Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lindsay's "After" Pictures.

Lindsay celebrating her freedom!

Her day at the groomer is over.

Her long hair is gone, her teeth are cleaner, her nails are clipped and her bum is sanitized.

But more important than all that: she is home, in her own backyard, with her family.

Until later in the summer when they decided its time to do this all over again.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lindsay's "Before" Photos

It is not an observation that is unique to me.

Perhaps this is a weight you carry too?

It is hard work being beautiful.

Especially if you've let yourself go over winter.

For the sake of warmth and comfort.

But tomorrow it's back to the Beauty Parlour to be groomed and fussed over.

Beauty is such a demanding goddess!

Monday, March 29, 2010


It was Saturday morning and my brother and I had stopped for breakfast at a small restaurant on the edge of an industrial estate. It was a clean and efficient place, open only for breakfast and lunch. The waitress was good humoured and the food was fresh and well prepared.

"Did I tell you what happened to those friends of ours from the west end, the day of mom's funeral?" Keith asked me, as the waitress poured our coffee.

We had just cleaned out the last of the furniture in mom's apartment and with her belongings sitting in the U Haul in the parking lot outside the restaurant, she was fresh on our minds.

"His mother lives here in the east end of the City. They usually visit her every two weeks and decided to drop in since they were already out here for our mom's funeral. But the door was locked when they got to his mom's place. They waited for a bit and then drove over to the nearby plaza where she shops. But there was no sign of her. They asked some of the neighbours but no one had seen her for a couple of days.

"By this time they were getting worried. So he drove back home and picked up a spare set of keys to his mom's place. It must have taken two hours to get to the west end and back. They had thought of calling the police but there were a hundred other places she could be and they weren't that worried cause his mom was in pretty good health.

"Anyway, they get inside and there's no sign of her down stairs. But when they go up to the bedroom, there she is. She's had a stroke and is barely responsive."

"But she was alive?" I asked.

"Oh yeh, she was alive. They called 911, got her to the hospital and she's doing okay physically. They're not sure how much damage may have been done cognitively.

"But the thing is, if our mom hadn't died, they wouldn't have been out here in the east end and they wouldn't have gone to visit his mother that day and she would have died. So, even though our mom was dead, she saved a woman's life."

I took a bite of the cantaloupe on my plate.

And thought about what a truly strange world this is.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sepia Saturday Mary Ann Fraser

Each week we are following the lives of members of my Great Grandfather William's family as they appear in this 1890 family portrait. Last time we focused on John Fraser (front row second from left) and this week we focus on the back bone of the family, Mary Ann (to his right).

Mary Ann Aunt Mae Fraser, originally uploaded by Anexplorer.

Mary Ann was the oldest girl in the family and was born in Inverness Scotland in 1866. As was the case for many of the oldest females in families, Mary became her mothers assistant in caring for the many children in this family and taking responsibility for much of the house hold chores.

Known as "Miss Mae" she never married but devoted her life to helping raise her parent's other children and the children of her siblings.

No sooner were her siblings raised than her brother Alex wife died leaving eleven children. Mary Ann and her parents immediately stepped in to care for them until Alex remarried and moved his family to Chicago.

Then her younger sister Isobella and Isobella's husband passed away (see next weeks post for details) and "Aunt Mae" moved on to caring for Isobella's three children.

Mary Ann passed away in 1935. Although a strict disciplinarian, she was greatly loved and her death brought together this enormous family in shared grief.

Mary Ann late in life, originally uploaded by Anexplorer.

However, perhaps significantly, we have no photo's of her smiling.


To see posts from other Sepia Saturday members (or to become one yourself) CLICK HERE

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Shoot Out Prequel

Take my hand,
I have something to show you.

Yes I know
you can manage on your own
and don't need me for support.

It's me who needs to hold onto you.

The theme for the Friday Shoot Out this week
is Bridges
and that is what we first have to cross,
because it was on the way to photograph bridges
that I made the discovery.

Right after I found
this little stream
that you cross by this single board.

Hold tight now,
my balance
isn't what it was
even a couple of months ago.

What I want to show you
is just on the other side.

a huge beaver dam.
It must be 50' to 60' long
and it has to have been there all winter,
just off the left bank of the Highland Creek.

I can't imaging
the number of hours of beaver labour
that must have gone into creating this.

And just look at the pond they've created.
Isn't it just breath taking?
Well worth a few minutes of your time.

When you step off the beaten path,
not knowing what you'll find.

To see our actual Friday Shoot Out (and to find links to the all the FSO contributors from around the world) CLICK HERE

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And The Answer Is....

