Reflections. Too trusting or too stupid?

As yet another year draws to a close it's time to reflect on life so far and try to improve in the future. In reacting to some of the truly bad things that have happened to me many people have said that I am just too trusting. Although that may well be true I think trust is an interesting issue. I have always believed that trust must be earned, but the other aspect of this is do you not trust new situations because of someone else's abuse of your trust? For me this usually revolves around money and to me it's simple. If you ask to borrow twenty dollars do I refuse because of the people who previously never paid me back? Is that fair to you to punish you for the actions of others? I don't think so. You earn my trust by paying me back because that means I will always lend you money if I can. Burn me once and, no, you will never get to burn me twice. I've learned that you can't be trusted.

It also depends on the circumstances and whether or not it was intentional. For example, a good friend of mine, who at the time was very drunk at the Corral, asked to borrow twenty dollars, obviously to buy even more alcohol that she didn't need. If I refused based on how drunk she was then I am passing judgement on her which is not my place. I gave her the twenty dollars hoping that she would use it for a taxi ride home, which she did. What she forgot was who gave her the money to take the cab. She never paid me back.

Another time my very best buddy asked to borrow fifty dollars because he had to go to a hospital in Vancouver to check out problems he was having with his heart. I was worried I might not ever see him again so obviously I gave him the money. Thankfully he returned to Kelowna and he was fine, but he never paid me back either. Do you hold something as small as fifty dollars against a friendship of years? No. Again, based on these kinds of experiences do you then refuse to lend any money to other people? I don't believe that's fair. Everyone deserves a chance to either earn your trust or lose it.

When I questioned my in-laws somewhat strained relationship with my mother's sister and her husband I learned that they had loaned them nine thousand dollars for some project and had never been repaid. I wondered how they could ever socialize without this subject coming up but that was their decision and they had to live with it. They're all gone now so hopefully they aren't arguing about it in heaven.

Sometimes it doesn't directly involve lending or borrowing money. It's more a case of morality. When we were ready to sell our first house we contacted a Realtor at what was then Canada Trust, a company my father had worked with for years before. We weren't thrilled with his performance on marketing or showing our home and figured we would not renew the contract with him. Just before the listing was about to expire he approached us to buy the property himself, excluding his company in the process. I asked him what would happen if his company found out the property was sold and we didn't pay them their commission and he told me not to worry about it. I did worry and refused to accept the deal. I also wrote to the manager of the company telling him what had happened. Sometime later this guy was charged with fraud and lost his license. Good thing he didn't take me down with him.

As I grew older I learned to trust people a lot less and ask more questions. I guess I should have included family in that. My brother from BC showed up at our door one day, needing a place to stay. We happened to have an extra bedroom downstairs so we let him stay with us, much to my ex-wife's chagrin. He started having questionable women stay overnight, which was hard to explain to our kids. After a couple of months living on our dime I suggested he needed to get a job if he was going to stay in Brampton. He did find a job, surprisingly at his age, but he needed transportation to get there. Again much against my ex-wife's wishes I co-signed for a loan for a motorcycle for him. Sixteen hundred dollars. No sooner had he supposedly gone to work for a couple of days then he took off back to BC, taking the motorcycle and sticking me with the loan. We had borrowed the money from our local bank, who also held our mortgage, so there was no question that we had to repay the loan. Thanks bro!

My twenty-three year marriage was never great for many reasons. More than once we talked about splitting up but I could never do it because of the kids, which was another huge mistake on my part. I should have left long ago, like maybe a year into it. Any time the subject came up, usually in an argument, my ex always agreed that it would be a fifty/fifty split. I was never overly thrilled by this because she had never lifted a finger to help in any way with all the renovations I did on all of our houses. I had single-handedly increased our original one hundred dollar investment in our first home to around a hundred thousand dollars, all by extensive renovations and smart buying and selling. After I had finally had enough and moved out I still paid for everything for the house for almost a year because my ex chose to sit on her ass not even looking for a job. When I had asked her about her employment insurance she said she still had the reporting card in her purse, SIX MONTHS after she left her job. I was done being abused.

When she finally realized I was serious and not coming home she suddenly changed her tune. No more fifty/fifty. Now because she knew I hated lawyers and would never waste money on them she played the guilt card. She needed the money to "support our daughter". After a lot of back and forth, none of it good, I got to keep my last paycheque and she got everything else. Not only did she get all the money I had earned over the years she also took all of my Rosemond prints that I had been collecting for twenty years and she took the thirty-five Charlie Brown books I had also collected. She had never even opened one and never understood the humor anyway. So much for trust, even with someone you've been married to for twenty-three years!

Okay, so now I'm finally free. I can think only of myself and my kids. My dear mother had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given less than six months to live. Her and my Dad had moved out west in 1970 and I hadn't seen them very much in more than twenty years. I decided that I had to spend whatever time she had left with her so I went out west in 1993. Along with my clothes and a few things I took my very expensive DJ system thinking that I might be able to setup a DJ service in Kelowna. I had made hundreds of tapes, yes, tapes, of every kind of music imaginable so it was an idea. When it turned out that I needed the money more than the equipment I talked to a guy who owned a music store, Musicplex, in Bolton, Ontario. I think he had sold me the tower speakers or the mixing board. Don't remember. He said he would sell it for me for three thousand dollars with a ten percent commission which sounded reasonable. I also missed my daughter and wanted to see her so I called her and she was excited to be going to see me. So in the middle of January, in the depth of winter, off I go travelling across the country taking my life in my hands. It was no fun.

After I dropped the system in Bolton I went to Brampton to see my daughter. I never saw her but that's another story not really related to the trust issue. The gist of the story here is that the bugger sold my system and never paid me a dime. So much for that trust issue.

There were certainly trust issues in my fourteen years spent in the Okanagan. Some small. Some large. One that comes to mind is about family again, my sister. After my Dad passed away in May of 2005 I was the only one who volunteered to care for mum who had advanced Alzheimer's and could not be left alone. Caring for her was the hardest thing I've done in my life. It was not made any easier by my brother and sister being completely useless at helping me. Neither of them ever understood what caring for someone with this disease is like.

The only break I ever got was when her caregiver would come for four hours during the week. This allowed me to go shopping for food and run any errands, but it never gave me my own life back. The only time I ever left mum alone was to go and do some paid work for a friend. A neighbor called me saying that she found mum wandering around the neighborhood without a coat on looking for me. I rushed home and found the front door wide open.

So Christmas was approaching and I knew this was going to be tough for mum without Dad. I had also been invited by my then girlfriend, Sylvie, to spend Christmas with her. My sister said they needed to celebrate Christmas a day ahead of the twenty-fifth, which I wasn't crazy about, but I went along with her knowing that I was going to get away for a few days, something I desperately needed to do. They actually showed up a day even earlier than planned and informed me we were doing our gifts now. When I asked why she said they had to get up early the next morning because they were going to Vegas for a week! So much for my planned break from caring for mum. Did I trust anything my sister said after that? Not a chance. She made things even worse when she took mum out of a care facility I had taken me nine months to get her into and put her in an assisted living place in Revelstoke. She drove them nuts there because they were not equipped to handle someone like mum. At one point she was found wandering around Revelstoke with no coat on. Luckily someone knew she was my sister's mum and took her to her store.

The next one doesn't involve trusting a person per say but more trusting that something will go as planned. When I moved to Panama I sold most of my things, like tools and furniture, but I was left with a lot of personal things, five bins full, in fact, that I didn't want to part with. I left them with a good buddy, thinking that I would have them shipped when I got settled in Panama. A couple of months later my buddy phones me to tell me that his mother's place had been broken into and all my stuff was gone, most of it not replaceable.

When I made the plan to go to Panama, partly because I had not been able to sell my house, I offered to let my former electrician stay in my place for just the pad rent. He and his wife had split so he needed a place to stay. Before I left I made a point of warning him about the roof. Although I had reinforced it wherever I could and put on a new coating to waterproof it better, it was a roof on a mobile which can't handle a heavy snow load. My Dad had shoveled the snow off their mobile's roof for thirty-five years. Sure enough my buddy calls me to tell me that this guy had paid no attention to the roof and it had caved in under a heavy snow load. It would cost at least twenty thousand dollars to replace it. So much for trusting him.

In doing my research about Panama I had made contact with a very attractive girl who offered to help me with relocating to Boquete. After a couple of weeks talking to her online she said that her mum and dad owned a small house that might be good for me. She said she would talk to them to get me a good rental rate. She came back at three hundred dollars which I thought was good based on the photos I had seen of the place. I sent her the three hundred US dollars to hold the place for the day I arrived. Big mistake!

After a harrowing trip only because my first plan was to drive but they wouldn't let me in at the border so I had to go back home, sell my car and get a flight to Panama instead, I landed in Boquete. I met up with her and went to the house, which turned out to be a disaster. It didn't have a fridge which she knew I needed because of my insulin, so I had to spend three hundred bucks to get a fridge. Then there's no hot water, which I also told her I needed. I had to buy an instant on hot water heater and pay to have it installed, all on my nickel. Then I came home to find the house in darkness, the only one on the street. I learned that not only am I supposed to pay the electric, which was supposed to be included in the rent, but I am to pay for the previous tenant's bill! I also learn from a neighbor that the previous tenant was paying one hundred and twenty-five dollars rent, not three hundred! So much for trust.

Why was I forced to come back to Canada? Well, here's a trust lesson for you. I've gone into great detail on how I was ripped off by a girl who worked for me and for whose family I gave shelter to so that they wouldn't be homeless, so I won't go over it all again. Save to say that she ripped me off for my brand new cell phone, my brand new camera, all the things that belonged in the penthouse I had let them stay in, told the police that I was in the country illegally, that I was a drug dealer and that I had raped her, all of which came far too close to me spending the rest of my life in a Panamanian prison.

The next trust issue was in a relationship. I have always felt that the two most important factors in a good relationship are respect and trust. Without those you have nothing. I am the first to admit that I am a hopeless romantic so I am often less cautious than I should be. I also believe in love at first sight which can be even more dangerous.

