"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Keeping The Record Straight

The History Channel recently featured the Battle of Loos in the First World War. Casualties were buried in trenches where they died. Large numbers were Scots. Recently television featured recovery of the remains of one member of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders and enough belongings to determine his identity.

He was a poor man - a coal miner. They speculated he joined the Army in hopes of making things better for his family without an idea of what it entailed. They visited the area he had lived with his family and imagined streets of "muck” with no water or electricity in the homes. They said his widow and eight children would have been turned out of their home after his death and there would be no assistance for them from anywhere.

Some of the details of the story were familiar to me from my mother's memories and my own experience.

Coal mines were outside the towns. Owners provided housing known as . Miners' Rows. A single water spigot outside served a whole row of homes. Lighting was by oil lamp. Electricity.had not been invented.

My grandfather grew up in Bartonholm. It was two rows of houses out on a moor. I remember the ruins and the mine abandoned. Grampa told me once of walking in to Mass on a Sunday in his bare feet , with his boots tied around his neck with the laces, to save the shoe leather.

Mass was said once a month in a local public house hotel by an itinerant priest.

When they were first married, my grandparents lived at Bartonholm. My mother was a toddler there. Grannie would be in her early twenties .. My mother was her fifth child. She had already lost Wee Jeannie from whooping cough . When couples married in those days, they bought a cemetery plot. at the same time. There was no immunisation from childhood diseases. They did not expect to raise all of their children.

Grannie was fastidious in her housekeeping. When she finished work each day, her broom would be scrubbed and stood outside the door to dry. . Auld Kate O'Neil. Grampa's mother didn't think much of Grannie's airs and graces. . Every morning, my mother would go to see Granny , wearing a clean white pinafore . Kate would give her bread and jam to mess it up.

Grampa was the oldest in a large family of brothers and sisters. The older members shared the raising of the younger ones. . . They went to work at fourteen, down the mines with father. Grannie and Grampa left Bartonholm and moved into town.

He then had to walk several miles to work.There were times when he worked up to his oxters (armpits) in water . Then walked home in freezing temperatures. He would have to stand in front of the fire for his clothes to thaw ,. A tin bath would be waiting for him to scrub the coal dust from his skin .

Miners worked ten to twelve hour shifts, six days a week. They were paid "piece work".,however much coal they dug out each shift. There was never enough to provide for the average family of ten children. In some ways ,it wasn't much better than slavery .It was just a step up from Feudalism.
My grandfathers ,Henry Diamond and Patrick Finnigan, coal miners both, were among the founders of the British Labour Party. They elected Keir Hardie, the first Labour Party member to the House of Commons.

The terrible privations and sacrifice endured by the soldiers of the first world war shamed the British government to introduce "universal" suffrage in 1921. Until then, only property-owners had a right to vote.

It's not hard to understand how an academic in 2008 , with no knowledge of a people's spirit might have a skewed idea of how things were in 1916. My mother was a teen-ager then. . Mining communities were part of my environment. Bartonholm still stood in ruins out on the moor when I was a child.

My memories do not square with how the archaeologist envisioned things.

Miners’ Rows were low to the ground. A glimpse in a window would reveal a fire burning with copper and brass reflecting a warm red glow. Glass lamp funnels sparkled in the firelight. . Door steps of stone were scrubbed daily. A band of white on each side freshened at the same time. .

There was bare earth and lots of rain but not "muck" . The ground was hard-packed by the foot traffic of thousands over who knows how many years. Traffic that wore down stone and wood into a hollow had the opposite effect on bare ground. It packed down hard and smooth like cement.

Grampa in his youth was a football star. He was Capped, a high honour, twice. He was offered the chance to play at a new professional level. It would have meant travelling. He turned it down. It would have meant leaving his wee wife and weans.

My grandmother's oil lamps were the envy of her friends and family. She bought them from catalogues and kept their source a secret. They were suspended by chains from the ceiling and taken down daily for wicks to be trimmed and glass funnel washed and polished . She had a collection of cranberry glass. It disappeared at the time of the General Strike. Had to be sold I guess to put food on the table.

The first chore of every day was to clear the ashes from the grate, The range would be polished to a high shine with black lead and then the fire would be lit. That was an art..

Grannie was a voracious reader. Her method of birth-control was to stay up reading until Grampa was well and truly asleep.

Family finances were the responsibility of wife and mother. All pay packets, small brown envelopes, were brought home and handed over unopened. The man of the house would have a his pocket.-money returned. Grampa was a saver. But no matter where he hid it, Grannie would find it and but nice things for the house. He never complained.

Grannie's parents, my great-grandmother, Jane Fox, married to James McCafferty, could neither read nor write. But she kept a pig and knitted and sold men's socks. Jane and James were from Ireland. . James lived until he was a hundred. He did read and write. He was a signal man with the London. Midland and Scottish railway. He was also a resource for his community. He read and wrote their letters and kept them informed of the news of the day.

