My daughters notably captures her feelings and thoughts on two notable events of the past week – the election of man unprincipled man to a position of considerable consequence to the free world and the passing of A acclaimed poet ands favourite son of Canada.
The morning the results of the 2016 United States election were confirmed, I cried. I am not an American but, like all of us, I am affected by its foreign and domestic policies. And I do ache with empathy for people whose vilification by trumpism has now been wrongly—evilly—legitimated. I reject that legitimization. It is sickening and terrifying.
Later the same week, when Canadian poet Leonard Cohen’s death was confirmed, I cried again. I didn’t know him personally but, like many of us, I am affected by his work. I posted an American magazine’s eulogy of Cohen on my Facebook feed along with half of a stanza of a poem, a song, I’ve known from memory since I was sixteen when my dad would play it in the car on our way home from late night shifts at the doomed sandwich shop we owned at the time.
The rain falls…
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There are words spoken in anger of such impact that they can never be completely taken back. Such words cause permanent damage to relationships and hang around for years like dark clouds. One never has absolute license to say hurtful things where the primary purpose is to severely injure another’s soul. We own the things we do and say.
I sincerely believe eventually we will suffer and regret the cost and consequences of our hateful and angry words. Controlling anger includes tempering our words appropriately especially with those we love and hold dear. Rage ful words hurled at someone can do irreparable damage. Like we would resist throwing a dagger at a loved one, we should stifle every urge to lash out with a hateful remark.
I love the old country classic made famous by Conway Twitty entitled “This Time I Hurt Her More Than She Loves Me.” Sadly I think every spouse at some point takes the affection of their mate for granted failing to recognize affections can eventually be destroyed by hateful words and dispicable actions. Forgiveness will not necessarily always be possible or available because once the degree of attachment is eroded sufficiently, the relationship collaspes under the weight of disrespect. No longer shielded by the blindness of love, the sad reality of who and what we are is exposed with shocking clarity.
The dearest soul in the world to me is my wife of 45 and counting years. When I speak to her, my speech reflects my love and admiration for her. I recognize the ongoing importance of being true and faithful to her as she is the most significant person in my universe. I am constantly aware of the need to be honest, true and faithful to our deep and sacred commitment to each another.
My wife is a kind and forgiving person but I’m cognizant that her devoted love and affection is conditional in the sense that her love needs and rightfully expects my complete loyalty and affection in return. She respects herself and theregore rightfully expects others to respect her as well. As her spouse, I should be the shining example of love and respect for her at all times and in all places. Being true to this keeps romance alive and well in our relationship despite the fact the age unceremoniously takes its toll on us.
I’m aware that people complain about being especially afflicted by weakness or being prone to make repeated mistakes often as a result of unfavourable circumstances. But as a species we are pretty intelligent and can be reasonably expected to recognize situations that threaten our weakness. Having intimate knowledge of our weakness obligates us to take necessary evasive steps. One’s activities and routines need to be shaped for avoiding potential recurring disaster.
My heart ached recently for one close to me who was betrayed by someone she loved completely. I could not begin to fathom the disrespect inherent in his repeated acts of infidelity and these coming after previous acts of betrayal had been divulged and through process painfully forgiven. Being the old man that I am, the arrival of such bad news caused tears to come to my eyes. I shared momentarily in the very real heart ache his actions caused and the destruction yet to follow. I considered the grave consequences of children never feeling the security and joy of being raised together with their parents united. Their young lives to be forever complicated and compromised by the competing interests of two very separate entities.
I am grateful for the love of my wife. It did not come easily. I had to earn it because she was a girl who captured the interest of a lot of guys and had the benefit of choice. Perhaps that’s why I am so deeply committed to her and to our relationship. She is by far the most important and significant person in my world.
I have among those dear to me loved ones who were faithful and true to their spouses but eventually betrayed by infedelity and desertion by their partners. I witnessed the level of their despair and saw them spiral into various states of desperate depression. But in every case I have seem them recover and eventually thrive. In almost all cases, love was found anew with someone new and deserving and their happiness ultimately restored.