While I was staying at my cousin's place in Toronto I met a girl on an internet site. We ended up talking for hours on end, even at one point for the whole day while she was at work and her boss was away. She was married but very unhappily, in fact she had left him for several months earlier but gone back which she regretted. She wanted to meet so she came to Toronto. For me it was love at first sight. No question. She was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I ended up moving to London to be with her.

Long story but it was a challenging relationship. Although I had eventually met her daughter, Emily, who I loved like my own, she didn't want me to meet her older son and daughter, which I always had trouble with. Something wasn't right. Finally she lied to me about going to visit a niece in Toronto when she had actually flown to Ottawa to spend the week-end with yet another guy she had met on the internet. Broke my heart. I swore I would never trust another woman, certainly not with my heart.

On to the whole Ecuador thing. Although I did a ton of research before making the decision to go, the biggest factor was the advice of my dear friend, Heather. We talked for hours about all the pros and cons and it basically came down to her saying I was basically "molding" in London, waiting for my kids to change their opinions and contact me, which might never happen, or just to die. She said if I didn't go I might spend the rest of my life regretting not going, which was very true. So off I went.

There were enough trust issues in Ecuador to fill a book, not one of them good. The first was meeting Anna on the internet and believing that she was going to work for me on my websites. Let's just leave it that it was a disaster. Next was my landlady on the cabin I rented. Originally I had only booked it for a week until I found an apartment, but it was nice and I wanted to stay longer. I brought in Anna to translate and hammered out an agreement for rent that included morning coffee, meals, utilities ( including DirecTV) and firewood. At one point she asked me to prepay two month's rent because "they needed the money". I wasn't cray about that so I paid a month in advance. Long story short, again, the coffee was sporadic, the meals were pathetic (they mostly ate the food I bought), no DirecTV, horrible internet and they let all the other guests use the firewood load that I bought.

Things were not working out and after the panic trip to the hospital she asked me to move out. I totaled up my prepaid rent, the two bottles of rum they had drank on me and the firewood they had let everyone else use, total two hundred dollars. She said they would pay me the day I moved out. The taxi was loaded with all my stuff on my way to Cotacachi and I asked her for my money. She said she hadn't been to the bank yet. I offered to give her a ride on our way. Now she said they were waiting for a check but assured me that she would bring my money the following Monday to Cotacachi. Despite unbelievable efforts I still have no money from her. Burned.

Then there was my "driver", a friend of Anna's, who had picked me up at the airport in Quito. He agreed to do my shopping runs to Ibarra for the big supermarket. On one of our trips I asked him to stop at the bank first and I took our three hundred dollars, not knowing what I might need to pay for in cash. I did spend some of the cash. I figured about eighty dollars but I put my food shopping on my debit card. When I got home I checked my wallet and discovered I only had twenty dollars. He had stolen two hundred dollars from my messenger bag while I went outside the van for a smoke. This from a guy I had paid handsomely for the trip from the airport and other trips around town. Nice!

Next was my lovely "facilitator", a person who helps you with your visa applications, who came recommended by a group called Visa Angels. She was no angel. After following her recommendation to travel to the other end of the country to file my application in Guayaquil and paying her handsomely for it, she said she need the three hundred and fifty dollar fee for the government, which I sent her. Then things fell apart on me with getting my meds so I had to cancel my application. I explained it to her and asked for my deposit back. She kept it inventing some lame ass story that she had made more trips for me, even though she had done nothing. I went to the police but they said I gave it to her willingly so there had been no crime. Nice!

In Cotacachi there were a number of little trust issues, but the biggest was with who ended up for a time being my fiancee. When I first met her it was love at first sight for me, no question. I asked for her phone number and she put it in my phone as Patricia Esposa, which means "wife". We had a whirlwind romance, at my expense of course, but I was already planning to return to Canada because I could not afford to stay in Ecuador. I left planning to return as soon as I could to marry her. It was tough trying to maintain the relationship at a distance, especially with the language issue, but we tried. She was struggling and so was I because I had not yet started receiving my other pension. She had found a new apartment she called our "love nest" and was busy decorating it for us. It seemed that every month she had something she needed money for, like she couldn't pay the rent or the electric bill, so I sent her whatever I could even if it meant I was eating at the Salvation Army kitchen because I had no money for food.

At one point I sent her a hundred dollars American to repay my good friend, Dutch, money that he had loaned me. She said she desperately needed it and would talk to him to pay him later, a little at a time. She never talked to him. We had also started a crowd funding campaign to get me back to marry her and a friend had graciously donated fifty dollars. It was in my savings account that I told her we couldn't touch because we would need to give the money back if we weren't successful. She took it out anyway. In the end when everything fell apart and we were no longer engaged she had taken me for six hundred and fifty dollars American, something I could not afford. Nice!


Decisions, decisions....good and bad. Really bad!

decisions_06Life is full of decisions, little ones like what to wear today or what to eat for breakfast, and big ones like buying a house or getting married or having another child. In my life I've had to make all those decisions and many more. I've learned that there are two basic things about making decisions. One, no matter how hard you try to think of all the good and bad points of a decision you can't think of all the unforeseen things that can go terribly wrong and, two, every decision, good or bad, has consequences. I've learned of those the hard way.

When we are born and continuing through those early years most of our decisions are made by others, usually our parents. What to wear. What to eat. What school to go to. Soon we start to make our own decisions, like what to wear, often poorly done and what to eat for breakfast, also poorly done when chocolate cake comes first. One of our first major decisions is who will become our friends. During those formative years we are all naive and think that the friends we make will be for a lifetime. It's the same with our first love. When I met Roxanne Rollings in Churchville I believed that we would get married and live happily ever after. Little did I know.

decisions_01Sometimes we are just the victim of circumstances, for example, when I was only twelve my parents decided to move out of Toronto to the middle of nowhere, to a farm in the country north of Streetsville. I went from being able to ride my bike almost anywhere, or taking buses and streetcars to wherever I wanted to go and never getting home before dark, to being so isolated, miles from anyone. Even when I met some friends at public school in Churchville I could never see them or do anything after school because it was literally a five mile walk. My father and mother both worked so they were seldom available or were just too tired to drive me anywhere or pick me up. Once in a blue moon, usually because of Roxanne, I did do the major bike trip to Churchville. Soon I moved on to the high school in Streetsville, which was even further away, too far to even think about biking. My teen years were basically spent with my brother and sister, who I also cared for because my Mum worked so I cooked dinner every night.

As we get older and start having that burning desire to control our own destiny this is difficult for our parents to handle. They don't want to let go and they rarely agree with your decisions, but they also know that the only way you will learn is by making mistakes so they have to trust you at some point. My first issue was joining the band. It quickly became the only thing I cared about and nothing else, like my schoolwork, really mattered. I didn't have any dreams of becoming famous but I loved every minute of playing in the band. Back then I had no idea that it was going to be such a major part of my life for the next ten years. Like most kids I wanted money and a car, especially after all those years of being stranded. I decided to go on a split program with high school, taking half my subjects one year and the other half the next year. That didn't work out as planned. I got a job delivering newspapers to carriers around Mississauga and Streetsville. It was hard work but I loved getting my first paycheques. At one point as the driver rounded a curve a little fast I fell off, sliding maybe thirty feet on the pavement. What saved me was the fact that it had been raining so hard and the road was very wet. I got away with no road rash but it scared the crap out of me.

decisions_03Once I had decided that continuing in school wasn't going to work for me my mother suggested I apply at the bank where she worked. I had no desire to get into banking but the thought of a regular full-time paycheque was attractive, even at fifty dollars a week, a fortune way back then. This led to my next major decision - a car. I happened to see an ad for an MGB that sounded perfect. I loved the idea of driving a sports car and paid no attention to the fact I wouldn't be able to drive it in the winter without killing myself. Turned out this rich guy had gotten it from his parents as a graduation gift and he wanted to go on a trip to the Caribbean and needed the money. He had no clue what it was worth and was asking an absurdly low price. I was driving my mother's car to get to him in Toronto and to my considerable surprise he said I could leave her car with him and take the MGB. I was in total heaven driving that car and took the very, very long way home. I was only eighteen or so at the time so I couldn't sign for my own loan. I needed my Dad to co-sign. To this day I have never forgiven him for refusing to cosign the loan for the best car I could have ever had, well, until the winter at least. Dad made it all the worse by bringing home a horrible Vauxhall Viva that he paid a hundred dollars for, which was ninety-nine dollars too much. It was a car though, bad as it was, and I remember painting the dash flat black for some unknown reason that made sense at the time. Shortly after a drunk hit me on Queen Street in Brampton and totaled the car, almost totaling me as well. That led to another major decision when I decided to buy my first new car, an Austin Mini.

ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/75f92316699024ad6e77a55f3d86d338.jpg">Getting the new car led to one of my first really stupid decisions. At the time I was working at a branch in Weston, one of the nine I ended up working at during my short career with Toronto-Dominion, and worked with Steven Vass. I'm not sure how we started talking about car rallies but I soon signed us up for the Skylon rally, having no clue what this rally actually meant. The rally was just over a week away so my dealer told me to put a thousand kilometres on the engine so that it could be tuned before we went on the rally. Not only did I drive the long way home but I went touring just about everywhere to put the mileage on. After they serviced the engine off we went to the rally. When we got to the start we learned that this was one of the national rallies in the country and it would be challenging. The other drivers were all chuckling at us when they saw my car. They were all sponsored and had thousands of dollars of extras in their cars. They also had crews that would service their vehicles on the route. We had nothing. First we had to have a safety check which did not go well. The official gave us a long list of things we needed to be able to enter the rally, like fire extinguishers, map lights, on and on, so off we went to Canadian Tire to buy everything we needed. We passed the safety, although it was very clear that we didn't stand a chance to finish the rally. At every pit-stop we got our time, which was always way behind, and instructions for the next leg. They were different for each leg and obviously the professional drivers understood what they meant. We didn't but the drivers and pit-stop crews were very helpful. Just one example was they gave you a map with all the exact distances between roads. You were to take whatever roads were not shown on the map. This was a twenty-four hour rally, which even with two drivers, is tough. We finally pulled into Niagara Falls, hours late, but we made it. We were welcomed with cheers from the other drivers who couldn't believe that we had actually done the whole course. We learned that more than a hundred drivers had failed to make it, many of them pros. Quite the experience.