".....yes, but".

First of all, I need to thank everyone for your support and advice. It was a great help in my coming to this decision. I read and thought about each of your comments and then I went back and thought more deeply about my future and where it is I now want to go with my life.

As Nolly Posh said, in her Australian way, "It's time to stop being a great patient and start being a great all round bloke." And, as so many of you pointed out, if I need a cane, or a chair, or a wheel chair to do it, well, so what? Use whatever you need to get back to living again.

A lot of my time recently has been taken up with getting my affairs in order, after some advice I got from my surgeon back in September. Last night Linda and I finalized our Wills and Powers of Attorney and had them signed at the lawyers.

So that is out of the way. I signed up for the second round of Tai Chi, but that will only take a couple of hours of my time each week. The garden will soon need some effort, but we always used to do that and work full time.

However, I do still have a few things to get sorted out and can do with a little more time to recover (to the extent that I ever will) from the side effects of Taxol, so I wrote back about the work offer, explaining my situation and letting them know I would be happy to accept their offer to do some occasional workshops in a month's time.

And if I need a cane, my father's old cane is still in the basement and if I need a wheelchair, my mother-in-law's is also packed away downstairs.

And, outside the front door, there's a life waiting for me.

Photo of Gregory House courtesy of Photobucket.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Foretelling The Future

I've had an offer of some work and I'm not certain what to do about it, since I can't predict the future.

My doctors have looked into the future but their forecasts have been decidedly vague and unhelpful, although they have placed some upper limits on my survival. But the issue isn't whether I'll be around in five years time, it's will I be available in two weeks or a month.

The work involves joining a speakers bureau and being available to lead occasional workshops, something I did routinely when I worked for a living. Leading a workshop, however, means not loosing ones balance and falling down in front of groups of people. It means having the strength to stand for hours at a time. It means not having CT Scans suddenly getting booked at the last minute at a time that conflicts with the workshop and leaving groups of people with no one to lead them.


I would really enjoy presenting the occasional workshop. I'm good at it. I enjoy talking with people. I have a knowledge base that would be a shame not to pass on. It would give me something to do.

It would mean some extra money.

But given my uncertainties, would it be fair to accept this offer?

I think I need a crystal ball.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Two For One

I'm lying naked on the kitchen table covered by a thin sheet while the large man walks slowly around me shaking his head.

The vividness of the memory is jolting, even after all these years.

Last Thursday I was having lunch with a couple of friends from work, who were not able to make my recent retirement celebration when I was given the large bell in remembrance of my 30 years at Family Service EAP. The conversation, as most of my recent conversations tend to do, had turned to medical matters and the image of me on the kitchen table had come reaching up out of the long forgotten past with considerable power.

"When I was four," I told my friends, "I had my tonsils out, at home, on the kitchen table."

"You're kidding," said Robin.

The waitress at the Marriott was busy efficiently refilling my coffee cup and checking to see if the two women are in need of anything else.

"Where was this?" Linda asked, "Did you live out in the country?" Linda is my work colleague, not yo be confused with Linda my wife. I have a lot of Lindas in my life.

"No, we lived right here in the city. In East York." I said. "I guess, for low risk surgeries, it was cheaper than doing it in the hospital."

"Good Lord," said Robin.

"I can clearly remember him checking me over before the operation, turning to my mother and saying, 'Why this boy hasn't been circumcised! That just isn't clean. He'll have terrible problems as he grows up. We'll have to do that as well.'"

"So you were circumcised and had your tonsils out on the same day, on the kitchen table?" asked Linda in astonishment.

"Well it was a near thing. There was no medical insurance in those days and my parents had to pay cash. They weren't wealthy and I think the surgery was costing them a fair bit. Come to think of it, maybe it was because of the cost that it was being done on the kitchen table instead of in the hospital. In any event, I remember quite the negotiation going on about the price."

"While you're laying there on the kitchen table?" asked Robin.

The image is alive now in my mind. I've been sick for weeks, my throat in terrible pain. I'm four years old with little understanding of everything that is taking place. Finally the doctor and my parents reach an agreement and the doctor returns to me.

"Okay, little feller," he says. "We'll soon have you fixed up. Have you ever been to the dentist?"

I shake my head.

"Well we're just going to put you out the way the dentist does when he pulls teeth. Don't worry you won't feel a thing."

And I don't.

Linda and Robin shook their heads. All around us the diners at the Marriott were chatting quietly and laughing with delight at the various amusing stories that were being told.

"Thank God for modern medicine," said Robin.

"You got that right," said Linda.

