The New Frontiers: Repeats, Reunions and Restorations…

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive. It’s pretty dense kids who haven’t figured that out by the time they’re ten…. Most kids can’t afford to go to Harvard and be misinformed.”  ― Kurt Vonnegut

Before I go on, I’m still not going to post any pics for the foreseeable future.  Outside of their first names, I want the kids to still have a measure of privacy.  I am writing this with their full knowledge and permission, but I am now trying to be a little more restrained due to circumstances.

Well, it’s happened.  I’ve met my “kids”, and in all honesty, I still don’t know what to think.  The first meeting I had in mind kinda went awry, as WestJet inexplicably flew well over 90+ minutes late.  Add processing and the rest, and my late but still ok 9-something pm landing suddenly became one that happened a little before midnight.  Needless to say, by the time I I got out of the gates, the kids were absolutely exhausted.  Given that Terry had to get back for lunch and dinner service in Whistler the next day, the meeting I wanted to have with them both together pretty much was blown out of the water.  Georgia just went home, and we would find a time to later meet.

Terry

Terry stayed over in Vancouver that night, and met me for a pretty early 6:30am breakfast in a Chinese café-bakery.  (By the way, highly recommend New Town Bakery on E Hastings, it was simple, inexpensive, hot and simply rocked.)  In the brief hour or so that we talked, he was simply a joy.  Obviously a child of the 00’s, his Star Wars was Anakin Skywalker and the Clone Wars.  Linkin Park was his Sting and the Police and he never even heard of The Doctors 1 thru 8.  He’s bright, analytical and determined to be a chef no matter what.  He’ll make it, I have no doubt.  But he’s also a little awkward socially.  His focus on his craft has made him appear to be a little cold, even aloof to an extent.  Still, once you do get to know him, you can’t help but respect him.

Georgia

On Saturday, I had went out to meet an old friend I had never met face to face in 15 years.  It was fun, exciting and a grand old trot down memory lane.  But as all good things, it had to end a little early as I had promised a friend to pick up some Dragon’s Beard Candy from the Richmond Night Market.  On my way there, I noticed a text from Georgia, who was already there and we agreed to meet.

Remember, until this weekend, all of my communications with the kids have been entirely on the phone or via the net.  Everyone has a persona they assume online, whether it be one that’s daring, brave, meek or silent.  But in person… ah, there’s the rub.  The cute little 8 yr old girl I remember is a very different 18 year old girl, and one that I bet her mom would have tore her hair out over.

It’s not that Georgia is a bad girl, or some wild child who drives parents to drink.  It’s that she’s so very much her mother’s daughter.  I see so much of my old love in her, and so many of the special qualities that made me so charmed and enamoured even now over 3 decades.

Georgia is smart and clever, quick witted and open.  She is a caring, loving blossoming woman who you can’t help but fall in love with from the start.  She keeps the same insane schedule that her mom did at this age, with most of her days already prescheduled weeks to months in advance.  It’s that drive that made her mom such a star to UBC, and when properly focused, will make Georgia a contender in the days to come.  The problem is that just like her mom, she wears her heart on her sleeve, and is incredibly pig headed.  Terry told me that once she’s made a decision, it takes a small miracle to make her reconsider.  Like me, she has a flair for the dramatic, and makes life changing decisions at a whim as she will follow her heart.  And more importantly, she has a sense of justice based on her own beliefs and is quite willing to defends those decisions to the death.

Unfortunately, this has led her to three decisions that I wonder how much came from me (somehow) and how much came from my old love.

– After reading “The Days” and finding out so many things about her bio dad, and my deep unusual relationship with her mom, she’s stopped talking to him now altogether.  She assures me that she came to this decision herself, but I can’t help but feel that I’ve traumatized her with the truth.  Problem is that, what choice did I really have as well?  I wasn’t about to lie to protect the false reasons why I was abandoned the kids after the death of their mom, or my complicated feelings for her even after all of these years.  Nevertheless, it’s been months since she has had more than a 3 word conversation with her dad, and I feel so horribly personally responsible for this.

– She’s about to get married in a few months, about the same age when my old love and I had once considered the future together.  Worse, it looks like her taste in men is about the same.  Her fiance was working at the Richmond Night Market (hense the timing), and he’s CHINESE.

