Memories from My Youth – Her Pilgrim Face

I will be returning to the ongoing saga that is my stepchildren and eventually to some of the more interesting cases I had been involved in. My daughter is now in a different quandary, while my son seems to have found his place. But today, as the first snow hits Calgary, this event in my life came to mind, and it was time this story was told.

I hate those days when you’re walking into a wind so fierce that the snow and the rain fly sideways. Days that the wind bites deep, and the skin of your face turns ice-cold. Days like that one long ago, where I was old enough to feel invulnerable and confident. One particular day, when I met her.

I was trudging along Sherbrooke St in my beloved home of Montreal on a miserable February afternoon.  I was just blocks away from the closest Metro station, but it may as well have been miles away based on what I was feeling. Icicles had literally started to form on my eyebrows as the snow melted and froze on my face. It was only 4pm, but the night had already come and the street lights struggled to provide light to lead the way for my fellow pedestrians.

Montrealers are born to the cold, the snow and the tests of winter life. Strangely enough, it’s bred in our DNA to also be defiant to some of the most sensible laws, such as jaywalking. One of my favorite writers once noted, that while waiting for Pierre Trudeau for lunch, Mr. Trudeau had crossed the road in mid-block, and impressed upon my friend on how much a Montrealer that our once Prime Minister was. This was no different, despite the poor conditions, the dark and unfortunately, the miserable road condition that led to a car to careen off the street, and strike a small child who was trying to jaywalk.

Her body had flown a good 10-15 feet down the street, and just near where I stood. The car that struck her had come to a full stop, a stunned driver motionless behind the wheel. As I looked down first at the girl, then from side to side, the enormity of the situation had still not come to realization for anyone near.

I ran to her side and mumbled incoherently to the broken doll on the ground. She still breathed, whimpering at the pain induced upon her, warm tears quickly turning cold. I grabbed her hand, and continued to try to comfort her, though to what kind of effect was debatable at best. But as each moment that passed, the accident had gathered a crowd, all watching from a safe distance while I knelt down onto the icy street to be with her as oncoming traffic still sped by, paying little heed to us both in the dark and the snow.

Seconds ticked by awkwardly as there was naught that I could do, save wait, and hope, and in another lifetime, even prayed silently in my head, still trying to give comfort to the little girl before me. I didn’t care, and hadn’t even given the danger a second thought. All that mattered was her, and as I held her hand tight, the seemingly slow realization that she was already fading. It wasn’t going to be much longer, and while I was useless to her medically and probably even emotionally, I knew that I just wasn’t going to let her pass away alone.

Fortunately, the Queen Elizabeth hospital was near, just a few hundred feet and sadly, a lifetime away. Paramedics arrived and ordered me to give them space. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Even as I tried to comply, I felt her hand grow tighter refusing to let me go. And as time grew tighter, what choice did they have really. There I stayed, and followed her into the waiting ambulance and to the emergency ward.

She was now just speaking in halting terms, not understanding what was happening around her, but I like to think she knew what was to be within. Her breaths became laboured, faster, but just above her oxygen mask, she looked at me. It was just for a few seconds, and there was chaos all around as the medic worked on to keep her around that much longer. But it was there. That look.

And then, as we entered the emergency bay, her eyes closed. And through it all… the medic, the sounds, the adrenaline and the crisis, she closed her eyes as if to sleep. I think she knew it was over, and with that knowledge, a calm, a peace came upon her.

The medic then demanded I release her hand so as they could move her to emergency.  But, he needn’t have bothered. She let go of me, all strength gone from her grip.

I stayed there in the hospital a little longer, having become the custodian of the girl’s backpack. I just sat there, quietly as the aches and pains of a people passed before me. I sat there blankly looking at the reception admit this person for their fever, that person for their hurts, The shock of all that occurred had finally hit me, and all I could do was just sit, feeling the cold sweat running under my clothes, shivering a little although I was far insulated from the wind and the snow. I looked inside her bag, and found a few school books, some markers, crayons, a teen mag featuring the New Kids on the Block and so on. All perfectly normal for a kid in grade 4. A few officers walked in, and after reception pointed me out, they came to me with their questions and so on. I answered as best I could, gave them my info, and as I started to leave, handed them her backpack.

She passed the moment she let go of me. I’m sure of it. The papers reported the accident as the week passed, but she died before me, her hand taking comfort with mine. I didn’t know much more, but her final look to me was one that has always haunted me to this day… one more ghost that hides behind my eyes. But unlike the other spirits I’ve since lost, her’s will always inspire me in a different way.