My mother, born in 1902, remembered him with a long white beard and red stocking cap sitting up in bed , still receiving and helping people. She never understood why there were always people visiting . We came to the conclusion together. .Education was not universal in Ireland
Jane and James' children married Irish Catholics, all except Grannie. She married a Scottish coal mining Catholic. Granny always had the a feeling of being looked down on because of that.

Grannie bake fine bread and scones and was an excellent cook. She sewed, knitted and hooked rugs. Before there was such a thing as a stove she made her own with a metal tray placed evenly over two primus stoves. Her pots stayed shiny and never blackened with soot .

She was also a midwife and delivered babies for women who could not afford a doctor. She believed newborns were hurt by handling.. She placed the infant in the centre of a shawl and draw the four corners together and carried it where it needed to be without touching. . .

She had a sweet singing voice and an endless repertoire of Scottish and Irish ballads and could be heard singing any time of the day.

My mother had ten siblings. The youngest was born shortly before James the eldest was killed at the Dardanelles in 1917. He was twenty-two. In 1935, they took in my mother and her five children. In those days, women stayed in the matrimonial home no matter the circumstances

Grampa was still working six days a week. His knees were bent with rheumatism, his fingers blunted and twisted with years of howking coal. But he would still get down on one knee and fix a bicycle flat tire .

That was Harry Diamond, coal miner and Annie.After she died in 1946 and Grampa led the family reciting the rosary by her bed, and then he said, ; " Now there's nothing left for me but to do but wait."

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Family Occasion

There were no cards, cakes or parties. I remember clootie dumplings but not for anyone in particular. There may have been a thripny piece or a sixpence wrapped in wax paper in the dumpling. Whoever found it was just lucky. Being your birthday didn't guarantee the prize. We went to live with my grandparents when I was eight. No dumplings after that. I never felt deprived. Nobody I knew celebrated birthdays either. No place for sissy English stuff like that in our Scottish childhood.

For years I understood my birthday was on New Year's Eve. For the bans to be called in the parish church a Certificate of Baptism had to be provided. Seems I was christened three weeks before I was born. It took a while to discover how that happened. Aunt Jean told me the night before we left for Canada.

Seems my birth was not registered within the legal limit. To avoid the fine and, necessity being the mother of invention, my father simply lied and moved the date forward a month.

My children were adults before my real birthday was known.. I've always felt a bit of a fraud about it. If I couldn't be sure of the date, should I be accepting gifts and good wishes? First it was New Year's Eve and lost in whatever else was happening. Then it was close to Christmas and lost in that hubbub. This year it fell on a weekday. A gathering could have been the weekend before or the one after. I wasn't giving it much thought.

I had been asked earlier if I wanted a big to-do. "Absolutely not" I said. We own up to the day but numbers are not mentioned in my presence. I spend minimal time in front of a mirror. I avoid my reflection in plate glass windows when crossing the street. Every day I wake up feeling not a day older than the day before. Why should the world know my calender years?Less said, the better for my equilibrium.

I did not find it strange to be at the Bondhead Golf Club on Sunday afternoon. Heather Sisman had said she found a deal online. Two- for- one Brunch. She always finds deals. She scored hundreds of dollars of free groceries at the Dominion Stores when they were Fresh Obsessed. In the driveway approach, I commented it would be odd if son Frank was there with Lorna. I dismissed the thought. they recently moved to Hockley Valley. Why would they drive all that way for brunch on a Sunday?

So I rounded a corner unsuspecting. There was a scurry of little people. Familiar faces. What's this, I thought, somebody having a party and didn't invite me? Then I was in the room. Son Frank, Bryan Cousineau,the best Police Chief York region ever had, Ron Wallace and his new wife Pat were at the door with beaming smiles .The big beautiful room with a fire in the hearth and festooned with Christmas greenery and sparling ornaments was crowded with people I love.

“Did I not say this birthday was to be a secret?” I intoned . And it was indeed. But only to me. As it was for the first twenty-one years of my life.

All of my children were there, Stephen and Mary, Frank and Lorna, Martin and Marnie, Theresa, Heather and Andy, Mark and Storm and Andrew and Rhonda. Lindsay and Scott came with her two beautiful little girls, Cheyanne and Abigayle – my great granddaughters.

Vanessa was there, expecting twins. James is in Seattle working to bring them there, but not for a while. Patrick, the artist took time off from work and the long bus ride from Ottawa. Cameron, who missed the bus from London for Myles' July wedding in Ottawa , was there. Rory, Theresa's boy, and Mark, son of Mark and Storm, brought young ladies to join the clan. Stephanie the actress came from school in Guelph. Partner Eric was in Sudbury and we missed him.

Quiet, graceful, tall and slim Meghan glided in the wake of cousin Robyn, she of the amazing red hair and freckles and many talents who may go to France as an exchange student in the spring. Ryan sat at the bar, drank pop and chatted to the bartender. He was joined occasionally by cousin Hayley, she of exceedingly droll humour.

Young Michael joined Adam, Patrick, Keenan, Aaron and Cameron, all recently finished school, all with lots to share in lively conversation.

Lizzie the feminist and most likely politician, at school in Peterborough, was missing and missed. Myles, son of Mary and Stephen was also absent, as was his wife Melissa.

