Tag Archives: Family

My beautiful granddaughter, Mackenzie.

Mackenzie just sent me some photos to post. I was so thrilled when she connected with me on Facebook Messenger. She was very upset that her parents had told I was dead and didn’t let her make her own decision whether to talk to me. We had some great chats and she told me she was coming to Mexico for a wedding in May. She was going to let me know where and when and I was praying that I could afford to go and meet her. That was several months ago but she has stopped talking to me. I have no idea why. She is the only one in the family who ever connected with me so it’s very upsetting that she stopped. 

Family can drive a knife in your heart

Anyone who has been following me knows the troubles I have had with my family. It’s been twenty-five years since my wonderful daughter, Heather, cut me off with no explanation as to why. My son, Chris, did the same until we reconnected back in 2007. At the time we spoke for eight hours catching up on things, a phone call that cost me an unbelievable four hundred dollars in long distance. Part of the conversation involved some trouble he was in and I promised to help him however I could. I spent the better part of the next week researching the issues and developing a plan for him. When I had not heard back from him I asked his daughter, Dani, who I had been chatting with online, what was up. She told me that my ex had given my son such a hard time for talking to me that he had gone back to cutting me off.  It was also the last time I heard from her as well.

Of my five grand children Dani was the only one I had ever met and that was way back in 1994 when I drove down from BC to meet with my daughter. My ex’s new husband and her hid Heather away and would not let me see her even though I had spoken to Heather on the phone and made the plans to come down to see her. It broke my heart. I stayed with Chris for three weeks hoping that I could get to see Heather, but no luck. I did get to hold their new baby, Dani. At the tme, of course, I didn’t know that Dani was going to be the only grandchild I would ever meet.

Fast forward far too many years. I reconnected with Chris in London when he was videotaping a dance company he worked for. It was around his birthday in March so I got him a blow-up framed photo of our days dirt-biking in Revelstoke as a gift. Although it was a ridiculously short meeting, basically a quick lunch at Tim Horton’s, we did make a plan to meet in the summer, possibly in Kincardine where my niece lived because Chris said he and the kids went up there quite often. Months passed and I heard nothing from him which really upset me because I was really looking forward to meeting my grand kids. I sent him a not so friendly message asking if his mother had stopped us meeting and asking if it wasn’t time to get out from under her skirt and be a man. He blocked me and I haven’t heard from him since. Ten years now.

There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t missed my kids terribly, especially after both my Mum and Dad passed away, which my kids didn’t even know. My parents had never understood why the kids had cut me off so brutally and now they were gone. The hole in my heart got even bigger without them and I so longed to connect with my kids and grand kids, but it seemed hopeless. People I had met over the years in BC never understood why I had no contact with my kids or grand kids and I don’t think ever believed me that nothing had happened to justify their actions. A few girlfriends even tried to connect with Heather to help me. Way back in 1994 after they hid Heather away from me I wrote her a multi-page letter about things she didn’t know about my marriage and how much I missed her. My Dad had also phoned her from Arizona and left a message with her step-brother to have her call them collect. She never returned the call which baffled my parents. My Dad said he could have been calling her to let her know I had died. Very sad.

When I told one of my girlfriends about the letter I had sent to Heather I mentioned that I had included a cheque for fifty bucks for her to buy a birthday present for herself because I didn’t know what she liked in music or clothes. My girlfriend asked me if the cheque was ever cashed. When I checked my bank I discovered the cheque had never been cashed, so I wondered if she had ever got my letter. Knowing what she did about my ex my girlfriend said she never gave it to Heather, which, of course, is illegal and I didn’t want to believe she would do that, but nothing else made sense. Then I get the papers telling me that my divorce had been finalized. I didn’t even know my ex had filed for divorce. Then I see that the reason was “child abandonment”. Seriously? I was so angry. Everyone knew my address and my phone number. I never hid from the public. So why didn’t I get a notice from the court that she had filed for divorce? Didn’t I have the right to defend myself? I learned she wanted to marry my buddy, Gary, so I guess there was a rush that ended up trampling my rights. I was furious. Just more crap from her that was as bad as she was in our marriage. Selfish. Mean. Cruel. All her. This when I had never told the kids the truth or uttered a single bad word about her. Some thanks.