Sometime in this period I met my soon to be wife. I was at a party with my then girlfriend, Bev, when Janice walked down the stairs with her friend Lynn, who had just finished warning her that I was a sucker for blondes. As soon as I saw her I left Bev and approached Janice, asking her to marry me. It said a lot that she told me to "f" off. I kept insisting that we were going to marry and wouldn't leave her alone. I soon learned that she had been going with this guy, Doug, for three years. He turned out to be an asshole and he wasn't pleased that I was out with his girl. As I drove her home one night he came screaming up, jumped out of his muscle car and started yelling at Janice. Her mother soon came out of the house to see what all the noise was about. That was the minute that Doug made the very stupid decision to spit in Janice's face. Her mother went ballistic and told him never to come around again and that basically ended their relationship. Despite how our marriage turned out I still believe that she would have been miserable with him.

Sometimes you get to consider all the facts to make a decision. Sometimes the decision is basically made for you. That's what happened with Janice and I. I never doubted that we were going to get married but I didn't have any details and we never discussed it, mostly because she was only fifteen at the time. We did love each other deeply and we were soon on dangerous ground physically. We were at my parent's place which they had rented when they moved out west, but the tenants had moved out so no one was there and we ended up in the bed in the master bedroom. Well, no surprise what happened next, but we had no protection. Stupid! Really stupid! It wasn't long before she was pregnant which back then was the kiss of death, so we got married August 16th, 1969 and Chris was born March 27th, 1970. Sure, we made the decision to get married but was there any real choice? Neither of us even talked about abortion. Her parents were devastated but they never questioned if we should get married. It was the only choice.

Here I should also touch on another one of those times where decisions are basically made by other people or circumstances. My parents had traveled out west on a vacation and when they returned they had decided to move. They put the house up for sale and started planning to move. I was working at the bank at the time and had no clue about living out west where they were going, but I also didn't like the idea that my family was leaving me alone. No doubt we would have had a deep discussion about what I could do for work out west, but it never happened because they could not sell the house. Winter was approaching so they decided that they would stay until spring when they would put the place up for sale again. Fate stepped in because then I met Janice. Any thoughts of moving with my family went out the window. Then she got pregnant. We got married then my parents rented their place and left for the west. It was the start of some very tough years because when Chris was born I had no family there to share my joy.

My first trip out to see them was in 1972. They were living in a rented house on Marshall Street in Kelowna. My Dad was working at Western Star in the factory, which was quite the shock because he had been a real estate broker back in Streetsville. He showed me their truck which had a camper, where I slept actually and their big boat that he was working on. It was a former tugboat on the coast and had been owned by a scuba diving club. It had two massive V-8 engines that he was rebuilding. My mother had gotten a job at the Bank of Nova Scotia pretty well the day they arrived in Kelowna. Looking back I wish I had paid a lot more attention to how their lives had changed and how happy they were. The old "live to work or work to live" adage. Dad said he loved getting off work at three-thirty, forgetting about work and going off to have fun. He had really changed from the workaholic he was before, something that I was well on my way to becoming. I went back home beginning to question what I was doing with my life, but I had a wife and a new young son, so what choices did I have?

From day one my marriage was abysmal. My Dad had got us a motel room for our wedding night. We were leaving for Cape Cod the next morning for our honeymoon. That night was certainly not what I had pictured for my wedding night. Janice would not even let me touch her. All I remember was sitting on the floor at the foot of the bed wondering what I had gotten myself into. The honeymoon wasn't much better. There was no romance and she started getting morning sickness. I felt she had brought it on herself so that she didn't have to make love to me. Little did I know or even dream that this was going to be the way our future was. Not what a hopeless romantic, which I am, needs.

The next major decision was buying our first house. Before I got married my buddy Russ and I lived in a very small apartment in a house on Main Street in Brampton which my father owned. I remember we had a TV and two lawn chairs. I don't even remember where we slept. After I got married of course Russ moved out and Janice moved in. Soon we also had a baby to take care of and the apartment felt even smaller. One of the tenants in the main part of the house moved out so Dad suggested that we move in, which we did. I think we went from paying ninety dollars a month to a hundred and fifty a month. Dad has some major challenges with their house in Streetsville. The people who had rented it had not paid the rent for several months and then moved out, leaving no oil for the furnace in the dead of winter, so the pipes froze and burst. It was very frustrating for my Dad to handle being on the other side of the country so he just wanted out of it, including the place we lived in. He suggested that we buy it. Being only twenty I had no idea if I would be able to get a mortgage or where I would come up with the down payment. My own bank wouldn't help me, as would no other bank or credit union. I finally managed to get private mortgage financing, a first mortgage and a second mortgage, both at much higher rates and we had to pay finder's fees on both, which were rolled into the mortgages. We paid Dad's asking price of nineteen thousand dollars, with a whopping hundred dollars down.

Living there was okay, but it was a challenge sharing a bathroom with the bachelor apartment, especially with a baby. I had done some work on the place, like refinishing the floors in our apartment and replacing the lead drainage pipe in the kitchen. We started looking for a place of our own and our agent, Andy Anderson, found a place on Fairglen Drive in Brampton. He said it was really rough but they had been trying to sell for months and they had just reduced their price a lot. I convinced Janice to at least take a look at it, but as soon as Andy opened the front door, the smell and the heat knocked us back. I thought Janice was going to refuse to step any further. That it was "rough" was an understatement. There were rugs nailed down to the floor in the hallways, which also smelled of urine from the animals. The living room was the ugliest black velvet wallpaper I had ever seen. The bathroom was half renovated with the sink propped up on two by fours. All the bedroom doors looked like they had locks that had been broken off so at one point it must have been a rooming house. The exterior had army green siding and the foundation had been painted bright purple. It was some ugly! Although it had a very large backyard, it backed onto the railway tracks which was a mainline. When a train went by you couldn't hear a thing. Janice wanted no part of it but I convinced her that we could renovate and make some money so we put in an offer and we got it - cheap. I did a lot of work over the years we were there. I think we bought it for something like $42,500 and we sold for something around $59,000. 

The next decision that was made, greatly affecting my life, but not one I was allowed to make, was when Janice learned she was pregnant again. She simply told me that her and her mother were going to a hospital in Toronto for her to have an abortion and that I had nothing to do with it. I was incensed that we weren't even going to discuss it, insisting that I had a legal right to be involved in this decision. She didn't give a damn. When I think what has happened with my kids I always wonder what this other child would have been like with me, but I'll never know.

We ended up buying or renting houses until the last one before we split. At every one of them I busted my butt doing renovations, all of which earned us more and more money, growing our original one hundred dollar investment. The last one was what had been the builder's home on Mara Crescent. It had a lot of upgrades, like a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, ceramic tiles, upgraded cabinets, french doors and a very large deck out back. I did a lot of landscaping, front and back, turned one of the bedrooms into an office with all tongue and groove paneling, added a door between the kitchen and the garage, built all kinds of shelves and a workbench in the garage and did a whole lot of decorating. Of course, as with all of our houses over the years, Janice never so much as picked up a paint brush. I did everything. When we bought the place it was a somewhat unusual deal. The owners wanted to build a home in Caledon so they wanted as long a closing as they could get, so we gave them six months which helped us to get the deal. We had sold our townhouse for the highest amount ever in that neighborhood and the buyers had no problem with the long closing. The old "buy low, sell high" saved our bacon on the last place. We bought at around $179,000 and by the time we moved in the same home, without all the upgrades, was going for $221,000, in fact, that's what our next door neighbors paid. After a year apart and paying all her bills I had had enough so we put the place up for sale. We got $189,900, a large drop from what they were before the crash, but we still didn't lose anything on it because of what we had paid.

For all the years we were married my wife had always said if we split everything would be fifty/fifty. I always wondered about that because every cent we had earned on the houses we had owned was exclusively from my work. She never did a thing. But I also hated lawyers so I knew I wouldn't challenge the fifty/fifty split. Suddenly when we sold the house, in which we now had about a hundred thousand dollars of equity, plus I had paid every mortgage payment on any houses we owned, she decided that she needed more to "support our daughter". Remember that she had sat on her ass for the last two years, not even looking for a job, so I had paid for everything plus I had done all the work. Regardless, she knew I would never agree to go to lawyers so she milked that to the hilt. I basically took my last cheque from my last client and gave her the rest. She got about ninety-five percent of everything plus things like Heather's IKEA furniture which had cost some three thousand dollars. She also took all of my Rosemond prints and even my thirty-five Charlie Brown books, something she had never even looked at. I was just happy to be done with it all.

The next major decision involved my mother. In 1991 she had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given a less than five percent chance of living more than six months. It was devastating news to the family. I had been apart from my parents for more than twenty years. My marriage was over. I found myself making appointments to see my kids. I was living in Markham where I didn't want to be. My work with my last client was coming to an end after six months. I made the difficult decision to move out west to be with my mother for whatever time she had left.  I just wanted to spend as much time with her as possible and wasn't really thinking beyond that. My parents came down with me, helped me sell some of my stuff and traveled back to BC with me, arriving in July of 1993. For some seventeen years they had been going south to Yuma for the winter, sometimes renting their place out while they were gone. We really didn't know if Mum would be okay to travel that October but she insisted she was. It was the last year they went because now that Mum had been diagnosed with cancer the health insurance was absurd, I think more than three thousand dollars just for her. After all the stress with Mum and moving the day they left for Yuma was one of the best days I've ever had. They left early in the morning. I was still in my pajamas. Had my coffee in my hand and sat down in Dad's chair and for the first time in my life didn't give a damn about anyone but me. I think it was the very first time I finally believed that my life was now up to me. No more doing everything for everybody else. It was wonderful.

