Sunday, 19 June 2016

Father's Day: Sometimes love is thicker than blood

Ever since I was a wee kid, I dreaded Father's Day.

When you're a fatherless daughter, you don't get to join in any of the fun, or make cards and homemade gifts.

Thank goodness, Father's Day was never celebrated in my public school. We always made some sort of homemade gift for mom on her day, but dad never got a mention. I guess that's because fathers in the early Sixties weren't around very much.

A lot of other people's dads were veterans who returned shell shocked and distant. They drank or sat and watched television instead of coaching Little League.

I never knew this growing up. I'd always had the impression that most dads were kind of assholes not like the dude in Father Knows Best.

In fact, if I am to be honest here, I can say that after watching other kids' dads, I was glad I didn't have one. Dads scared me. They were like clowns with balloons that popped. For a lot of kids, dads were always disappointing them.

There were some stellar dads, of course. There was my cousin Will who took me along with his gaggle of unruly children on vacations and to the zoo. There were my cousins Butch and Skip who were doting fathers. And there was my Grandpa, who always had time for me and could cut hair and fix a car and grow a mountain of fruits and vegetables on our tiny little farm.

Grandpa used to let me slather his back with menthol rub brought to us by the Fuller Brush man. He took me along fishing for smelt, and we sat side-by-side cleaning the stinky fish. He also taught me to make sandwiches made of handpicked mushrooms, and bacon.

Grandpa was the greatest dad I could have had.

My grandpa chose to stick around and help me grow up straight.

My dad chose a different path. A six pack and car.

He might as well have had a gun.

He left a hole in me the size of Kansas.

And I never got over it.

So Father's Day makes me sad.

Strange cause I didn't even know the guy.

All I know is he was the leaving man.

Today, every school is filled with kids who have dads who are missing in action.

But in my school, we were the only ones who were raised by a single mum. I was ashamed, and his loss scarred me for life, always made me feel lesser, robbed me of what other kids had.

His death informed my choices. I was always looking for him in the eyes of older men, one of whom I married. He became the father of my children.

I was so happy to be married, to know that my children would never grow up like me without a father.

Turned out, I was wrong.

Their father was a leaving man, too.

He stuck around long enough for them to miss him, then he disappeared into the ether.

The kids haven't seen their dad in five years.

Like my own dad, he robbed his kids of a childhood, of memories of being loved, and taken to the park, of family trips and walks down the aisle.

They see him occasionally on the news, or read about him in the paper.

But they have never been worth a phone call, a card, or present. He didn't even bother to call to tell them that their grandfather died this year.

Maybe, I was right.

Maybe dads are assholes.

Maybe the kids would have been better off knowing their father was dead.

It's hard to comprehend how a man could choose to leave his children in that manner.

Fortunately, our story has a happy ending.

Scott came through in the nick of time.

He turned out to be the staying sort of man.

He helped heal my heart and, eventually, mend the shattered hearts of my children.

It wasn't easy.

The kids were teenagers, and resented him a bit at first.

But now they love him as much as anyone could love a dad.

He taught my boys how to be better men, and showed my daughter how a man should love and treat a woman.

He took everything we could throw at him, and didn't abandon us.

He just loved us more.

And that makes him the best father of all.

The kind that steps up.

To the leaving men, I say, good riddance.

Don't let the door slam you on the ass on the way out.

To the rest of you dads, especially to the ones who step up, I say good on ya.

You are heroes to your children, and your grandchild.

Sometimes love is thicker than blood.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Orlando shootings: Love is still the answer.

