Taking Stock

Every once in a while I take stock of my life, partly because it's therapeutic and to see what I was thinking at the time. One of my regrets in life is that I have not recorded either my words or in pictures many things in my life. Video is a much more prevalent part of our society these days, but it wasn't way back when my kids were growing up. Particularly because I am now estranged from my children it would be nice to be able to watch videos of them growing up. Both my son and daughter were heavily involved in sports, yet I don't have a single picture from all those years of hundreds of games.

As for recording my life, you never think at the time that you will ever begin to forget some of the things you experienced during your life. I have been more diligent about it over the last few years, but I never recorded a word before that. I wrote a poem when my son was born and I wrote a poem for my daughter when I moved out West, but that's about it. On one of my many infamous cross-country trips between BC and Brampton, a trip that takes just over forty hours, I had a recorder with me and from that I produced a novel, carefully transcribing every word and printing it. It was about two inches thick on standard 8 1/2 by 11 paper and I called it My Body Time because that was the note I added on every recording. To his considerable credit my Dad actually read it. Somewhere, somehow it got turfed and I don't have the computer file anymore so it's gone, which I regret. It would be fun to not only remember the trip, but to see what I was thinking about my life and future at the time.

So, where am I now? It seems like any record of the things that have happened to me over the past few years has been a tragedy. If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all. Nothing has gone right, from my health to where I lived, to family, really nothing. Somehow I keep plugging along, believing that by some miracle things will turn around and get better, but it never seems to work out that way. I've certainly had some low points, like lying in the sweltering heat in a men's shelter, wondering if this was the bottom. Things got a little better when I got a job, lousy as it was, to getting an apartment through London Housing and having a little money in my jeans. It wasn't enough though because they, Home Depot, didn't renew my contract and I was back on welfare again.

That was back in December of 2010 and it was also a time my health took a very bad turn. Because I had no money I went six weeks without my meds and ended up in hospital. My sugars were off the charts and I came close to buying the farm. I don't remember five days before I finally managed to get to the hospital. They just monitored me until my sugars came down, gave me three days of basic meds and sent me on my way. Thanks to my doctor at the walk-in clinic, who reached into his own pocket and together with a pharmacist got me my urgently needed meds, I survived. I had had an ongoing battle with Ontario Works, trying to get my meds before it was too late. I wrote them a letter advising that there would be a letter on my cold dead body clearly implicating thing them in my death because they wouldn't help me. Within an hour of delivering the letter I got a call to come in right away. They issued me a drug card, a bus pass and money to buy food.

My job each and every day was to check all the job boards, read the local papers online and research any companies that might be hiring. I also worked with Goodwill, who sent me on a wild goose chase to take courses for my passion - employment counselling, only to have it all fall apart when it turned out to be a post graduate course and I did not qualify to take it. I also went through Leads, whose mandate is to find employment for the disabled, which, by now, I was. They were hopeless and never helped me in any way. In our meetings they would call up a job board, which I knew by heart, and tell me to apply for jobs I had already applied for.

One of the jobs was at a call centre, for which I applied online months before. Out of the blue I got a call from them asking me to come in for an interview, which I did and was hired to start right away. I was praying that they didn't do a CRC (Criminal Record Check), but they did. I figured it was just another job I lost because of this stupid mistake from twenty-five years ago! I was surprised when they called and asked me to explain what happened. The HR person just kept saying that it was twenty-five years ago, so they went ahead and hired me anyway. I was so grateful at the time to finally land a job, but I had no idea what I was in for. They turned out to be the worst employer I've ever seen in my whole life and the stress of the job got so bad that I was shaking all the time and my blood pressure, normally ridiculously normal, was really high and my sugars were off the charts, in the high twenties and low thirties. My doctor said I was a poster boy for a heart attack. I learned about getting Medical EI, so I went off on medical leave to try to calm down, and to find a better job.

My doctor supported my leave, signing the forms required for both my company and EI, showing a return date of sixty days. I hoped this would give me time to find something better, but no such luck. As the sixty days approached the company called me to ask if I was coming back or needed more time? Medical EI runs for fifteen weeks, so I went back to my doctor to get an extension. Instead of continuing to support me he flipped out about not being my family doctor, saying he shouldn't be signing these forms. I might mention that I have been trying to find a family doctor for three years. As we were talking he was writing something on the original form. When I got home I was horrified to see that he had written "open return to work", something I had told him the company specifically would not accept. I scanned and emailed it to HR anyway. Naturally I got a call a few minutes later.

They would not accept this form and told me to find a family doctor to fill out the form correctly, even though they were well aware of how impossible this was. As my benefits were about to run out I contacted EI to see what to do. The agent I spoke with was very helpful and told me they could extend my benefits to the maximum fifteen weeks if I brought in the certificate. She said they accept an "open return" because this happens all the time. I went down to Services Canada to deliver the form, only to meet with a real bitch who looked at the form and said because it was signed on August 20th they might claw back my benefit payments. As if things could not be bad enough! I called my employer to return to work now that my benefits were expiring and I had no choice, but they want a clearance certificate from my family doctor. They know I can't get this because I can't find a family doctor, so now my benefits are about to run out and I can't return to work. So frustrating! Enough to drive me to drink, if only I could afford it.

On the health front things have improved a little. Thanks to increased meds, especially larger doses of insulin, my sugars have moderated considerably. I'm even getting some sixes and eights in the mornings, something I haven't seen in years. My feet continue to be a problem and I'm in pain 24/7, making sleeping really difficult. Walking is no joy either. I've recently discovered a new cream that's helping a bit, but it's no miracle cream. My biggest health challenge is not being able to do anything physical, which I've always done, and the thirty-five pounds I've packed on because of all the insulin.

On the family front things are still sad and confusing. My son came to London back in March and we managed to only squeeze in a forty-five minute visit after seventeen years apart, but he said we would get together "soon" and have a better visit. I was hopeful that I could somehow see my three grand kids, two of whom I have never met. Weeks later and after he hadn't answered several text messages, I called his cell phone, only to learn it wasn't his phone anymore. I started leaving increasingly concerned messages on Facebook, all with no answer. After weeks of trying I sent a not too happy note reminding him that he had done this to me three times already and asking what's going on? He finally responded with a really cruel message, saying in part that I wasn't his real Dad and had no right to see his daughters. Like a knife in my heart. He blocked me on Facebook and said that was the end.

