You can’t give up hope when you have none to give up

Looks like this will be my last post, literally the “last post”. It has been the most difficult week of my life. Last week at this time I was so depressed and ready to give up. My only question was how to kill myself?

My dear friend, Christine Philipson, was so worried about me last Monday night that she sent a Doctor Lupita and her colleagues to my apartment late at night to talk to me. I was crying uncontrollably at the thought of losing my dog, Rollie, and I only had twenty-eight dollars in my bank for food for the rest of the month. I was out of many of my important medications for my diabetes and could not afford more. My website business, primarily AjijicToday.com.mx, that I had worked so hard on for over a year was in shambles because I did not have the money for my hosting and other things I desperately needed to keep it going. I had other medical issues like my urgent dental work to replace a crown, but I did not have the two thousand pesos to finish it. I did not see any way to go on and urgently needed help to survive.

Dr. Lupita held my hand, got me to stop crying and told me not to give up hope. She told me she would not let them take my dog, Rollie. She offered money to buy food. She said she would help me to get my medications. She even offered me some work to earn some money. That did not solve everything, but it gave me some small glimmer of hope.

The next day, first thing in the morning, without warning, they came and took Rollie, which broke my heart. Dr. Lupita said she would tell them that it would be the very worst time to take him from me, but they didn’t care. Their only concern was the dog but he was in no danger. I had food for him and I loved him to death. It was like losing a child. Again I could not stop crying and only wished that I had a gun to end this pain.

Then I got a call from John Kelly, the President of the Canadian Legion here. He scolded me for refusing the help I needed and went on to suggest that the Legion would help me. He said they would give me a small loan to keep me going, saying that they had just helped a lady to buy a car. I felt that my needs were far more justified and more modest than buying a car. He said there was a meeting on Wednesday to discuss it and he would call me around noon on Thursday. I followed this up with a detailed explanation of how much I needed and why. I requested the modest sum of forty thousand pesos, repayable at two thousand pesos a month and allowing me to pay it off early once the business started earning money. He said he would let me know after their meeting, which was now planned a day later.

Initially Dr. Lupita was angry about what happened with the dog, so she said she was fighting to get him back to me. She came back telling me that they would “consider” giving him back to me, in THREE MONTHS! They also said I could “visit” him, as though that would make everything just fine. I told Dr. Lupita to give up on getting him back to me because it was pointless and I had equally big problems that I needed help with, like food and medications.

For some unknown reason she then disappeared. No one could find her, not even her nurse or John Kelly, who understood that she was looking after getting my medications. He told me that he had spent the day running back and forth between Ajijic and Chapala trying to get my medications. He said that there was an organization called Secours Populaire that would provide my medications free of charge. When I asked him about the loan he said he would now let me know on Monday. Luckily I had received a small tax rebate from the Canadian government that allowed me to buy some much needed food. That made me feel a little better. At least I wouldn’t starve to death.

If you wonder if Dr. Lupita knew the terrible state I was in, I had messaged her asking if an insulin overdose would work? I told her I did not have the courage to swim out in the lake far enough that I could not make it back. I told her I did not want to hang myself here because of the trauma that would cause to the children who lived here. My research about an insulin overdose was inconclusive about whether that would work and I did not want to just end up in hospital instead because I could not afford that either. Her reaction to my pathetic mental state was simply to just ignore me. Very strange for a doctor.

Then John Kelly sent me a short message that the Legion could not help me with a loan because they “didn’t have that kind of money”. Considering that they did have the money for a car loan for someone else I figured that was just a way of saying we don’t want to help you and we don’t care what that might do to you.

On top of everything I was going through I was also the victim of vicious attacks after my honest post about what happened with Rollie. Regardless of whether people gave a damn about me I knew they cared for Rollie and I just felt I should let them know why I suddenly had no more photos or stories about our wonderful lives together. First I was threatened and told to delete the post which I refused to do because I felt people needed to know the truth. Then I got truly vile messages saying things like “suck it up”, “stop feeling sorry for yourself”and worse. Although these hurt, I realized just how these people were really showing how little they understood mental health and how dangerous their comments could be to someone already on the edge.