That is the number of people I know who are missing and presumed dead.
That one person is my cousin Ashley Simpson.
Fifty is the number of dead at the hands of a deranged gunman in Orlando, Florida.
Fifty-three is the number of wounded in that horrific act, a senseless rat-a-tat-ta of a man who wanted to kill people for no other reason than they chose different people to love.
Regardless of whether we mourn the one or the many, we are living in a war zone, and waging a war against an evil we cannot defeat, an evil bred from the brain or the loins, an evil that has no respect for humanity.
There is no difference between the ONE we are mourning and/or remembering and the 50/53.
We are all fighting the same battle.
We are all quietly weeping, feeling helpless against the rage of the beast the lies inside men and women who chose to kill, and maim and dismember.
But we must remember.
We are not helpless.
We are powerful.
And our voices need to be heard.
We must rise up against evil at every turn.
Whether it is to quash the bully in pre-school, or defeat a maniac in the polls.
We join hands, in love, and faith, and truth.
In the face of hate, we chose love.
In the face of violence, we choose peace.
And in the presence of evil, we choose good.
We cannot make sense of what is nonsensical.
But we can, each and everyone of us, choose the path of the righteous, the path of kindness, the path of collective friendship.
It is far too easy to lay blame, to categorize an act in one way or another.
It is too easy to blame religion or zealotry.
It's all the same.
They are all hate crimes committed by bigots or religious fanatics or by those possessed by psychopathy.
Let us not engage in a war of words or engulf ourselves in political fanaticism.
We can choose to love, we can choose to hate, or best of all, we can choose to join together in a collective voice, to love everyone as we would love ourselves and our families.
Out of chaos and out of evil, we will emerge victorious.
It's hard to imagine on a day like this.
But love is still the answer.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Ashley Simpson: Please sign this petition to help her family

Those who read this space regularly know that my family is frantic with worry about my cousin, Ashley Simpson, who has been missing 40 days now.

Both her boyfriend and her landlord reported that she had left with no money, no car, no resources from her Salmon Arm, B.C. home after a domestic dispute over money. Since then, there has been no trace of her. The RCMP now considers this a homicide investigation, but the family has not heard any updates from them in more than three weeks.

Just after she disappeared, her father, relatives and friends set out from St. Catharines on a long trek to B.C. to find her. They all left their work, and their lives, intent on finding Ashley who had always kept in touch. It was completely out of character for her to lose touch.

Her parents have been consumed by worry. They have been unable to work, and are having a hard time functioning. As a result, they are now relying on donations from family and friends to keep the wolf from the door.

Imagine if Ashley were your daughter, or sister. I know if one of my kids was missing, I would be unable to eat or sleep, let alone work at the hard jobs these folks do every day. That is why one of our cousins set up a GoFundMe page to help them. While the campaign has brought in more than $4,400 dollars, it is not enough to sustain the family through this ordeal.

You can help.

You can sign petition below, which recognizes the difficulties faced by families who are traumatized by crime and asks the federal government to lend its financial support to temporarily financially support them.

The petition, by Ricci Smith, states the following:

I think it is time for our Canadian government to help families of missing women in Canada financially. It cost money to locate a missing person and the police obviously don't have enough resources to keep up on the current number of missing women in Canada. If you could just put yourself in the family shoes for 10 minutes you would realize how much of a financial and emotional strain it is on everyone involved. Most families of missing loved ones cannot function on the day-to-day basis with no sleep can't work. I think it's time that we help out our fellow Canadians and friends and families of missing women. Maybe a volunteer task force. Criminal injuries can take years. These people need money as soon as their loved one goes missing. Time is everything! Please sign this petition and see if we can get some more attention drawn to this very important cause.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Ashley Simpson: 38 Days Gone

My cousin John Simpson is nearly frantic with worry.

He's unable to do anything, maybe a bit of gardening, but his thoughts are consumed by the fact his daughter has been missing in Salmon Arm, B.C. since April 28th.

He's also frustrated that the police have not provided any update on the case, which the RCMP is now considering a homicide. Three weeks have gone by, and not word one. Now, of course, we all know that the RCMP doesn't comment on active cases -- doesn't want to show its hand -- but it would be helpful to the family to get some news, any news.

John is vowing to continue to keep Ashley's image and story in the public eye.

Meanwhile, the family and friends of Ashley participated on a walk to raise money for Gillian's Place in Niagara which helps and shelters women who come from violent circumstances. The team came 5th for overall donations, and won the award for Team Spirit.

Kudos to Team Ashley for doing for others when they are themselves in need.

If you can help at all, don't forget to visit the GoFundMe site.

Thanks for your continued interest in our missing girl.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Bell pulls the plug on Canada AM. We pull the plug on cable

Today, I got told off by Ben Mulroney, the CTV go-to fellar who apparently will, along with Anne Marie Mediwake, be replacing the crew at the middle aged Canada AM. In case, you didn't hear, the AM crew was unceremoniously punted yesterday and had its last show this morning.

"Hey Rosalita," wrote Ben on Twitter. "A couple is 2. Idol was on for 6 (excruciating) years. Oh, and at the time, it was the highest rated English language show of all time." Inserted comment mine.