In the years since I have never stopped trying to get in touch with my kids. Chris had blocked me on Facebook and the phone number he had given me was now someone else’s. I focused on Heather who I had learned was now married and living in Burlington. I sent her some messages on Facebook, worried that she would just block me but she didn’t, surprisingly. She never responded to anything though. I found a wonderful photo of her on her Facebook page with her kids and added it to my Facebook page saying how proud I was of her. She immediately reported it to  Facebook who threatened to cancel my long standing account if I didn’t remove the “unauthorized” photo. I was shocked that she could be that cruel, but she was her mother’s child. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right?

Even in Ecuador I kept trying to connect with anyone. I learned that my other son had connected with Chris and Heather and they were hanging out together. Andrew had apparently helped Chris a lot. Heather didn’t appear to be as close, maybe because they lived in Burlington, quite a trip from Toronto where Andrew and his family lived. I still remember seeing a photo of Chris and Andrew together. They looked like twins. I tried to have some kind of relationship with Andrew but he didn’t seem interested so I stopped trying.

Thanks to Facebook I had managed to find two of my grand daughters, both from Chris. I wondered many times what they would do if I tried to friend them or contact them. I had to try, right? Yesterday I messaged both of them, hoping they would respond. Well, first I got a message from the eldest. To say it was cruel would be a gross understatement. She wanted nothing to do with me and even threatened me not to try to contact her sisters. It broke my heart. I was so upset  questioning what had I done to deserve this?

Just when I felt like heading for the nearest bridge I got a response from one of my other grand daughters. I can’t tell you her name because we are both afraid she will be scolded and forced to block me. She is wonderful. She’s angry that we have never met or even spoken. Rightly so she says that she should have been allowed to make her own decision about me. I could not agree more. We’re going to keep this our little secret and hopefully talk a lot more. I’m thrilled.

While we’re talking about a knife in the heart my son also managed to drive one in deep. If you follow me you know how much of my life I devoted to his hockey, even paying a lawyer for a fake separation agreement and changing my address to Toronto so he could play for a team in Scarborough. I couldn’t even answer my own phone at home in case it was the Brampton Minor Hockey Association. Add the thousands of miles to hockey tournaments, all over the country and the US, the hotel and food bills, not to mention the expensive hockey equipment like skates and sticks, I gave up ten years of my life to his hockey. Although he was scouted by MIT and offered a full scholarship when he was only twelve, he was too young to sign at the time. After being signed to a Junior B team, the Streetsville Derbys, he quit hockey. Of course ten years later he blamed me for “letting” him quit. I told him I wasn’t the one putting the skates on.

Just after we had reconnected in London and after I sent him the not-so-nice message he replied telling me that Gary, my ex’s new husband, was his “real father”. I sobbed uncontrollably that he could even say that after every thing I had done for him as his father. Again, a broken heart. He pushed me right to the edge.

Why ever do family do these things to each other? We only have one family and should never forget that. My family have, well, with one wonderful exception.

 

 

Family – Mom, Dad, Brother and Sister

Well, this is a post I’ve been musing about for years now. I said that this site was mostly for my kids and I would add, grandkids as well, I guess although they all think that I am dead. For someone like me who believes so strongly in the value of family it’s been very tough to end up like this. My birth family was like most people I think, and only kind of fell apart when my parents decided to move out West back in 1970. My brother and sister were young, but we had shared a lot of good times at the farm in Streetsville, mostly because we were in the middle of nowhere and only had each other to play with. I came “this close” to moving out West with them but I met my future wife and stayed in Brampton. That didn’t work out all that well but I didn’t know that at the time. I was truly in love and figured I would be married for the rest of my life. Didn’t happen.

My Dad was a tough disciplinarian who believed in that adage, “spare the rod, spoil the child” meaning that if you don’t discipline you will end up with spoiled brats. Despite how often I felt the pain of the strap I begrudgingly admit that my Dad was right. You need to learn that screwing up has consequences. My dumbest move has to be actually giving him an answer when he asked me, rhetorically, of course, “how many times do I need to tell you?” That one was particularly painful. Although my father was a very strict guy he failed to balance it off with any love. Not until he had had a complete nervous breakdown years after moving out West and I had moved out West to be with my mum for the years she might have left did he actually tell me he loved me. I had also never seen him cry until the day he got the phone call from the hospital telling him that my Mum’s cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes and she might live a little longer than expected originally. He fell apart crying like a baby at the news. It was a very emotional moment for all of us. Speaking of which he gave me the most emotional moment in my life when he died.

