comfort zones. Yup, it's taken me 51 years to figure this out but ultimately, it's what I believe.

Any health scare, no matter how insignificant it may or may not seem to others, creates a time of introspection for me. These last few months have done exactly that. The "breast cancer scare" (that's what I have dubbed it) has made me take a long, hard look at those I love and those who profess to love me. While I realize that everyone has a different definition of the word love, this is mine and I am entitled to it.

Looking back over the past few months, I am still amazed at the way people behaved, or in many cases, did not, when they heard the news of the lump. Many people I had considered close friends were not there for me at all. Others, almost virtual strangers, stepped up in a way that was absolutely mind boggling. All of this, is what made me start to question my own definition of "love". Not romantic love, which is, far too often, fleeting, but the lasting love that comes from a really good relationship with someone who cares. Near or far, good or bad, if you have someone in your life who will "be there" for you, no matter what, then you have love.

Love is a brand new friend driving 50 miles to take me to a doctor's appointment so that I wouldn't have to be alone. Love is a phone call from Winnipeg as soon as they got the news. Love is a hug, because I needed a hug. Love is not being judged because yes, my faith was not as strong as it should have been at times, but real love stepped in and prayed for me, so that I was able to make it through, even while struggling to maintain my beliefs. Love is an email a day from someone I have never met (and will probably never meet), with uplifting scripture verses and poems because this person knows I like poetry. In short, love goes out of its way to do for another human being that which may not necessarily come naturally or easily.

It has taken all this introspection for me to realize that I have, over the years, been forming and living out this definition for myself.

A few years ago, my ex husband's best friend was in a coma and not expected to live. I remember being in the waiting room with my ex husband, his friend's wife and two of his friend's brothers. His wife was, quite understandably, overwrought. I watched as this poor woman fell apart at the thought of losing her husband. I watched as my ex husband (her friend!) and her two brothers in law, sat and did nothing to comfort her. I realize that comfort is not a "guy thing", but this woman was in very real danger of losing her husband and was an emotional wreck! Someone needed to help her! As I sat and wondered for the umpteenth time why I was there, I became more and more angry. I have to admit here that I didn't then and still don't, particularly care for this woman. And worse, she despised me. Suddenly none of that mattered. My personal feelings for her didn't matter. All I saw was a woman in incredible pain. That woman needed help and none was forthcoming. I got angrier and angrier as I watched her brothers in law and my ex husband do nothing. Finally, unable to handle it any longer, I got up and put my arms around her. She immediately collapsed into them. I don't recall exactly what I said, but I'm sure it wasn't terribly profound. I was totally shocked as she clung to me like someone going down on the Titanic. Then I realized, this was her Titanic and I was her lifeboat. When you're in crisis, it doesn't matter what the lifeboat looks like I guess, just so long as it too is not taking on water! So I held her until she felt strong enough to collect herself a bit. She then looked at me and said " I don't care who you are, right now you're an angel from God". There are no words to describe the shock I felt at hearing those words from this woman. There are also no words to describe the pain I felt at being so utterly helpless in the face of a real crisis. I couldn't help her husband, that was up to God and the doctors. What I could do, was step out, way out, of my own comfort zone, and offer her a literal shoulder to cry on. So I did. When no one else would step up and be there for this woman, I did. And I felt love. Looking back, it was perhaps more God's love telling me I had done the right thing, than her love, but who knows? Maybe, just maybe in that brief encounter, she felt love. If so, then I did something good. Something God would want me to do. That's a good thing.

Too often, it is not part of a person's natural inclination to hug or show outward emotion to others. To those people I say "tough". How can you say that you love someone and not be able to put your own feelings aside and give a hug to someone you know wants, indeed needs, it? How is that loving your neighbour? In Matthew, Jesus asks us "if you love those who love you what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Mat. 5:46) Is this so very different? If someone is hurting and you don't offer comfort because the kind of comfort that person needs is not something you're comfortable with, how is that "loving your neighbour"? I know that this is a personal something, but that means I get to inject my personal feelings. And to me, there is no difference.