Our conversation turned to other things and sixty-three year old memories returned to the vault where they belong.

The photograph of me at the top is courtesy of Cameron MacMaster, another colleague at work as well as a professional photographer, published author and former professional dancer. Here is a LINK to some of his amazing photographs.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sepia Saturday--John Fraser

Each week we are following the lives of members of my Great Grandfather William's family as they appear in this 1890 family portrait. Last time we focused on the man himself (front row far left) and this week we move to the little boy (to his right), who would prove to be the true superstar of the family, John Fraser.

He was one of only two members of this family that I actually got to meet in person. But he wasn't an easy man to like.

John Andrew Fraser was born in Toronto in 1887 where he attended St.Michael's college. At 19 he left to study for the priesthood in Genoa Italy and was ordained on July 14,1901, the third member of his family to enter a religious vocation. Fr. Fraser worked in several Toronto parishes before sailing to Shanghai in 1902 as the first English speaking priest from North America in China as a missionary. In 1910 he left on a world tour promoting the cause of China missions through the U.S.A., Rome, Italy, Ireland, England and across Canada.

In 1918 Fr. Fraser founded English Canada's only society of Roman Catholic priests exclusively engaged in foreign mission work. It came to have 133 priests working in seven countries.

My Grandfather Charles, Msgr. John and Alexander

The mission was first named the St. Francis Xavier China Mission Seminary in Almonte. In 1921, following the death of his parents, the society moved to it's present location in Scarborough, changing its name to the Scarboro Foreign Mission Society. Its first priests left for China in 1925. Fr. Fraser stayed in China until 1949, hiding from the Communists for several years following the revolution.

He was made a Monsignor in 1932. When the communists prevented him from returning to China in 1950, Msgr. Fraser went to Japan at the age of 73 and started working there. In Nagasaki he rebuilt Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, destroyed by the Atomic Bomb.

Msgr John Fraser in China

About the Monsignor, Father Gerald Kelly writes, "...assessed from a purely natural point of view Msgr. Fraser left much to be desired. Respect and admiration he had aplenty, but of easy going, warm intimate friendship with others, none. Let us hasten to add that age, and a natural temperament conditioned by over a half a century of lonely and solitary work in foreign lands is hardly conducive to the characteristics we arbitrarily deny him....during his long years as founder and missionary he came into possession of hundreds and thousands of dollars, both for personal and mission work, he turned every cent over to the work, scrupulously recording every penny. Holidays, clothes, food, ordinary comforts, literally everything considered pleasurable beyond vital necessities of life were utterly foreign to him. A radio, the gift of priests some years ago, was found unpacked among his effects. Blessed with good health, Monsignor never missed saying mass in his life."

Father Roland Roberts writes, "When Father Fraser heard that I was thinking of buying a new suit one summer he did everything to talk me out of it. His final argument for saving the price of a suit was to take me to his room and offer me one of his old ones. Now Father Fraser was a very tall man with long legs and I am not. He thought that if I rolled up the cuffs...I suspect a short pair of stilts would have been better. I told Father Fraser I would think it over and then I ran all the way to the clothing store."

Roger Relow, SFM recalls, "Monsignor Fraser was in a very good mood and was talking animatedly when suddenly a big brown rat ran through his legs into the house....Monsignor took off after that rat at full gallop. He was well over eighty but he was running like a track star.....the rat ran out of the kitchen with Monsignor hot on his heels waving a frying pan over his head. Another dash through the house and then a noisy duel in the kitchen. From the racket that emanated from that off-stage confrontation the rat paid the price in full for his 'gate crashing'. Monsignor emerged from the kitchen a little flushed but seemingly none the worse for wear...It was just part of the daily routine."

Monsignor John Fraser, Formal Portrait

Father Hugh F. X. Sharkey also recalls an incident. In 1924 in Ching-Dee he was visiting Father Fraser in a house with no floors and the window open to the elements: "I was rooming, if you could call it that, with Father Des Stringer and we had collected some straw and had just bedded ourselves down for the night when literally hundreds of bats began to swoop and dive at us. Father stringer and I were on our feet swinging sticks and coats and whatever we could get our hands on in an effort to drive the pesky bats from the room when Father Fraser appeared in the doorway.

" 'Oh my, a few bats will never hurt you! Go to sleep and ignore them. This is all part of missionary adaptation. And what's more you're keeping me awake.'