Although things were fairly good it didn't take long for me to figure out that I had to find work pretty quick. My very expensive custom van sat in the driveway just waiting for the day they would come and get it because I could not afford the eight hundred dollar payments every month now. That lead to an almost fatal decision in January to drive to Ontario despite it being the dead of winter. I had a very expensive DJ system that I needed to sell and a guy in Bolton who owned a music store said he would sell it for me. I also really wanted to see the kids so off I went. I had talked to Heather to tell her I was coming down to see her. I knew that it was only a matter of time with the van so I might as well use it while I could. The drive was a disaster and I've covered it elsewhere so I won't go into all the details again but I almost didn't survive the trip. After all that after I dropped the system off in Bolton I couldn't find my daughter. I learned that they had hidden Heather away and were not going to let me see her. I ended up staying with my son for three weeks, hoping I would get to see her but nothing changed and I drove home through the tears. That was over twenty years ago and I have not seen or spoken to her since. I miss her every single day. On top of everything else the idiot in Bolton sold my three thousand dollar system and ripped me off for every dime.

I ended up staying in the Okanagan for fourteen years, most of it while my mother was amazingly still with us. She sure beat the odds. As I said earlier, sometimes you get to make your own decisions and sometimes they are made for you. That was the case when my Dad passed away in May of 2005. My mother had advanced Alzheimer's and could not be left alone. My brother and sister never offered so I had no choice but to move in to care for my Mum, what turned out to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I really had no choice other than to give up any thought of having my own life until she was gone. Through a number of incredibly dumb decisions by my sister my mother got a lot worse and finally died in late 2007. I was so angry with my sister that I could not go to my Mum's remembrance ceremony because I wanted to kill my sister. We have not spoken since.

After I had sold their place and gotten Mum into proper care I took over the mortgage on a manufactured home that was a disaster. I worked day and night, seven days a week, completely gutting it, redesigning the layout and rebuilding everything. When I was close to finished I talked to a few Realtors, all of whom said it was the nicest one anywhere and that it would fetch a really good price. Then disaster struck. The day before I was to list it one of the local Indian Chiefs came out in the local paper saying that anyone who bought a manufactured home on native land was "stupid". He said that the ridiculous prices that they were selling for was only because of Realtor's greed. He reminded everyone that there was no tenancy on any of the parks so they could be redeveloped and everyone thrown out with nothing. Overnight the market crashed. No Realtor would touch it for fear of being sued. No lawyer would touch it. Even the private mortgage I had arranged just in case I couldn't sell fell through. I was screwed. I owed money to people like Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Home Hardware and I had borrowed ten thousand dollars from my friend Crystal's parents, who saved my ass because I had no money to finish the place. With no possible sale, no mortgage to pay the bills and no way to survive now the stress was literally killing me. My doctor told me to find a way to get out from under all this stress or I would die. I was diabetic and stress kills.

After much thought and research I decided to go to Panama. I transferred the ownership of the place to my friend, Wade, to try to protect it from being seized by a creditor. My electrician had just broken up with his wife so I offered him a place to stay. After I decided to go to Panama I asked him if he wanted to rent the place by just paying the pad rent of three hundred and fifty dollars a month and he agreed. One thing I did warn him about was the roof. Although I had reinforced it wherever I could and coated it with a new material to stop leaks I told him that these roofs cannot take any snow load, especially if it is melting and getting heavy. I told him to keep an eye on it and clear it off of any snow buildup, as my father had done for thirty-five years with their place. I get a call in Panama from Wade telling me that the jerk had never touched the roof and it had caved in. He estimated it would cost about twenty thousand dollars to replace the roof, which obviously I didn't have. He ended up selling it to a young guy who was going to fix the roof himself. He was borrowing money from his parents and he needed me to take back a five thousand dollar mortgage which I really didn't want to do because I was selling it to him for less than half what I would have gotten before the crash. I didn't have a lot of choice though so I accepted it. Of course a few months later Wade phoned to tell me that the guy couldn't pay the five thousand so I lost that on top of everything else.

Panama was my first experience in a foreign country. As much as I had done months of research before I left it still doesn't really prepare you because it rarely talks about the bad stuff. I had decided on Boquete in the mountains, partly for the climate and how much it looked like BC.  I was developing a number of city portals for Panama and had registered domains for most major cities. The sites had many local features, such as classifieds and local photos but one of the strong points was local news. I knew that my limited language skills would never work for selling advertising or for getting into the local community to learn what was going on. This is the fateful point where I met Verushka playing pool. She would change my life in ways I could never imagine, not one of them good. Although she was only twenty-one and looked very sweet, she was actually a master criminal. At one point she was very down and I asked her what was wrong. She said that they had been evicted from their home and could not get into their new place for two weeks. When she said that meant they would be on the streets for two weeks I told her that they could move into the penthouse as long as they helped me with some of the painting. Within a couple of hours in moved her mother, two sisters, three children, two parrots and a dog, plus about a hundred boxes of whatever.

The two weeks came and went and she was just full of excuses as to what was going on. To make a long story short they ended up staying for two months and I only got them out by telling them we were going to fumigate so they had to leave for a few hours. Then we changed all the locks on the gates. They returned with the police in hand, telling them all kinds of lies and before I knew it I was arrested and handcuffed in the paddy wagon. Only my poor Spanish saved me when they realized that she was lying about everything. The police gave them until the next day to move out and when they left they stole everything from the penthouse apartment right down to the batteries out of the TV remote. I spent hundreds of dollars with the courts and translating and the police trying to get everything back but got nothing and was forced to return to Canada because I had twenty-one dollars in the bank. I had invested over eleven thousand dollars in the house I was renovating and hadn't seen a dime so I sold everything in the house to raise money to get back home.

I certainly appreciated the roof over my head that my cousin in Toronto offered me when she learned of my troubles in Panama, but I knew it was short term and I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I still couldn't go back to Kelowna with the mess I had left everything in. I didn't want to live in Toronto. I happened to meet Denise online and soon I moved to London, Ontario to be with her. I was so in love with her and thought we would be together forever. That ended badly when she made the choice to go and visit another guy in Ottawa that she had also met online. It really hurt and I was now at a loss as to what I was doing in London. After living in my car and at various homeless shelters I got a job at Home Depot and soon had an apartment and furniture and life was okay. I hated London though and knew I had to do something.

Modesto Penaherrera street, Cotacachi

As I approached retirement age and would receive my pensions I knew I could not afford to live in Canada. I was so sick of winter now, mostly because I wasn't snowmobiling, downhill or cross country skiing anymore like I did in BC so now winter just sucked. I knew I would never return to Panama so I started researching countries that were warmer and where the cost of living was less. After months of research I decided on Ecuador for a host of reasons. Obviously it was one of those major life decisions because I was leaving my home country. I would not see my kids or my five grand-kids, ever. I would no doubt die in a foreign country not surrounded by anyone who knew me for any length of time. There also was a sense of adventure with improving my Spanish and discovering a new country a lot different than Canada. And no more winter!

Although I made my share of decisions in Ecuador, like where to live, most of the things that happened, none of them good, were the result of decisions made by other people, whose goals seemed to be just to rip me off as much as possible not caring one bit about my well being. Numerous reasons forced me to return to Canada and that hasn't worked out well either. I am only surviving thanks to the good graces of a charity that is providing me a place to live at an amount I can afford for now.

Having learned a lot about how you can't possibly control everything in life I am far more cautious about what I do from here. I believe my choices are to return to the Okanagan, where I was truly happy although things would be much different now, or I'm looking at the Lake Chapala area in Mexico. There's about thirty thousand Expats there now, both Americans and quite a lot of Canadians. The question is whether I can afford to live there because our dollar is still absurdly low at around seventy-three cents, plus I will lose one of my pensions after I'm out of the country for six months. Regardless of my poor experience with Ecuador I'm researching if I can create the same type of city portals to make a little extra money to replace my lost pension. Stay tuned.


Beware! Hospitals in Latin America can kill you!

As a Canadian I am admittedly spoiled by our health care system. Despite waiting hours in Emergency and long waits for elective surgery or things like an MRI, which normally is six months minimum, the quality of care is exceptional and, of course, it's free. Unlike the pathetic system in the US at least Canadians don't have to worry about being bankrupted by serious illness. As the population ages; however, there is great concern over the costs which are enormous. The costs of everything from a stay in the hospital to supplies appears to be out of control. A huge percentage of government budgets, both federal and provincial goes to health care and it's questionable how long this can be sustained. There's already some challenges with private care being offered, plus people who are traveling overseas to avoid the waits, only because they can afford it. The system is far from ideal.

The issue with health care is, like many things, that you don't appreciate it until you have something to compare to our system. I did.

First, during my time in Panama I was unlucky enough to have a gall bladder attack. It nearly killed me because the people who worked with me on the renovations were finished and not coming to work anymore. The nightmare tenants in the penthouse had been given the boot so I was basically alone. Even my girlfriend, Magaly, was not happy that I was going to be forced to return to Canada so she wasn't coming over as she had done every day for nine months. The excruciating pain hit in the middle of the night. My cell phone had died because our power had been off for days, which was not unusual in Boquete. I basically laid on the floor writhing in pain, praying for any help. I believed I wasn't going to make it.

Thankfully my electrician, Amilkar, just happened to drop by because he hadn't seen me in a while. Thankfully he still had the key I had given him to open the gate because he would never have heard me yelling from my ground floor apartment. Obviously he was horrified when he found me laying on the floor in great pain. He called my friend Elizabeth to come over to take me to the hospital. She knew this was something more serious than the local clinic could handle so she took me to the public hospital in David, about an hour away.

By this point I was in a haze because of the pain and I don't remember everything, but I do know that it took hours to finally see anyone and I don't think I was sent to surgery for about nine hours. I vaguely remember that I was wheeled into the operating room and they were banging on the lights to get them to work. Not exactly reassuring.