My daughter has made no attempt what-so-ever to contact me after I drove across the country in the dead of winter to see her back in 1994. My wife's new hubby hid her away and would not let me see her. He also wouldn't so much as let me have coffee with my wife of twenty-three years, so that says it all. I did find my daughter on Facebook, but she also blocked me and reported me to Facebook for posting a picture of her. Really sad what people do to each other. My kids both encouraged me to move out West seventeen years ago to be with my mother, who we felt was dying of cancer and didn't have long to live. I never knew that the result was them cutting me out of their lives forever.

On top of everything else going on I had no choice but to file for bankruptcy. Revenue Canada had garnisheed my wages to the tune of 30% plus 100% of my vacation pay. London Housing was already taking 30% and I could barely survive, so living on 40% was impossible. Several people who came to my rescue or believed in me and loaned me money got drawn in to the bankruptcy, which I regret more than anything. I hope I find some way to still pay them back for their faith in me. I keep praying that my lottery ticket will hit and I can reward them big time. I figure the odds are fifty fifty - I could win or I could lose.

Friends and love life are still non existent. For a guy who loved being surrounded by many friends and pretty well was always involved romantically, being alone has been a killer. My last relationship was with the woman who I came to London for and that ended tragically when she screwed around on me. My life revolved around her and her lovely daughter, who I got along with so well. It all ended so abruptly and hurtful. I can't help but think I wouldn't be in this God-forsaken town if it wasn't for her. Can't believe it's been three years since I moved here. I have to find a way to get out before I go crazy. I had asked for a transfer to Chilliwack from my employer, but they won't do anything until I return to work here.

Oh well, there you have it.

"Adventure" Boating

It could be said that all of my boating in the Okanagan should be called "adventure" boating. This was a term Wade and I started using to describe just some of our boating experiences, but it could also describe my record with boats in general.

When I first moved to the Okanagan I believed in the adage that it was a crime to live on the lake and not have a boat. One of the very first things I did when I arrived in the spring of 1993 was to buy a boat from Dockside Marine, which was to set a theme for the next fourteen years. I put a deposit on it because we were heading back to Ontario in the van to sell off everything in the house on Mara Crescent and would be back in about three weeks or so. I was to bring them a certified cheque for $5,600 after we had water tested the boat. My brother and I met the sales guy from the dealership at the Kelowna marina and he took us out for a spin. The boat seemed perfect, so I handed over the cheque to the sales guy and my brother drove the boat back to our marina in Westbank. I was to pick-up the trailer later in the week.

When my mother and I returned from garage saleing Saturday morning, where I bought a tow rope and a spare gas can, my Dad greeted us at the door and, from the look on his face, my first questions was going to be "who died"? He told me he had watched a story on the news about a boat on fire over in Green Bay and he had run down to make sure my boat was still in the marina. It wasn't. We immediately phoned the RCMP to report my boat stolen and see if we could match up the information, but they had little to share. A local resident had gone out to the burning boat to make sure no one was on board, then he had phoned it in. Although the RCMP attended to where it sank, they had no information what-so-ever as to its location. They said it was way too deep and I would never find it. They were useless and proved even more useless as far as catching who stole my boat. I managed to find the witness and he was very helpful. I asked if the engine was in the "up" position or down, but he could not remember. Because the boat was in the marina I left the engine down and this would mean it might not have been destroyed in the fire. I hired a recovery crew and we met the witness out on the bay. Amazingly he was within twenty-five feet of where it went down. They towed it to the beach but as soon as it started coming out of the water I saw that the engine was in the "up" position and it was just a mass of molten metal. The leg was fine but everything else was toast.

Oh well, I thought, I never even got to drive my first boat, but the dealer's insurance would cover it so I just needed to find another boat. I called the dealer, who informed me that it was not covered by their insurance because it was a consignment boat. I said no one disclosed this to me, and they still had my trailer, so the deal was not finalized and they were obligated to still be insuring it. To my amazement they said insurance was up to the owners of the boat. When I called them they said that they had let the insurance lapse back in May when they took it to Dockside, who they understood were insuring it as part of their inventory. They were as amazed as I was that there was no insurance on the boat.

Before I just accepted that my welcome to the Okanagan had been losing $5,600, something I could ill afford, I contacted a lawyer who agreed that the deal was not finalized because I had not taken delivery of the trailer and had not signed off. Obviously I needed the trailer and the papers to transfer the insurance and get new plates for the trailer. He made it all sound pretty simple and said we could sue them in small claims court because it was less than ten thousand dollars.

When we first got to court I learned exactly what kind of closed-knit community Kelowna was. The principle from the dealer was an ex-mayor and he was greeted warmly by the judge. After hearing his argument that the boat had been paid for in full by certified cheque, the judge ruled that was sufficient to consider the deal done and we never even got a chance to speak. So much for fairness. Welcome to Kelowna!

Much as it pained me not to have a boat, it was a couple of years before I thought of owning a boat again. I don't even remember the exact circumstances of how I found my next boat. I seem to remember it was parked outside a door and window salvage place, which should have been my first clue. It was a strange little boat because it was a tri-hull, something I didn't even know existed. The guy from the store came out and said it was a consignment boat, but he knew a little about it. He said the tri-hull design made it very stable, especially in choppy water, which there was no shortage of on Lake Okanagan. We took it out on a relatively calm day and it ran great. He was right - it was incredibly stable. I bought it.

Although I don't remember exactly how many years I had my little 14 foot "cork" we sure had some interesting times. Every decent weather weekend was spent on the lake, most of time just trying to find some calm water to ski. A bunch of us boat owners would find each other somewhere around Kelowna and tie all the boats together, kick back, enjoy the sunshine and some "pops". It was heaven. At the end of the day someone would volunteer their place and we would buy some steaks and have a BBQ, then pull our boats and meet at the Corral for the night. It was the best times of my life with the best people. Thanks to boating I soon had about twenty really great friends.