Love is tough, no question. Most things in life worth having are. Love however is the toughest. Love doesn't just ask that you step out of your own personal comfort zone once in a while, it requires it! If you can't do that for someone you profess to love, how can you call it love?

Love is a verb. It doesn't sit back and watch. It takes action. Always.

Like I said, over the past few months, I have been thinking about this often and looking at the people I thought would always be there for me. In many instances, the people I thought would be there, were most definitely not. And many I never dreamt would or could care, stepped up for me in such a huge way that it still humbles me. I won't say that I've taken people's love for granted because I don't feel that's true. I do think that I have assumed, incorrectly, that many people I thought would care, perhaps did not. That's an incredibly sobering thought. When I look back over the amount of time I spent alone while dealing with my latest health scare, I am grateful to those who did in fact take the time to help in whatever way they could from wherever they happened to be. And I realize that that list includes, almost exclusively, people who went out of their way and/or stepped out of their own comfort zones, to be there for me. I also recognize the people who were not there for me. I am truly sorry now for the assumptions I made. And terribly, terribly saddened by those who call themselves "friend", but remained distant. That however, is probably the origin of the phrase "live and learn".

I really want to dedicate this post to those of you who stepped up for me. (I truly hope that you know who you are!) You will never know what it meant to me to have you there for me when I needed you. And you continue to be there for me. Always. I love and appreciate you all! There is a seriously good reason that you are part of my life! Thank you.

--The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Mat. 25:40


Friday, January 14, 2011

White Knights and Faded Armour

Friends. Some come into our lives for a season. Some come into our lives forever. But all true friends leave a lasting mark on our hearts. Whether the friendship is 35 days old, 3 years old or, in my case, 35 years old, a real friendship never truly leaves. It may disappear for a time, but a true friend stays in your heart forever. I've been blessed with many friends over the years, but those who have had the most profound affect on me, have left indelible marks, that no amount of years can erase. Recently, I was blessed with a reconnection with a friend I have not seen in over 35 years. It's a story that somehow, bears telling I think.

When I was 14 years old (perhaps 15?), I was dragged, kicking and screaming to PEI on a family vacation with my parents and my little brother. It is of no small consequence to note here that, at 14, I was a messed up teen who had been dealing with a diagnosis of epilepsy for the past year. It was beyond horrible. I was a freak and I knew it. It therefore, made little to no sense to me, to be forced into this family vacation where I would be exposed to even more strangers from whom I had to hide this truly "freaky" disease. But, no matter what argument I came up with for staying home, where I was at least reasonably safe, my parents would have none of it, so PEI it was. God help me. And, He did.

I don't remember a lot about the first days of that vacation other than the very real resentment I felt at having been there at all. Somehow, I must have overcome that, or more likely hidden it. At least well enough to meet Colin. Something else I don't remember actually happening, it just suddenly was. There he was, the cutest boy I'd ever seen, being my friend. And for reasons I don't remember (and to this day cannot fathom), I told him the truth about my epilepsy. It didn't bother or upset him! How that was possible was another one of life's great mysteries to this messed up, freaky teenager. But there it was. A cute boy, who accepted me for who I was and actually liked me! Wow! It would take far more understanding than I will ever have to make sense of that, but there it is. He became my friend. He was there for me. He was even a "protector" of sorts.

I remember a game of volleyball that I somehow I found myself in the midst of with other kids in the campground. Colin being one of the kids. Naturally. If Colin was there, wherever there was, I wanted to be. Somehow, during the game I was accidentally shoved unceremoniously into a thicket by an over zealous player trying to get the ball before it hit the ground. (not an unreasonable thing to do in a volleyball game). Colin didn't see it that way. He saw me go into the thicket and was there in a flash to help me out. Having made sure that I was indeed unhurt, he turned on the other kids and started his tirade. He berated the other kids for having done that to a girl who could very well have had a seizure because of it. And he did it well. Those kids probably didn't know what hit them. Colin ranted on my behalf long enough for the others to get the message and a hero was born. At least for me. Long live white knights in shining armour!