– She’s asked ME to be the one to give her away.  She sees it as things going full circle, and that I was supposed to be her dad.  I am honored that she asked me, but it feels quite honestly wrong in a lot of ways.  I don’t deserve this pedestal.  I was with her mom in a quasi lost love relationship for over 7 years. Her real dad raised her for most of her 18 years.  He has cared for her, loved her, and sacrificed so much for her that I can never ever repay.  This is his spot, and his honour not mine.

Now let’s get back to where this mess is about to lead.  I’m not going to comment much on her fiance for now, since I really don’t know the guy at all.  All I know is that he’s from Shanghai, studied in western schools and is 24 years old. I have no idea if he’s getting his citizenship, or if he’s even a landed immigrant.  He speaks english with a bit of an british / chinese accent, and apparently works at that market on the weekends.  He seems to genuinely care for Georgia, but I can’t get over the fact that they started seeing one another only months ago…. and now marriage???

I haven’t had time to really think this all through, but this feels so wrong.  I’m trying to respect her decision, but now I think I have to be her father to try to talk sense as she’s presently lacking one right now.  She won’t talk to me at all abotu how her dad is, and what are his thoughts.  I’m actually a bit surprised that he even let Georgia move out at this age for that matter, assuming he even had a choice.

I’ve gotten advice from a few friends here and there, but I still have to think for now. I can tell already that my wife is going to have some problems with Georgia, which is another consideration I’m will have to factor in. So many lives, so intertwined in the decisions I soon will have to make, and all from a single desperate moment based on an ill-conceived haphazard plan. Wow. If there is some sort of afterlife, I can just imagine my old love just looking on in total puzzlement and disappointment.

But there is one thing for certain… I promised someone special and dear to me that I would always be there to strive to be their father, mentor and friend.  I promised her that I would always be there to try to guide them on a path that would find them their own happiness, and to avoid the mistakes that my old love and I made that will always haunt me.

“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” – Margo Channing, All About Eve

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The New Frontiers: Countdown, Last Thoughts, and the Calgary Flood of 2013

This is a quickie add-on.  As you all know, I’m am now literally hours away from seeing my kids.  But, I’m having some mild guilt as well right now.  As you all have probably been watching on the news, my city Is being hit by one of the largest floods ever experienced.

Right now, Sled Island, Enbridge Ride for Cancer, Banff Marathon, Pacekids Run, and many many more events have been cancelled.  Even worse, the Trans-Canada Highways and the related rail lines have been totally washed out near Canmore.  As such, many of the supplies that keep Calgary stocked in cheap Chinese manufactured products, fruits, vegetables (I mean the green leafy types, not the BC liberal and green politicians), and so on will be in short supply for weeks to come.

A LOT of my friends in the social media world and more have been doing their best to help, or will help if the waters recede enough to allow a clean up.  But I can’t be there. I’ve been waiting over 9 years for this moment tonight with my kids, and a bit longer also to meet a dear friend as well.  So yes, I feel like I’m abandoning my town in it’s time of need right now.

I’ll be back Sunday night.  There’s going to be a LOT of cleanup to come, so I’ll get my chance to help and pitch in.  But sigh… it’s a lot to see.  For my friends, I’ll be there Monday on.  Stay safe, and be the best our city can be.

Now back to my kids.  Nerves and all have more or less faded.  I’ve been worried about this for so long, that I’ve decided to just give in to the inevitability and see where it all ends up.  Right now, I know that my “son” will be there, but now there’s a complication that my “daughter” won’t be.  Her grandmother has given her a “it’s me or him” ultimatum, and this can’t be easy for her.  If she makes it, she does.  I’ll always do my best to be there for her from hereon.

That’s pretty much it for now. To my fellow Calgarians, do your best and take care. I’m doing what little I can right now before I leave, and my best wishes to you all when I leave my post tonight.

To my kids. I’ll see you soon.  To Xan, so looking forward.  To Vancouver, to the challenge.

Fortes Fortuna Juvat.  Fortune Favours the Bold. My love to you all.

Rants on Faith: Why are some atheists so angry at religion?

A few weeks back, I read this letter from Timothy Havener, the son of a Fundamentalist Christian minister and an atheist.  And what he wrote here brought my feelings in recent years to light.