When she passed, despite her young age, she didn’t show a look of fear or loss. It wasn’t a look based out of pain or agony. What she showed me in mere seconds was a look based in serenity, of acceptance. Her pilgrim face was all the words I could say to describe her, one of innocence and wisdom all at once. And she showed me a bravery I only wish I could have myself.

Do you know me personally? Have you ever shook my hand, shared bread with me or shared in my adventures? When muttering to myself during Dragon Boat practice, I spoke out loud to the imaginary Powers that be, “why does things [weird, exciting or interesting events] always seem to happen to me?” My dear friend Heather quickly replied, that it’s because things don’t just happen, but it’s because I run into them with my arms open wide. She was right. She IS right. And that small little girl a long time ago is why.

That’s all the lesson I needed or wanted to know as a teen. Time is fleeting, and the fates that be can be cruel and sudden, so do what can be done. And when my time comes, it will be with bravery inspired by her.

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#YYCVote – A plead to #Calgary to vote.

“Now its been suggested to me this week that I should try to buy your support with jobs, & the promise of access. It’s been suggested to me [that it] is more important than your democratic rights… That’s right, it’s not, and you have a decision to make. Don’t vote for us because you think we’re perfect. Don’t vote for us because of what we might be able to do for you only. Vote for the person who shares your ideals, your hopes, your dreams. Vote for the person who most embodies what you believe we need to keep our nation strong & free.”.

– Matt Santos, The West Wing

That speech, written by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin for his show, the West Wing, always brought chills up my spine. It’s not because it’s so catchy, or well written, or even that it definitely tugs at your heart strings. It’s because it appeals to a dream. It appeals to the dream that we all should have, one where our leadership should be responsive to our needs and values without being beholden to one group to another. In our modern democracy, while no where near as insanely skewed as in the US where it takes tens of millions of dollars to win a job paying $150k, our politicians still have to raise a fair amount of money in order to put up those lawn signs, to organize the volunteers and pay for those TV and radio ads. Let’s face it, virtually every candidate INCLUDING Mayor Nenshi is beholden to some extent by outside forces. Any politician who says otherwise is a liar.

But let’s take things a bit in perspective.

1) There’s being open and transparent with your donors, and then there’s candidates with backing from groups skulking in the shadows, with secret plans and huge money spent to have a council in their control. There’s enough in the news to prove it, and I’m not going to name names. If you don’t care enough to find this out and confirm for yourself, then whatever I say won’t matter anyways.

2) Who actually has a dream for Calgary? A politician does what’s expedient for the immediate future. A leader has a plan that looks forward regardless of any backlash, and fights for his/her cause because it’s right.

3) Who is willing to make hard decisions when needed? A politician will give in to the hoi polloi which is usually short sighted and has repercussions in the long term. A leader will follow his or her decision, come what may, for the benefit of all regardless of how unpopular it may be.

That’s how I based my vote, and why I chose the people I did.

I call myself the Calgary Dreamer in Social Media. Once upon a time, it was become I was a person who had dreams on what Calgary could be. And then came the floods… and the people… and the good will… and the chance to see true leadership in action. Then and there, I rededicated myself to a new definition of Calgary Dreamer. I now strive to make the dream that IS Calgary to become a dream to us all.

Please. This is your city. Be a part of my dream where our city is prosperous, open-minded and free of corruption at the highest echelons. Think and consider carefully. Think of who are the people who didn’t take their money from special interests. Think of who are the ones who have financial supporters who were “suggesting” to their employees on who to vote for. Think of who are the ones who decided to fire teachers, yet give themselves raises and have meetings in Palm Springs with your money.  Think of the ones who seems to be honest, and brings inspiration and leadership. Think of the ones who share your beliefs and values, and have a dream of what could be a Calgary you can live and grow happily in. In the end, you are your own person, but do you really want to live in a kleptocracy where corruption and special interests are the ones in power, or in a city where your leaders will do what is good for all?

I believe in a Calgary with leaders that we all can be proud of in the end. One that we need, if not necessarily deserve. Most importantly, I believe in my fellow Calgarians.

See you tomorrow at the ballot booth. #YYCVote

The State of Terry 2013: Taking Stock… One Hell of a Year

Wow.  43. I’m surprised I made it.