The day went like many others. I was at their place helping Dad and he had been bugging me all day to help move the boat anchor. The water level rose in the spring so the anchor, which was tied to a tire, had to be moved out for the boat to be anchored to it. Although it was late May, the water was still pretty cold so I was in no rush to move the anchor this particular day. Dad had been drinking all day as usual so he just kept bugging me to do it and I finally gave in. He got the tools and we headed out to the anchor. Although I had my wetsuit on I didn’t have my contacts so I left my glasses on the beach table, knowing that I could see well enough to work on the tire. As I was working on it Dad suddenly said he couldn’t do it anymore and was going to head in, which was fine with me because I really didn’t need him. I knew he was not that strong a swimmer and wasn’t all that comfortable when the water was over his head, which it actually wasn’t because I could touch bottom and so could he, but off he went.

The next thing I know Ans is screaming at me about Dad. I had had the tire up in front of me on an angle that I couldn’t see anything and of course I don’t have my glasses on so I’m pretty blind anyway. I lowered the tire and I could barely make out my Dad floating in the water. What came next was everybody’s worst nightmare – trying to run in the deep water, which you simply can’t do. It was like slow motion. As I got closer to him I realized that he was face down. Now my Dad weighs almost two hundred pounds, but somehow, I guess adrenaline, I managed to carry him out of the water and up to the grass, at least thirty or forty feet. I instantly regretted not taking that CPR course offered by the St. John’s Ambulance. I hollered at Ans to call 911 then started working on my Dad. I became very frustrated by the fact that every time I turned him on his side to clear water from his throat not a drop came out so I figured I was doing something very wrong. Luckily the EMS crew happened to be on the Westside when the 911 came in and they were there in something like four minutes. Soon as I saw them coming I breathed a sigh of relief thinking that they were going to take over, but the EMS tech said that I was doing fine and to keep going. After about twenty minutes they had a weak pulse but I knew that his brain had been starved of oxygen for too long so he was gone. Tragically he was.

My biggest regret with my Dad was that not three weeks earlier we had had a very bad three hour long argument, mostly about my brother. There were so many things that they never knew about him and I was tired of being compared to him. In their eyes he was a success and I was a failure. The saddest part was that when I told them about some of the horrible things he had done they didn’t believe me. Not exactly a great last memory of my Dad.

On to my Mum. There’s not a lot I can say about my mother. My last memories of her are all horrible because I cared for her when she had advanced Alzheimer’s, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. If she wasn’t throwing me out of the house ten times a day she was arguing with me about everything because she couldn’t remember squat. I tried to keep her as independent as possible but she just got worse and worse. There would be four bowls in the sink from her breakfast cereal and she would ask if I was ever going to feed her. I was trapped in the house only able to leave twice a week when her caregivers came for four hours so I could run errands and shop for food. It was not a great life. Sad as it is to say I was glad when she finally died because by then she had zero quality of life, thanks mostly to my sister. More later.

Before the ravages of disease my Mum was the proverbial life of the party. She played the piano and the accordion, both by ear, and she could almost play anything you could hum. She was always ready for a party. When I first moved out West to be with her back in 1993 we went to the horse races, bingo, the show and I took her to the casino. She loved to gamble. She handled the cancer scare as good as anyone good. Several months after I started caring for her she told a neighbor, “well, I can’t remember shit, but I’m fat and happy”, so I figured I was doing my job okay, tough as it was.

One of my fondest pre-Alzheimer’s memories of my Mum is when I had a bunch of friends come over for a BBQ, with my parent’s consent. I told everyone to go to the small park just down the beach from my parent’s place, then walk over. I warned everybody about language, mostly because of the neighbors and to keep the noise down in the house. I took people skiing, tubing and knee-boarding and one time when I came back, primarily to go to the bathroom, I heard the stereo just blasting. I ran up to the house ready to give whoever did this proper hell, only to discover my mum dancing in the middle of the living room and my friends insisted that she had turned the stereo up. That was Mum. I miss her a lot.

On to my brother, Kevin and my sister, Wendy. Many people have asked me why I have nothing to do with them and haven’t even spoken to either one of them for many years. Although it’s hard to decide exactly who is worse, based on the rotten things they’ve done, the award goes to my brother. I could write a book on what he’s done to me and others, but I’ll just give a few examples.

Back when he showed up at our door in Brampton and moved in, much against my wife’s wishes, he said he got a job but he needed a motorcycle to get to it. He had no credit and no money so he needed me to sign for a loan for him, which, regrettably, I did. It was with the Bank of Montreal who at the time held our mortgage and was our only bank. Not all that long after he took off back out West, I believe to Red Deer. Of course the bank phoned me when he had missed three payments on the loan demanding the sixteen hundred dollars I had signed for, which was a lot of money way back then. Our credit rating was at risk, not to mention our mortgage, so we somehow managed to pay off his loan. He never even admitted sticking us with the loan, no doubt because he was so involved with drugs at the time he was living with us. I got a huge “I told you so” from my wife.