Two of the more "adventurous" (read life threatening) experiences with this boat were the hydroplane races and our weekend across from Summerland. Pretty sure it was the first year of the races and, of course, the best place to watch them from is on the water. The wind was pretty strong and the water was choppy, conditions my boat didn't like much. As the water got too rough the races were cancelled and everyone started for home. We had been on the north side of the bridge. Often the conditions on either side of the bridge were night and day. This was one of those times. As we came under the bridge, heading for the Eldorado just down the shore from the bridge, where the trailer was, we encountered the biggest waves I had ever seen on the lake. Thankfully Wade, who has a lot more experience than I did, was driving. We had two very drunk girls in the back and he looked at me and said it was good they were drunk because they didn't know how much trouble we were in. That didn't make me feel much better.

He started basically "tacking" like a sailboat, because if we headed straight down the shoreline, the boat would have been swamped. Every once in a while Wade would shout that we had "incoming" and a wave would crash over the bow and flood the boat. I had the sump pump running full blast, but the boat was lurching so badly there was no way I could manage to also bail with a bucket. At one point, when Wade yelled, I was on the cell phone, so I calmly told them to hang on and held my phone up high so the water crashing over the windshield wouldn't soak it and then went back to talking. Wade told this story many times. Admittedly it must have looked pretty funny. At full speed, the ride to the El might have taken ten minutes, max. This day, with all the tacking, we didn't get close until forty-five minutes after coming under the bridge. The swells were so huge I had no idea how I was going to get off to get the trailer and even less idea how Wade was going to get the boat on the trailer. As we approached the dock he said I had one shot at it and I would have to leap because he couldn't come in too close or he would crash into the dock. I literally took a "leap of faith", praying to make the dock, and not smash my body into the end of it, or worse, hit the water and drown, but I made it.

I backed into the boat launch area as best I could but the waves were just huge. I didn't know whether to stay to help Wade or stay away to avoid being killed when the boat came launched in mid air somewhere around the trailer. So true to Wade, he hit the crest of a wave, surfing the boat up towards the trailer. As the wave broke the boat landed perfectly on the trailer, literally a few inches from the winch. Wade just bowed. I hooked it on and pulled out and we tied it down properly. I had never seen anything like that, before or since. There were so many things that could have gone so wrong!

One of the joys of having a boat was to pack up and head to the other side of the lake, to Okanagan Mountain Park, find a deserted cove and camp for the night. One warm summer night Jackie and I loaded up some firewood and headed across to a favorite cove. It was getting a little dark by the time we got there but I managed to tie the boat off with the anchor and a nearby tree. We slept in the raw, of course, and when we woke to a glorious sunny, warm day, well, nature took its course. The next thing we hear is the giant CAT machine start-up at the top of the cliff, where someone was building a house! We made some guy's morning. You never saw two people get dressed faster!

Wade and I thought we would see if we could get a bunch of our friends together and camp across the lake for a weekend. Early Friday morning we started looking for places but they were all taken, all the way down the lake. We finally found a perfect sheltered cove with no one there, so we decided to head off early the following weekend and claim it. The following Friday was an awesome day. We loaded all our stuff into my boat and Wade's, Summer Thunder, and made our way down to our cove, just across the lake from Summerland. We spent the day and much of the next ferrying people across from Shaughnessy's Cove. In between we ate, drank, water skied, hiked and, in general, had a blast. I think over the weekend we had some twenty-one people spend some of the weekend there.

The number one "adventure" ever? Well, we decided to boat down to a pub in Penticton Saturday night, so we loaded up both boats. I remember having at least four good looking babes in my boat for the trip down. We had tied our boats off at the docks in front of the Lakeside and gone into the bar. Around ten-thirty someone came into the bar hollering that whoever owned the boats outside should get out there right away before they smashed to smithereens. When we rushed down to the dock the first thing I saw was that my bumpers were completely smashed to bits and my boat was crashing up against the dock. In minutes it would also be in pieces. Wade hollered instructions to me that I had only one shot at cresting the wave out of the marina or I would be smashed on the rocks behind us. Where were the girls who had traveled sown with me? Safely on Wade's big boat. I had a moment of panic at going it alone, but at the last minute, my buddy Greg volunteered to risk his life with me.

We no sooner managed to leap over the first giant wave out of danger from the docks, than the bow nose-dived into a huge wave and we were swamped by tons of water. In the darkness I heard Wade hollering at me to speed up so that we would cut the wave and not drown. I gently moved the throttle up but we were being thrown around like the cork my boat was. I honestly didn't think we were going to make it, especially not in the pitch black of night with no idea where we were or how not to crash on shore. Wade saved my life that night. He kept checking ahead and coming back, circling my boat and making sure we were okay. It took us hours to navigate to below the single light we remembered up on the hill and get into our little protected cove. No idea what we would have done if we had not had our sheltered cove or anywhere to go. It was a brutal storm. I wanted to kiss the sand when we finally made it back.

When we packed up the next day and bagged all our garbage, as we always did, everyone started piling the bags in my boat, not Wade's. I asked if they thought I was a garbage barge, which was a huge mistake, as the name stuck. I came down the lakes with babes and went back with bags of garbage. Not a happy ending.

Near the end of one summer we went up to boat and camp at a campground in the Shuswap, I think it was called Scottie's Cove. We ventured down the south leg of the Shuswap and ended up in a little marina, called Little River Boatworld, to get gas. While I filled up, Wade had wandered up to the lot to look at the boats for sale. He called me to come and have a look at one. It was what's called a "deep V" for the hull design. It had a very wide berth; a ski locker and an Evinrude 135 outboard. It was also very clean with hardly a mark on it. This boat had obviously been cared for. Wade urged me to speak to the dealer about it and I did. He said it was a 1984, one owner boat that they had always taken care of from the day it was new. They had just done a complete engine rebuild and he showed me the file, which showed $3400 for the rebuild alone, plus regular maintenance since 1984. They were asking something like $9900, but I told the guy I would only pay $8400, which was nothing to do with the boat value; it was all the money I could manage until I sold my current boat. He phoned the owner and to my considerable surprise and delight, he agreed. They would give it the once over and deliver it down to me in Westbank the next week.