In this year, I’ve hit some pretty interesting milestones, some that were kinda expected, but most that had blindsided me entirely. Most have been a true honour to have accomplished or achieved, and some are still pending. But as is, it’s probably going to be one of the most memorable as life goes.

This year:

– After years of dragon boating (I started in my late 20s!!!), my team, The Red Eyes Paddling Club, has finally come out into it’s own, and has taken a festival outright. No consolation, B, C, D, E or whatever… it’s a clear outright win.  Only a few weeks later, we followed up with that by being clearly the Bronze winner in another. Incredible.

– I’ve taken the social media lessons I learned the summer of 2012 and ran with it. I’ve always been comfortable as being a relatively altruistic type of person, but usually in the shadows. With social media, those same actions have led me into a whole new world where I can actually influence opinion and help on a scale I never could have reached before. (Yes, it’s probably a bit narcissistic as well, but damn it, to me if whatever I can do can genuinely have an impact, then why not.)

– Employment… well… I’m still here at Spy, though I’ve long since branched out into investigations. The difference before was that in the past, I did the work based purely on the odd occasional referral. Now I get regular requests for P.I. stuff all the time (I still pick and choose though).

– YYC Burger Week – now THAT was a hell of an experience. One of the co-founders of an honest to goodness city-wide festival! I had 3 tv appearances while the big brain herself, Sabahat, had 2 tv ones and a bunch of newspaper and radio ones as well. More importantly, we raised over $7000, sold over 6000 burgers, and gave 16 charities and restaurants a ton of free publicity. I’m seriously looking forward to year 2.

– Health – well, there’s always a sword of Damocles out there, but at least I managed to avoid any outright serious illnesses this year thus far. I could be writing this a bit early, but for now, it’ll do.

– Connections – this is a bit related to Social Media, but I’m shocked by the number of connections I’ve made over the year. Honoured with the ING ambassador scarf again, still a Yelp Elite, a member of Awesome Foundation – Calgary’s task force (during the floods) and more, I’m an actual known quantity in the city. And a number of my peers paid me the best compliment ever… that I represent the best that is in Calgary. I was, and still floored by the compliment. There’s quite a few I would say who are far more deserving, but it’s something I hold quite dear to my heart in many ways. As is, it’s inspired me to reach out even more into the Calgary sphere. It’s also inspired my writing, my blog and my new position as the Stories From Our Streets editor of Calgary is Awesome.com.

– Discovery – this was the first year I truly felt that I came out into my own.  In one way, it meant that after so many many years of aspiring to be a knight, this is probably the first year I truly feel I am. There was a classic line that I always took to heart, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to stay silent.”  Well, once and for all, I took a stand against everything I was against in one way or another…. so much so, that I was described as an activist even.  Unfortunately, as I know it caused pain to my family, it also included one final affirmation against what I perceive to be a form of injustice in one controversial HUGE aspect of my life… I rejected religion once and for all, and declared that I am an athiest. From pretty staunch beliefs as a Catholic to a 32 yr journey (starting from the sacrement of Confirmation) to secular humanism, for the first time in decades, I honestly ceased to hate myself in a lot of ways. And in this, I found a new found freedom that I never expected.

– the Floods and Home – Despite living here for 10 years, the floods have shown me for the first time that I truly am home. The pure sentiment of other Calgarians trying to help is something I still can’t forget, and still haunts me today. But, Calgary is truly my home, and I want to do my best to help others aspire to that ideal.

And last and definately not least….

– Terry and Georgia. I still have to keep a lot of info about them under wraps, as I want them to have as much of a normal private life as possible. Right now, my readers of their tale number into the hundreds, but as this story unfolds still, it can possibly explode into far far more. All of the anger, sorrow, loss and tears that came from my very odd relationship with my 1st true love, has developed into a new family dynamic, where I get to try my hand at something very new… fatherhood. I’ll never have my chance to be a father with my own kids, but with T & G, I’ve learned that there are different types of parents and different types of familial love. They’re both still young, and they’re learning the mistakes I made. There’s some even bigger revelations which is coming in the next “New Frontiers”, one that I’ve been afforded a singular honour that I embrace wholeheartedly. And as the years go by, and as they eventually will be revealed to the world entire as my “kids”, I can only look forward to the time to come.

So that was the year that was.  As for the year to come?

I’ve got a huge decision coming up. 2014 will be a very different year for me as I’ve found my true passion… one that I plan to follow.  Life with progress with YYC burger week, and me growing and evolving in Calgary life… but for now, it’s a story that will be written with every morning breath.