Friends of almost fifty years, Mary and John were there as were Margaret and Doug, with whom I share four grandchildren.

Grace Marsh and husband Bren, Alison Collins-Mrakas and Tim Jones, Ron and Pat - friends and comrades at arms, shared a glimpse of my life outside politics.

They were a merry throng but none more than myself. Being together in that place made it a momentous occasion. I shed no tears then but I do now as I tell the tale. I am more fortunate than any person has a right to be. May they always know how much I love them and how proud I am of each and every one.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

You Were Asking

About my new hip joint. The good news is the arthritis went out with the old joint. I am still going to the therapy pool at the hospital. The routine is sixteen visits to learn how to do the exercises and then three months at twice a week to practise. It must be helping but I don't know if I'm progressing. I'm still walking with two canes.

Worrying if things are melding the way they should is maybe the most stressful thing about the experience.

I had a list of things to attend to before the surgery. I went to the hospital one day for a workshop of some kind. I asked at the front desk where to find it. They had no idea. They asked what it was about. I told them.

"Oh yes," they said, "That's the pre-registration. That's round the corner."

I went there and sure enough, there were things for me to do. Questions to answer and such. My hospital experience is limited.

When it came to the moment of surgery, it seemed I had missed an important pre-requisite. The workshop required preparation exercises.

I also lost weight - but it wasn't enough. The surgeon's assistant, there were to have been two, had
enormous difficulty. My spine was in awful condition. The planned epidural could not be accomplished. They tried hard. I had several holes in my back to prove it. But a general anaesthetic had to be used.

My bent knee was still another serious impediment. I had talked about my knee beforehand. I wanted it to be known. I had the feeling I wasn't being heard. But I tried. After the surgery, on hearing all the terrible things with which they had to contend, I was quickly persuaded the surgery could not possiblly be successful and furthermore, it was all my fault.

I did get on my feet. I seemed to be doing alright .Then I noticed something. My upper body slopes substantially to the left as I sit. I regularly have to raise myself to the right to prevent tipping right over.

I already had a tilted pelvis due to mismatched legs.They had been that way since birth. Half an inch on the heel of my left shoe had helped but not corrected the limp completely. In my dreams I hoped the surgery might correct that and I would move gracefully for the first time in my life.

I never noticed my entire body listed to the left. Now I do. I talked about the mismatched legs before the surgery. But that too seemed not to register.

In the dressing room after the therapy, the women freely chat about their various experience.
So far the consensus is that things are not progressing as they should. When there are only two women, there will be whispered confidence, had she known how much pain she would not have gone through with the surgery.

One woman is very anxious to get back to work. She had knee surgery and had no idea she would be unable to stand. Her job requires standing all day. She likes it and needs to work.

Everyone seems to know people who wouldn't do it again.

I'm not thinking that. The arthritis is gone. It was in my knee before it became unendurable in my hip. Now there is no pain in my knee and none in my hip.

However, my tilted pelvis is giving concern. It has to be x-rayed. I have to add an inch to the heel and sole of my shoe. I'm not thrilled about that. Adding an inch on top of the half inch to my shoe isn't going to make me sit any straighter.I will await the results of the x-ray before I tackle the shoe.

So, since you asked, I am glad I had the hip surgery. The pain is gone. I am still working on regaining mobility. I am hopeful it will improve although I am obviously never going to glide like a swan or dance like an elf except maybe in virtual reality.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


HEATHER'S NOTE: Wordle is an online gadget for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. Here is the Wordle that I've created using the top 150 words from Evelyn's personal blog.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mothers Are All The Same


This is a reprint of a letter Evelyn wrote to the Editor of the Auroran in 2003. I found it again yesterday and have printed it here for you to read.

Mothers Are All The Same

I was 15, he was 20. He was on leave and we were comparing notes on some of our experiences. He said when a person falls from a great height, he blacks out and is unconscious when he hits the ground. He told me the bombers were like huge metal canisters. With shells exploding on every side they would shake and shudder and the noise was horrendous.

I recalled the time five bombs fell on the town. They came down in a straight line. The last one made a huge crater on the shore. That's how we learned about the effect of concussion. It bounces like a rubber ball. All the windows on one side of the street can be smashed and on the other not even a crack.

He talked about the precision of bombing raids. The squadron would take off, reach the target, drop the bombs and leave at the same time. Any bombs not dropped would be dropped in the sea. That's when we realized the bombs dropped on our town were an accident. The pilot must have believed he was over the sea. A couple of houses were demolished and three or four people were killed. That was during the Clydebank blitz. It lasted a week.

There were air-raid sirens every night. Searchlights criss-crossing the sky and anti-aircraft guns firing for hours. We could hear the planes going over...it seemed for hours. No German planes were ever brought down. In the mornings when we walked to school, we found the pavement littered with ugly jagged chunks of metal.

I can't believe how matter-of-fact we talked about these things. He said the violence of the raids was terrible. When the crews got back they would climb into the trucks in absolute silence. It was as if their voices were locked inside their throats. It would be hours before they could speak again. There were always planes that didn't come back.

He went back off leave on a Sunday afternoon...his cap set at a jaunty angle, his kit bag hoisted on his shoulder. He left the house alone. We were not much given to hugs and kisses. There was no sense that we might never see him again. It was about the same time on the next Sunday afternoon that two policemen came to the door. They asked for our mother. She came down the stairs as if she was tumbling. I could hear her breath catching in her throat. She screamed when they told her his plane had not returned from a raid the night before. He was "missing in action".

We had a full house; grandparents, three aunts, a younger brother, three sisters, including me and a chubby little baby cousin. We all knew that whatever we were feeling, it was as nothing compared to what my mother was going through. It was November. The war was over within months.

During those months we scanned the papers for news of airmen being picked up at sea. It was my job to write letters to inquire if my brother was one of them. My mother kept on gathering and saving all the things that he liked - pineapple jam for instance - for when he would come home.

The war ended and soon we received a letter from the father of a crew member who had been taken prisoner. That's how we found out my brother was dead. and how he died.

As the flight-engineer, he didn't wear his parachute. The plane was hit and on fire. Half the crew had been killed. Patrick was wounded . . . his parachute burned...he and the boy who survived, wrapped their arms around each other and jumped together, hoping one parachute would save them both. It didn't.

When he came to, he was alone.

When we learned he was dead, it was my job again to write to the War Office. Promptly, as soon as they received my letter, they sent a priority telegram telling us he had been "killed in action".

War is weird. They have all these rules. Only drop the bombs on the targets... otherwise people might get killed. My brother was buried in Dusseldorf, by the enemy. They retrieved his identity tag, his little penknife and his rosary without the crucifix. These things came back to us.

My mother lived until she was 90. At the end, the only thing in her possession was his last letter. It was just a note, written on a typewriter. He apologized for his mistakes, said he had enjoyed his leave, especially the baby...and got back to base safely. Just a single sheet of war-time stationery. I don't know how it has survived this long.

Funny thing...on one of her last visits to Canada, my mother brought with her the last letter written by her brother to his mother before he was killed. He called her "Mother Mine" and thanked her for the parcel of nice baked things she had sent.

James was my grandmother's first-born child. He was the eldest of 10, the youngest was just a babe. He was 22 years old when he was dropped off on the beach at the Dardanelles along with almost an entire generation of young Scots. Their bodies were torn apart by the machine gun fire that awaited them. He had already been wounded in the hell-hole trenches in France, had been sent home to recuperate and recalled before he was healed. He was killed in Turkey in 1917.

When a child dies of an illness or an accident...a mother's life is never the same again. But time and other children can help to bring acceptance. But when a beloved son's body is ripped apart by weapons of unimaginable brutality, on the decisions and orders of strangers, there can never be peaceful acceptance. No fine words of glory and honor and courage and awards of medals and coloured ribbons can heal a mother's broken heart or take away the cruel memory of the horror of the manner of their death.

There is no dignity in savagery.

British...Canadian...American...German...Korean...Vietnamese...Israeli or Iraqi. God help them...mothers are all the same.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


In the first couple of years Adam was transported to school. An orange bus came to the driveway to pick him up and drop him off. Then it was Keenan, the next sibling's turn to start school. He would be walking. A difference would be created between them.

Heather and Andy searched for a house backing on to the park where the school was situated. They found one and Adam walked to school like everyone else. He went through the gate in the backyard and crossed the park independently four times every day.

Mum and Dad were active in parent school affairs. Heather volunteered in various classes. They organized dances and auctions and raised money for various projects like computers and trips. Adam thrived as did his brothers and sister.

The backyard changed over the years. In succession there was a tree fort, an ice rink and a basketball net. This year an attractive privacy fence was erected at the end of the driveway and a cedar hedge planted. There's a patio and pergola, a shed with lace curtains in the windows and a place for a cosy fire in the centre of things.

Last Sunday, the temperature was 24 degrees. The Buck Family gathered at Heather and Andy's for Thanksgiving. Some members were missing and missed but the gathering was substantial. Thirty-two in all.

Jeff Nash and his wife were there from Kelowna B.C. Jeff spent a lot of his childhood in my basement. He and my son Andrew were best friends. Jeff's sisters, Kelly and Cindy were Heather's friends. They lost both parents recently. There were many memories to share.

There was a fire burning. Tables and chairs borrowed from neighbours created a long harvest table draped with fall colours. Heather once again worked in the federal election. On Saturday, Robyn was busy in the kitchen helping with the cooking and baking. I helped.

Vanessa, was there on Sunday. Hers was the summer wedding on the shores of Georgian Bay that I missed. The couple left soon after to work in Korea to earn enough money to pay off student debt. Korea is far and they were going to be away a long time. But the plan went awry.

Vanessa is with child or to be precise .... children. Twins are expected. Stephen and Mary will be grandparents.

How's that for a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Event.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Plan Ahead

I am buying the bench. I rented it the first month and kept it for a second month. I am not going to let it go.

It's called a transfer bench. Two legs are in the bath and two out. Half the bench is outside the bath so it's easy to sit down and swing my legs into the bathtub. I stand easily and sit when it's convenient. When I turn off the shower I can dry my hair and other parts without getting off the seat. It lifts easily out of the bathtub because it weighs hardly anything.

I was thinking about having a walk-in shower in place of the bathtub. For years. I've been advising people older than me to make that change. If plans are never to become dependent, it seemed like the sensible thing to do. I was at the point of shopping for what was needed and learned from the salesman a walk-in shower is not necessarily safer than a bathtub with a shower, and cost is prohibitive.

Fortunately, at the same time, I discovered the transfer bench. Three months ago, I didn't even know there was such a thing.

Early this year, I disposed of my dishwasher and replaced it with a washing machine. I don't miss the dishwasher and the washing machine in the kitchen means I am in complete charge of my own laundry.

It is my plan to maintain independence for the rest of my life. My recent surgery was my first. Being dependent on strangers has never held any appeal for me. Less now.

I think life must have a purpose even if it's just taking care of oneself.

So I am making plans. It's working out fine. I rented a bed rail too and I am keeping that as well. It's very handy.

I am still walking with two canes but not thinking about it. I have also started therapy at Whipper Billy Watson's pool at the hospital. He would be very proud to know how many people are benefitting from his energy and conviction.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Blessings

On Tuesday I attended a Joint Council Committee at the Newmarket Administration Centre. I used two canes to navigate. I walked further than I had before with the canes. I was so pleased with my progress I walked some more at a shopping c entre. When it came to attending the town's general committee meeting in the evening, I couldn't. My arms were trembling, my hands shaking and I was cold all over. I had over-extended myself.

Yesterday, Friday, a beautiful day, I tackled the steps from the deck and did a couple of hours of weeding. The chair and cultivator had been set in place and beckoning me for a week. It was a day of accomplishment.

Since using the canes and abandoning the walker, I can walk several short steps independent of support. It is two months since the surgery. I dont know if that is good or poor progress because everyone I have asked has difficulty remembering their own timetable.

I am noting my progress for the benefit of anyone who might be contemplating the surgery. I thought I would be able to attend my grand-daughter's wedding two weeks after the surgery and it would just be a matter of willpower.

Obviously, I was wrong.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Don't Forget Possible!

My mother was born in 1902. The amenities of the day were oil lamp lighting, water from a common spigott in the yard carried indoors in a bucket and heated in kettles on the coal range. Bath-time was once a week.; Except for Grampa, a coal miner. For the rest of the family bath time coordinated with wash day when there was ample hot water from the boiler in the wash-house in the yard,.

Daily ablutions were perfomed in the house from a basin at a wash stand. My mother often recalled Grannie's admoniton:.

"Wash down as far as possible and up as far as possible", then with her finger raised, "Don't forget possible!"

The first seven years of my life were much the same as my mother's. except that we had a sink and cold water faucet in our home and gas lighting . My memories are clear.

I can now shower without needing someone else in the house. I can stand easily and wash possible. I have never taken modern amenities for granted. Since the surgery more than ever before.. I consider experience as a profound asset.

I am driving, shopping, attending meetings,still walking with support and blogging.

My grandparents would be amazed and amused.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


In terms of my recuperation,every day is better than the one before. I've stopped trying to pin people down to when exactly they walked without support. I know it's coming. I had no such confidence before.I can now lean forward to the bath faucet and stand easily to adjust the shower.

I have been shopping and eating out. I attended a council-in-committee meeting.I intend to attend the office of the Director of Corporate Services to find out what transpired at the in-camera sessions. Apparently the Mayor has given orders to councillors the information is not to be shared with those who were not at the meetings.That was myself and Councillor Collins-Mrakas. The Mayor did offer to come to my home and give me the information. I did not accept .

But best of all,my muse has returned . I have resumed my relationship with Blog.

I was frankly shattered to discover how physical limitations affected my psychological equilibrium. I do not expect my outlook will ever be the same again. But that's the effect of life experience. I now have a sense and an overwhelming empathy for people who are powerless
for whatever reason.

Adam had a great summer. He was a star at the two family weddings. Nobody who saw him perform his break dance routine will ever forget his energy and sheer joy in living. Four
cousins in his age group joined him on the floor and delighted the entire gathering with moves that even they didn't know they had .
Aunt Theresa told young Mark, "I never realised you could dance like that" He answered" Aunt Theresa, I didn't know myself until I did it."Clearly, Adam was the inspiration.

They were indeed a merry throng.

Adam travelled to various tournaments in Special Olympics. His baseball team came first in the final competition which means he will travel to next year's Special Olympics in Windsor.

The only cloud in his life at the moment is not having a meaningful purpose in his day. A couple of years Ago the Province approved a program called Passport. It allows parents to seek out meaningful activities for their special needs young adults. It's a great program. Since the year it started ,no new funds have been made available.

Adam will attend a program in Aurora two days a week.It provides an opportunity for work experience and maintaining literacy skills. It will cost his parents $400. a month. Because of Adam, theirs is a single income household.

Parents who were fortunate to obtain funding at the beginning of the program continue to have funding.. Others ,like Adam,who came of age later , do not.For them ,it will mean they will simply spend their days without meaningful activity and without the opportunity for growth that is every person's right.Adam had that until he graduated from high school. That was a year ago.

He has progressed. He discovered if he didn't go out everywhere with his mother, he could go out alone after she left. They live handily to the commercial centre of Newmarket. Adam goes shopping with his money card. The last time he favoured Wallmart with his business. When he paid for his shopping ,he was asked if he wanted cash back. He asked for forty dollars and went to MacDonald's and had lunch.

He also has some extravagant tastes.He completely understands the selection of video games available. So he is no longer free to choose whether to stay home alone until the van disappears down the street.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm Back!!!

So, one wedding and a new hip joint later, I am back. It seems ages.

I didn't make it to my grand-daughter's wedding. I will always regret that. But thanks to digital cameras and many personal accounts of the event, I feel didn't miss it completely. There was never a real possibility that I would make it but I didn't know that.

I've been urged to write about my hip joint replacement. I was not eager.

In the first place, my experience may not be like others. Secondly, the surgery is only the first part of the process. Success apparently depends on months of physiotherapy that follows. It is not yet complete.

The pain of arthritic degeneration has vanished. There is no pain in the hip joint. But muscles forced into action after who knows how many years of disuse are not quiescent.

Dire warnings if I lean this way or bend that. Blood clots are a significant postsurgical hazard. The drug to combat blood clots has serious connotations in its own right.

Pain killers make the physio painless. Pain killers are powerful and therefore addictive. That's not good.

Every day I hear of someone whose life was turned around after the surgery but it took months. How many months? Am I slower than others? If I am, why am I?

I am doing the physio, but I was never good at exercise routines. Am I doing it right? If I'm not, am I doing more harm than good?

Yesterday I learned the therapy cannot hurt the new hip joint Only the muscles are being impacted. So, every day I learn something new and positive.

I am at home in my own bed. I make my own breakfast and lunch. I look out at my own garden and sit out on the deck. I have supportive friends and family and never in my whole life have I appreciated them so much.

A pleasant, serious and sensible therapist comes to my house once a week to give me instructions and support.

If I do not recover and be in better shape than I was before, it will be no one's fault but my own.

But that will not be a comfort.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Two Weddings and A Hip Joint Replacement

In case you were wondering, this has been a summer of intensity. I discovered I can only focus my attention on six major matters at one time.

Two grandchildren, brother and sister Myles and Vanessa decided to marry within one month. In that time, I will travel to Ottawa for the first wedding and Georgian Bay for the second. Between times surgery for a hip joint replacement is scheduled with rehabilitation therapy to follow.

Preparation for the surgery has required losing weight. It might have prevented the need for surgery had I never gained it. Now nothing fits and I have been busy at the sewing table.

Swimming is a daily exercise. It is most summers. But the function is more than simple enjoyment this year. Exercise is another prerequisite for successful surgery. Like weight reduction it makes for greater ease of movement. Now I am wondering do I really need the surgery? But x-rays do not lie. I just wish I had the proficiency to read them. Replacing essential parts of myself carries no appeal.

Anyway, the surgery will soon be over and the remaining challenge will be to dance at my grand-daughter's wedding. I did at Myles and Melissa's, I must again at Vanessa and James'.

So, if you don't hear from me often in the next few weeks, you will understand why.

Adam danced up a storm .

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Discovery Shared

I rented a scooter. I intended to use it for the street sale which happens once a year. I could not contemplate the amount of walking needed to enjoy the whole thing. In past years, I thought about a golf cart but tracking one down was harder than a scooter.

It's just as well from a couple of reasons. I could never have navigated the crowds with a golf cart, though my grandchildren would undoubtedly have enjoyed the ride. Also, the scooter rental had a minimal charge and that was for a week. It was delivered to the house which solved another potential problem. It is currently outside my door, being charged up and swathed in plastic bags awaiting my pleasure.

I have it for a week. I traced steps yesterday that I have not walked since my children were small. There were places on the main street, Yonge Street which have changed so much since I was last on foot, I had trouble recognizing where I was at a particular moment.

The stalls were a delight. I bought sweaters from Equador for my two little great-granddaughters. Heather Sisman bought me a sun hat that shades my entire face and looks quite fetching, if I don’t say so myself. It stays securely on my head.

When I first bought my cane, I recalled how walkers in Scotland would carry a cane as a matter of course. I read somewhere it was a good for walkers to use a cane. Humans were not originally intended to walk upright The cane aids posture Then there was always the image of the Edwardian - dandy in silk top hats, tails, white gloves and an ebony cane with an ornately shaped silver handle. I have yet to bring myself to the point of buying such an elegant accessory, though I have tracked down a source. My current “dress” cane is painted black with a silvery but smooth metal handle.

I think a cane would be a very fine and practical accessory for anyone to use.

But now my friends, I am about to embark on a different mission. I suspect an electric scooter might very well prove to be a delightful alternative to using a car in pleasant weather. Obvious advantages are enjoying the fresh air, appreciating the place we call home, the cost of gas might certainly be an imperative. A normal association with neighbours would definitely be an advantage and we might never need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on insane and over the top traffic calming measures ever again. Of course, sidewalks would need to be wider and the width taken from the roadway. That might not be all bad.

While I am sitting here on the computer, the sun is shining and the day is already half over. I am missing all of that. So I think I will get going now to tootle around and rediscover my world from a different perspective.

I am off to buy a tarp to cover my rented scooter.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another Adam High Point

It was in high school. A project was organized for students like Adam. A theatrical performance was to be produced with everyone performing a role according to their ability. Each student had two regular students working with them.

The Show went on. . To our surprise it was held in a classroom. It was a smash hit. There wasn't room for everyone who wanted to see it ,so it played a second night
Adam has always been a ham.. He loves an audience and his performance has always been self-directed. The routine was his own , from a combination of favourite movies and TV shows. All he needed was complete attention so that no-one would miss the little bits of business. . He was in his element. .We laughed until we cried. We cheered and applauded.He knew he was good.

The school project was several weeks in rehearsal.. He did a song and a soft-shoe shuffle. The Title "I'm just a Gigolo".

He wore white circa 1920's baggy pants a white shirt and bow-tie. A black silver-tipped cane and a straw hat. completed the ensemble. The music was taped. His timing was perfectl. He stood the cane on its end and strutted a circle around it. He twirled it and tossed it ,stretched it high between his hands and moved it to the music. He finagled the hat between his fingers and ended by tossing it over and back. Like every performer before him the warmer the audience response, the more bits of business he introduced. He brought the house down.

His Mum, Dad and I floated on the triumph for days. But there were a couple of puzzling aspects. Why had it not been performed in the auditorium with room for an audience? Why was there no talk of it becoming part of the regular program? Then we realised, the object of the exercise had not been for the kids like Adam. It had been to give regular students a chance to better understand them.

Soon after, my girl found him sobbing into his pillow. When she asked why, his answer was quick, simple.

"My friends." he said.

Adam had misunderstood the relationship between himself and the two regular students. He thought they had become friends. What happened i to make him realize it was not so,, we will never know. All we knew was the depth of his sadness. . We know that was not intended.

Adam didn't.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Adam was the highlight of the family gathering at Easter. Our numbers were down due to grandchildren living in places distant.. A couple of sons and families were no shows and no calls either.

When that happens I ponder my options. Should I shorten the list next time and see how they like that? Should I say nothing, as if it doesn't matter? It does but there is little I might say that would make a difference. It doesn't happen often.. If I dwell on it, I could feel sorry for myself. . So, I won't.

Anyway, it was still a crowd and everyone enjoyed the company. Robyn had made a video of her brother Adam at a swim meet. She played it a couple of times to cheers and applause.

There were three races. He came in first in one, second in another and was last in the pool for the last and longest race.

Adam's swimming has been marked with major advances. He started in the backyard pool like everyone else with small plastic water wings on his upper arms. They were cheapest of water safety gadgets and most effective. The young ones were proficient in the pool before they could walk. They bobbed around like corks. Nothing entertained them better. They were always clean. When they turned blue and shivery we lifted out, kicking their fat little legs in protest.

They had to wear life jackets when they were running around the pool. Then they would jump in at the shallow end and work their way to the deep end. Older ones went in off the diving board without jackets, young ones watched, waited and learned.

Adam, however, was cautious. He took no chances. He moved around the perimeter, toes clinging to the two inch ledge and arms gripping the concrete deck.

After a couple of summers he ventured to the diving board. Still he wore the life jacket. Nothing could persuade him to give it up. We had to learn. He would do things in his own time and not to suit anyone else's timetable..

His mother would exhort him to jump without the jacket. Cousins ten years younger were leaping and splashing on every side. Adam would roar back in admonition; ”Mum, do you want me to die?"

It seems only a few summers ago he finally jumped without the jacket and splash enough to engulf the entire deck. The whole neighbourhood must have heard his triumphant roar “Rocky!“

Then we noticed. When he went to the bottom, he lingered before he swam in a single movement to the other end.

Adam has an inordinate lung capacity. That should not have surprised us. He was always capable of drinking copious amounts of fluid and lasting ages without having to pee. When eventually he did, he would pee for ten minutes non-stop.We figured his lung capacity must match his bladder capacity.

He has been involved in Special Olympics for the last few years. His photo was in The Toronto Sun in full stride breaking a ribbon in a race. He plays floor hockey. Scored a goal in a Mississuaga Tournament last week-end and his team won .

Ice hockey was organized by a parent a couple of years ago. Adam plays goalie. Players ages vary. One young man of twenty-seven is autistic. In his whole life, he has never known involvement. Today he laces up skates and plays hockey.

Adam leads his team onto the ice like a parent duck with a straight row of ducklings behind.of varying shapes and sizes..

Two months ago he enrolled in a swim program. He has since been coached one on one. At the end of a lap he rises out of the water ,arm raised and his familiar cry of "Rocky". The swim meet before Easter, the subject of his sister's video, was the highest point yet. He came first in one race, second in another. He was flagging in the third but it was longest.He was las in the pool but he finished the lap.

Each time he reached the end he slapped the deck hard , turned around to face his mother, sister and camera, placed a kiss in the palm of his hand and blew it in their direction.

Adam will be twenty three next month. He has extra chromosomes, a condition identified as Down's Syndrome. Since the day of his birth, he has taught us much. His accomplishments never cease to amaze and delight us.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Highly Improbable City

The last time I was in Sudbury, it was a grim place. What remained of the trees were black pointy sticks protruding from vast expanses of rock. The province created a Regional Municipality up there thirty years ago.

John Pianosi, a member of the Social Assistance Review Board was from the company town of Coppercliff a close neighbour of Sudbury. He had lots to tell about his childhood. Board members spent many hours driving around the province with plenty of time for talk about themselves and anything and everything else. His parents emigrated from Italy to Sudbury. Like the Caruso's came to Aurora and the Bondi's to Newmarket.

I was in Sudbury to see my granddaughter perform in the musical Grease. She was in the chorus. I have not missed a performances since she was at Dennison Secondary School. We went to Guelph and Fergus when she was at University. She had never done a musical. She wasn't sure she had singing and dancing skills.

I went with her mother, (my daughter Theresa) and Heather Sisman. It was a fun trip. We re- discovered how easy it is to laugh at ourselves and each other. Theresa loves to drive but she works in Toronto and commutes every day on public transit. I rented a Toyota Matrix for the trip.

The sky was blue all the way and the road was clear and dry. We saw very little traffic but when we pulled into Tim Horton's at Nobel (close to Parry Sound) it was packed.

We had to drive around quite a bit in the city to find the theatre. It's an awesome place.,literally chiselled out of rock. Old road allowances have just enough level area on either side to accommodate a sidewalk, a small house, a thin slice of backyard. Flat rock rises straight up at the rear lot line.

Gabion baskets in some places are piled thirty or forty feet high, presumably to hold the earth back. What earth I wondered? Looks like solid rock to me. How are sewer and water mains installed in a place like that? Obviously they've done it. but it's not obvious how. February is hardly the time to check curb appeal but it sure is a happening place. Flags from every country in the world are flying. on both side of a long bridge. The government must have poured billions into the economy to make the city what it is.

They have two universities, several hospitals and at least one other theatre. Eric, Stephanie's partner is doing his Master's degree. He is a marine biologist and gets paid to mess about with plants and fish and trails and the like. He is a happy man. Stephanie is sewing canvas boat covers with hands that would look right on a ten year old.

The play had been performed for six night in each of two weeks with matinees and full houses in a high school theatre. They rehearsed four nights a week beforehand. She played the lead in a couple of rehearsals and the director told her he wished he had cast her for the part. It is community theatre so there is no pay. But it beats doing nothing. Talent needs to be honed.

For days after, my head was filled with the music of the show. For some reason, I thought of my grandparents. A particular scene came into focus.

As a teenager, I worked in a war-time residential nursery. Mothers worked round the clock in munition plants. Fathers were at war. Pre-school children came in to the nursery on Sunday night and went home Friday.

At one time, three infants came to us from another nursery. They were the survivors of an episode of gastroenteritis that killed twenty babies. One tiny girl named Morag never went home. Her mother visited most weekends.

On afternoons, when I was off-duty I would take her in a battered old pram to my grandparents. Grampa would struggle out of his rocking chair to bend down and put his gnarled and shaking finger into her tiny grasping little fist.

Charlie Rose had an Irish actor, Gabriel Byrne, as a guest the week after I was in Sudbury. He talked about his "silent culture". I had never thought about my people being silent. They seemed to be always telling stories. They loved to laugh at themselves and each other. But it was true, they rarely expressed their feelings. I gained a fresh understanding from Gabriel Byrne's reference. They never talked about loving. I think it was supposed to be taken for granted. Children don't presume. If nobody ever tells you they love you, it's because they don't.

There was no theatre in our town but movies were in their heyday. Grannie was addicted. Two or three times a week, rain or shine, she and my mother went to" the pictures". She would read every night until the small hours of the morning. She had a sweet singing voice and an endless repertoire of ballads. The wireless was always tuned to Family Favourites at ten in the morning.

As each person came in from work, my grandparents would hear every detail of the day's conversation. Decades before there was T.V., we had daily soap operas in our house. There was some drama but mostly it was comedy.

Grampa was a coal miner who worked six days a week for fifty-one years. His fingers were blunted and gnarled and shaking. His body full of rheumatism from working in water much of the time. My mother told once of how he would have to stand in front of the fire to thaw his frozen clothes before they could be removed. That was after he had walked the several miles home from work.

It may have been Sudbury, it may have been the laughter, it may have been my singing, dancing granddaughter or it may have been driving for miles in a brand new Matrix to a mining city that would have been familiar but amazing to my grandfather that made me think of them both and how great it would have been to share my story about the week-end with them.