"Well I must confess that we ignored his advise and after a time succeeded in driving the bats out of our room. Just as we were beginning to drop off we heard a great thrashing noise in the next room. When we went next door there was Father Fraser swinging frantically at the bats with a short plank. Apparently when the bat colony vacated our room they emigrated to his. I can still see Father Stringer leaning up against the wall and trying to keep a straight face as he offered some words of comfort, 'This is all part of our missionary adaptation, Father. Just go to sleep and ignore them!.'"

Msgr. Fraser died September 3, 1962. His Seminary and several Adult Education colleges around Toronto are named in his honour. His life story has been the subject of a book, a magazine series, a comic book and a television documentary.

Scarboro Missions continues to flourish and has recently received the Racial Harmony Award from the Scarborough Committee on Race Relations, special praise from Pope John Paul II for its Ecumenical work and interfaith dialogue and Swami Veda Bharati, an internationally renowned Hindu teacher from India, honoured Scarboro Missions for their interfaith initiatives.


To see posts from other Sepia Saturday members (or to become one yourself) CLICK HERE

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Fall Of Barry

Linda: (sitting in her chair in the livingroom) What was that noise?
Barry: (in the kitchen) Nothing.
Linda: (alarmed) Did you fall?
Barry: (embarrassed and annoyed) It was my toes.
Linda: (coming into the kitchen) You did fall!
Barry: Yes, but I'm alright. I lost my balance.
Linda: Your balance?
Barry: I saw a spoon on the floor and was reaching for it and lost my balance.
Linda: Because of your toes?
Barry: Because I don't have a lot of feeling left in my toes.
Linda: I thought you said your toes were getting better now you're not on chemo?
Barry: Sometimes I think they are.
Linda: But they're not.
Barry: I think it's too early to tell.
Linda: But you're not hurt?
Barry: No, I'm fine.
Linda: This time. But what about next time.
Barry: I'll just have to be more careful.
Linda: You know I worry about you?
Barry: I know. I'll be more careful. I promise.
Linda: (after a moment's pause) Did you manage to get the spoon?
Barry: (laughs) Yes I got the spoon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Swan In Irish Mythology

I heard the honking first and saw Lindsay come to a halt, tail up, ears cocked, legs rooted to the ground.

The honking sound came again.

Then a massive white bird, its long neck stretched before it, came swooping overhead. The pure sunlight of early morning played tenderly among its feathers as its great wings beat with an audible woosh. Three beats of its wings and it had crossed the small expanse of open sky above the tree tops. And was gone.

Before Lindsay even had a chance to bark.

She looked back at me as if to say, "Did you see that? Have you ever seen anything like that before?"

"Not in flight, Lins," I would have told her. "Swimming in ponds or on the lake, but never in flight like that."

It was like the soul of a Canada Goose in flight, or its ghost.

Then I thought, and where is my camera? My beautiful new camera?

Answer, safely back at home. (Don't tell Patty.)

It seemed a very appropriate day to see a swan in flight. Along with the shamrock, the leprechaun and the harp, the swan is a symbol of Ireland.
In the legend The Wooing of Etain, the king of the Sidhe (subterranean-dwelling, supernatural beings) transforms himself and the most beautiful woman in Ireland, Etain, into swans to escape from the king of Ireland and Ireland's armies. The swan has recently been depicted on an Irish commemorative coin.

On behalf of my Paternal Grandmother, Katie O'Connor, let me wish you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Photo courtesy of Photobucket.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens--Carl Jung

I seldom remember my dreams; but awoke from a strange dream (are there any other kinds?)this morning. In it I was reading a newspaper story about the Titanic and in the story the Titanic had drawings of various tall ships surrounding it, barques, schooners, brigs etc.

Apparently I was reading the story in a class of some kind and the instructor announced there was some controversy in the article regarding me and would I bring a copy of the paper to the front of the class.

And that, of course, is when I awoke.

I don't know about you, but I don't think stories that connect me to the sinking of the Titanic are, necessarily, good omens. Then again, what were all those tall ships about?

And where is Freud when you need him?

Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, March 15, 2010

Slap, Slap, Slap

Slap, slap, slap
See him walkin’ down the street

Slap, slap, slap,
Oh hear that clowny beat.

Slap, slap, slap,
Now pavement has no feeling

Slap, slap, slap,
He can’t control the reeling

Slap, slap, slap,
Chemo did it to his feet.

Slap, slap, slap,
Sidewalk and meat do meet

Slap, slap, slap,
And Lindsay thinks it’s funny

Slap, slap, slap,
He’s not fleet as any bunny

Slap, slap, slap,
Hear him walkin’ down the street

Slap, slap, slap,
Oh see those clowny feet.