So, here I was owning two boats all of a sudden. I was working at Central Valley Trucks at the time, who were located right at the very busy corner of Highway 97 and Sexsmith Road, so I asked if I could put the boat in the yard with a For Sale sign and they said no problem. A few days later I got a call from the RCMP telling me they had found what was left of my boat just outside of town on Glenmore Road. Although we had a security video showing them hooking up to the trailer, the black and white quality was too poor to read a plate number. I went to see the boat which had been ditched off the side of the road. There was nothing left but a shell. They had even stolen the sump pump. I managed to get a decent insurance settlement, plus they never asked me about the trailer, which was still fine and I sold it for over a thousand dollars on top of the insurance settlement, which was about six grand, so I made out okay.

There's a whole sidebar story here as to why it took forever to get my money from the insurance company, involving a boat that Greg wanted sold and he had transferred it into a friend's name, Don, in Vancouver. It had been stolen the very same weekend as mine and when the police called Don, like an idiot, he said he knew nothing about it, so the police thought there was some sort of ring stealing boats and they thought I was part of it. I wasn't.

The funny part of the new boat was that I had to put ten hours on the engine before I could take it over a thousand revs, so I spent the better part of a week puttering along the shoreline in Westbank. Finally on Saturday morning I knew if I went down to get gas in Peachland that would come close to the ten hours, so off I went. I was disappointed to be all alone on such a momentous occasion, but no one was available. It took forever to get to Peachland, of course, cruising at about trolling speed, but eventually I filled up. As I looked out to the lake that had been so calm coming down, now I could see the whitecaps. Just my luck, I thought! All this time puttering around to log hours on the engine and now this!

I eased out of the marina and started heading back to Westbank. The boat was pitching and rolling in the swells, so I gave it a little more throttle. It felt like it was cutting the crest of the waves a little better, so I gave it some more. Before long I was at full speed, knifing through the crests of waves with ease. I could have had a drink, the ride was so clean and stable. I was thrilled and let out a yippee, but no one was with me to hear me. I was so excited to tell Mum and Dad how great the boat was when I got back. It was the start of many hours of wonderful boating in my favorite boat. It was everything I could have wanted. The deep ski locker was perfect. The wide beam was perfect for having lots of people on board. The engine just purred and you could have a normal conversation at full speed. The deep V design is perfect for conditions on the Okanagan.

Had I not run into money problems I would never have had to sell that boat. I don't remember the exact circumstances but I had a period where I didn't work and money was getting tight. It was nearing the end of summer, the worst possible time to sell a boat, but I had no choice. I parked it on the side of 97 at Ethel and prepared to sit there until I sold it. I got asked to move it twice, and I said I would, but I stayed put. Eventually a nice young couple stopped to have a look and they ended up buying it. Although I had installed a smoking stereo system in it for a few hundred bucks, I basically got back what I paid for it. This was my last boat and will probably stay that way.

Although not specifically my boat, Dad's boat sort of ended up being mine and it was even more of a disaster. It involved a crooked dealer, a crooked seller, and a horrible bank, but it's one for another day. I'm missing boating on the Okanagan a lot right now and don't feel like another story at the moment. More later.

Poem - Emily - Jewl

Into every child’s life must come a first pet
To care for, love and cherish and yet
There comes a day you know they’ll regret
A day that will make you so very upset.

For no matter how much you love them to death
They don’t live forever. They will take their last breath.
To a child this loss is a whole new feeling
That makes them cry and sends them reeling.

It’s so hard to make them understand it’s okay
To grieve their loss in their own special way.
To them it’s a pain they have never had
It makes them confused and so very sad.

We all go through it and we remember the pain
Our first thought is we’ll never have pets again.
But time heals all wounds and we soon recover
We learn that to go on we’ll soon have another.

Millions of pets go unwanted every day
Unloved and put down in such a cruel way
But you gave life to one so special to you
She knows that it was the right thing to do.

She wants you to remember all the good times you had
And not to dwell on her passing and be so sad.
Think of all the fun and joy she gave to you.
Smile when you remember her and don’t be blue.

To keep her alive in pain would be cruel
Think only good thoughts of your friend, Jewl.
In the days ahead you’ll miss her so bad
But remember she doesn’t want to make you sad.

She’s in a better place, free from pain
And she’ll want you to love another again.
More little joys like her will come your way
To fill your heart with joy. You’ll be okay.

Jewl will never forget her good friend, Emily
Who loved her and cared for her as much as could be
No better could she have been loved by anyone
Have only good thoughts, like the heart she won.

Diary of the darkness

Diary of the Darkness

This is so utterly insane. I am writing this by flashlight, which is dumb enough, but I am doing this to avoid going completely insane.

The water went out early in the morning. The power went out early afternoon.

The wind is still howling and the rain is pelting down. On top of everything else I am very worried about the state of the huge trees towering over the house. Five straight days of these gale force winds has to be weakening those giant limbs. If they come down I can only hope they fall away from the house.

Second straight day with no power. The food in our fridges is no doubt spoiled by now, along with my very expensive insulin. No internet. No TV. Nothing to do. I texted a friend earlier today asking her to call the power company, but she said they have no idea when power might be restored. It will obviously be sometime tomorrow at best. Even our cell phones aren’t working for some unknown reason. They just show “emergency calls only.” Even text messages need to be sent over and over before they go through.

It’s obvious that the infrastructure here is crumbling. Boquete is Broken should be the new slogan. Already suffering from the meltdown in the US economy, Boquete cannot afford a reputation of not being able to provide the most basic of services. People coming from Europe or the States expect a certain level of basics, like water and power, and Boquete is fast proving to be completely unreliable in providing them.

Even the much talked about takeover of Direct TV by the mighty SKY TV has proven to be a disaster. Calls to their service department that our service was out, long before the power went out, were answered with it might be anywhere from one to three days before they could come out. It’s been two days now and no response. Not much point when there’s no power anyway.

Third straight day with no power. My flashlight gave out around 9:30 last night and my two remaining candles also died, so there was little left to do but go to bed. I slept fitfully, not knowing what tomorrow would bring.

Other than my flashlight and candles, my one saving grace was that I had propane to heat water and to cook. When I put my water on for coffee this morning the flames were orange, which is usually a sign that the propane is about to run out. I have no phone to call for more and can only pray that the power is restored so I can charge my phone. I also only have a couple of dollars left on the phone so I have to choose who I call very carefully. My dimming phone still shows “emergency calls only” so I don’t know if I will even be able to make a call anyway.

Tomorrow being Saturday, who knows if anyone will be working on either restoring power or SKY TV. It’s all so very third-world and unbelievably frustrating.

The winds, although still brisk, have finally died down a little. The sun is still not out and the valley is shrouded in mist, obscuring any view of Boquete. With the wind and rain it was hard to tell, but last night it looked like the only power on was those businesses who had generators. If that’s true no doubt they will be the priority when it comes to restoring power. The needs of our little neighborhood will mean nothing.

It’s getting dark and still no power. I talked to my tenant who said I was right about last night. He was told that something major had happened to the main transmission line from David and that it should be fixed sometime today, but it’s Panama, so that means nothing. There’s never a sense of urgency about anything here so who knows if anyone is even working on the problem.

David did bring me some desperately needed candles plus a couple of bags of ice. I wrapped my insulin in a bag with some ice, so hopefully it will survive a little longer. No sign of my Magaly who was supposed to be bringing me some food and more phone minutes yesterday, but never showed up. My phone is dead now so she might have texted me. I’m a little disappointed that no one has shown up to check whether I am alive or dead, but this no power thing is a challenge for everyone, I guess.

Just when I thought I was truly alone in the world and no one cared, Amilkar showed up. His father’s house has power so he emptied out my fridges and took whatever food has not already spoiled to put in his father’s fridge, plus he took my dead phone and flashlight to charge.

He explained that the winds had apparently taken out six transmission towers on the main line. Power was restored only to the downtown area at 3:00 in the morning last night, but most of the surrounding areas still had no power. Apparently a tree took out a transformer at the end of our street and that is why we don’t have power. He spoke to an engineer from the power company who said crews were going crazy trying to get the power back on everywhere. He said we could still be without power for days.

We are truly living in the dark ages here. You don’t realize how critical electricity is until you don’t have it for days on end. No refrigeration. No TV. No lights. No appliances. No internet. No computer (mine died days ago). Absolutely nothing to do. I finished a 231 page book, start to finish, yesterday. I got all my paperwork sorted and filed. All that’s left to do is sit for hours, listening to the wind howl and praying for power. It is an incredibly helpless feeling when there’s not a damned thing you can do about it.

At least some people can jump in their cars and find a restaurant that’s still open to eat or a bar to watch TV to keep them occupied. I have no car, no money and can’t leave the house because of my situation with my Visa. I am a virtual prisoner in my own house. Oh how I long for the civilization of Canada.

Magaly did finally show up and brought me a much needed loaf of bread and more phone minutes. She managed to take $20 out of the bank for me, but that’s probably all that was there. If and when the power is back I need to go online and see if I am completely broke.

Sixth straight day with no power. Dangerously low on food now. Obviously everything that was in the fridge is suspect. The ice protecting my insulin melted and I don’t know whether or not to chance taking it. This blackout could well end up killing me.

Amilkar learned that this was all caused when the gale force winds brought trees down on six steel transmission towers, snapping them like twigs. Some ninety homes in David have been damaged by falling trees. Even on his own finca a three foot around tree was brought down. Despite everything it makes me feel a bit better that the huge trees above the house are still standing.

Not only has this ongoing blackout been a nightmare for residents, but it has also driven out the only tourists we were lucky enough to have. Between howling winds, no power and how unbelievably cold it’s been, who can blame them for leaving? Tourism was already off drastically and this at the normally high time of the year. This is the last thing Boquete needed right now. It will unquestionably force many companies who depended on normally high season to go out of business, not to mention all those Expats who will rethink their decision to have second homes here or retire here. The scope of this disaster, coming on the heels of the massive flooding last November, may well spell disaster for the future of Boquete.

Regardless of how unusual the weather has been for this time of year, the failure of Union Fenosa to act swiftly to restore power is a clear sign that the infrastructure here cannot cope with the demands. Their response to the thousands of phone calls was not to put more people on the lines; no, they just stopped answering the phones. What people are suffering through is bad enough. To not be able to even question when power might be restored, so that you can plan accordingly, is extremely callous on the part of Union Fenosa. It clearly shows how little they were prepared for this to happen and how little they care for their customers. The joys of being a monopoly.

It is beyond chaotic today. I am now out of one of my meds and my insulin is questionable so I had no choice but to go to Boquete for food, meds and more ice. After a quick shave and shower in the dark, downing the last of my bread and coffee, I started trying to call a taxi. For over two hours all I got was “limited service” or that the calls could not be completed. Still recovering from my surgery I cannot handle walking up the road to try to get a taxi on the main road. I also have a grand total of a dollar in change that I managed to scrounge up so I don’t even have enough to pay them. This is beyond third-world and more than words can describe what it’s like to live through all of this.

As if all of this has not been a living hell, while I was in town I overheard someone saying that the reason we had no electricity is that the contractor who works for Union Fenosa basically went on strike, demanding more money to continue working. I prayed this was not true, but on the way back I asked my taxi driver, a fellow very much in the know about things and he said it was true.

Low and behold when I got back to the house the power was on! None of the lines on our street ever went down. They estimate it was about a ten minute repair to fix the damaged part. Six days with no power for a ten minute repair. Only in Panama!

Dear Diary

February 27th
Lenny graciously agreed to let me bunk out at her place again. Ain't she great? Nice to have true friends, who understand what you're going through and help out however they can. Couldn't make her dinner because the ski club was having a "thank you" dinner for volunteers that helped out. Awesome dinner at Teresa's and lots of people - way more than I expected. They are a good bunch. Couple of them were heading down to the Gator to see Almost Elvis, so I said I would meet them there. Roads were a little crazy because of a late season snow storm. Almost Elvis certainly wasn't playing the blues, so dancing wasn't as good as usual, but still had fun dancing with Darlene, Cathy, Donna and Waneta. Thanks for the compliments ladies. I needed them this weekend for sure. Told a couple of them that I was going cross-country skiing today and they said they might join me.