I woke up in an interesting bed in recovery. It was a youth bed, not big enough for yours truly and it was broken. I kept sliding down to the foot of the bed and it was extremely painful to push myself back up again. Thankfully at least I was on morphine so the pain wasn't intolerable. I had no idea what was coming though. Some time later in the day they wheeled me into a room with three other guys. Back then my Spanish was too weak to even attempt any conversation plus I didn't much feel like socializing anyway. I was also too busy trying to stay up in my stupid bed.

The next day brought on more pain and I asked the nurse for morphine, but she said that the hospital had run out so now I was back in post surgery pain. Again because of my limited Spanish I had no real idea what exactly they had done other than remove my gall bladder. First time I ever thought about this organ and I hoped I would survive without it.

I don't recall if I ever got any food or anything to drink because I'm quite sure it would have been terrible enough to remember. Somewhere around the third day the nurse insisted it was time for a shower and the toilet. It was a very painful walk all the way down the halls to the bathroom, carrying my IV, because they had no wheelchairs. When we got to the bathroom she turned on the water and threw me into a freezing cold shower. Took my breath away. No surprise that they had no hot water because most people in Panama don't enjoy hot water either. I got out of the shower as quickly as I could and went to go to the toilet, but I sort of understood that the nurse was asking me where my toilet paper was. I didn't know that you are supposed to bring your own.

Around the fifth day, I think, Amilkar and Elizabeth came to visit me. That morning I had been given a bill for six hundred and fifty dollars, which worried me because I didn't have the money. Once Elizabeth heard about the horrible conditions in the hospital she and Amilkar came up with a scheme for me to escape and it worked. I figured that the hospital would track me down and press me to pay but I was leaving the country anyway and at least I was free of the hospital.

Now back at home when they heard the story my friends were horrified at what I had been through. I guess it gave them cause to wonder what would happen if they needed the hospital. When my Panamanian friends heard what hospital I had been in they were amazed that they didn't kill me. Apparently there were numerous wrongful death lawsuits against the hospital, many from women who had not made it through childbirth. I soon learned, the hard way, that you better have the money if you want to go to a private American style hospital.

Only when I returned to Canada and found a doctor did I learn that the technique they had used in Panama was at least twenty years old. Today it's basically day surgery where they make a tiny incision and you're done. I was left with about a five inch scar and a huge bump from the archaic surgery technique. I guess I was happy that I had at least managed to survive this death hospital and they didn't leave any instruments in me.

So I'm back to Canada, staying at my cousin's in Toronto. After a few months I met Denise online and ended up moving to London for several years. Loathing life in London and approaching retirement age I started researching other warmer countries to go to to live out my life. My pensions would not be enough to be able to live in Canada so I had to find somewhere cheap. After extensive research for several months I decided on Ecuador for many reasons, not the least of which was their national health care plan. I left for Ecuador in December of 2014, heading for Cotacachi in the Andes.

My first experience with hospitals in Ecuador was when I became very ill as in sort of "out of it". She called my driver who drove a truck barely functional with no springs. For some unknown reason they drove right by the public, read free, hospital in Otavalo and took me to a hospital in Ibarra, quite a distance away. Just like in Panama many things were broken and my doctor babbled away in Spanish which I barely understood. I only got that I was severely dehydrated, something that happens because of the high altitude. Only after four days and when I'm checking out do I learn that this is a private hospital. They present me with a bill for twelve hundred dollars US and ask for my credit card! That put a huge dent in my planned budget. I never got an explanation on why they took me to a private, very expensive hospital, but I suspected there was some sort of commission involved.

Next my landlady came down to my cabin and found me totally unresponsive. My cabin had a fireplace, the only source of heat, and I didn't realize when I laid down for a brief nap that I had actually been poisoned by carbon monoxide. She called the ambulance and, thankfully, this time they took me to the public hospital in Otavalo, although I was not conscious. I only remember waking up in Emergency and understanding that the doctor told them I was twenty minutes from death! Boy, there's an eye opener.

Although it's a long story and one I've told elsewhere, I ended up moving to Cotacachi. The day I arrived to stay at the hostel I knew something was wrong. I had already been at altitude for a couple of months so I didn't think that was the issue, but I sure knew I wasn't right. They called for an ambulance which arrived in no more than five minutes and I was rushed to the public hospital in town. Again I was dehydrated so they gave me an IV for a few hours and then I was fine. A few months later I came down actually sick this time and was again taken to the same hospital. Although it was very noisy and hard to get any sleep they did take good care of me and I was home the same day.

Live and learn!


Memories of Halloween

Haven't always dressed for Halloween, but two years stick out in my mind. The first was when I went to a party or a dance of some kind in Brampton dressed as the world's oldest black baseball player. I had my uniform from playing on my baseball team in Heart Lake. I think I got a grey wig and did my face and hands in blackface. After wherever it was we partied I wondered what a mess washing this makeup off might make at home so I decided to go to the racquetball club to shower. It was late so there was hardly anybody there, but no sooner do I get into the shower than a black guy comes walking in. The look he gave me washing the blackface makeup off was priceless. I didn't know whether to apologize if I offended him or just shut up, which I did.

The other was out west in Kelowna. I was going with a bunch of friends to the dance at the Corral but I had been very busy working and hadn't had a chance to rent a costume. By the time I got to the rental place there wasn't much left. I decided on the pink gorilla suit only because of the cool flashing eyes and despite the price which I think was close to a hundred dollars. To finish it off I had bought these big black rubber gorilla looking feet. Little did I realize what this outfit would mean for me at the dance.

This was at Laura's I think before we headed to the Corral. There's Sue, Karla, Darlene, Don, Brian, Sue, Larry, Brian, Laura and Wade.

I love to dance, so the first thing I didn't think about was how hot it was going to be in that costume. It was brutal, so bad that I had to go in the bathroom and empty the sweat out of my rubber feet frequently or I could have easily fallen. Those darn feet also were no dancing shoes and it was hard to dance in them. Not only that but I only had two little openings for my eyes so it was hard to do any turns without killing someone. I did plan to not talk or tell anyone who I was. I asked my usual partners to dance and soon people started figuring out who I was because of my dancing style. I had never thought it was that obvious. Like most guys I was never crazy about asking a girl to dance for fear of getting turned down. In my gorilla suit I wondered if anyone would dance with me. I went for the youngest, prettiest girls in the bar and they all happily danced with me. I had a ball!

The sad part was that when I went the following week and asked those same girls to dance they all turned me down even though I told them that I was the guy in the gorilla suit. Apparently wearing a pink gorilla suit made dancing with me okay. Rather unsettling to get turned down as yourself.

Anyway, Happy Halloween.


Diabetes - having a good doctor

Back in 2004 I was first diagnosed with diabetes and it changed my life forever. Although initially I just used metformin to control my sugars, soon I had other complications and had to start taking insulin, albeit small doses at first. Soon the worst complication was peripheral neuropathy in my feet which resulted in 24/7 pain. My previous very active lifestyle of roller-blading, water-skiing, cross country and downhill skiing, hiking, cycling and dirt-biking, not to mention two to three nights a week dancing, ended because I could barely walk. Soon I needed a cane just to maintain my balance. I honestly didn't know if I was going to be able to live with the constant pain.

For the neuropathy my doctor at the time prescribed Gabapentin, a drug with many side effects. I was taking the maximum daily dosage of 3600 mg and knew that wasn't great. Although it did mitigate the pain a little it was certainly no cure. Over the years it seemed like every time I went to a doctor they just increased my meds and my insulin doses. Before I knew it I was taking 90 units of Nova Rapid, 30 after every meal and 120 units of Lantus, the long lasting one. As I moved my new doctors questioned the amount if insulin I was taking, suggesting that I had become insulin resistant.

After I moved to Belleville and found a new doctor, Dr. Savic, he was the first to really question the meds that I was on. He asked me how my testing was going and I shyly admitted that I hadn't been testing because all I ever got from my meter was "too high! too high!". Very depressing. He sent me for blood work at the lab and my A1C came back at a very discouraging 14.6. Not good. Then he switched me from Gabapentin to Lyrica. In only a matter of days my foot pain was a lot less and I was even able to sleep a full night. Next he put me on Jardiance to "flush out my system", removing sugars in the process. I did start peeing like a racehorse and hoped that it was doing something. He also cut my insulin back to 50 units of the Lantus, morning and night and 30 of the Nova Rapid. He also added vitamin D to my daily vitamins because I was deficient.

Nervously I thought I had better start testing again because the doctor wanted my results on my next visit in only a few days. First one was after a meal and was only 8.9! Much better than "too high!" Next was fasting and it was only 5.6! Hadn't seen that in years. The day of my visit I tested first thing in the morning and my fasting was 3.7! That's actually too low. When I went to the doctor, eagerly ready to share these great results with Dr. Savic, he surprised me with the news that my new blood work showed an A1C of 6.9! That's better than a fifty percent improvement!

The point is never underestimate the importance of your doctor and be prepared to question what they tell you. My history has always been that doctors are far too quick to just add more meds or increase the dosage without really looking at what's going on. I suffered excruciating foot pain for years just because I was on the wrong meds. If you don't like what you hear from your doctor get a second opinion. It can't hurt and may save you needless pain and suffering. These new results have given me the confidence to sign up for a new program that claims to eliminate diabetes, which most doctors will tell you is impossible. If there's even a remote chance that I can reverse my diabetes it's worth a try. There is no miracle cure and it does require changes to my diet so we'll see. I'll post my results.


A Facebook excercise

No question that Facebook has changed our lives, mostly for the good but some for the bad. People rediscover long lost friends and make new ones. They contribute to a host of issues we all face every day. Users are probably as addicted to Facebook as they are to checking their email. Some just want to get as many friends as possible, even to test that five thousand limit put on by Facebook.

I've lived a long and somewhat eventful life in terms of my career and the places I've lived. I've met a ton of people in the process, many of whom I have forgotten. Now that I am officially a senior and facing the possibility of dementia or, worse, Alzheimer's (my mum had it), I thought I would see just how many people I could remember that I had actually physically met, either in my personal life or my marriage or my various travels or my various jobs, of which I've had many. I'm not going to cover my kid's friends or the kids of any adult friends I had unless it will help to reconnect me with their parents. For many people I will only remember their first name so I'll do my best to describe how I met them and what the circumstances were. The goal is to test both Facebook and that thing they call six degrees of separation, meaning that "anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries". We'll see.

Obviously I don't expect anyone to read this entire lengthy post. I just want you to go to a section you might have been part of and add anyone you know or add their Facebook link. That's all.

THE EARLY YEARS

Obviously first is my childhood, which was so very long ago. Way back in 1949 I was born at St. Joseph's in Toronto after the fireboat rushed my mum from the islands, where her and my father lived, in the middle of the night. I was apparently born at seven twenty in the morning which I only mention because of the numerous times I've woken up at exactly that time now matter where I was. We moved around a fair bit when I was a wee one, at one point to an apartment in Ajax, then to a farm called, I believe, Donelda, which became Don Mills. The only name I remember from any of this was someone called Bumpy, a friend of my Dad's.

When I was maybe four of five we moved in with my Mum's parents at 7 Hugo Avenue in Toronto. Shortly after my grandfather died so I really don't remember him at all. My grandmother, whose name was Jenny Hardy, lived in one of the bedrooms upstairs. I went to Perth Avenue public school for several years. The only friends I remember from those early years were Ralph Scholumberg (not sure of the spelling), my best friend and Sharon, a lovely girl who lived a few doors away. I remember she had polio, something more common in those days. I don't even know if we had yearbooks back then but I have nothing from my years at Perth Avenue. Photos would be nice.

When I was twelve I learned to hate my parents because they moved me out of the wonderful city, where I could go anywhere on transit or my bike and where I had tons of friends, to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. It had no indoor plumbing. Just an outhouse. A stove in the kitchen to heat the house, which it didn't do so we had kerosene heaters in our bedrooms. It's a wonder we didn't die from the fumes. I forget what time of the year we moved but I soon learned that I was miles from anywhere. Even our neighbors were far from close. My parents both worked, no doubt to pay for their first house, so they weren't around to drive me anywhere. I had my bike but it was miles to visit anyone. I went to Churchville public school through to grade eight. Grades six, seven and eight were in the same room. Lots of fun. Other than my first love, Roxanne Rollings, I have vague memories of anyone I went to school with. She broke my heart when she married Wayne (forgot his last name) years later. I think there was a Dave and Doug Mackenzie in Churchville. Surprised that the only girl I can remember is Roxanne. Normally I pay a lot more attention to the girls. Still do.

Moved on to Streetsville Secondary School for grade nine. Even though I went there from grade nine to twelve about my only memories are the guys in the group I joined, called the Tempests. No idea why. Dave Kirk, Don Thurston, and Chris Hayes. We played the Coke dances after school and I soon discovered that women love musicians. That joy lasted for years. I do remember a real sexpot in grade 12, Valerie and one of my many girlfriends was Francis Carkner (not sure on the last name). I remember Mary Hamilton who I took the school bus with. The name Judy North is in there somewhere. The group changed over the years. Vic Dimitroff. Zak Marshall. Nolan Yearwood. Alan McQuillan to name a few. I also met people like George Oliver, David Clayton Thomas, Whitey Glan, and Pat Cosby and many others when we were the house band at Club Bluenote. We also built up quite a fanbase in Brampton where we played quite often. So many names I've forgotten. I think that we were the Bow Street Runners back at that time. Sammy Conners. Gloria. Marilyn Adams (my girlfriend for a time).

GETTING MARRIED

Okay, so on to the first big lifetime event was getting married. My ex was Janice Kennedy Tyrrell from Brampton. She had two brothers, Gord and Doug. Her father was Ray and her mother was Marion. Friends of hers who became mine were Dale Evans, Gary and Glen Ellis, Bobby Munday, Brian and Lynn Jamieson, Greg and Laura Smith. I was in the band for ten years and met hundreds of people but can't remember a one of them. My son, Chris, also played hockey for years, on several different teams and all year long. Again, met tons of parents on all the teams but remember few. Jason's parents, Larry and Ann. Fabio's Dad, Rolly. Kevin's parents, Bill and Gerry. I should remember some of the coaches and managers of the teams but I don't. I can't even remember the name of the coach for our summer team. Russ Bird, my best man at my wedding.

CAREER

Should cover the career here, at least during my marriage. I started at the Toronto-Dominion Bank in 1968, only because my mother worked for them in Streetsville. My first branch was in what was called Cooksville at the time. During my short two years or so I was at nine branches, the last one being Jane and Wilson, I think. I was the administration officer at only nineteen and took over for the manager for his three week vacation when the replacement manager got sick. I was making fifty dollars a week and a customer hired me away by offering me ninety dollars a week. He turned out to be a crook though and wanted me to do things that weren't quite legal so I quit. I think I ended up breaking milk jugs at Dominion Glass during a strike. No fun. Met a ton of people working in all those branches, but only remember Steve Vass and the manager of the branch at Keele and Wilson where we were robbed, Joe Murphy.

In no particular order I'll cover some of my many jobs in Ontario and include the names of anyone I remember. I was at Able Plastics, the manufacturer of foam, mostly for furniture. It was a husband and wife team who spent the entire day fighting. My assistant was Linda. I was at Emco Plastics for several years. I remember Frank and Morris Cook, Earl Lynch, Doug, John McQuarrie, John Farncomb, Roger. I was at Hilti Canada in Brampton. I remember Jim Young, Debbie, Kim, Brian Snyder. I was at TCM, a division of American Hoist. Gerry Waterhouse. Terry. Betty White. Joe Barone. Carolyn, Rene Couture. Skip. Sam Osborne. I was at Kyle Jamieson Real Estate. Doug Jamieson and several clients. I was at Clearview in Weston. Joe. Ciro Gucciardi. I was at Indal Products. Heather Paul. Doug Banyon. Frank. Jon Lehoup. Marie Dearlove, Dave. Steve Duplantis. Michelle. Buddy Bent. Staynor. I spent sixteen years as a computer consultant and dealt with about fifty clients. Fellowes Manufacturing - Gail-Ann Duxbury, James Edmonds. Elliott Industrial Equipment - Bruce. TNT Roadfast - . Florimex - Recom Windows and Doors. GlassVision Solariums - Jim and Linda Webb.

After I moved out west in 1993 I worked as a computer consultant. First major client was Central Valley Trucks. Can't remember the owner's name but his son was Rick. I also remember Linda. Worked at Northern Computer in Kelowna. Doris Bonn. Jim Condon. Ross Dickie. I worked for FBC for a while. My boss was Grant Diamond. Worked at Western Star on the line. Don't remember anyone. Worked for Shaw Fiberlink. My tech was Brett. Had six managers back in Calgary in only a few months. None memorable. Worked for two cellular phone companies for a bit, Sunwest Cellular and Pacific Cellular. Also worked for Canwest Communications and Business Thompson Okanagan, a newspaper.

GO WEST, YOUNG MAN!

My first friend in Kelowna was Laura McKinnon. She introduced me to a lot of people, both through the Courtplex and socially. I met a ton of people - Bianca Siebrand, Wade Silver, Tawni Silver, Brian and Linda, Brian Wall, Doris, Darlene, Norma, Larry, Ann Hansen, Ron Le Stage and Suzanne Le Stage, Tracy Church, Judy Allen, Juanita, Karla Longacre, Stephanie, Debbie, Carolyn McCulley, Trish Power, Laura Johnston,  Gary Bakelmun, Sabrina Weeks,  Linda Lichtenegger, Pam Ferens, Doug Cuming, Rob Dubuc, Debra Birce, Pete Tarasoff, Sylvie Sanson, Kelly Harrison, Teresa Lotoski, Caron Masse Abel, Cathy Kadatz, Jackie Goulding. Spent a whole lot of nights at the Corral and had many, many dance partners. Heather, Jean, Crystal Mogdan, Debbi, Nola, Sheila, and many more.

PANAMA

My almost two years in Boquete, Panama was interesting. Elle Nicolai, Mark and Jennifer (owned Amigos), Walter Cruz (my lawyer), Karynthia, Magaly (girlfriend), Jim, Mitzi Nash, Priscilla Nash, Verushka, Terry and Judith, Amilkar (my worker bee),

LONDON, ONTARIO

I returned to Toronto in March of 2009 and stayed with my cousin, Joan Thomson. I was only in Toronto a few months then moved to London, following Denise Walters. Hard to believe I spent five years in this place but I didn't have much of a social life to speak of. Sieg Pedde was a colleague I actually met in Panama. For a time I lived in my car and at various shelters around town. Knew some of my neighbors when I finally landed in a real apartment. Worked at Home Depot for a time. Also worked at a call centre selling an international property show in Toronto. Dr. Ramona Cuelho was my doctor. At one point I joined one of those Meet-Up groups but that did not go well. No one I could call a girlfriend in five years, after Denise.

ECUADOR

My last out of country experience was Ecuador and I met an amazing number of people considering I was there less than a year. The first person I met, at the airport actually, was Ana Romero, who was going to work for me but that didn't work out. Next was my landlady, Jessica Alban, who ended up ripping me off for two hundred dollars when I left. Next was Peter and Mauro, the owners of the hostel I stayed at. Then, in no particular order, Deb Swansburg, Mari Ruiz, Dutch Fuscaldo, Mia Rushing, Debra Rambo, Michael Griffin, Tanya Harrell, Deborah Lapping, Kasie Estevez, Jessyta Teran, Deborah Angus, Gary Phillips, David Meade, Bobby and Becca Vinces, Candace Burch, Joel Kaplan, Yolanda Santana, Dilan Tuquerrez, Lulie Lawry May, Anne Worthington, Julie Powell, Jean Clark, David Beede, Bonnie Davis, Monica Granja, Lindsay Numedahl, Kashmir Moses, Jeanne Martin, Jeanine van Griensven, Mary Ellen, Nick Rossicci, Kaden Brown, Colleen Hemphill, Steve Donoso, Santiago Hidrobo, Bonnie Hall, Steve Rushing, Janda Grove, and many more who aren't on my Facebook, like Valeria, Marlene, Olga, Esperanda, Janice, Mickey, Dan, Veronica and Santiago, Guiermo, Yulie, Phillipe and Ronda, Negrita. Kathy Fajardo, my "facilitator" for my residency, who ripped me off for three hundred and fifty dollars and cost me my passport. Phoenix Bess, who was also going to work with me at one point. Carlo Ami.

BELLEVILLE

I returned from Ecuador last October and first lived in Foxboro in a house owned by Greg Castonguay, Heather's son. Then I moved into Belleville to a group home on Murney. Met Terry, Scott, Chris, Blair, Dave, Ron and Mo. Moved to Forin last March. Met Bob, Mike, Mathew, Frank and Jean Karl. Blair has now moved here from Murney. New guy is Chris. Frank is moving to Toronto so we'll be getting someone new soon.

 


If I had a million dollars...

Remember the song by the Barenaked Ladies? I wasn't sure about writing this post, only because it will either jinx me or make for a most interesting story. I hope the latter.

We all question our dreams and those somewhat scary deja vu experiences. When we sense that we have done this before is it a parallel universe or we've been here before? Who knows? I think we all try to connect with movies we've watched or people we've met, anything to make sense of the experience. A few weeks ago I woke up with the most detailed, vivid memories of a dream in which I won the sixty million Lotto Max lottery. Not only did I win it but I was the only winner. I remember people saying over and over, "I can't believe you won sixty million dollars!" I do have a memory gap on how I actually got the money, but not on what I did with it.

The first thing I did was put twenty million away in a certificate that I couldn't touch, just so I wouldn't blow the whole thing. Next I chartered a private jet to get me back to Kelowna where I stayed in the most expensive suite at the Delta Grand Hotel. My first call was to Leanna Morgan who I had met on Facebook. We had talked for several hours about her divorce and her kids and I had told her that if I won a lottery I would hire her as a personal assistant. We met in my suite and I laid out the plan for what she had to do first.

She was to book the hotel's ballroom for the first available Saturday night. She was to try to get either the Foster Martin Band or the Mavericks to play for us if only by offering them an obscene amount of money. Next she was to arrange with the bank to put forty envelopes together, each with ten thousand dollars in cash in them. She was to contact everyone I knew and invite them to the party, telling them only that it was an event for me and nothing else. I figured that those who were good friends would show and those who were pretend friends wouldn't so the money would go to those who deserved it.

The night of the event quite a few people showed up, no doubt just curious as to what this was about. They were all busy munching on the free food and drink and dancing to the band. When the band took their first break I took the mic and thanked everyone for coming. I told them I wanted to talk to each of them, but before that I wanted to give them a little gift from the night. Leanna had recorded their names as they came in, then she wrote their names on the envelopes that contained the ten grand. I told them that I would call out their names to come up to the stage but that the only rule was that they were not allowed to open the envelope until they left that night. I didn't want to spoil the surprises nor did I want to put anyone in danger of being robbed with all that cash around. The first name I called was Cheryl Blum, someone I had actually never met personally but we were friends on Facebook. Again, memory is not clear but I think I gave out all the envelopes.

Other than that event I don't have a clear memory of what else I did. I do vaguely remember giving fifty thousand dollars to the churches in London who fed me back when I was living in my car. A hundred thousand to the Unity Project in London who gave me shelter. I wanted to do something for the older folks who came to the soup kitchen for breakfast in Cotacachi, Ecuador when I volunteered on Fridays. I understood that many of them were homeless, abandoned by their families. I wanted to provide housing and meals.

Although not part of my dream, I do know that I have always planned to give away most of whatever I won. I do struggle with what I would do for family, mostly my kids. They have abandoned me for twenty years and denied me access to my five grandkids, through no fault of theirs, but do they suddenly connect with me just because of the money? My parents are gone, of course, but do I give anything to my sister and brother, neither of whom deserve a dime? I really don't know. I guess I'll figure it out if I actually do win anything.

I'm not a deeply religious person, although I do muse on the mysteries of the universe. I do believe that there is a higher power but I don't like the fact that most of the wars in the world are based on religion, or people's interpretation of religion. Doesn't make sense that a God would allow these terrible things to happen or not punish the people who perpetrate them, like ISIS. I do hope that if someone or something is deciding things for us that they will shine their light on me this Friday and allow me to win if only because I plan to do a lot of good with the money. Here's hoping.

UPDATE - well, so much for deja vu or dreams. Obviously I didn't win the sixty million. I did win two free plays but they didn't amount to anything either. Now I just need to wait for the prize to be sixty million again, I guess and hope the dream comes true a little later. It's amazing to think about how many more things I would do if I won. Mostly more people and more worthy organizations I would give to so maybe sixty million isn't enough? lol

UPDATE - when you are hoping for something like this you look for a sign, right? I went out to our patio for a smoke Friday morning and turned on the radio, just in time to hear an interview with a lady at the lottery corporation talking about the big sixty million dollar jackpot that night. Well, I took that as a sign. I emailed one of the announcers and told him the story and promised them the lifetime membership at Tim Horton's he mentioned if I won. He replied with a request to buy him a nice lunch. For the first time in the twenty-seven years I've been playing the lottery I figured I had to go for it and increase the odds of winning, so I bought ten tickets plus I almost forgot to play the same numbers as I've been playing for all those years. Very princely and unaffordable fifty-five bucks, but what the hell.

Wrong! Not only did I not win but in all those tickets I only had one number at best. I also got a first look at my Quick Pick numbers and they were just horrible! Three numbers in a row. Duh! Last time I do that. As I said earlier though my dream was clearly that I won sixty million. Nothing less so the fact that there were two winners last night at thirty million each doesn't fit the dream. Oh, well. Maybe next time, right?

 


Women or culture in Ecuador or maybe me?

Anyone who has been following me knows that I intended to move to Ecuador back in December of 2014. I had done months of research on where to go to live out my life. I knew that I could not survive in Canada on my limited pensions so I had to find a country with a lower cost of living. I was also a little sick of winter so I was looking for a good climate, not too cold or not too hot. Ecuador appeared to fit the bill on just about everything. I knew that there would be culture shock, but I felt that I was prepared from my time in Panama.

Even with the much lower cost of living in Ecuador I still needed to find a way to earn some money, partly because I would lose one of my pensions, the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) after six months out of the country. I knew that Ecuador was becoming a retirement destination for Canadians and there wasn't a lot of good websites with factual information about Ecuador so I created a website, WelcomeToEcuador.ca. I intended to sell advertising on the site to make a little extra money, plus I hoped to travel the country taking photos and writing a blog. That was the plan.

Prior to actually leaving I met a women on Facebook, Anna, who initially offered to help me find a place to live. Over the course of several messages she eventually expressed an interest in working for me on the website. I knew that I needed someone who spoke Spanish to deal with clients so it was a good fit for us to work together. She arranged for a driver to pick me up in Quito and because her English was very good we kind of hit it off. She was also very attractive which was a bonus. She ended up helping me with things like going shopping for food and dealing with the person who turned out to be my landlady, Jessica. I had only booked a week at Balcon de Lago but ended up making a longer term deal when I could not find an apartment in Otavalo. More on this later.

Since the first day we met I had been asking Anna to come over so we could discuss the business, but she kept delaying it saying she was busy. Finally we set a date and time for her to come over in the morning, but she never showed and never called which I wasn't impressed with. Then we set another day for her to meet with my landlords to discuss the longer term arrangement. She said eight o'clock in the morning and I reminded her that she wasn't all that reliable that early in the day, but she insisted. Eight o'clock came and went with me sitting at the table with a bunch of people who spoke no English, awkward to say the least. Then Anna shows up an hour late. She comes in like a queen with no apologies for keeping everyone waiting an hour. All I could think about was if she would pull this with clients. I questioned if this was actually going to work out.

The meeting with my landlords involved me telling Anna something in English and then she would translate. I had to trust that she was saying the right thing to them and that they understood what I wanted. After I thought we were all in agreement apparently we weren't. My landlady came down to my cabin in tears because she and Anna had quite the argument on the phone. Somehow she understood that Anna was just trying to find me another place to live which really upset Jessica. I knew that this was the end for Anna and I. I emailed her my concerns and that ended us.

Fast forward a couple of months of things not going very well with my landlords. Among the many issues was the situation with the fire. My place was freezing and I could not work without having a fire going constantly. I had expressed concern about the lack of ventilation and they were going to install a fan but nothing was ever done. One fateful night I felt tired and thought I would just lie down for a bit. Big mistake! Jessica came down, which she had never done before, and tried to wake me, which she had also never done before. When she could not wake me they called an ambulance and rushed me to the local hospital in Otavalo. I woke up some three hours later and remember the doctor saying that I would have been dead in twenty minutes from carbon monoxide poisoning. It's a close to death as I had ever come and certainly freaked me out. Apparently it also freaked Jessica out because she asked me to move out, and in only a couple of days.

At one point she had come to me and asked me to prepay two months rent because they "needed the money". I wasn't crazy about that because things were not going well so I agreed to pay her one month in advance. When she asked me to move out we had a discussion about the rent she owed me, the firewood I had paid for, the two bottles of rum they had drank on me, the DirecTV I had paid for that I never got and we agreed on her giving me two hundred dollars. When my taxi was loaded ready to go I asked her for the money but she said she had not been to the bank. I offered to take her to the bank but now she was apparently waiting for a check from someone. She said that she would come to Cotacachi and pay me the money. She never came and that was in February 2015. She just ripped me off.