The effect is moderating with time. Six months of Taxol treatments have caused a loss of feeling in the bottoms of my feet (and in my finger tips). Not a complete loss, but enough to have changed the way I walk. I noticed it most the past few days when rain forced me to take Lindsay for walks around the block instead of across the rough terrain of the meadow at the top of the bluffs. I could hear the slapping sound my feet were making against the cement and realized I was walking very flat footed.

It will be interesting to see the extent to which my gait recovers with time.

But in the meantime, this jaunty beat keep running through my head-- Slap, Slap, Slap Hear Him Walkin' Down The Street..

Image courtesy of Photobucket

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sepia Saturday--William Fraser Sr.

Each week we are following the lives of members of my Great Grandfather's family as they appear in this 1890 family portrait. Last time we focused on Johanna (back row far right) and this week we start on the front row (far left) with my great grandfather William.

This photograph of William was found in my father's wallet after his death

My Great-Grandfather, William Fraser, was born in Enzie parish, Banff, Scotland, in 1839, the son of James Fraser and Ann Green. A carpenter by trade, he appears to have travelled extensively around Scotland, perhaps in search of work that was becoming increasingly scarce, the entire country in turmoil following the Highland Clearances.

He married Joanna Chisholm and his oldest children, Mary Ann, Isobella and William, were born in Inverness where he and his wife lived on Haugh Street. In 1869 he moved his family to the Isle of Lewis where he had the contract for masonry work on the new Sheriff's Court House.

Here the family lived in Stewart-Field and had another child, James Green Fraser. Sadly James died after eleven days and was buried by Fr. John Fraser (no relation), the Catholic Priest on Stornoway.

A far cry from his appearance in the family portrait, this was William in 1920

The next year William and Joanna moved to the Isle of Sky where their next two children, Johanna and Alexander, were born. William worked as a contractor on County buildings in Portree and as a cattle dealer.

After several years on Skye he and his family immigrated to Canada in 1873 settling in Toronto.

In his 47 years in that city he worked his way up from carpenter to surveyor, builder, lecturer at the Toronto Technical School and finally, as an architect of some note, he superintended the construction of many of the city's prominent buildings including the Old City Hall, University of Toronto's Convocation Hall, many of the cities bank buildings, Harbord Collegiate and Union Station (just completed at the time of his death).

There are no photos of my great-grandparents together, so I commissioned this portrait. It hangs in my office.

He was the first vice-president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and one of the first members of St. Francis Roman Catholic Church (later St. Agnes), where his oldest son would one day be parish priest. Indeed he seems to have been a very religious man with two sons becoming priests and two daughters becoming nuns. Altogether William and Joanna had eleven children, three dying in infancy.

He was also for many years trustee for St. Stephan's Ward on the Metropolitan Separate School Board. Joanna predeceased him by six months and he was in failing health from the time of her death. He was acclaimed in the Toronto papers as a genuine pioneer of the City of Toronto.


To see posts from other Sepia Saturday members (or to become one yourself) CLICK HERE

Renee Has Found Her Wings

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of fellow blogger Renee of the Circling My Head Blog, after a long and heroic battle with cancer. She was indeed a very special lady who touched the lives of hundreds of us. And made us better people.

My thoughts are with her wonderful family who have suffered so much recently. It was an honor to know Renee and, through her, to have come to such a deep admiration for her family as well.


Linda and I are continuing to combine our efforts and jointly host a single page for our Home Town Friday Shoot Outs (FSO). And that's where you'll have to go to find our post featuring a Wrought Iron.

So come on over to see our contribution (and to find links to the all the FSO contributors from around the world)just by CLICKING HERE

See you there! And after your visit maybe you'll be tempted to join us?

Photo courtesy of Photobuscket

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Flying Bartender

The Suzuki Spring Concert at the River Run Centre in Guelph ends the Winter season for us as surely as the sighting of the first robin is the harbinger of spring.

My nine year old granddaughter is studying Violin at the Suzuki school, and Linda and I attend her concert every year. But thoughts of the concert always remind me of the flying bartender back in 2009.

I treat my daughter and her family to dinner the evening before the concert, and that year we went to the 50 West Restaurant in our hotel.

Unfortunately, a party of 40 had turned up just before us and the maitre d' had warned us that service would be a little slower than usual.

We hadn't counted on dinner taking 3 hours, mind you, or that the harried staff would put on such an amazing show of slap stick.

First our waiter, a good humoured man who took the time to tease our two grandchildren, couldn't get the cork out of the wine bottle. He huffed and he puffed and he grimaced and he groaned and he darn near caused himself a hernia, but still the cork wouldn't budge.