To my friends, family, and my ever patient gal WK…. it’s going to be a bumpy ride. But with all of you alongside, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The New Frontiers : Iceberg Ahead

(This is an update of the 29 yr. saga of a boy, me, who loved a girl, and how we lost each other, and the consequences since. To read the whole story, links to The Days Before Tomorrow can be found at the end of this post.)

“On behalf of every man
Looking out for every girl
You are the god and the weight of her world” – John Mayer

“If the relationship of father to son could really be reduced to biology, the whole earth would blaze with the glory of fathers and sons”. – James A. Baldwin

For those of you following the saga of my “adopted” children as I learn the lessons of unofficial fatherhood, well, here’s a bit of an update.  Due to very unusual circumstances, I can’t fully explain the full story. I promise though, once I am in a position to, the tale will be there for all.  After all, it’s been 29 years so far ever since this whole epic tale began, so what’s a few more months I suppose.

First, on the weekend of September 22nd, my daughter Georgia, despite my pleading for sanity and time, my attempts at bribes and more, had married her Shanghai fiancé at the tender age of 18.  Despite HER requests, calls, texts, letters and emails, I stuck to my guns and did not attend the ceremony so long as her natural father and grandmother were unwelcome themselves.

In the months since our reunion in June, the canyon between her and her father grew ever wider as her outrage by his treatment of me was apparently unforgivable. As the one she now sees as father, she had truly believed that I might cave and be there to give her away. Armed with literally hundreds of love letters dating back to the 80s and 90s, she would remind me of one memory or another almost every day in the hope that nostalgia would rule the day. But, I refuse to be the reason for a wedge between father and daughter, and more importantly, I still believe it was a mistake, but it’s one that seems to be karma. In so many ways, I realize that she, out of love, did a drastic act out of love despite the consequences, so much like that fateful day when I did the same to break up with her mother. Life IS a circle, and it looks like history is doomed to repeat once more.

Now as for my new “son-in-law”, well, he’s from Shanghai, and has studied in schools in Europe and Canada. I don’t know what the hell he’s going to do with a Fine Arts degree exactly, but so long as Georgia isn’t footing the bill for the both of them and he can prove to me that he can pull his own weight, then I will keep an open mind as best I can. I still wish my old friend and the true dad would get his act together and help his daughter, but it’s not my place in the end. All I can do is love her, as best I can as if she’s my own kid.

But this wedding and everything that’s happened in the background is causing all sorts of other issues that I can’t elaborate on. But it looks like I might well have to take an active hand in this, and plan to go back to Vancouver for a few days for a special trip. Fair enough, as I like the city, have some friends there (especially the most awesome Alexandria and Kimm), and it’ll be nice to explore and see what’s going on there.

As for my “son”, I couldn’t be prouder. His internship in Whistler is almost over, and at one of the best restaurants in the country. Once complete, he’ll be back in Vancouver for a few months of studies before looking at starting another internship. So far, his 3 choices are at home in Vancouver, to be with me in Calgary or take up an offer in Vegas. I really want to get to know him, and I’m personally hoping he’ll choose Calgary, especially with my newfound friendships and associations with the food industry in town. With his pedigree, I have little doubt he’ll get a chance to work at some of the best places in town. Buuuut, I would thoroughly understand if he chooses Vegas instead. I mean, would you give up the chance to work in Todd English’s Olives, or any of Ramsey’s restaurants and so on??

But even there, there’s a special tempest up ahead, and I hope that Terry can find a path to safe harbour. Again, I can’t explain what exactly, but there WILL be an update on this event way way sooner. If my old friend and his dad reads this, your son needs to talk to you, and I want to remind you that your kid is absolutely awesome. Keep that in mind, and thank for raising him to be such a dedicated, focused young man. He’ll be great.

Soooo… that’s about the best I can say in public for now. Come what may… I am proud of these two kids. Sure, there’s a lot of drama, unbelievable emotions all of us had to go through this past year, and I know that it can only get worse. But in the end… I love them as my own kids. And I will do my best to be there still for them, disagreements or not. It’s what she would have wanted, and it’s what I do.

Back soon all.

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For new readers who would like to understand the whole story…

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 1 – An Introduction

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 2 – Shattered

The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 3 – Betrayal and Hurts

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 4 – Those Left Behind

The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword