"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

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.