Years go by with nothing from him, then suddenly we get a call at one o’clock in the morning from him. He’s in holding at the airport suspected of smuggling in cocaine. Like a complete idiot he’s swallowed bags of cocaine and they are waiting for him to pass them. He’s charged with smuggling. I manage to get him a top notch criminal lawyer who tells us he’s facing ten years in prison, but through his amazing work he gets him off with six months in Milton. Not great because he was a nurse and now will lose his job because he can’t handle drugs anymore. We visit him almost every week until he’s released and goes back to Red Deer. The lawyer charges him four thousand dollars which is cheap considering what he was facing, but of course Kevin objects and refuses to pay him. Blow number two.

Out West he shows up at my door crying because his girlfriend at the time, Joanne, had thrown him out because he refused to stop smoking marijuana. He has worked with her on a mobile home park in Revelstoke adding additional homes, building decks and so on, but he has nothing showing his work. He doesn’t even have a chequing account. They had been together for some six years but he had left everything up to her. I knew her father would slap something on the mobile home park to cut Kevin out of the deal completely so, again, I found a good lawyer who immediately got an injunction preventing her father from doing anything with the park, which saved Kevin’s ass. She eventually managed to get him over a hundred thousand dollars that he did not deserve, despite the fact that he had no proof of anything. Naturally he argued with what the lawyer charged him but at least he paid her this time. With the new found wealth he bought a daycare, although he needed me to sign to get the mortgage.

How he managed to screw up the daycare would make for another novel, but a couple of highlights are me catching him smoking marijuana in the outside storage closet. I just freaked on him asking what would happen to his license if one of the parents caught him? Then he went overseas for his other business and my girlfriend at the time, Tracy, and I worked our butts off getting things sorted out with the daycare and Tracy took on the job as Manager. Before Kevin left to go overseas I had drafted an agreement for us to take over the daycare, one that he agreed to sign before he left, but he didn’t. After he came back Tracy came home and said I wouldn’t believe what Kevin had said. He had made the same agreement with her as he had promised me, cutting me out of the business completely and not paying me a dime for my six months of work at the daycare. The end was after he took five thousand dollars out of the payroll account, leaving us nothing to pay the staff and we had to close the daycare without notice to anyone. I was the guy at the door explaining to all the moms that we were closed now. No fun.

I mentioned that he was a nurse, so I have to add one more. As I explained earlier, after my Dad died I had no choice but to move in and care for my Mum. My life was over other than when the caregivers gave me a break twice a week. Neither my brother or my sister did a thing to give me any time off or help in any way. I had made arrangements to go out and stay the night with my girlfriend at the time, Sylvia. Kevin and his wife showed up late at around eight o’clock so Sylvia and I were late to the event we were going to. We then got back to her place pretty early in the morning and hit the sack. At around seven o’clock my cell starts ringing over and over and I finally have to answer it. It’s Kevin freaking out, telling me I have to come home right away because he can’t take dealing with Mum. Okay, she has Alzheimer’s, but he’s a friggin nurse, but he can’t take care of her? Home I go, only to discover that he didn’t give her the meds she needs every night, so, of course, she’s freaking out, mostly at where the heck am I? Kevin and Susan beat a hasty retreat and that is the only time in all the time I cared for her that Kevin ever offered to help.

There’s so much more that I could write about my brother, all of it bad. I honestly can’t say a good word about him. Today I don’t even know if he is still alive but I don’t really care.

On to my darling sister, Wendy. We were apart for more than twenty years but we did reconnect after I moved out West. Although Mum and Dad went south to Yuma every winter I did go up to Revelstoke quite a bit in the winter to go snowmobiling with her hubby, Ron. When Mum and Dad were here we went up a lot on weekends. Played a whole lot of cards and usually had a good time. Dad often helped Ron with things around the house, mostly because Ron was pretty useless. He figured he could fix anything with a good hammer and that was about it. Wendy was a lot like Mum in that she was always ready to party.