Once love is extinguished it is very rare to rekindle it with the same person. While there may be forgiveness, there is also a realization that trust is now an issue. Once weakness is exposed and when it’s later repeated, our survival instincts kick in. No organ is perhaps more important for our wellbeing than our heart. Hearts learn to protect themselves after repeated injury.
It’s not impossible to rekindle love. When my mother divorced my father, it was after years of putting up with abusive behaviours. Fortunately there was no physical abuse but there was a level of cruelty fueled by an addiction to alchohol. When they divorced, we children sighed a sigh of relief because we knew too well the grief involved with them being together. We were certainly surprised when a few years later, they did remarry after my father finally stopped drinking. They salvaged late in life a pretty good stretch of marriage after previously suffering through decades of disfunctuon. I’m happy that miracle happened to them but it’s not one we see repeated often.
Cherish your marriage relationship. Treat everyone respectfully but always put the needs of your wife and family ahead of all others. Show your appreciation constantly and take every opportunity to express your love in both word and deed. Recognize that marriages are not indestructible. Marriages are currently at best a fifty fifty proposition.
Treat your marriage like a garden in need of tending. Anticipate threats to your relationship and take steps to ensure its safety. You have no other allegiance or duty that should ever displace your spouse and family as your first priority and as deserving of your love, time, resources and devotion. The rewards of a successful marriage are incredible and long lasting. Durability is always an issue and is dependent on the level and consistency of our devotion to it.
Like a devoted gardener, we need to keep the weeds of discontent out of our garden of marriage. They will choke and stress our relationship and increasingly threaten it with extinction.We need to ensure thirst gets quenched by showering it with loving attention. We need to constantly watch out for disease and pestilence ce that can potentially attack and destroy. We need the ensure the fertility of the soil and ground ourselves in an rich environment that serves to strengthen the foundation of strong roots.
We live in a world where it’s become almost cool to be cruel. In some quarters, the veracity of love is mocked. The quest for true love has been replaced by the hunt for sex. I don’t like the world we have become where greed is not condemned but rather the subject of admiration. I long for simpler days where there was a lot more caring and innocence. Where once people had sufficient for their needs they considered ways of sharing with those less fortunate. Honesty is no longer linked to integrity but rather it’s about seeing how dishonest you can be without being caught by the system. Bullying is prevalent everywhere and not just in our schools.
Along with the increasing downward slide of our society to an every man for himself environment, we see marriages crashing with increasing regularity. We need to search our souls for the remedy to what ills us and what to do about things that threaten our relationships. I suggest we all start by reading and rereading the sermon on the mount.
Why would an Edmonton based golf tournament be named after a highway in British Columbia you ask? It all started when four golf starved northerners were intent on getting an earlier start to golf season than the traditional opening day of May 1st common in Alberta’s Peace River country.
We started organizing a trip to BC to play in the warmer climes of the lower mainland of beautiful British Columbia after driving down the Coquihalla Highway through the Rocky Mountains. We played at several beautiful courses and enjoyed escaping the last gasps of the northern Alberta winter.
But after being drenched too often by the early spring rains common in BC, we moved our tournament to Edmonton and timed it in August rather than the spring. My friends Mark, Cory and Gord were the original Coquihalla foursome but our tournament soon evolved as additional players signed on. We officially topped our tourney at five foursomes or a maximum of 20 golfers. This year we had sixteen competitors as some had to regretfully withdraw for various reasons.
It’s a two man Texas scramble format and there are prizes for low score, longest drive and closest to the pin. It’s a colourful event chalked full of comraderie and fellowship and some choice memories are associated with our Coquihalla.
Early on (2005 and 2006) my nephew Mark and I enjoyed success but found we were losing our competitiveness as time went by. A few years ago, I started teaming up with Cory, another former champion, in hopes we could rediscover some magic. We had teamed up successfully in other events and had success.
By that time, the Cup was being dominated by Severyn Walker, a worthy champion who had won the event for four of five years only failing to win in 2009 when Cory and Gord snuck in a victory.
My son Rob and son in law Curtis teamed up to finally dethrone Sevetyn’s team and won it two years running in 2014 and 2015 with Cory and I finishing second in both years. Finally this year, we put together a solid enough round to win. Our day was highlighted by five birdies most of which came as a result of stellar putting on Cory’s part.
We were cautiously optimistic but withheld any celebration until all the teams turned in their scorecards and we were finally declared the winners. Cory played brilliantly and I turned in some timely shots that helped us to our convincing win at the Ravencrest Golf Course in northeast Edmonton. The second place team finished four strokes off our score.
We were happy to bring the Cup down to southern Alberta and we’re hopeful we can hang on to it by creating a dynasty of our own. It was a ten year dry spell for me as the last time my name was engraved on the trophy was 2006.
An a count of a harrowing event and eventual self rescue of one of my grandsons.
My Middle-born Boy
My middle-born son, age fifteen, did not die on Wild Hay River last week.
He did not die there but he did go there on a canoe trip with his Scouting group. As they went along, the flotilla wound up in an unforeseen, dangerous flooded section of the river. I wasn’t there but I am told a couple of boys evacuating a nearby canoe accidentally capsized the boat my son, my husband, and another boy, only twelve years old, were in. All three of them were dumped into the river. The current was strong, rushing toward a large spruce log covered in spiky broken branches spanning the river from shore to shore. It was large and dense enough to obscure the view of what was on the other side of it. Beyond and beneath it, there would be more water, and maybe all hell.
In the water, the…
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For the past few years I have been living with the effects of liver disease doing my best to cope with the usual complications. I have also undergone multiple surgical intervention for kidney stones and and suffer from an enlarged spleen.
Although some masses turned up on MRI’s creating cancer scares, diagnosis eventually proved these masses were not cancerous.
I also deal with chronic back pain causing severe early morning stiffness and pain. Unfortunately, my back pain cannot be treated with standard pain medications due to the liver problems. I attend a pain clinic quarterly to receive steroid cortisone shots that provide some relief. Chiropractic treatment is also helpful in providing temporary relief although it cannot cure the arthritis causing the pain.
A complicating factor of my cirrhotic liver disease is Hepatic encephalopathy (HE). It is a common syndrome observed in many patients afflicted with cirrhosis. Hepatic encephalopathy is defined as a spectrum of neuropsychiatric abnormalities in patients suffering liver dysfunction. Hepatic encephalopathy is most often characterized by personality changes, intellectual impairment, and a depressed level of consciousness.
A prerequisite for HE is diversion of portal blood into the systemic circulation through portosystemic collateral vessels. This means blood normally filtered through the liver develops alternate routing to avoid the liver due to its chronic dysfunction. It allows unfiltered blood containing toxins to eventually be introduced to the brain thereby causing the various issues associated with HE.
Some brains functions are interfered with by the toxins and normal tasks can become problematic. There can be memory loss and challenges with vocabulary and simple calculations. In my case, I often have difficulty with comprehending situations and processing the most obvious appropriate solutions. I have experienced episodes where I struggle with handwriting or signing my signature. On a routine trip to the grocery store made a thousand times before, I suddenly became disoriented and confused.
Misplacing my keys occurs several times a day and during subsequent searches to locate them, I am easily pushed to the brink of panic and total frustration. I can look directly at the object I’m searching for and still not see it. Where I used to enjoy leading groups, I now prefer to be a follower due to my inability to stay focused and targeted on results.
Problem solving can become a repetitive cycle of repeating unsuccessful strategies rather than moving on to try new options. At times in the midst of the anxiety associated with dealing with a routine situation, a sudden laspe in cognition occurs. Context can suddenly be forgotten leaving one in a state of bewilderment puzzled as to how to proceed. The simple act of totalling up a scorecard after a round of golf, will produce a different total when the task is repeated and usually every attempt is incorrect.
