Reminiscing

Posted on January 19, 2020 under Storytelling with one comment

 

 

The “Comeback Kid”? Nope

 

“Hurry don’t be late, I can hardly wait,
I said to myself when we’re old,
We’ll go dancing in the dark, walking through the park,
And reminiscing.”
Reminiscing – Little River Band

Skates, a stick and a puck and a sheet of ice.

Forty years ago, almost to the day, I blew my knee out in a hockey game, ending my illustrious (?) hockey career. It is the only thing I have in common with the greatest player of all time, Bobby Orr. Gretzky fans might dispute this last assertion. I went skating a few times in the ensuing decades but never picked up a hockey stick since then. Until yesterday.

I had been led to believe that a few of my students were to play a hockey game at the local arena here in Kangiqsujuaq at 1:00. I wandered over to the arena, a short 5-minute jaunt from my apartment, to watch them play. I arrived to find the place empty except for the custodian. The ice surface was in darkness.

“Would you like to go for a skate?” he queried. I almost said no but figured that a short skate might work off the cookies I had just eaten at home. I told him that I didn’t have skates. “You can use mine.” He escorted me to the office/equipment room. The skates were almost a perfect fit. He then produced hockey gloves, a stick and the mandatory helmet. I walked down the hallway, made a sharp left turn to the players bench and gingerly stepped onto the ice. The arena lights came on.

Just me, a pair of skates, a stick and a puck.

And then the memories flooded back.

Like most Canadians living in small towns, we learned how to skate on outdoor ponds where we swooped and soared believing that we were the embodiment of Rocket Richard, Bobby Hull or Gordie Howe. We skated until it was pitch dark and longer on moonlit nights. Our mothers might have had trouble getting us to come home to do our homework, but they didn’t have to coax us into going to bed, our energy completely depleted.

I played in the minor hockey system and progressed to playing Junior hockey for our hometown Bulldogs. My talents were modest. My coach in minor hockey, the late and wonderful Frank McGibbon once told me that my shot couldn’t break an egg. I could skate fast and pass the puck to those with gifted hands.

I suited up for the Fairview Elks senior hockey team in Fairview, Alberta for three years in the late 70s. This was during my first foray into teaching. Every home game, the rink was packed, and I felt like I was playing in the big leagues. Our team sponsor owned a fried chicken restaurant and after every game, we were treated to Ed’s finest along with a cold beer. Sometimes we ate more than one piece of chicken!

The accident happened in 1980 and my hockey days came to a screeching halt.

I noticed a few things as I made my first lap around the rink. I could blame it on the new skate technology, but it is more likely age and infirmity, but it certainly didn’t feel like hopping back on a bicycle after a lengthy hiatus. I felt awkward and unsure. We were so cocky and sure-footed in everything we did in our youth. The aging process tests our humility.

I was alone with my thoughts. As I picked up confidence, I was aware of the sound of my skates biting into the ice, that familiar sound from yesteryear. Other than that recognizable soundtrack, the arena was completely silent. “How good is this?” I thought as I tried to make a few manouevers with stick and puck. I prayed that no one was secretly videotaping this exhibition of gracelessness.

I was almost giddy with excitement, reliving my youth in a place I never dreamed of being. It was “Hockey Night in Kangiqsujuaq”.

I profusely thanked the custodian for his kindness and headed directly for the Coop store to see about buying a pair of skates.

Is a comeback in store? Not likely.

I lay on the couch reading for a few hours after supper. When I tried to get up, my body vehemently protested. Every muscle, joint, bone and organ in my body screamed at me. What they were saying isn’t fit to print. After a few feeble attempts, I made it to the bathroom and grabbed an extra strength Tylenol.

“He sleeps. He snores.”

 

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on December 30, 2019 under Storytelling with 3 comments

We’re about to close the books on another year. Like every year, there were highs and lows for all of us. Some years are better than others. Some years are worse, and some are downright awful.

While reflection and introspection play a pivotal role in end of the year discussions, the future is high on the list too.

Most of us have thoughts and dreams about what 2020 will bring. This includes some dubious “resolutions”. We promise to eat less and exercise more. This flight of fancy typically disappears around January 15th.