After Dad died they would usually come down to take Mum to the casino, which she enjoyed. It was the one thing she could always do pretty well so it just reinforced Wendy’s opinion, as had frustrated the hell out of my Dad, that she didn’t really have Alzheimer’s. Before he died my Dad had encouraged Wendy to watch a video about how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s, but she refused. She even refused to speak at his memorial as did my useless brother. Neither one of them helped with anything, leaving everything up to me and my friends. One thing I did forget was to have someone videotape the memorial so we could show it to Mum when she had forgotten everything. I was not going to make the same mistake when we dealt with Dad’s ashes. I had been talking to one of their neighbors who had a houseboat that he often took out at night with lights all around. I had explained that it was illegal to put ashes in the lake so we needed to do it quietly and at night and he agreed. I talked to one of my friends who had a video camera and they agreed to come and tape it for Mum so she could remember.

I came home Sunday after a rare night out on Saturday and they left. I was in the shed for something and saw that the urn was gone. I called Wendy and she said that they had got tired of waiting and had disposed of his ashes the night before. She didn’t give a damn that I wasn’t there. He was my Dad too! So there went the plan to video it for Mum, thanks to my ignorant sister.

The first time she really offered to help with Mum was at Christmas, Mum’s first without Dad. I had made plans with Sylvie to have Christmas dinner with her and spend Boxing day with friends. Wendy and Ron were coming down Christmas Eve night and staying for a few days. We decided that we would open gifts on Christmas Eve when Mum was more likely to be okay.

First Wendy calls to tell me that they are coming down two days early so we are going to have our Christmas long before Christmas Eve or Day. I wasn’t crazy about that but went along. After they arrived and as we are opening presents on what is clearly not Christmas she says they need to get to bed early because they are leaving for a week in Vegas the next morning. There went my Christmas. I barely got a break from caring for Mum and all my plans were destroyed, all thanks to Wendy.

After Dad died it was decided to take their place off the market, mostly because Mum was dealing with enough without leaving her home. I also wanted to do some much needed renovations to get the place ready to sell anyway. I knew how hard it was to get someone into the scarce care facilities in the Okanagan so I started what became a daily chore of calling people and applying for care anywhere. At this point Mum was classified as I believe a four on a scale to seven as far as her Alzheimer’s was concerned. That didn’t help me to get any consideration for her as far as getting her into a facility, but I kept at it. One day, just after I got home and one of her caregivers had left, the phone rang. As I came in the door and had picked up the phone Mum started her usual tirade against me, throwing me out yet again among other things. I had no idea who was on the phone and kept trying to answer over Mum’s yelling. I finally got her name so I stopped trying to talk. After a few minutes when Mum finally stopped yelling at me I could talk. Laura, the caregiver and the one who had just tested Mum yet again, was blown away by what she heard. She said I must be really struggling being attacked so viciously and being thrown out of the house. I told her no, that I was used to it and Mum had thrown me out at least forty times already. She promised me that she would upgrade Mum’s classification to an emergency level to get her into proper care as soon as possible.

Not much changed as far as my usual daily routine of calling anyone and everyone, writing letters and emails, trying to get her in anywhere that could give her the care she so desperately needed. I have to admit that my unwavering patience with things was starting to fade and I was praying for a care facility. At one point I managed to get through to the Director of the Emergency Services, the guy who places people in care facilities. After I explained that Mum had been on emergency status for several months he told me that he had three hundred and fifty people on emergency status and asked what I wanted him to do? I knew that the only hope I had was to keep pestering people and that someone would die somewhere so Mum could get in. Finally I got a call from a facility that was more than qualified to deal with Alzheimer’s patients. They told me to bring Mum in but they told me I had to lie to her about where we were going and have no contact with her for a minimum of a week. When we got there I was dismayed by all the bars, fences and security. It looked like a prison but I realized that you can’t just let people with Dementia or Alzheimer’s wander outside. I left quickly. The next few days were just terrible because Mum would call and leave heart-breaking messages apologizing for being bad and begging me to come and get her. I cried after every message and felt so incredibly guilty. I had listed the house again so I knew she had to stay in the care facility. I started getting calls from the administrator, telling me how well Mum was doing. They had managed to move her to a shared room with a lady she really got along well with. Mum had started participating in some of the activities they had, like art and playing cards. Each day got a little better and I felt less guilty because I knew she was where she needed to be to get the qualified care.