Treatment includes an antibiotic to help eliminate toxins in the gut before they can be subsequently deposited into the brain through unfiltered blood. The current drug I take is in experimental stages in Canada and is not covered by Blue Cross and is very expensive. Fortunately I was accepted into a trial study group and receive the drug gratuitously. The drug seems to level out anxiety and frustration but does not seem especially dramatic in helping with reestablishing capacity.
Recently I decided to take a job as surveyor for Census Canada which would only last for two months and was part time. There was a qualifying test which I thought would be a mere formality because my education and work experience far exceeded the requirements of the position. The test even allowed candidates to bring along a simple calculator to use.
Tests were handed out limiting candidates to 30 minutes to complete it. The first question required counting the number of residences within specified boundaries on a map. After establishing the total I took a extra minute to count again but came up with a different total. That required another attempt which now produced a third total. I decided to move the second question which thankfully required a basic percentage calculation. I got out the calculator but found it was missing portions of the display which obscured the numbers to the extent I could not determine the figures. No worries I thought, I will simply do the calculation with pen and paper having successfully calculated percentages as far as I can remember without the need for a calculator. Imagine my horror when I was not able to complete such a simple calculation. I now tried to reason in my mind by looking at the numbers what would be an appropriate guess. But attempting to come with an answer using this approach only served to feed my anxiety and left me feeling overwhelmed.
Obviously I failed the test. I was embarrassed at the realization that although I had functioned for decades as a successful manager and later as a CEO, disease had rendered me incapable of performing basic clerical tasks. It’s the reason my spouse now handles our personal finances and seldom even carry money on my person anymore.
I am not alone with my HE and there is increasing awareness of the condition. I can still enjoy life but most enjoy working around home and gardening. I like golfing but have had to cut that activity back due to back pain. When I golf, I refuse to touch the scorecard or drive a cart. Best to keep it simple. I struggle with remembering the proper techniques and as a result my scores have soared. I was about a 13 handicap but now struggle to stay under 100.
My computer proficiency began following off when I retired. I now avoid using a Windows based PC and use my iPhone most often as a substitute or alternatively my IPad. While I formerly considered myself quite competent with new technology, I now rightfully try to avoid it.
My mother began researching our family history several decades ago. It’s obvious that our lineage is predominately from Scotland and Ireland but one never really knows for sure until research is complete.
My fathers parents spelled our surname “McKenzie.” However my father spelled our name “MacKenzie.” Most of his siblings like his parents also spelled it McKenzie.
When I asked my father about it one time, he explained that Catholics spelled it McKenzie so the correct spelling for a Protestant was MacKenzie. Although it temporarily gave some rationale for the spelling difference, it didn’t really explain why other members of his family spelled it differently although none currently claimed to be Catholic.
I did some research and found out that the spelling often traced back to whoever was keeping records and appeared to be a matter of personal preference. Originally Mc or Mac meant “son of” rather than being part of the proper name itself. The Scots used Mc or Mac while the Irish used the letter O. So McDonald was son of Donald in Scotland and O’Donald was son of Donald in Ireland. I guess Donald really got around. Lol. Seems to me MacDonalds Hamburgers should be named O’Donalds in Dublin and Belfast.
Eventually the prefix was formally incorporated into the name itself. It’s like that old ad for Doublemint Gum. Whatever spelling used, both were considered right.
My oldest daughter’s feelings about the wildfire in Fort MacMurray.
Little boys in a Fort McMurray “fire break,” winter 2002
Six months pregnant with my third son, I moved my family to Fort McMurray. My husband went along with it, then fell hard for it. We stayed for five years, had two sons there, bought our first two homes, planted trees, built a backyard fence to rival Stonehenge. Living in the city—in the place, not just at the time–changed our lives. In many ways, it made our lives—mine as a writer and my husband’s as a crime fighter. Today, I sat at a safe distance of hundreds of kilometres and cried at the news coverage of Fort McMurray in flames.