After the orgy of Christmas we vow to spend less. This is hardly a stretch as it will take us till March or April to pay off the bills amassed during the festive season. I might be the exception. I don’t consider myself a curmudgeon but I have much more fun raising money than spending it at this point in my life.

The list of resolutions is endless and ,while well intentioned, usually ends up in the recycling bin. We easily fall back into familiar patterns.

I have a few goals for the New Year.

I want to try and better understand the plight of our indigenous people. I am presently getting a hands on education teaching in Northern Quebec. I thought I knew quite a bit about the North but reading books, listening to speakers and watching videos is not the same as an immersion course. It’s far too early for me to draw any sensible conclusions. All I know is that the situation up North is very complicated. I love the people and the landscape but it is a far cry from the Canada that I know.

More than anything, I want to stay healthy. With good health, anything is possible.

I want to thank my loyal readers who inspire me to keep writing.

Here’s hoping that the year ahead is a good one for each and everyone of you.

 

 

 

 

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A Tribute to Tom

Posted on September 14, 2019 under Storytelling with 18 comments

Tom and his beloved dog, Oslo

 

My hero, my brother Tom, the inspiration for my Camino walk, has died.

He taught us how to live a life of passion and how to die with dignity.

Tom was a person of considerable energy and enormous empathy. Most of his life was spent in fifth gear. He had a zest for living. Whether working, volunteering, hiking or cooking, he did it with gusto. As people are wont to say, “He was all in”.

From an early age, he displayed his entrepreneurial skills by trapping muskrats and operating an ice cream stand. His work ethic was something to behold. His attention to detail in every aspect of his life left us all shaking our heads. His spreadsheets were legendary!

He and his wife Catherine loved to entertain. Getting a dinner invitation from them was something to be treasured. I often had the pleasure of hanging out in their kitchen watching this amazing tandem put their considerable cooking skills to work.

Several years ago, he received the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia’s award for distinguished service in the field of municipal administration. His family was justifiably proud but none more so than our mother who attended the ceremony, beaming with pride.

Approximately ten years ago, Tom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. The prognosis wasn’t great. In all the ensuing years we never heard him utter the words “Why me?” He faced the illness head on as he did with everything else in his life. His mantra was so telling. “I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of not living.” And oh, how he lived this last decade of his life. He made every day count. He would be very upset with me if I dared mention that he battled cancer courageously. That’s not how he viewed things. He, Catherine and their service dog, Oslo,  all volunteered at the B.C. Cancer Agency in Victoria. Even when he wasn’t feeling the best, he always reminded us that there were other people in far worse condition. I don’t know of a more selfless person.

Tom was a marathon runner, which morphed into marathon walking when his body told him to stop running. He knew every trail in Greater Victoria. Recognizing the need for water taps on these trails for both man and beast, he rolled up his sleeves and used his considerable skill and charm to convince several local municipal councils to assist with the project. He then went out and raised all the money for these unique fountains.

You can tell a lot about a person by the quality of their friends. Tom had a wide swath of really remarkable friends from all walks of life.

Tom’s beloved dog , Oslo, his loyal walking partner, died a few months ago.

A little over a year ago,with his health in decline, Tom decided to walk the Camino in Spain. Among other things, he wanted to pay homage to his best friend, Mark Taylor, who died tragically a number of years prior. Having walked the Camino myself this spring, I simply don’t know how he managed the long distance and uneven terrain. I remain awestruck at this achievement.

Earlier this year, I paid a visit to Tom and Catherine. He asked me to join him for some snowshoeing. Even with his compromised health, I had great difficulty keeping up with Tom as his long strides plowed effortlessly through the snow on a breathtakingly beautiful day on Mt. Washington.

His wife Catherine and children, Colin and Emily will miss him terribly. His siblings are bereft at his passing but the last thing Tom would want is pity. That’s not how he rolled.

A quote printed in Reader’s Digest years ago in the segment “Points to Ponder” rings true today. It describes Tom to perfection.

“Let me live until I die.”

Farewell, Tom.

 

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