Next thing I know I get a call from the administrator telling me that my sister is there and taking Mum out of the facility. She warns me that if Mum leaves she will go back to the bottom of the list as far getting back in. I talk to Wendy and tell her to tell the administrator that they are just taking Mum up to Revelstoke for a visit and she will be back. I tell her not to take any of Mum’s things except a few clothes. She says that Mum does not belong in a horrible place like this and she is taking her to Revelstoke. I remember every single word I said to her, telling her that if she took Mum out of the facility it had taken me months to get her into I would no longer be responsible for Mum’s care. Whatever happened would now be entirely on Wendy and she agreed. I knew at the time that she didn’t have a clue what she was getting into, mostly because of her denial that Mum even had Alzheimer’s.

It so happened that Wendy had told me where she was putting Mum in Revelstoke. I researched it on the internet and first learned that it was an “assisted living” facility, which is not what Mum needed at all. Second I learned that it was for sale, with a note that the residents could be relocated easily. Yeah, right. Next I get a call from the facility telling me that Mum cannot stay there because she is driving them nuts. Her room is on an upper floor and she is constantly hollering at them that she can’t change the TV. They go up and discover she is using the phone. Next she’s hollering that she can’t call Wendy. They go up and she’s trying to call using the TV remote. Why Wendy ever gave her the number for the store is beyond me and only shows how clueless she was about Alzheimer’s. Mum would never remember that she had called her and would just keep calling. Then I get yet another call telling me that Mum has been found wandering around the streets of Revelstoke in the dead of winter with no coat on. Luckily someone saw her and knew she was Wendy’s mum so they took her to the store. The facility had had enough so Mum had to go. Wendy now learned what I had been going through for months so Mum ended up in the hospital.

My friend and I went up to Revelstoke for Mother’s Day. When I saw my mother I nearly died. She was just a big head on a scrawny little body, shuffling along like someone a hundred years old. She sat by me at the table and kept asking me who everybody was, sadly including Wendy. It broke my heart and I knew that it was the last time I would ever see my mother. She only got worse when the cancer returned and had spread to her brain. She was eighty-four, far too old for any operation so it was just a matter of time. She died in the fall but I was so upset with my sister that I couldn’t even go to the memorial they held for her in Kelowna. I knew that Wendy had killed our mother and I could never forgive her so it was better that I stayed away.

Apparently she sold the business and has moved to Kelowna. I can only hope that if I get back there I never run into her, unless it’s with a car.

 

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

 

 

Why I don’t regret leaving Canada

There was a recent article in CuencaHighLife about why Expats go home. Many try to avoid that I told you so from friends and family by making up a cover story. It’s a sick parent that needs care. My kids need my support. I need surgery and would feel more comfortable having it at home. Many simply admit that they miss some of the things back home, like Christmas with family or being able to shop at Wal-Mart.

This got me thinking about my own decision to move to Ecuador and, most recently, the thought of being forced to return to Canada if I couldn’t get my residency here, on which I came close. What would I be returning to? Basically I would have been homeless in Toronto, a city I loathe. My pensions would not have been enough to live on pretty well anywhere in Canada. I would have my meds paid for which helps, but, as my dear friend put it, I would basically be “molding”, waiting to die. Not much of a life.

As with any major life-changing decision, there were many, many factors involved. Someone said to me that you need to consider why you are moving to somewhere and not why you are moving from somewhere. That’s easier said than done. I knew that I was far from happy living in London, Ontario and had to make some kind of move. It boiled down to leaving the country or moving back out West where I had spent fourteen of the best years of my life.

The problems with moving back out to the Okanagan were numerous. First and foremost, it’s very expensive to live in the Okanagan. It’s become the lifestyles of the rich and famous to live there and my pensions would mean I could barely afford rent. At sixty-five there’s little chance that I would find any kind of employment and for the life of me I couldn’t think of any business idea that would make me some extra money. The other issue was lifestyle. My wonderful years in the valley were spent with numerous friends and loads of activities, pretty well none of which I would be able to do now, both from a financial standpoint and my deteriorating health. My life was full of physical activity, like skiing, roller-blading, dirt-biking, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, playing racquetball, hiking, biking and dancing two or three nights a week at the Corral. When I first left the Okanagan to go to Panama I sold everything I had. I no longer had any of my “toys” like my snowmobile, my dirt-bike, my boat, my truck or anything like my water skis, my cross-country equipment or my downhill skis. I would be starting over with nothing and my health would mean I couldn’t do pretty well anything anyway, so moving back out West was ruled out.