When I planned to move to Ecuador I had gotten a six month Visa in Canada, planning to file for my residency when I got to Ecuador. I was going to pay for my residency with the money from my GIS pension, which I had been told I would receive by the end of January. That did not happen. It took me months to finally receive the GIS, which caused me a lot of grief. I had to go to Guayaquil at the other end of the country to apply for my residency. It was around this time that I realized the issues I was going to have getting my meds, most importantly my insulin. Obviously I could not survive without my insulin so it looked like I had no choice but to return to Canada. The Canadian dollar had also crashed and I was already struggling to live so paying for my insulin was out of the question. I had sent my facilitator, Katty Fajardo, three hundred and fifty dollars, the government fee to get my cedula but had told her to hold off until I knew if I was going to be able to get my insulin. I emailed her that I could not and would need to return to Canada so I could not file for residency. I asked her to return my three hundred and fifty dollars along with my passport so that I could fly back to Canada. She refused to return the money or my passport. I had to jump through all kinds of hoops and get a temporary passport so I fly. Although she did return my passport it had been cancelled. So she ripped me off for my three hundred and fifty dollars and cost me a lot of money to get another passport.

Shortly before all this happened I met a woman who I admittedly fell in love with at first sight, Patricia. Our short but passionate romance was amazing and we planned to marry as soon as I could return to Ecuador. I was going to be back in Canada for what looked like six months and we knew it would be hard to keep our relationship strong but we were sure that we could. We talked just about every single day on Facebook and things were going well between us. She was struggling financially and of course I was living on only my pensions so it was very difficult for me to help her, but I did. I had sent her my bank card and every month I sent her money that I really could not afford. Before I knew it I had sent her five hundred dollars US, money that she agreed to repay me when she got her twenty thousand dollar settlement from her ex. I also sent her a hundred dollars to give to my friend, Dutch, but she used the money saying she would pay him back. Then she took the fifty dollars from the fundraising campaign account, saying she would return it. Then she moved to Quito out of the blue, blocked me on Facebook and will not respond to my emails. Total ripoff six hundred and fifty dollars American.

So my question is if all this was just the different culture of Ecuador, the wrong women or was I responsible? If it's my fault what exactly did I do wrong?


More to the story...

Interesting that my last post about Ecuador was September 7th. I knew that I had no choice but to return to Canada, mostly because of the falling Canadian dollar, but I had no idea what was about to happen to make my life even more complicated.

On one of my many nights at The Bar I met a woman who I admittedly fell in love with  at first sight. I thought she was with a friend of mine because I had overheard him say something about his "girlfriend". Turned out to not be true but I didn't know that at the time. She came out to have a smoke and we talked probably for an hour or more, even though she didn't speak a word of English. She told me she ran a spa in town and you can bet I planned to go there. I offered to walk her home but she declined. I was confused by the fact that she left alone when her supposed boyfriend was still in the bar.

My friends, Deb and Dutch, had planned a going away party for me at The Bar. I had run into Bobby and Becca from my favorite group. Three Shades of Grey, downtown and asked if there was any chance that they would play that night and they immediately agreed, which was awesome. Not quite sure when I asked her to come, although I think I had run into her downtown one day at the market. I asked her to bring her mother to encourage her to come but The Bar is not popular with the locals so I didn't know if she would come or not. She did. 09_25_01

The minute she walked in the door she took my breath away. She was gorgeous. Although it was a bit of an unusual affair because there were many women who I wanted to dance with on my last night, I still got to dance with her. We were good together. At some point during the night we ended up outside for a smoke and I asked her about the "girlfriend" thing. She laughed and said he was only a friend, not a boyfriend. I found that very encouraging.

As the night came to a close I invited her and her Mum back to my place, hoping, of course, that her mother would decline, but she didn't. We talked and we danced, but the funniest part was every time her Mum went to the bathroom we would kiss and fondle each other, passion raging unchecked. At one point I mentioned that I was hungry and she disappeared. She came back with a full meal made from stuff I didn't even know I had. It was delicious. On top of everything else I loved about her she was also a great cook.

The night came to a close and they needed a taxi to get home, although it wasn't that far to walk, but it was late and maybe not that safe to venture out at that hour. My regular taxi guys would have long since gone home to bed so I wandered out on the street hoping to find one. Luckily there was a concert still going on just down the street and I found a taxi for them. I felt like a hero when I came back to my place and they were waiting outside, although I regretted her leaving.

No sooner had they left than I got a phone call from her telling me that her sister had locked them out of their place, so I told her to come back. Her mother got the bed and she and I pulled the cushions off the couch and chair and put them on the floor. I want to keep this post rated "G" so I won't go into details, but let's just say that it was interesting trying to stay quiet when her Mum was in the bed in the next room.

Dutch and I had planned a parting dinner at Jeanine's the next night so I invited her along, thinking that Dutch would be okay with that, which he was. When she arrived, right on time, I was a little sorry that she and I basically took over the dinner because his Spanish was too rough to understand her. For me it's the little things that I'm impressed with, probably because very few women had ever done those little things. When we got our soup, mine a broccoli base, I think and hers, tomato, she asked me if I liked it, which I didn't. Without a word she immediately switched our soups against my protest. Then she buttered my bread for me. Again, little things, but I was impressed. After dinner we wandered around town doing things she needed to do. The funny part was she held my hand and hugged me, but only when no one was around to see us. She said it was a small town and people would talk if they saw us.

She ended up spending the night at my place and again, let's keep it clean, so no details. Let's just say that it was incredible to say the least. I was falling totally in love with her, more than I had with anyone for a very long time. I knew that this was what real love was about, for the first time in my life.

09_29_01Over the next few days we spent some amazing time together, but, of course, nothing had changed for me to stay in the country, so that weighed heavily on our relationship. Because that b*tch had stolen my money and refused to return my passport I had to go to Quito to the Canadian Embassy to get a temporary passport so I could fly. She came with me and we had a wonderful bus ride down, talking and laughing the entire trip. In Quito I got to meet her son who I instantly got along great with. He was very happy that his mother had found someone to marry, yes, marry. That was the plan. On the trip back she suddenly grabbed me to get off the bus for some unknown reason. We ended up walking down to Puertolago, a five star resort on the lake. We shared a drink 09_29_02outside and it was very romantic.

As our final night in Cotacachi approached I knew that I wanted this last night to be something to remember. I phoned Puertolago and got a special deal based on promising them promotion on the website. Our driver, Dillan, picked us up and she had no idea where we were going. Finally the suspense was killing her so I told her where we were going. She was delighted. We had an incredible time at Puertolago. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner. We played some pool. We sat on the porch overlooking the lake. She had brought a bottle of champagne for us to celebrate our last time together, at least for a while until I came back. That was the plan.

Our driver picked us up the next morning to take me to the airport. Leaving her was a killer. There were a lot of tears but I planned to come back as quickly as possible, although I sure had regrets about leaving.09_26_0109_29_03 It was not a fun trip back to Canada. All I could think about was how I was going to get back to her and get married.

As many people know, long distance relationships are tough. Ours was even harder because we had the language issue. My Spanish was rough but we managed to talk on video for hours. Still, there were times when we just didn't communicate well. She began really pushing me about coming back, ignoring the many challenges I had with things like getting a new passport, a new criminal record check and all the documents I needed for a visa. She was trying to get a special visa based on me returning to marry her, but this worried me. If we didn't end up marrying, which was a possibility that she had raised, I would be stranded in Ecuador and forced to again return to Canada. I wanted to get my six month visa again and then apply for residency when I got there so that I would be protected from leaving again. That did not sit well with her and our relationship began to suffer.

Then all kinds of things happened with the business, none of it good. She introduced me to a lady who was going to sell for us. It so happened that she was gorgeous and soon my lovely fiancee was jealous of her, suggesting that maybe I wanted to marry her instead. All ridiculous but it showed me a side of her that I wasn't crazy about. Soon things really started to unravel and it looked like the marriage was off and the relationship was over. It was a very tough time for me because not only had I lost the love of my life, but now my whole future was in jeopardy. I didn't know if I would ever return to Ecuador now.

 


Memories - my daughter, Heather

Recently found a YouTube video from the Toronto production of the Phantom of the Opera, starring Colm Wilkinson. It reminded me of one of my favorite memories, among many, of taking Heather to see this play many years ago. I forget the exact year but she was either about to apply to Mayfield Secondary School, a renowned school for the arts, or she was already attending there. After all the years focusing on sports, her with soccer and her brother, Chris, with hockey and soccer, we had neglected broadening their education with theater and music. Even way back then I believe it was ninety-eight dollars a ticket, a handsome sum to see a play. That being said, it was worth every penny. It's not hard to understand why this is one of the longest running plays in history. The music, of course, is legendary and I remember going to, I believe, Sam's the Record Man, to buy the album the minute we left the theatre. I loved that Heather and her girlfriends would sit in her room listening to the CD. Never once told her to turn it down.

heather_framed_05Sadly, it's now been more than twenty years since I saw my darling Heather. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her and miss her. We had such a good relationship and I will never understand what happened. When she and Chris came out west to holiday with me for three weeks she had broken my heart by telling me to stay there. She said they had never seen me happier and they knew my marriage was a disaster. I didn't listen and I came back to Brampton, mostly for her, but that solved nothing. After my mum was diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given less than a five percent chance of living more than six months I went out west to spend her last days with her. I really didn't know if I would come back to Ontario, but I thought that Heather would come out to vacation with my parents and my family. My parents loved her so much, as did I. I couldn't stand the thought of life without her, but she was already at the stage where I had to make an appointment with her to see her. I thought everything would be better with me out west away from her mom's clutches, but I was so very wrong.

After talking to her on the phone I traveled across Canada in the dead of winter, taking my life in my hands several times, to see her, only to have my ex and her new husband, my good friend, hide her away and not let me see her. I hung around at my son's for three weeks hoping to see her, but they refused. It killed me and I finally left, driving all the way back to BC with tears in my eyes the whole trip. I don't think I have ever been so unhappy. Even then I didn't believe that I would never see her again. She got married, has had two children, grandchildren I have never met, and never once tried to contact me. One of the greatest regrets of my life by far.

Anyway, here's the video - The Phantom of the Opera