So he apologized and hurried off saying he needed the help of someone bigger and stronger.

From my vantage point I could see that that "someone" turned out to be the 20 year old bartender who couldn't have weighed more than 100 lbs if she'd been soaking wet. But she got the cork out in 2 seconds flat.

The waiter returned to our table with a face saving story of having had the cork removed by Bruno a 300 lb weight lifter they kept on staff for just such emergencies.

Meanwhile behind him, two other waiters rushing to serve the large party, collided, with drinks and food and waiters flying everywhere.

The little, but efficient, cork popping, bartender came hurrying over to help them, but hit a patch of slippery food and she went flying too.

No one was hurt, but it set the tone for the evening.

Eventually, the chief came out of the kitchen to apologize for the delay and sent a second bottle of wine to our table. He also sent over a peanut butter and jam sandwich to my, then, five year old grandson who was getting a little restless, two hours into the delay.

As the Chef was exiting stage right, the maitre d' entered to our left. He also apologized for the delay and he also sent over a bottle of wine. On the House.

Later, the waiter told us he had deducted our desserts from the bill to make up for the delay. I began day dreaming that if we were there any longer, the entire meal might end up free.

And maybe our room at the hotel as well.

But, alas, they were not that sorry.

However, it made for a memorable evening, rescued by the good humour of our waiter and our own delight in the absurd.

And the desserts and the two bottles of wine also helped.

Notre Dame of Guelph Pictures, Images and Photos

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What America Needs Most

Americans don't know it, but they are a country in need. Oh, of course they are the most powerful and affluent country in the world, but that doesn't mean they have everything, or enough of everything.

Sadly America is lacking.

Specifically, and unfortunately, they are in dire need of more coffee shops. Yes coffee shops. It is just not enough that they already have one on each corner (and some times two or more). How do you expect a country to survive when faced with such deprivation?

Besides, how many of those coffee shops are Canadian? Why hardly any!

But never fear, my American friends, Tim Hortons is coming to your rescue (no need to thank us).

Tim Hortons is preparing to test drive a new upscale restaurant format in the United States and broaden its North American product line as part of a three-year expansion plan that will include the opening of about 900 new stores.

Yes, we are about to share our Tims with you. Just mention the sacred name and Canadian eyes light up. How generous can a nation be?

I have to admit, we Canadians are not known for romance. If someone were to ask you to name the most romantic people on earth, Canadians would not immediately come to mind. Might not even make it onto your list as a postscript.

"Nice people" yes we would be near the top of your list. "Polite", "clean", "nice neighbours", okay you got us.

If you're ever in a fight, a couple of our hockey players would be handy to have around. But women seldom dream of toothless lovers.

If you need comedians for the Hollywood grist mill, Jim Carey, Martin Short or Mike Myers will do just fine. They'd be fun to have at a party, but they're not romantic. Oh Hollywood did its best to make us romantic, with those singing Mounty/beautiful Indian maiden movies back in the thirties. But the Canadian Mounted Police don't dress in those red surge jackets any more, they don't ride horses and they sure don't sing. If you get stopped for a ticket in Alberta, they'll look like any other cop in North America. And the same old, same old isn't romantic.

That's what makes it so strange that the entire population of Canada should have fallen in love, deeply passionately in love. We stand in the freezing cold just for a glimpse, a taste, of the ardour of our affection. This is more than love. This is romance on a grand scale.

With a chain of donut restaurants.

Cue Enya, dim the lights, we are about to name the object of our affection: Tim Hortons

Just listen to what Wikipeadia has to say:

"Tim Hortons Inc. is a coffee-and-doughnut fast food restaurant chain. Founded in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1964, the store rapidly expanded across Canada to become the country's largest quick-service food chain.

"Tim Hortons franchise stores are plentiful in Canadian cities and towns. As of July 1, 2007, there were 2,733 outlets in Canada, 345 outlets in the United States and one outlet just outside Kandahar, Afghanistan. Tim Hortons has supplanted McDonald's as Canada's largest food service operator; it has nearly twice as many Canadian outlets as McDonald's, and its system-wide sales surpassed those of McDonald's Canadian operations in 2002. The chain accounted for 22.6% of all fast food industry revenues in Canada in 2005. Tim Hortons commands 76% of the Canadian market for baked goods (based on the number of customers served) and holds 62% of the Canadian coffee market (compared to Starbucks, in the number two position, at 7%)."

Have sweeter words ever been spoken? Can you not feel our hearts beating. Our soldiers in Afghanistan could not exist without Tim Hortons and our troops wrote enough pleading letters to the restaurant chain that they opened a store on our military base in Kandahar province.