Another huge factor about moving out West was that my parents were now both gone. I originally had moved out West back in 1993 to be with my mother who had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and was only given a five percent chance of living another six months. She defied all odds and lived until 2007 so I got to spend a lot of great times with her. Although my relationship with my Dad was rocky at times, we still had great times dirt biking around Kelowna and in Revelstoke. They lived on the lake in Westbank so we had a lot of great times at their place. After Mum was in a home I had sold their place, so that was gone now. My sister had pulled my mother out of the care facility I had worked so hard to get her in and that was a total disaster. I blame her for basically ending my mother’s life, for which I cannot forgive her. My brother was useless from the start and couldn’t even care for Mum for one day to give me a much needed break. It boiled down to not having any family out West.

As for my own family, when I came back from Panama to Toronto in 2009 I hoped I would be able to reconnect with my kids and meet my five grandkids as well. Despite my best efforts I had not seen or even spoken to my daughter since moving West in 1993. My brief connection with my son when he found himself in trouble with the law about his work ended just as quickly. We had reconnected briefly when his job brought him to London but that ended badly as well and we haven’t spoken since. Despite my horrible situation with my kids I am a strong believer in family and hoped that we could put things back together, but my dear friend again said I could sit around waiting for them until I died. If I moved to Ecuador and somehow magically they wanted to reconnect there’s always Skype and I could return to Canada for Christmas maybe. It sounded like a much better alternative.

Of course living in Canada means dealing with winter. When I was out West I loved the winter because I cross-country skied two or three times a week. I ran the hiking club even in the winter. I snowmobiled around Kelowna and mostly in Revelstoke with my brother-in-law and we had a ball. I downhill skied at Big White and Silver Star as often as I could afford. I even got to skate on the lake one year when Green Bay froze. Once I moved to London, Ontario the winter was just cold and miserable. I froze waiting for the buses. Driving was horrible. I never did a thing in the five years I was in London and it was just plain cold. Nothing was good in the winter. I knew I wouldn’t miss it a bit.

Since arriving in London I had worked all day, every day, trying to find a job and I had applied for over a thousand jobs and never got one interview. The only job I got was at a call centre, Stream Global, the worst company I had ever worked for in my entire life. I was making the grand sum of eleven dollars an hour, thirty percent of which went to my landlord because I was in a geared to income building. Revenue Canada also came after me and got a garnishee for another thirty percent of my income, so I was left with pretty well nothing to live on. As I approached sixty-five I accepted that I was never going to find a job anywhere. I had been accepted into a self-employment program but that was running out in December so I would only have my pensions to live on. I was also looking at London Housing and ODSP coming after me for undeclared income which would only make things worse. I had declared bankruptcy and had just finished the two years paying for it and didn’t want to go through that again. I knew that they couldn’t touch me in Ecuador.

So, I get it. If I had a great relationship with my kids and grandkids naturally I would miss them terribly and this might well make me want to return to Canada to be with them, but this isn’t the case, much as I wish it were. Christmas? I’ve spent the last five years alone with no real Christmas. Friends? Despite my best efforts I was never able to make a single friend in London. It’s a cold town. Winter? Nothing to miss there. I much prefer year round spring here in Ecuador.

Finally, is life in Ecuador perfect? No. Things are a lot different here. The language barrier is huge and I need to improve my Spanish. The pace of life is a lot slower and getting things done can be frustrating. There’s a ton of things I miss, like being able to buy my much loved President’s Choice products or treating myself to Wendy’s. I can’t get things shipped overnight like I so often did in Canada. I can’t go to see a movie in 3D. It’s hard to find products you are used to, but you make do. The most important difference is that life here is a lot more affordable and less stressful, so it’s all well worth it.

So, I have no regrets about the decision to move to Ecuador. Not a one.

 

A day that changed my life forever

August 16th, 1969, the day I got married.

How I met my soon to be bride was funny. I was at a house party with my then girlfriend, Bev Jackson when Janice and her friend Lynn came walking down the stairs. At the time I did not know that Lynn had already warned Janice about me, saying I was a “sucker for blondes” and Janice had beautiful long blonde hair.

As soon as I saw Janice I jumped up and went over to her and said, “Hi. I’m Gary. Will you marry me?” She replied by telling me to f*ck off. I told her that we were going to get married and that she might as well accept it now. I don’t think I got much further that night. No surprise there. She no doubt thought I was a lunatic.

What I didn’t know and never really thought or cared about was that she had a pretty steady boyfriend, Doug. It didn’t sound like a great relationship as he was a control freak. She seemed terrified of him which I didn’t like. Somehow Janice and I ended up going out somewhere and when we came home to her parent’s place Doug came screaming up in his hot car. Janice was just getting out of my car and, true to form, he went for her and not me. Just then her mother came out of the house, sensing trouble, and tried to calm things down. That’s when, shocking as it was, Doug split in Janice’s face and stormed off. Both her mother and I could not believe he just did that but it was what it was. Pretty demeaning, not to mention gross.