It is said that true friends are there in both good times and bad, especially bad, when you need their nonjudgmental support the most. During my year here I thought I had some of those kinds of friends. I could not have been more wrong. Someone I thought was a real friend since before I even came here to Mexico, Francis Dryden, ignored my request for help and instead picked this time to dump on me about the mistakes he felt I had made with my websites. He said my sites were “just a bunch of worthless code” and nothing more. He said if I had listened to him and done the things he had suggested I would not be in this mess. This despite the fact that I had been in this city portal business for thirty years and done the exact same project before in both Panama and Ecuador. He knows little about designing websites or the business, but somehow he knew better than me? I even sent him an email transferring ownership of my website business to him and hoping that he didn’t mind looking after getting rid of my stuff because my executor is back in London, Ontario. No response even to that very clear message.

Shortly after arriving here I met Jack Irish when he moved into the house in La Floresta. We became instant friends and spent many an hour over coffee in the mornings or drinks at night talking about a host of topics. He shared his hard to believe story about some money thing he had been involved in for some six years already, one that was going to make him a multi-millionaire soon. We spent hours talking about all the good projects he planned to do here in Mexico and how I could be involved. He would buy a house for my fiancee, Elba and I to live in, rent free. We declined saying we would pay whatever rent we could afford. He offered to just give me money for my website business, but, again, I said I would only consider an investment and partnership. He said we would “talk” after his millions came in, soon.That was months ago.

Then I went through the devastating experience of Elba, breaking up with me by text message with no explanation. I loved her unconditionally, more than I had ever loved anyone in my life. We had just returned from Canada where I applied for my visa to return to Mexico and get marry her. I was not only in love with her but also her amazing family who all loved me and wanted us to hurry up and get married. Of course I had lost my own kids when they wanted nothing to do with me, so now having her sons, Jonathan and Kevin, tell me they loved me being their new Dad was just awesome. Suddenly, without warning, I had lost that all in a simple text message and had no idea why.

Instead of being a good friend when I needed him the most, Jack chose instead to blame me for everything, regardless of the fact that he knew nothing about what had actually happened. That really hurt. When I told him I had enough of his arrogance telling me what I could and could not do, and blaming me for being “so stupid”, he ended our friendship. Although later more by accident at Arnie and Barbs, we got back together again, but he ended our friendship again and hasn’t spoken to me in weeks.

I sent him a heartfelt message saying I was sorry he had ended what I thought was a close friendship and just letting him know what a mess I had found myself in. I didn’t ask for financial help because I knew he had none to give. He didn’t respond and today I learn that he has apparently sent out what has been referred to as a very “vitriolic” message about Elba and I. After six months I thought our break-up was ancient history so I have no idea why he did that, but maybe he just wants to finish me off and take credit for it.

You earn some friendships literally over a lifetime. Regardless of not getting any response from those I naively considered to be friends here in Mexico I did get some very warm and encouraging messages from people back in BC, Canada and from Ecuador. They all expressed sadness at how things had turned out for me and encouraged me to go on in spite of the problems I faced. They gave me words of encouragement, telling me that I wasn’t worthless and hoping I would get through this very difficult time. They are good friends who clearly understand how a few words of support can make a huge difference and I thank them sincerely.

When someone gives up and takes their own life it is always sad, but there is also that feeling of guilt by people who feel that they should have known, recognized the cries for help, and done something. Anything. Although there are a lot of folks here who should feel that shame because they not only refused to help, but also thought this was a good time to criticize and insult me, I know and accept that for them it will be like that old adage – if you want to know how much you’ll be missed, stick your finger in a bucket of water then remove it and you will see just how much you will be missed.