As a child, I was a devout Catholic, going to morning mass, serving as a Pastoral reader, the Church Choir, and even aspired to religious service.  As I got older though, and strangely thanks to the Jesuits who asked me to really think about why I believed, I found myself falling completely out of faith altogether and into a place where I feel deep inside where I should have been a long time ago.  But despite it all, I still find myself being drawn to a almost militant fervour in my rejection of religion, even as I am so dedicated to growing as a citizen of my city and country. But I still didn’t quite understand why I was so angry at religion as a whole, and the Catholic Church in particular.  Mr. Havener, in this letter of realization of himself, explains it so well as he, and so many other of my fellow atheists, have found themselves in the same place.  It’s betrayal.  I could say more… but I think I’ll let Mr. Havener explain it all himself:

Since I have become an atheist there is a growing anger inside me that sometimes flowers into a quiet, and other times not so quiet, rage. Theists and even some atheists do not seem to understand this emotion, or they trivialize it. Even I have not fully understood this causal effect of my deconversion. I know that I am angry about the lost years of my life wasted on delusions of grandeur and superstitious nonsense, but I have felt that was not really an accurate depiction of the deep emotional undercurrents I have experienced coming out of faith.

As a child, I remember that I loved to help people. My parents would often take me with them as they ministered to the sick, the elderly, and the needy. I was taught to love people as Jesus loved them. When I grew older my human compassion and empathy was filtered through a world view that instructed me to preach self condemnation and guilt as love. After all, if you truly loved your fellow man, you would do anything to prevent their eternal soul from burning in torment forever. So, I became a missionary to spread the ‘good news’ to those who needed the salvation of Christ. This became my mission in life and it consumed me.

When the walls of indoctrination started to crumble in my later years, I began to feel a sense of panic and fear. Fear that my mind was betraying me and that Satan was tempting me away from the Lord. At the same time I felt a drive to seek the truth fervently as I had been taught to do. This love for ‘truth’ and understanding had taken an unexpected detour to a place I never thought I would find myself. I would wrestle in prayer for hours in tears alone in the dark, pleading with a God who was never there. There were nights when I would wake up in cold sweats as if I could feel the fires of hell licking my feet.

After a while, when the fear and guilt subsided, I saw much more clearly what exactly religion had done to me. It had taken the innocence of a child who wanted to love and help people, and twisted me into a pawn to perpetuate its lies and fear. Worst of all, it made me think that this was love. I was taught that only through Christ could I experience true love for others. I was told my own heart was corrupted by the curse of sin I had inherited from Adam. When I would feel compassion and love for the afflicted I would always attribute these feelings to God and give credit to him.

This is where my anger truly comes from.

That love and empathy I felt was always me. The goodness I expressed toward others was always my own compassion and understanding. Religion was taking my identity as a person and the goodness in me, and using it to make itself stronger. But it did not stop there, it twisted the best qualities of my human nature and perverted it to spread a message of fear and lies to those most vulnerable to indoctrination. Looking back, it was if someone had stripped me of who I was and replaced it with a shell of a person.

The biggest betrayal was when I started to really look at the God in whom I placed my trust. The stories in the Bible revealed a psychopathic monster, not a loving father. The message of salvation became insulting to me. Why should I need redemption from such an awful, horrible creature who would slay infants and pregnant mothers because his feelings were hurt. I felt a level of betrayal that reached to the darkest corners of my mind and at the same time felt like I was betraying everyone who I had ever looked up to.

Christians only serve to compound this anger when they attempt to explain away the horrid aspects of Christian faith with nonsensical psychobabble or cherry picking verses. They seem to think that I was somehow flawed and never really a Christian when the truth is I believed more passionately than most of them. I do try to understand that they are just as deluded as I once was, but when you experience such a profound sense of betrayal that comes from seeing your faith with the eyes of reason, it can be an emotionally brutal ordeal that opens up scars you never even knew you had.

The sunlight of reality hurts when you step out of the darkness of ignorance and superstition, but that pain pales in comparison to what that light reveals when you can finally see what you did as a believer and what was done to you. That realization leaves you with an unrelenting anger that burns with a passion hotter than the fires of any imaginary hell. This same compassion that drove me to be a missionary now drives me in my anti theism. I seek to tear down the lies of religion so that not one more child will have to go through the emotional torment I experienced. No one deserves that…no one.

-Timothy Havener

The New Frontiers: Courage, Children, Comical Circumstances and Catastrophes

It’s been weeks since I touched on the aftermath events since writing the Days Before Tomorrow.  Where I left off, the kids and I had made arrangements to meet at the airport on Friday the 21st where they can finally have a chance to see their would be father, or at least what they once called cool Uncle Terry.  Weeks since I gave the kids the total story of the events that led to their mother falling in love with me, and the catastrophic reactions that has led to the very unusual circumstances we all find ourselves today.

Since then, the countdown has only become smaller.  Time has creeped up on all of us, and there’s only scant days left before I see my kids again.  And yes, I still see and believe them in so many ways to be at least partly mine.  As I learn more about them, I see so much of their mother in them, and how she must have tried to inject a bit of me into them despite genetics and distance.

T is 20 (almost 21 soon), and he’s studying to be a chef.  To put it bluntly, their mom was never a particularly good cook admittedly.  She was skilled in so many ways, such as a keen analytical mind, great dexterity on the volleyball court and a musicality on the piano and cello that had to be seen to be believed.  One of my fondest memories in fact, is when we just quietly played a musical duet with her cello and my flute in a Montreal park one night.

Their dad has a great mind for organization, but he’s not much of a cook himself.  But I’ve been a foodie and home cook every since my teens, and I’m betting that T’s own skills and goals must have been in some way influenced by their mom and me.

G is studying to go to law school.  She possesses an empathy that goes well beyond her young years, and an equally keen mind that can bring truth from shadows with laser like precision.  I’m getting close to her in many ways, as I’ve always wanted a daughter of my own, and I’ve inspired her to follow and complete the footsteps her mother started all those years ago.  My first love never did finish that law degree, and I hope that G can finish that path, or if not that one, then any path that finds her happiness and love.

But my wife was right in one thing… I should have said a bit less when I wrote the Days.  I was so concerned to give the kids the full story, that I didn’t give a proper analysis of the consequences.

Damn.   I really am rusty as an economist.  A good economist can find trends and patterns in the present and the past, and recommend a course of action.  A great economist can take that same data, recommend a course, but also predict the unknown results to the best of anyone’s ability and be ready for the consequences.  I once thought I might’ve had the basics to be a great one, but not having used those mental muscles for so long, I guess I’m just a 1/2 decent one.  Where the heck does all this past paragraph fit in?  Well….

The kids have stopped talking to their dad and their grandmother.  Those two found out that 2 of the pillars of their family life was partially built on lies, and have taken it out on their dad.  They didn’t know about the no contest over custody when their mom and dad divorced.  They didn’t know about the restraining order about me.  That and the whole story on how she and I loved and lost… and they’ve had a LOT to think about over the months.

It probably also didn’t help much that I told the both of them to take their time and try to focus on school and so on.  Both of them had this burden of truth placed upon them just before school finals and so on, which was bad timing on my part.  But now that’s all done, and we’re about to enter a new adventure.

Where am I?  Terrified really.  I’ve loved these two ever since their mom made me their godfather (despite my relatively near total lack in faith strangely enough).  What if I’m not what they envisioned me to be?  Despite the blog and calls, at the end, they still fundamentally have the mind’s image of me from the viewpoint of a 11 yr old boy and a 8 yr old girl.   Do I have a place in their lives?  Do I even have a right to even BE in their lives?  So many doubts, and so many fears and worries.  But I broke my promise to their mom once to be a part of their lives and to be like a father to them.  This is my second chance… and whether they want it or not is entirely up to them.

So with that all now mentioned, I’m going to be a bit self-indulgent and write the following directly to T&G:

Kids. I’m not your dad. I wanted to be your dad, but it just wasn’t to be.  You HAVE a dad.  He was there when you first spoke, your first steps, and your first McD Happy Meal.  Despite a lapse in judgement, he loves you both deeply and has been there and raised you where I couldn’t.  So cut the guy a break, please?  Forgive him?  Because in the end, no matter what, he’s your true family who has looked over you and protected you over your entire lives.  And I will always thank him for that.  Today of all days, FATHER’S DAY, it’s a good day to mend these fences and be a family again.  This is your cool Uncle Terry ordering you and I’ll bribe ya with sushi if it helps the process (kidding… the sushi’s mine… you can have a Japadog though). 

Remember, your mom did love him, as much as she did me.  And you two wonderful kids are the results of that love.  I couldn’t be prouder to have been a part of even a moment of your growth, but it’s in large part due to him.  I love you both, and see you soon, but give him a call now or I’ll kick your asses in the airport.  Love, Terry

Ok, as for those of you following this saga… more to follow very very soon.

Fortes Fortuna Juvat.  Fortune Favours the Bold. Wish me luck.

Rants on Faith: Why Are We Celebrating The Wrong Person at the End??