Sunday was the perfect day for cross-country. Bit of new snow last night. Temp just above freezing and no wind at all. Linda wasn't feeling good, and, as usual, the others didn't call, so I wasn't crazy about going on my own, but I wasn't going to waste the perfect day, so off I went. Although I wanted to do my usual run, I knew I was not in good shape, seeing as how this is the first time up this year, but I thought I would just take it easy. I was doing great until I took a wrong turn and ended up bombing down a black diamond hill. Couldn't stop and bought it into the snow bank at the bottom, right in front of two skiers coming up. At least it was nice fresh, soft powder I fell into to break my fall. Did a great couple of hours and I just know I'll be paying for it tomorrow.

Cooked chicken wings and Caesar salad for dinner and played with Sasha and took it easy until I came home. Linda was being cautious about talking about who she knew I was going crazy about, as had everybody all weekend. As usual, when I got home I had to empty the garbages, fill up the pellet stove, do the recycling, fill the humidifier, empty the dishwasher, even do Mum's pills which were empty. So much for "help" from my sister.

Now for the worst part of the weekend, and my life for that matter. Over the last three weeks I've learned that it ended up being a big mistake to be so proud of having a great girl and sharing things with friends. Naturally they only want what's best for you, and to see you happy, so they ask how it's going? I have only myself to blame for unwittingly putting myself in an awkward and embarrassing position.

Not even sure I feel comfortable posting anything public about this, but I have to face up to it and deal with it, so this is a start. It doesn't help that I have the picture of her that I posted right above the computer to look at while she was away. As you know all too well, this has been a brutal three weeks for me. I have been through just about every emotion - pain, loss, sadness, confusion, anger, loneliness for the whole time. This weekend was the worst because, first, as far as I knew she was flying into Vancouver Friday night. Of course I didn't know anything for sure because, well, you know why. I kind of expected she would call from Vancouver, or at least email to let me know she got back safely and when she was coming home. Before the holiday extension, we were going skiing this weekend at Big White, so I hoped she would at least let me know if that was on or not. No such luck. As the weekend drew on and still no word from her, I bounced back and forth between concern that something had gone wrong for her, to just total confusion. I got my answer when I got home and checked my email. There was a brief and terse message, a "dear John" thanking me for the "good times we had." "Hurt" and "sad" don't begin to describe how I feel.

Yet another lesson learned - don't EVER be honest about your feelings.

February 23rd
For anyone following the saga of the long lost girlfriend (yeah, both of you), it might have seemed odd that I haven't said a word about it in days. Actually, I know, anyone who knows me finds it odd when I have nothing to say. Well, there isn't anything to say really, only because there hasn't been a single word - no email, no postcards, no nothing. It's a very strange situation for sure. At this point I don't have a clue when she's even coming home. It's already Thursday in Fiji and she'll be leaving at some point because it's a four hour drive back to the airport, and a nineteen hour flight home to Vancouver. I would assume that she probably wants some "catch-up" time at home before going back to work on Monday, so I doubt she won't be back until late Sunday, but you never know. I certainly haven't been right about anything with her so far, have I?

I'll freely admit to being more confused about this "relationship" than I've ever been in my entire life. I find it so hard to believe that I could have been so wrong about someone. We spent so much time together and we talked for hours and hours. I thought I knew her at least enough to think how this holiday would go, but I could never have been more wrong. They say "absence makes the heart grow fonder". I guess you could add "absence makes the brain clearer" as well. When I put the holiday experience together with the stuff that happened before she left, I get a pretty clear picture of how dumb I've been. All the affection; the "wuv" you; the cards and gifts; "celebrating" our one month anniversary; and talking about the longer term and making plans to do stuff together, like take lessons to develop a dance routine for us, all seems so empty when I realize there never ever was anything coming back from her. How could I have missed this when it was so damned obvious? I guess when you are blinded by falling in love with someone you don't pay attention to the fact that they don't feel the same way. You just wish for it, but that doesn't make it happen. Even though some things should be painfully obvious, like refusing to let me do something for her for Valentine's Day, which I know is brutally clear to just about everyone on the planet except me, accepting the truth means you have to give up on your dreams of it being the way you had imagined.

Regardless of how badly it turned out, and how painful it has been to accept the way things really are, I know I am a better man for having been through all this. I have learned my lesson and will be much more cautious the next time, even when my heart tells me differently. I know now that expressing my true feelings too soon is my worst enemy, not my friend. I will pay more attention to the signs - the reality and not the dream. I will try to keep uppermost in my mind how much it hurts to be so wrong.

I have always believed that there is a woman out there who wants what I want - love, affection, trust, treating each other like the two most special people in our lives, caring more for the other than ourselves, putting their needs first, respecting and sharing in their hopes and dreams, and knowing that, with them, our lives have more meaning and are so much better together, than apart. They light up the room and our hearts when they walk in. We think about them all the time, not out of need, but out of love. We miss them horribly when they are not around. We only find true peace and comfort in their arms. We know honest passion when we make love. We are devastated by any upset or argument, or anything that jeopardizes our future, like health issues or family situations. We are free to be ourselves, without any reservations. We can feel genuine kid-like happiness around them, and we laugh and laugh together. We sense a whole new optimism about life, and we can confront our problems with the confidence that having a strong relationship brings. None of this exists when you are alone. I know that all too well, because, obviously, I am alone.

"It takes a minute to have a crush on someone, an hour to like someone and a day to love someone, but it takes a lifetime to forget someone."
- author unknown.

February 20th
Got out of my gloomy slump (a glump?) a little this weekend.

Saturday got off to an interesting start. Tracy was going to look at a boat in Peachland and she asked me if I would mind coming along with her to check it out. It was a chance for me to see the kids again, so I jumped at it. It was terrific to see Bray and Madison again. They are getting so big! We had a ball and took some pics. They dropped back to the house to see some of the renos and say high to Mum, although Mum had no clue who they were, of course. Threw her a little when Bray said, "good-bye Grandma."