Certainly I have a very long list of regrets, all of which I take full responsibility for. There is no one else to blame for my dreams crashing into pieces except me. I know all too well the mistakes I have made, what I deserve to be punished for and what I don’t. I can only say that I have always tried to do my best. I have treated people with the respect I hoped to earn from them. I have never knowingly tried to hurt anyone.

My biggest regret in my life is what happened with my children and I go to my demise having never understood why they cut me out of their lives. My daughter chose to have nothing more to do with me over twenty-five years ago and this has hurt me immensely every single day since. We always had a wonderful father-daughter relationship and she was the one who encouraged me to leave my terrible marriage and move out West. I couldn’t leave her then, but I did years later when my mother had cancer and was given less than a five percent chance of surviving more than six months (she lasted nineteen years). I had to be with her. It killed me to leave Heather but I thought we would be together again soon when she came out to visit. After she said that she actually wanted to see me I drove down from BC in the dead of winter to see her, but my ex and her new husband hid her away from me. I have never understood why. Despite being married for twenty-three years he wouldn’t even let me have coffee with my ex-wife.

My daughter has two sons I have never met. My son and his girlfriend had three daughters, only one I had met when she was just a baby, Danielle. Although it is yet another long and complicated story from my youth I also have another son, Andrew, who had decided he wanted nothing to do with me either, regardless of how hard I tried to connect with him. Andrew has actually met my son and daughter, a most complicated situation to say the least. He and my son, Chris, look like twins. Two years ago I reconnected with my granddaughter, Mackenzie, on Facebook. She was very angry that her parents had told her I was dead. She felt that it was her decision whether she connected with me or not. I was overjoyed that we had found each other at long last. She was now fourteen years old and totally gorgeous. She told me that she was coming to Mexico next May for a wedding and that she would let me know where so we could meet. Nothing in the world had ever given me more hope in the future than meeting her and I couldn’t wait. Of course, that was then and this is now. I honestly don’t know if she is going to be angry with me now or just disappointed a little. Forgive me, darling. Someday you will understand better.

Not that I am in any position to give advice to anyone, but I did want to share one aspect of my life that had a truly devastating effect on my entire life and one I hope others can avoid. I want to be very clear that there was nothing criminal about what I did, which even the Crown Attorney who prosecuted me agreed with, and no one lost a penny. Although the exact circumstances of what happened were only ever of concern to the RCMP, who apparently spent over two million dollars on a wild goose chase, it involved the disposition of forklifts that had been damaged by sea water on their trip overseas from Japan. The shipment was fully insured so there was no loss to the company I worked for at the time, American Hoist. After I arranged for the insurance settlement I was given clear instructions that the forklifts were to be destroyed, which was my plan.

Shortly after one of our dealers from Nova Scotia, Sam Osmond, came to our location in Brampton. He met with Terry, our warehouse manager, and they had a conversation about the fact that there were numerous forklifts in the shipment that would still be good for parts. They agreed that is was a shame that they would all be ground up and destroyed. Sam came to talk to me and suggested that he was willing to take the shipment off our hands as we had been instructed to do, but he wanted to offer us some “compensation”. I told him that the company had already been paid the insurance settlement so there was no way we could “sell” the goods to anyone. He said he understood but would talk to our General manager, Gerry Waterhouse. Later that day I was summoned to a meeting with Sam, Gerry and Terry. They had apparently agreed to “sell” the shipment to Sam for thirty thousand dollars in cash. All I was asked to do was to issue an invoice to Sam for zero dollars, clearly marked “sold as is, where is, with no warranty expressed or implied”. I didn’t see any problem with that because it showed that we had disposed of the goods as directed, so I had done my job.