And Tim Horton, the man for whom the entire chain is named, was a hockey player.

If you want to find romance in Canada, just go to any Tims and look for the line-up that stretches from the counter out the door into the cold frigid morning.

We are not afraid to suffer for our love. And, it seems, we are also not afraid to share it with our friends. You've outgrown us Tim, and now we must share you with the world (sob).

Have pity on us, we're Canadians.

And enjoy your Tim Hortons coffee when a store opens next to you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Bells Rang But A Question Remained

The question that remained was, can we confirm that it is safe to discontinue chemo at this point.

My previous two CT Scans suggested no further spread of the disease, would last week's scan show the same result?

Despite a "code red" at the hospital, I had made certain that that confirming scan had taken place.

And today I waited at the hospital for the results. And waited.

I arrived at the hospital at 9:00 for blood work and then was in the oncologists waiting room at 10:45 for my 11:00 appointment.

As usual she was extremely busy but today particularly so, and it wasn't until 1:15 in the afternoon that I finally got in to see her.

As usual the news she had for me was mixed.

So first the two pieces of good news. There has been no sign of any progression of the cancer in either my bones or esophagus. No sign anywhere of enlargement in my lymph glands, so it is finally confirmed, I will be having NO CHEMOTHERAPY FOR AT LEAST THE NEXT 3 MONTHS.

The second piece of good news, the general weariness and lack of strength I've been experiencing in my legs, is not due to either the cancer or the Taxol. It is a side effect of the steroids they have been pumping into me prior to administering the Taxol. Taking a break from chemo will dramatically help with this as well.

The bad news is that last week's scan detected something in my lungs. Most likely it is a radiation burn from the five continuous weeks of daily radiation I received last summer. If so, it is very small, not interfering with my breathing in any way and will not get worse. May even repair itself to some degree.

However, it could also be the first signs of a spread of the cancer to one of my organs. At this point it is impossible to tell which it is. All that can be done is to keep an eye on it and if it seems to be spreading, do a biopsy.

And if it seems to be receding, order a magnum of champagne!

But there is nothing that can be done or will be done for the next three months, except for me to take a complete break from all things medical and try to figure out what to do with a life that doesn't involve any hospital tests or hospital treatments or irritating rashes or crushing weariness or the loss of feeling in my fingers and feet. Maybe even see how much of that lost feeling I can regain.

Perhaps now I can get back to doing the things I used to enjoy.

So let me think, what was it I was doing a year ago before I was so rudely interrupted?

Monday, March 8, 2010

The One Eyed, One Kneed, Left Handed Vegetarian

We came in stately procession but left as individuals, no longer united in our grief.

Over 100 people attended my mother's funeral but only immediate family accompanied her to the graveside on the still snow covered, and dangerously slippery, cemetery hill.

Here, final prayers were said as we clung to each other to maintain our footing.

We each left a rose with Rosanna and stood, for a moment, alone with our memories, before the Minister thanked us all for coming and announced the conclusion of the formal service. Then she and the funeral director gingerly descended the hill to the black limousine that had led us here.

While we were at the graveside, the limo driver, who waited for them, had removed the funeral signs from all of our cars. On the way back to the funeral home the director would stop and leave the huge family bouquets in the lobby of the Retirement Home where mom had lived for the past several years.

"Well," my oldest daughter said to me, approvingly, "She's with Poppa again."

Soon only one person is left beside the grave, alone with tears she had held back for so long, refusing to leave her Nana until the grave had been properly filled in.

For a while my brothers and I stand vigil with her, standing beside our cars at the bottom of the hill. We discuss many things, including meeting for coffee at a nearby restaurant.

And then, as the maintenance truck from the cemetery arrives to begin filling in the grave, I get behind the wheel of our car and pull away from the snow covered hill into the spring like weather and greening grassy plains of the vast cemetery.

Leaving behind the "one eyed, one kneed, left handed vegetarian", as my mother had recently taken to calling herself, together again with her husband Bill.

My father.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sepia Saturday--In Remembrance (part 2)

I'm taking a step back from my normal Sepia Saturday focus on the Fraser's this week to remember my mother whose funeral is today, Saturday March 6th. I can't think of a more fitting time for reflecting on her life. What follows is the second part of a very abbreviated version of an autobiography she wrote for me back in 1989. Please see The FSO post for part one.

Rosanna the Nanny

After graduating, I worked as a Nanny for a family in Carshalton. And then for the wife of an English Major. Their house in Hindhead was on the grounds of Amesbury Boys Private School. Peter, the son of Field Marshall "Monty" Montgomery attended Amesbury School and on one "Field Day" Monty visited and I was introduced to him.