Lenny graciously agreed to put me up for my one-day weekend break. I was cooking dinner for her Saturday, then we were going to the Blue Gator that night, and hiking on Sunday. Her boss, Heather, had a friend, Judy coming in for the weekend, so the plan was changed to dinner at Friends, then to the Gator. We had a great meal, that I couldn't afford, at Friends, then we were off to the Gator to see one of my favs, Dogskin Suit. I was shocked when I walked into the Gator because they had done some major renos since I was last there. It's about twice the size now and awesome. Big new dance floor and more seating.

It was one of those weekends that prove Kelowna is the biggest little small town in the world. When we sat down I noticed a blonde sitting at the table next to us, and thought I might be lucky enough to know her. When she went out for a smoke I followed, and she immediately said "hi, Gary", and I realized it was Wanita, my buddy Greg McCarthy's ex. We did some catching up and she asked me to dance, which was great. At one point she was sitting alone at the table, so I went over to ask her to dance, She said she didn't want to leave the table because she was waiting for some friends to arrive. Next thing I see Marv and Sylvie, my sort of ex, come walking up to the table, so we had a laugh that we all knew each other. Darlene was there, the lady I planted the tress for, and John Grant and Erin, so I got lots of dancing in. John asked me if I liked hockey cause he gets Rockets tickets a lot and takes his son, but sometimes his son can't go, so he asked if I wanted to go with him. Bonus!

When I was talking to John and Erin, we mentioned the dance lessons from Tom and Deb, and I said I was hoping to take them with my new girl, but things were a little uncertain with the whole "holiday" thing. I explained what happened to John, and the first thing he said was "oh, she's with a guy then, not a girl." Funny that everyone draws the exact same conclusion. Erin was listening, and she asked if this was the girl she knew. When I said yes, she said that the girl she knew was a "sweetie" and would never ever do that, so don't jump to conclusions.

Sunday was a bit of a bummer cause, first I wanted to go cross-country skiing, but Lenny wasn't up to it, so we were doing a hike. Judy was joining us, but when Sunday morning came, Judy was "sleeping it off", and Lenny wasn't doing anything except crash on the couch. I ended up taking Sasha (Lenny's dog) for a hike myself. Got some good pics for the hiking website, and managed to train Sasha to actually come for me off the leash, which was great.

Still in a bit of a "funk" but at least took my mind off things for a bit. Stay tuned.

February 17th
Well I finally heard from the long lost "girlfriend". Now she's staying until late next week, not arriving into Vancouver until Friday at 11:00 pm, with no idea when she'll be back into Kelowna. I can just hear the tongues wagging now - yes, I guess he's showing her a very good time, and she wants more. Oh well, at this point what's a few more days. I wasn't expecting an invite to the wedding anyway. Oh, and by the way, not a word about the Valentine's eCard, naturally. Did I expect anything else? Live and learn, I guess.

Even sadder is the fact that I've been in a sulk, dreading the thought of learning the truth at the airport on Sunday. I've been feeling that horrible sense of loss when a relationship is over, and it hurts so bad. You try to pick yourself up and get on with life, but it all seems so empty without that special someone. They always say it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, but right now, I can't say I agree with that. Not a very happy camper, that's for sure.

February 16th
Okay already - so I am an idiot. I get it. Sometimes having lady friends to talk to really sucks, cause they make so much sense all the time. Sometime it's better to just be a clueless man, and fumble your way through life, than to actually understand the female mind.

In helping me through my confusion over the Valentine’s Day "massacre" with my "girl", survey says I am clueless and I don't get it. Why would she not give me the information on where she was staying so that I could do something special for her on Valentine's Day, even when I had to spoil the surprise and tell her why I needed it? She knew how difficult it would be for me to have her away on such a big day for me, and how important it was, but she refused to give me her "girlfriend's" name, who the room was booked under. Made no sense. Well, survey says, it isn't a "girlfriend" she's with; it's obviously a "boyfriend". That explains why she refused to give me any information; why she said she wanted to have no "connection" while she was there; why she hasn't made any attempt to email me, and why she hasn't even received the eCard Valentine I sent her. Duh! Wake up Gary. Okay, I get it. I may be older, but obviously not wiser. I want to think only the best of people, and trust them, so don't confuse me with facts. Sometimes you just want something so bad that you ignore the reality of how things really are.

Although I hate hearing the truth, I defer to all those wise women who are true friends and want only the best for me, and don't want to see me get hurt. I'm listening and I promise to learn. Don't forget, I am a "hopeless romantic". We just hate the truth when it isn't the least bit romantic. You could have at least humored me when I suggested she was staying in a grass hut on a deserted island with no contact with the outside world, and that explained why I hadn't heard from her. Damn you!

Even though. sadly, you are no doubt right about the boyfriend thing, I hope you are also right that she will still want to be friends, if not boyfriend/girlfriend, because I truly was looking forward to doing all the things we talked about. I have a ski pass to Big White, and she agreed with me holding off going until she came back. We talked about going cross-country skiing, and she said she would try to learn roller-blading. And the big one - she is my all-time favorite dance partner, so I hope we can always dance, no matter what. Against my better judgment (okay, so I don't have any) I went to the Corral last Saturday, if only to refuse to admit to myself that I couldn't go without her, and it was lousy. I didn't enjoy dancing with all my "regulars" because they just didn't get it, and kept asking me what the hell I was doing when I tried some of the moves I do with her. We talked about taking dance lessons together and I hope this is still on for her. Hopefully the "boyfriend" understands.

Clueless in Kelowna.

February 14th
This is the day when those in love feel that special glow of being with someone special. It's also the day when those people without someone special feel lonely and depressed, and wonder what they are doing wrong in their lives.