The Count was responding to my Tweet reminding everybody that Canadian Idol was cancelled after two seasons. My bad. I must have turned it off after the second season.

I couldn't believe the lightening speed at which Ben responded to my Tweet. He must have the skin of a grape crushed under Lucille Ball's feet. I was indeed surprised that someone of his celebrity would give a shit what I said. Oh well.

I couldn't help sharing his Tweet on Facebook where many of my friends expressed surprise that Canadian Idol was really that popular, and was, in fact, the highest rated English language show of all time! (Being a lawyer, Ben did say "at the time," though the egotist in him couldn't help the "of all time" bit in the same sentence.)

I couldn't help but think that maybe there were shows that were more successful. Like Degrassi which has been syndicated around the world, and picked up for international airing on Netflix in January. I looked all over Netflix, and I simply couldn't not find one damned episode of Canadian Idol.

There were many more examples of shows I thought, really, were more popular than Canadian Idol:

The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, for example. Or Hockey Night in Canada. Or The Beachcombers. Or Dragon's Den. The Mercer Report. This Hour has Twenty Two Minutes.

Maybe even Due South!

I probably can name a dozen more shows, but then you'd stop reading or I'd put myself to sleep or both.

It's not really my point, anyway.

I simply don't understand why the network would 86 a solid show like Canada AM and reboot it for "the next generation" and feature a middle aged son of a former Prime Minister who went to law school to talk to Justin Bieber.

If they were going to reboot for millennials, why not tap a couple of Canadians who actually represent generational change? Who needs Peter Pan when CTV could actually hire one of the Lost Boys?

Why not tappa rappa? Or hire a millennial to tickle the funny bone?

And there are enough kids coming out of J School who have absolutely no hope whatsoever of getting a job in television otherwise, so they would work very cheaply indeed,

Bell probably didn't think of that. The suits were too busy firing people, or too lazy to conduct a talent search.

Anyway, whatever Bell does, its new reboot will surely blow like Gabriel's horn.

Now that's my opinion.

I didn't ask Nik Nanos or nuthin'.

I'm just an old gal who may be the only one on the block who still subscribes to premium cable to watch shows like Canada AM.

Clearly, I'm out of touch.

Maybe it's time to cut the cord once and for all.

Of love and loss

In recent months, I've been helping to support my good friend Jennette through the end of life process, as she watched her father Jim transition to his next life after a lengthy battle with heart disease and cancer.

It's been a tough road for Jennette who lost her husband Roger just two years ago, also in the month of May. She's also battled oral cancer, and has had to live with disfigurement to her face, and mouth.

She's a tough cookie, our Jennette. She faced down the doctors who wanted her to have radiation which would have meant further disfigurement and the loss of her entire set of teeth. They wanted to do radiation to be absolutely sure the cancer would not return but, as they say, the cure would have been worse than the cancer, so she passed on it.

Jennette and I have been friends for more than 30 years. She and Roger helped me through the debilitating loss of both my own mother, and my marriage. I lost both within a year and it nearly killed me.

Like Jennette, I lost the two loves of my life in a short period of time. Like Jennette, I felt helpless and alone, with people telling me to buck up, get over it, get on with life. Sure, life is hard, people said, but you have so much going for you -- three kids, a fantastic career, money.

But I was literally disintegrating from within. I lost 30 pounds in two weeks and I was thrown into a period of madness, living in a rabbit hole from which there seemed no escape.

This all came back to me the other night when I was talking to Jennette, after Jim's funeral. It's a time of life I know well, when all the cards and wishes have been filed, as all the fresh flowers begin to die, after all the canapes have been eaten.

In the end, in the moments after a loss, you believe you are truly alone in the world. It is, I believe, not unlike the dying process. In the end, we die alone. Bereavement is just the other side of the death coin.

I should have been sympathetic to Jennette, but instead, I got angry, really angry. I found myself actually yelling at her when she told me that she was sitting amidst the funeral flowers and pictures of her Dad.

"He's gone, God damn it," I shouted. "He's not coming back!"

What a terrible friend I was in that moment, and I startled myself with my own rage.

But then I realized that I wasn't talking to Jennette, I was yelling at myself.

It's been 20 odd years since my mother passed and my husband left, and I'm still not over it, and I don't think I'll ever get over it.

Every time I'm thrown into a loss experience, it opens the wound like the cut I once got on my eyeball that has never quite healed. There is scar tissue there, and occasionally the wound reopens.