I have never done anything like what today’s Fort McMurray residents have done. I have never been a refugee. My experiences with forest fire are nothing compared to theirs.
Most years, “forest fire” in the boreal north isn’t so much…
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amc The second season of Better Call Saul was a terrific slice of television. It opened with a step back, or at least sideways, that slowed down Jimmy McGill’s transition to Saul Goodman. To compensate for that slow down, it sent Mike on his own journey, one that became more of the true Breaking Bad…
I found out yesterday that a once dear friend passed away last October. I had been passively trying to touch base with him for some time without success but was still shocked to learn he had died.
He was a memorable person. Someone who made an edilible impression on you in some way whether positive or negative. He was intelligent and witty and his gift for sarcasm was especially sharply tuned in.
I met him through work and felt fortunate to have him on my team at a time when creativity was essential to progression in our work place. He wasn’t shy about contributing and was outspoken about making certain his opinion was heard.
He was very young then and brought a lot of fresh ideas to the table. He looked beyond what had been and constantly searched for something better. He was skilled at putting his thoughts on paper or clearly vocalizing his views in meetings.
He struck up a romance with one of our summer students from rural southern Alberta. As much as I liked him, I was concerned that he was too “worldly” for this sweet young girl from small town Alberta. I candidly warned her she might be wise to not get too involved with him but despite my efforts they were eventually engaged.
They organized a big wedding and I was surprised when I was asked to be the best man. I felt somewhat guilty because I had made that attempt to derail their relationship and wisely confessed my interference. I thought he would likely want to reconsider his choice of best man. He was undeterred explaining that I was actually his second choice because the first person he asked couldn’t accommodate the date. As far as my indiscretion months before in advising his bride to be to end their relationship, he assured me that she had already ratted me out in that regard and there were no hard feelings.
I had a few years before been the best man at my High School buddy’s wedding and was reluctant to perform an encore. I was relieved when it turned out to be a satisfying and upbeat experience except of course for the awful seventies wedding tuxedo that I was obligated to wear.
Not long after, an employee in our same office came out as being gay creating a political storm because he worked in education and had contact with students. Many parents called for this individual to be fired in light of the revelations about his personal life. As his co-workers, we immediately rallied to his support because we knew he posed no threat to the students. My friend was instrumental in that movement to save our fellow worker’s career and it proved successful.
Even after he no longer worked for me, we managed to stay in touch for years. He let me know when their kids were born and sadly informed me when the marriage collapsed. On a couple of occasions we crossed paths coincidently and had a great time reminiscing and getting up to date.
He never told me directly that like our mutual work friend, he was also gay. I heard it through the grape vine and at first refused to believe the rumours. He chose a rather spectacular way of coming out announcing it on a radio program explaining that he was then gay but celibate.
Over the past year I have made an effort to get back in touch with several people who were once my good friends. I suppose it’s a reflection of the reality of being in one’s twilight years. Fortunately social media has helped to accomplish reaching out to old friends and relatives. But my friend seemed to have disappeared and didn’t show up on Facebook. Google searches only brought up outdated contact information. I emailed his son asking for contact information but received no response.
Finally I tried doing another search yesterday and found his obituary complete with picture. He was a few years younger than I am so the thought that he might be dead had never entered my mind. I felt an immediate deep sense of loss that surprised me. Even after a couple of decades of no contact, I found myself genuinely mourning his passing. I remember him as a unique person who was always eager to reach out and help others. He was an effective leader and valued friend and co- worker. I feel very badly that I didn’t get a chance to see him during his prolonged illness or have the opportunity to attend his memorial service.
His obituary revealed that he eventually had a male partner for just over 20 years before his death. Although at first I was confused by word of his homosexuality, I’m relieved he found some acceptance and peace with that part of his nature later in life. I am glad for the chance to have worked closely with him and be one of the beneficiaries of his friendship.
My decision to keep private his name in this post is not because of any shyness he might have had with anything I’ve written but rather out of respect for any sensitivity of his surviving family.