For any Christian family members who may read this, you may want to look away because I know I’m going to upset you.  You’ve been warned.

A week ago, I attended the funeral of a friend and co-worker of my wife. I didn’t know her very well, but she was a kind person, one who believed in her friends and family.  She was one who was overjoyed about her new baby, her civil law husband, and the community that she contributed to as a whole.  And most importantly to her, and many of her friends and family, she was a devoted catholic, almost to the point of zealous.  As I understand it, she was someone who had been looking for something that would fulfill her need in something greater than herself.

All of that is fine and well.  As those who’ve read my rants about faith in the past, I have found that faith in a higher being is something that brings happiness and comfort to a lot of people.  It’s something that I myself was once apart of, before I started to see past what I perceive and believe are simply illusions and parlour tricks.  But no matter my own feelings on the matter, if people want to still believe and follow mythology, it’s their choice.  I just refuse to support the illusion anymore, and will simply remain silence when encountered in situations where I’m surrounded by the needless ritual.

It was in this exact situation, that I found myself accompanying my wife at the funeral.  That in itself is not unusual, as this was supposed to be a celebration of her life despite disease and adversity.  Instead, I literally found myself getting angrier and angrier as each moment passed.

First, there were a number of speeches about her.  The first was a fairly straightforward retelling of the points on her life bit by bit.  A bit dull, but at least you get an idea of her history.  But then came the next speech, and a video and so on… and so my anger rose.

Each speech, the music theme for the video, the little mentions of her history and the highlights of her life, were not so much celebrated as almost ignored and even belittled.  And worse, virtually everyone in that room saw that that was absolutely natural.  You see, the event ceased to be a celebration of her life, but a great thank you to the God almighty for afflicting her with a fatal disease and to just casually take her life just after having given birth.   There wasn’t really any mention on how she was a loving mom, or a good friend, just praise be to Him for giving and taking life away for what seems to be totally arbitrary reasons ranging from “only He knows” to “what the hell, why not.”

I was reminded by my wife that this was her friend’s belief, and that of her community, and as it wasn’t my place to say anything, I just sat and remained quiet the entire time.  And as I was watching it continue, moment by moment, I just couldn’t help but look at this as a travesty and a disservice to the memory of her friend.

It’s been days since then, and as I looked back on my own life, I started to think about all of the funerals I’ve been to over the years and realized I was looking at a mirror.  Both my grandmothers’ funerals.  The odd teacher and so on… and I wonder, was I that oblivious?  And I really have only one answer… probably.  I was quite devout as a kid, and still had some modicum of belief even 3-4 years back.  But now I’m also ever more determined to reject religion altogether as well.

After a few years of being lazy, I’ve begun to rewrite my will, as well as a living will for once.  I’m also going to have to explain this to my family later this year, as they’re very much the devout Catholics.  If anything I’ve done since my rejection of religious faith is going to upset them, it’s probably going to be this…. that should there ever be a service of some sort because something’s happened to me, I don’t want a priest of any sort to get 1,000 miles of me unless he’s a personal friend.  I reject the Catholic Church, the Christian faith as a whole in life, and I see absolutely no distinction in that in death.  If there’s any service of any sort, it’s going to be a celebration of my friends and family, and bits of their interaction with me, but anyone who even thinks of praising God or Jesus instead of themselves, for the people they are for making me someone who believes in civic duty and familial love, they had better keep it to themselves.  I would honestly find that someone thanking God for me being in their lives, or for the way I believe in my family and friends as God or Jesus’ way, as a complete and total insult to myself, and to everyone I love.

Why the hell are we passing the credit to some mythical being that may or may not have ever existed?  We create the world we live in, and we are the ones who interact and love and live with one another.  Why do we want to strengthen the image of that greater being and a Church or faith of some sort, instead of giving credit where credit is really due, that is with one another.  There’s a classic saying, it takes a village to raise a child,  I find that so much in line with my own beliefs and my causes.  And at the end, it’s those people who made me the person I am who I would want celebrated, not God, Zeus, Odin or The Easter Bunny.

After all, in the end, wouldn’t you want to be remembered for the person you are, and not that you were some mindless automaton that just followed a faith blindly and that every action you’ve taken of note was of your own undertaking?  That every one of your triumphs was because you had the drive, the spirit and the guts to achieve it?  Stop giving credit to some unknown spirit of the sky,  Give the credit to whom in belongs to… yourselves.