It's that way for Jennette, too. And for all of us.

What I should have said -- okay I'm a better writer than a talker -- is that experiencing loss is a gift of sorts. It reminds us that we are alive, and that we need to keep living for our children, for our friends and for ourselves.

As we stand in the presence of loss, we are reminded that we are loved and cherished by others, and that we need to keep up those connections if we are to have a full life. At the moment of loss, we see who our real friends are, and we see, in stark contrast, the ones who are not our friends -- but who are merely there for the free food and flowers. We see the posers for who they really are.

And at the moment of loss, we feel weak, fragile, unlike ourselves.

Loss presents one of life's great challenges. We can buckle under, or we can rise above it, stare it down.

Bereavement is not for sissies.

No one chooses the path we travel but us.

I should have said that to her the other night. Okay, I'm saying it now.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Carl Mollins: Renaissance Man

photo by Dora Maus

Carl Mollins was one of the greatest reporters who ever set foot on Parliament Hill, or in any news bureau for that matter, but you'd never know it if you had him as a journalism professor.

"I'm not sure why you bothered to take this class," he told us on the first day of our Carleton University fourth year political reporting lecture. "Oh well, you're here now."

Then he began to drop phone book sized copies of the Government of Canada Part Three Spending Estimates on the table in front of us.

"Your first assignment is to find a story in this."

And he chuckled.

That was Carl's Way. He wanted to make sure we knew that a side of Parliament Hill baloney was best served over-cooked and cold. This was no ant's picnic; it was bloody hard work combing through the lies, half truths and secrets that abounded on the Hill. And it was boring spending hours at committees and hearings that left us asking, "Where's the beef?"

As a result of his less than scintillating style, there were a few drop outs over the coming weeks, people who didn't have the stomach to study balance sheets, and order papers, but the geeks who stuck it out realized they had encountered a vein of pure gold in a man who vaguely resembled a Muppet.

This was the mischievous man of mystery, as we would come to know him. Carl was the person who invented the word droll. His idea was to get rid of the riff raff, so we could get on with the fun stuff.

After a couple of sessions, Carl ditched the Arts Tower, and convened our class
in the lounge of the Parliamentary Press Gallery which was located in the National Press Building, where we could smell the vapors of the press club below us. After class, he treated us to a beer, my first served to me at the long bar by the legendary Denny Tang. I'm not sure I should thank Carl or curse him out for getting me hooked on the Club.

After my first encounter there, it was the only place I wanted to be.

He introduced us to a few strays at the bar, the over-refreshed lot who were still there from lunch time. (Our class met at 4 p.m.) Then we headed into the games room for some serious political discussions. To us, the green meanies, we were in the thick of it. It was so exciting to talk politics, drinking beer, looking out at the West Block. Some of us were hooked.

Carl didn't believe in the theory of journalism, wasn't of the ilk of Tom McPhail or Wilf Kesterton. He wanted to give us a hands on experience.

He took us over to the Supreme Court where we met Bora Laskin, the Chief Justice, who gave us a spirited talk about the role of the courts in the lives of Canadians. We had many guest speakers, including the biggest talker of all, the Speaker of the House of Commons who met us after Question Period, still dressed in his robes. Carl certainly had connections.

As a person, Carl was kind and thoughtful, a walking beard of a man who had a deep understanding of journalism and politics. He was also pretty jaded about the life we were all about to enter. With the very odd exception, he said, we wouldn't get rich, we wouldn't get coddled, and we certainly wouldn't be important or famous -- or even get credit. Hell, we'd be lucky to have a few sheckles left for our retirement.

That wasn't the point of it. The point was that we had the sacred duty not just to get it first but to get it right. We were the eyes and ears of the people of Canada.

And none of us should ever forget it.

I was sad to hear that he died this week, after a tragic fall, on his daily walk along Toronto's lakeshore. I enjoyed being his friend on Facebook, and seeing all of the wonderful pictures of Carl, his wife Joan, his friends feasting around the dining room table, or of him walking around the Big Smoke in his tweed cap.

Carl Mollins was a throwback to another era where every meal was an event, every beer tasted as good as the first, and every experience was to be savored.

He was 84, and he wore it well.

I haven't seen him in decades, but I will miss him and thank him.

He gave me an A just for showing up, and showing an interest.