In all honesty Doug was a pretty big boy and, if he couldn’t have Janice I figured some day he would go after me. I’m a lover, not a fighter, so I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I knew no matter what I would fight for Janice.

We were at a school dance in Bramalea and I was dancing with different girls I knew when all of sudden these arms are flailing away at me trying to punch me. I had no clue who it was but I just tried to keep him bent over towards me so he couldn’t get a good shot in. I assumed it was Doug but something wasn’t right. When they broke us up and I was outside someone finally told me it was Brent, a friend of mine, who, for some unknown reason, thought I was hitting on his girlfriend, which I wasn’t. It was my one and only fist fight and it sure was a weird one.

The fall before I met Janice my parents were planning to sell their place and move to BC, but they couldn’t sell and my Dad decided they would wait until the following spring. At the time I was working at the bank and playing in the band, so I doubt I would have gone with them anyway, but the decision became easy after I met Janice. Doug had eventually given up and Janice and I were together. We had a ball doing all kinds of things together and I was in love with her from the moment I first saw her. She got along great with my parents and my family, which was important to me. One thing led to another and she got pregnant. There was never any question about us getting married so the plan was on to get married as quickly as possible.

We got married in what was Streetsville at the time by the Reverend David Busby, who was more known for buzzing around town on his Harley than his sermons. After the pictures we headed to her parent’s place, planning on having an outdoor reception, but as we got closer the heavens opened up and it poured rain. We were terrified at the thought of all her Scottish relatives and my English ones being trapped together in the house. No doubt chaos would rein supreme and there was a good chance of a fight or two once they started drinking.

Our fears were for nothing. They all got along famously and didn’t seem to care if Janice and I were there or not. My favorite moment was when her cousin Billy fell all the way down the stairs with a case of beer he was carrying and after he landed at the bottom all he asked was if he had broken any beers. He was quite the character.

As we got ready to leave because we were heading off early on our honeymoon to Cape Cod my Dad gave me the room keys for what was the Thunderbird Motel at the time, not the classiest place in town. We had been planning to just stay at my apartment and leave from there, but Dad seemed so tickled that he got us the room for our wedding night so off we went. When we got in the room and sat on the bed we heard a tinkle sound. My crazy father had ripped open the box spring and put a child’s tinkle toy in, no doubt expecting we would discover it as we made love. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and it was the first sign I got that this marriage might not be what I was expecting. Janice slept soundly in the bed while I sat at the foot of the bed on the floor wondering what happened.

The next morning we were in a bit of a rush because we had a long trip ahead of us and we now had to go home first to grab our bags. We checked out and got in the car and then Janice remembered the tinkle toy still in the bed. She worried that if they discovered it they would probably go after Dad for the cost of replacing the box spring. So I had to go back in and ask for the key, pretending that we had forgotten something in the bathroom. After I managed to dislodge the fairly large toy I realized I had nothing to put it in so I got to walk through the lobby carrying the toy, to some very strange looks from the staff who knew it was our wedding night.

Despite the horrible wedding night we did manage to have a good trip to Cape Cod, well, maybe except for one incident. We had checked into a nice motel on the Western Summit in Massachusetts and Janice was feeling the romance of the place I guess. We were both naked and just getting up to put our clothes back on when the door flung open and in walked a member of the staff with an elderly couple, showing them the room they obviously thought was vacant. I was just outside the bathroom so I ducked in and I think Janice jumped back in the bed. The next morning when we went down for breakfast who should be sitting at the next table? Yup. The elderly couple who had barged into our room.

The rest of the trip was good except we overstayed our welcome in Cape Cod because it was so cold and we hoped the next day would be warmer. It wasn’t and I ended up driving straight back fourteen hundred miles in one very long day because I had to be back at work.

Our marriage lasted twenty-three years but there weren’t a lot of happy ones.

Today would have been my forty-second anniversary

Yikes! That’s a lifetime. I don’t have any regrets that my twenty-three year marriage ended when it did. It was actually over long before I finally left. I made the same mistake that many people make – sticking around for the kids, when it didn’t end up making any difference anyway. I remember someone saying that you know it’s over when you wake up and you wish you were anywhere else. After twenty-three years of trying, hoping that someday it would all magically change, I realized it would not and I left.

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