The wife of the Gym Instructor at the school had opened her home to some Canadian Soldiers and five of them roomed there. That was where I met Bill. I had the mistaken impression that he was married. But Pat the 12 year old daughter soon put me straight and our first date was at a wedding reception for a comrade of his who was marrying an English girl in Hazelmore.
On my next day off, he said he couldn't take me out as he was to be Best Man at the wedding of a friend. That turned out to be Al and Phyllis!!

Rosanna's Wedding Photo

We went to St. Albans on our Honeymoon and when I came out of the bathroom, that evening, I found Bill on his knees saying the "rosary". He was Catholic and I was Protestant, so I had no idea what he was doing. When I asked him he said he was doing his penance for having married me! So I threw my slipper at him!

Despite that, Barry was born just over a year later.

Rosanna and Bill On Their Honeymoon

After the war, we resided in East York where John, Malcolm, and Keith, were born. We then moved to West Hill where we were blessed with a grandson, Mark (who carries on the family name) and three granddaughters, Katherine, Heather, and Sherrie (all of whom have also become vegetarians).

Rosanna and Family Visit Sr. St. John

After Bill’s death I met Al again and learned that his wife Phyl had passed on. Eventually Al and I married and that is how Norm entered the family as one of my son’s as well.

Fate has a strange way of working, hasn't it!


To see posts from other Sepia Saturday members (or to become one yourself) CLICK HERE

Friday Shootout--In Remembrance

The Friday My Home Town Shoot Out theme this week is "In Remembrance", a topic chosen by ChefE. Saturday being my mother's funeral I can't think of a more fitting time for reflecting on her life. What follows is part one of a very abbreviated version of an autobiography she wrote for me back in 1989. Tomorrow Sepia Saturday will feature part 2

My name is Rosanna and I was born in Mitcham, England to Captain George Shepherd and Rosanna Staines. I have a sister, Eileen and a brother, Ted. We first lived in rooms over the Star Pub which was owned by my grandfather then later moved to London Road.

Back in those days there was no electricity and I loved to sit in the window in the front room and watch for the lamp lighter to come along to light the street lamp opposite, and beside the Pawn Shop, with it's three brass balls hanging beside the door. When my brother Ted was born and Eileen and I were a little older, my dad divided our bedroom into two rooms so that Ted had a little room of his own.

Our first home was in rooms over the Star Pub

We grew up next to a butcher shop which had all these the poor animals outside waiting for slaughter and was such a sad experience that I have been a vegetarian all my life.

Rosanna age 20

My parents first home was heated with a Valour Perfection lamp and our bed was heated with a brick that had been heated in the oven and wrapped in a towel. There was no bathroom but we did have a flush toilet only it was downstairs and outside. On one fine day my mother restained the toilet seat but forgot to tell dad who sat on it while it was still wet and ended up stuck to it. Mom had to use turpentine to separate the toilet from his bottom.

"Up The Yard" The Shepherd Smithy

Eileen, Ted and I use to play "up the yard" where dad, Grandfather Shepherd, and uncle Fred worked. The forge in the blacksmith shop was lovely on a cold winter’s day, especially when we were old enough to jump up and reach the bellow's handle.

Eileen, Rosanna and Mary

On one occasion, we three children played "wedding". Lana wore a white lace curtain, Ted was the groom and I played the horse who pulled them in a wooden wagon that dad had made for us. Incidentally, many, many years later, when I "developed my female anatomy" my siblings called me "three brass balls". Another nickname I had in school was "steamroller".

However I was a pretty good student and became head prefect for a couple of years. Being England it was, of course, an all girl's school and I once played the lead in our school's production of Hiawatha.

Rosanna (center stage) as Hiawatha in her School's Production

I was reading a novel recently in which the characters move to Bundaberg, Australia. One character asks another what there is in Bundaberg, and is told that it was the home of the famous aviator Bert Hinkler. The name leaped off the page at me, because I had met Bert. Twice a year my family would go to visit cousins Henry and Maggie Staines in Lympne. They lived in a bungalow named "Ingleside" next to the airport and Bert Hinkler use to room with them.

When he wanted to go flying, he would just jump over their backyard fence and walk across the field to his plane. I was about 5 years old at the time and Bert had the first radio I had ever heard. You had to wear ear phones to hear anything and he would let the children listen. Bert was famous as the first man to fly from England to Australia. He died a few years later, in the mountains around Florence Italy, attempting to recreate the trip.

Continued tomorrow......