While it never for an instant occurred to me that I might have a seizure as a result of an accidental push, neither did it occur to me to correct him. No way! Someone is actually being kind to me? This is new. And not just anyone, but a boy. And understand this, not just any boy, but the cutest boy in the Maritimes. Isn't it interesting how quickly we can elevate our heroes when the want is strong enough? He started out being the cutest boy on The Island. Now he's the cutest boy in the Maritimes. And he wears armour and rides a horse. Cool. Very cool.

I suppose it is also noteworthy here, that in my short life, my experience with any and all males had been less than kind. My brothers were never nice to me, my father was someone to be feared and the only other boys I knew, were boys at school.They stayed away in droves. (I was the freaky kid with epilepsy remember)? So this new kid, a boy, who not only paid attention to me but was sweet, kind, generous and caring was a total anomaly. Truly. I had never experienced kindness in any real way from any male before. So yup, white knight it is. And white knight he remained.

The vacation ended and I went home with my parents while he went home to another part of Nova Scotia that was far enough away to prohibit phone calls that would have kept us in touch. I really didn't believe that I would ever see Colin again. I was wrong.

Three years later, I actually found myself with a girlfriend in Colin's hometown. With much prodding from my girlfriend, I called him. (I was a very shy kid and this was a white knight! It really took a lot of prodding, trust me!) But I did make the call. And he did remember me. I visited him the next day and was gratified to see that he still had his horse and his armour had not dimmed in three years. Perhaps the only difference was he was just that much better looking. It was a great day, and the best hug I have ever received came from my white knight named Colin. We spent the day at his parents house where I met his family.

Another surprise. These people were totally unlike my own family. They got along very well, and seemed to genuinely care for one another in a way that was totally foreign to me. They seemed like the perfect family. Colin, his brother, sister and parents were all wonderful, kind people and it struck me as making total sense that Colin was the person he was. He was a product of his upbringing, which seemed to me (with my whole day's worth of experience) to be the most perfect family I had ever seen.

But, like all good things, this day too, had to end. So I left Colin, my wonderful white knight, horse and all, to go back to home. But I carried some pretty special memories with me that lasted for many long years. Memories that, as I grew older and at least a little wiser, became more realistic. While Colin always remained special, the armour faded and the horse disappeared to be replaced by what, I suppose, was a more realistic view. A memory of a wonderful boy who, at a crucial time in my life, was there for me. Probably totally unbeknownst to him. But he was, at the time, a hero indeed.

Many years passed before I would ever encounter Colin again. So many in fact, that I doubted I would ever hear tell of him in any way again. But like all good friendships, it was not to be. 35 years after my last meeting with this wonderful boy, I found him again. On Facebook. Yup. That hideous "social network" that we all love to hate so much. After much prodding (again! some things never change I guess) from a wonderful friend, I sent him a "friend request". I truly believed that he would have forgotten me long since, but perhaps should have known better. Some things really don't change. And real friends, it would seem, are one of those things. He did indeed remember me. He remembered that vacation in PEI. He remembered everything. We reconnected via email and renewing an old friendship that began when we were children was a real treat for me! Yes, he's changed. I have most definitely changed. But I think that the inherent goodness that made Colin such a hero at that oh so tender age, still exists in him. Like the rest of us, he's older now, but that goodness that had been so attractive to me as a teenager seems to still be there. It's really nice to know that "the good ones" never go away entirely. They grow up. They change. They mature. But, as is often the case in life, good usually remains. And so it has with Colin. He is today, a good man. Not unlike the good "boy" that he once was. That's nice. That's really nice. The world needs more good people.

I'm really not sure what the purpose of this particular entry was. Perhaps, I simply needed to tell you, and more importantly myself, that there is a lesson here. Never give up on good in the world. When you least expect it, there it is. And that's always a good thing. Isn't it? :)