My "sweetie" is in Fiji, a million miles away, and this makes this day all the harder. It's a day ahead in Fiji, so I sent her an eCard for Valentines yesterday. I was hoping beyond hope that she would find the time to at least send me an email or let me know she got the card, but no such luck. As an admittedly "hopeless romantic" guy, Valentine's Day is the most special day of the year to me, and it's sad to see it as just another day. Before I found out she would be away on Valentine's I had made reservations for a special table by the window at Earls, down on the lake - something that's almost impossible to do because it's THE romantic spot for Valentine's. I was going to have roses on the table for her, and get her something special for our very first Valentine's Day. All of this was trashed when she informed me she would be in Fiji. As sad as I was about it, I tried to arrange to send her flowers at her hotel in Fiji, and emailed the hotel to make the arrangements. They had no one by that name booked in, I assumed because it was booked under her friend's name. I tried to get her to give me the information, without telling her why, but she wouldn't without her friend's "approval". Finally I had to spoil the surprise by telling her why I needed it, and she still wouldn't give it to me. So much for feeling "special".

Instead of feeling that warm glow of being special to someone, all I feel is the incredible sadness at what might have been. Not exactly what I had in mind for Valentine's Day, 2006. Hopeless Romantic? Nope, just another sad lonely guy.

January 30th
What a difference from last weekend. This weekend was one of "failed expectations". Part of the problem was my sweetie was still very sick, and worried that she would still be ill when she had to fly off to Fiji next Friday - a scary thought with a head cold. Friday night was me cooking dinner, and watching movies, so she could rest. This weekend was Snowfest, so there was lots going on to do, but Crystal wasn't up to going out much.

Saturday night was a big deal for me, as it was the last night Crystal and I would have for quite a while. She's leaving on Friday afternoon, and not coming back until late Sunday night in two weeks, so that basically toasts three complete weekends - the only time I get to leave the house and caring for Mum full-time. This meant Saturday night was the only break I would get in the next whole MONTH. Yikes! Talk about pressure to make the best of it! No matter what we did Saturday night I at least hoped I could spend the night with Crystal at her place. When we talked on the phone to decide what she was up to, she informed me that she wanted to get a good night's sleep and preferred that I didn't stay over. That was a blow! My one and only night in a month was toast. We ended up going to the Corral because she felt she wanted to at least try to see if she could get some dancing in. We did have a couple of hours of great dancing, but this was certainly overshadowed by going home alone at the end of the night.

Sunday was even worse. I had hoped that we could spend our last full day together. Ron and Wendy were taking Mum out for breakfast and then to the casino, so we would have the day alone at least. I suggested I get some movies and cook a nice roast beef dinner, then we could cuddle and watch our Sunday night TV - all so Crystal could just get some much needed rest. No deal. She can't handle Ron and Wendy's smoking in our house, so my plan was toast. Not exactly what I wanted after feeling so bad after Saturday night. I'll admit to the start of some serious doubts that this was going to be so "perfect" after all. I know that it's the stress of caring for Mum full-time and feeling that no one cares what Gary wants, and it's all very unfair to a new relationship with Crystal, but feelings are feelings. I almost didn't go to see her at all, but realized wallowing home alone in my self pity wasn't going to solve anything. It would have all been different if she wasn't sick, and simply didn't want to do anything I wanted to do, so I knew it was unfair to judge her this way. And we've had such good times, and so much promise. The very thought of it being over brought me to the verge of tears.

I doubted she was going to be well enough to do anything, like go skating, so I picked up a movie. It was so indicative of my day that even her DVD conspired against me and wouldn't work, but I eventually figured it out with the kind help of Hillary at Shaw. Crystal cooked a great meal and we sat down to watch Hustle and Flow, which then promptly started breaking up and wouldn't play properly. Could anything else go wrong today? No sooner had we eaten dinner than the phone rang and it was my sister informing me that they were leaving early and asking when I was coming home? I told her not to tell Mum any particular time, but that I would be home soon. She called again when they were leaving asking me if I was going to be on my way soon? When I avoided making a commitment she said Mum was freaking out, afraid to be on her own. When I said that was nothing new - she did that every night, my sister's smart assed reply was to ask me if I go out every night? I've been telling everyone that Mum is not eating; balling all the time, and shaking, scared about she doesn't know what. No one believes me. The second Wendy walks in the door Mum wants to have a drink and party. She eats and goes off to the casino, just like everything is great, which it's not. I get all the bad stuff. Wendy sounded so judgmental that I wasn't dropping everything and rushing right home. I guess I am not entitled to have any life at all. Crystal was on the phone and I had paused the movie for a while, just long enough to start feeling guilty about not getting home and knowing that I now didn't have time to watch the movie anyway, and if she had come to our place like I wanted in the first place, I wouldn't be stressing about all this, so I gave up and left.

Did I find Mum in am emotional turmoil when I rushed home, or wandering around the park scared? No, she didn't even acknowledge me coming in. She was watching TV in her room, blissfully ignorant of how she had destroyed my last night with Crystal. What should my sister have done? Well, if she had a clue about Alzheimer's, or if she gave a damn about me, she would have told Mum I was trying to enjoy my all too brief break from caring for her and I would be home when I got home, and to stop pulling this shit. She had my cell phone number and Crystal's home phone number, and could call if there was a real problem of any kind - not the ones she so conveniently fabricates when she doesn't get her way.

Crystal did call later and we talked for our usual marathon, and she made me feel better. I am starting to realize more and more that nice guys really do finish last. No matter how hard I try to be accommodating to everyone and consider how they feel, no one give me the same respect in return. If I was a miserable, self-centered, prick that puts himself first, like so many guys I know, at least people pay attention. That's just not who I am, so I guess I'm doomed. I realized that all of what's going on now, especially with Crystal and I, which is the first thing I've done for me in forever, started with Christmas. I was as entitled to Christmas as anyone else - even more so when I've done more than my share of giving everything up for everyone else. My buddy was driving seventeen hours to spend Christmas with me, and we had been invited to friends for Christmas eve. My sister informs me at three in the afternoon that they're leaving for ten days to Vegas, and want to "get away early". Gary's plans? Who cares? Instead of just rolling over like I always do, what I should have done was tell her I had made plans based on her telling me she would be here, so either stay or take Mum with you. It's time for someone else to share the load.

Special moments? None this weekend. Not a one. And this when I face the next three weekends with more of the same, and no one to share any chance of "special moments" with. This sucks the big one. Watch this space. Things are going to change.