Later, Gerry, who remember was my boss, said that I had been elected to fly down to Dartmouth to pickup the money. In exchange the thirty thousand dollars would be split equally, three ways, me, Gerry and Terry. Ten thousand each. To this day I remember wondering if I was just being played, especially by Terry who I never got along with, but at the time I was struggling financially and ten thousand dollars was sure attractive. I agonized over whether I had done my job properly or if there was something dangerous about doing this. I realized that I had done my job totally and the company had not lost a dime. It all made sense to me at the time.

Unfortunately at this exact same time Gerry and I had been approached to take on another line of forklifts from Japan by a company called NYK. For several other reasons, all of them the fault of management at American Hoist, we knew that it was a house of cards that would soon collapse, leaving us out of a job. Because of the contract between TCM in Japan and American Hoist we were not allowed to take on another line, even though the products from NYK, electric forklifts, were not competitive to TCM. It looked like a golden opportunity too good to miss. On our way flying down to Chicago to meet with the executives from NYK we formed our company, Canada Lift, at least that’s what we would tell the Japanese.

Soon after landing the distribution for Canada from NYK I organized a floor plan financing program with the Bank of Nova Scotia and we held a dealer meeting at the Millcroft Inn in Caledon. The dealers, many of whom were TCM dealers, were most impressed and they placed orders for over a quarter of a million dollars worth of NYK products. We had the Letter of Credit in place with the bank so we were off and placed our much welcomed order with NYK.

Not long after, both of us were escorted off the premises of American Hoist’s TCM division and duly fired. Shortly after that we were given the opportunity to turn ourselves in to police voluntarily. We learned that we were being charged with several offenses, mostly conspiracy to commit fraud. From our previous employees we learned that the RCMP had turned the place upside down looking for evidence to support these charges. Of course, there was none because there never was any conspiracy.

At our later trial I was most unlucky to have the dumbest Legal Aid lawyer ever. I wrote out the questions to ask that would have clearly disclosed to the jury that there was no conspiracy and not a penny had been lost by American Hoist, but he completely ignored me. Sam Osmond, the dealer, took the stand and basically played dumb Newfie, saying that he knew nothing. Joe Barone, the President of American Hoist, took the stand and basically said he knew nothing about nothing. Even my poor assistant, Betty White (not that Betty), took the stand and admitted she had no clue what anybody was talking about. It was all a total farce, but, boy, did I pay the price!

Mostly because the actual “facts” never came out in the trial I think that the jury was totally confused, but they thought that if the RCMP had spent millions on this investigation there must be something illegal here. They dropped most of the conspiracy charges but found us guilty of fraud. I still have no idea who was defrauded out of anything, but it was what it was. Outside the courtroom even the Crown Attorney said that the only reason I had been convicted was because of my stupid lawyer. When it came time for sentencing he was one of my best witnesses, admitting to the judge that he had failed to see any evidence of any fraud or any loss. Jon Leheup, the President of the company I worked for at the time, Indal Products, also gave a glowing description of how valuable I was to the company and that he would regret losing me if I went to jail. Given the severity of the charges, but the total lack of any evidence, the judge sentenced us both to ninety days to be served on weekends. As much as I may have dodged a bullet at the time, I had no idea how disastrous this was going to be for the rest of my life.

After losing our jobs earlier and despite being charged and facing a trial Gerry and I had to continue on with life. We both felt that we would never be convicted because there was nothing to be convicted of. I had some serious regrets about being the one who had gone to collect the money because the RCMP had my flight records and my hotel bills, so they had me on that, but, so what? It proved I went to Dartmouth to visit one of our dealers but what else did it prove? Nothing. Even Sam wasn’t stupid enough to admit to paying the thirty thousand dollars that he gave me on the trip.

We had rented an office and warehouse in Oakville, getting ready to receive our first shipment from NYK, all of which was pre-sold and we were working on our next order. That all came crashing down when we got a call from the Bank of Nova Scotia saying they wanted to see us at their Head Office in Toronto. When we got there we learned that our floor plan financing had been cancelled. Our Letter of Credit which gave us six months of free financing had been pulled. We suddenly had no way to pay for the NYK order that was on a ship heading to us and no way to ship the trucks to our dealers. Regardless of how hard we pushed to understand why they refused to give us any answers. One of the people in the meeting with the bank was their lawyer who just kept shaking his head no every time we asked a question.

On the way down from the bank’s penthouse office we stopped into a very famous lawyer’s office to see what we could do. After a lengthy conversation with him he said we would unquestionably win. The bank was clearly at fault. Good news, until he then said the bank would drag us through the courts for probably ten years and he would need a retainer of fifty thousand dollars! I still remember his fateful words. In Canada it’s not how much justice you have. It’s how much you can afford. We knew at that exact moment that we were done.

So everything I had worked so hard for was gone. No choice but to accept that we had been defeated and lost our business and all the profits that would have come in the future. Our weekends at the Metro West Detention Center were a lesson in humility. Yes, we called the guards Boss and we were stripped of any dignity we ever had. After a while we were sent out on charitable works like peeling potatoes and cleanup in various group kitchens where we were always treated like child molesters. Some people may well feel that the punishment did not fit the crime, but I can tell you it was horrible. My one saving grace was that my son had a hockey tournament in Lake Placid. A really big deal. They actually let me go which shocked the hell out of my son.

After my three months were finally done I tried to get back to a semblance of a normal life. I applied for a really good job and was within minutes of getting it when they called and said I lost it because I had a criminal record. That was the case for the rest of my life. I tried on numerous occasions to apply for a pardon. I wrote to every single Minister in the government but got nowhere. Eventually I learned from my local MP that I had a twelve hundred dollar fine that I never knew about. Then the Minister at the time, Vic Toews, changed the entire pardon system and I was told that after I paid the fine I could apply for a record suspension, as it was now called, in just TEN YEARS! I gave up hope of ever being cleared or that I would ever get a job again. At one point I was going to be hired for two weeks at Christmas at a call centre, but the day before I was to start they called and said that their client couldn’t accept anyone who had a criminal record.

Facing the fact that I would never be pardoned and never get a job I planned to move to Panama, which I had been researching for months,  hoping to put all this behind me. No sooner had I got to the border then they told me to pull over. The midget, failed police officer with Homeland Security asked me about my criminal record. What followed was three hours of questioning like I was a convicted child molester, fingerprinting, and telling me it didn’t matter if I ever got a pardon in Canada because that meant nothing to them, and then barring me from even flying through a US airport. I quickly drove back to West Kelowna, stopping into BCAA to get a direct flight from Vancouver to Panama City that night. Panama sure didn’t work out for me, getting arrested when the girl who worked for me, Verushka Valenzuela, lied about me being a drug smuggler, in the country illegally and accusing me of raping her. After stealing my rings, my phone, my new camera and ripping me off for every cent I had she forced me to return to Canada.

Some years later, facing the same dilemma in Canada because of my criminal record, I moved to Ecuador. That proved to be just as disastrous, especially when I nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning because of the fireplace with no ventilation in my cabin. I was also ripped off by my landlords, my driver and the private hospital they took me to, who charged me fourteen hundred dollars US for four days of pathetic care, when they could have taken me to a public, free hospital. It didn’t help that Service Canada, who had told me there would be no problem receiving my GIS, instead denied payment for more than six months until I contacted the Minister responsible. I had been left penniless, borrowing money from friends back in Canada to eat plus being ripped off for three hundred and fifty dollars US by the person handling my residency application. She also refused to return my passport which nearly stopped me from flying back to Canada.

There. All the bad news and my total confession. When I read it back to myself I can’t believe the bad luck I’ve had and wonder why I didn’t give up long ago.

Right now I know that with the legalization of marijuana in Canada a lot of people are hoping that the government will just expunge their criminal records for simple possession. With what I have been through my entire life I hope they agree to do that.

So long mi amigos.

 

 

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