Thoughts of a Lost World Before 9/11

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15 yrs today since 9/11. 15 yrs since the world I remember swung right and there’s an entire generation of kids in Canada and America that can’t think of a time when we weren’t at war with someone in the Middle East. (And 25 yrs since the Desert Storm…)

I was filling out patient forms that morning, back in my early hospital days. Nothing got done that day. All the TV’s suddenly switched to the view of one of the Twin Towers burning. No one knew what was going on… And then saw the 2nd plane hit the 2nd. And then reports of the plane crashing into a field. And then… And then….

I miss those days of gentle innocence. I miss a time when a 10 yr old little boy like me got to visit the Captain and flight crew in the cockpit and talk to him about how awesome it was to fly. I miss being an 11 yr old boy bring able to visit a national monument and not be subjected to metal detectors. I miss a time when I could look at the faces of the people around me and not assume every person with the name Muhammed is possibly a terrorist. How I miss those times of given trust and simple joys.

I want to inspire hope. I want to inspire tolerance. I want to be a person who inspires compassion. I want our kids and the next generation to come to feel that simple innocence we all lost and surrendered in the name of fear, of security, of suspicion and racial / religious lines.

I don’t know if I am that person. I know I’m trying to be. In a world where terror seems to come from every corner, I don’t even know if it’s even possible.

But I’m trying. I’m trying so very very hard. And it’s my promise to keep it up to rebuild that lost innocence we all lost 15 yrs ago when the towers came crumbling down.

It’s a promise from a Dreamer… to all of you.

 

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The Days Before Tomorrow. 30 Years Later and a Call to Action

It’s now 11 years and a week or so since she passed, and now 30 years since that fateful summer when we first met. That special relationship put myself and her children on a path that I never could have foreseen.

Though lovers be lost

Though lovers be lost. I never forgot this poem as it always reminded me of her.

I haven’t written much about the kids this year, especially as I’ve only seen them twice. As I’ve explained, they’re not mine through blood or law, but they are of my heart nevertheless. In every way that truly matters to me and to them, we are family, and they’ve taught me so much about how it is to be a proud father.

Terry completed his stage in Las Vegas, and then extended it, and then extended it once again. He’s on leave of absence from culinary school now, simply because he was encouraged to travel and learn under some of the best in the culinary world. He’s in England, doing a stage on a culinary level that simply stuns me. There are no words I can express to describe the heights he will achieve.

Georgia is in year 2 studying law, the very degree her own mother couldn’t complete due to the events long ago. In a moment of face palm humor and frustration, she continues to show the stubbornness, passion and brilliance that her mom possessed. You see, she introduced to me her new boyfriend, another Chinese kid who I swear resembles me a little. But this time, he seems to genuinely love her, and they met through the same law program. Of course, I warned him as a father to take good care of her or else, but he already knew better than to upset her. She’s going to be brilliant, but I admittedly look forward to see her walk the aisle in a white dress.

Every Dad's Dream

Every Dad’s Dream

But that’s not the purpose of this blog, and why I returned to the Days. The real story is why that chance meeting 30 years ago continues to guide my life even now.

As you’ve probably read, I’m running for office now. I wasn’t planning to, but I discovered that I had to. There’s the classic saying, “All it takes for Evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” But while I subscribe to such dramatic thoughts, I believe that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it far better:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ve always tried to be a defender for others. I see that the highest aspiration of a person is to serve his or her fellow citizen and found that the problems we see in life is very often rooted in silence. I simply want to serve my city, my home and make it just a little better each day, and to speak out to hopefully inspire others to act and do the same.

Now, I have a chance to serve and make a real difference on a great scale. There are so many causes that matter to me. Education. Equality rights. The future of Calgary. Small business. My friends and family. So many and more… and to make a difference, I choose to stop being someone who spoke from the audience into someone who wants to speak truth to power. This truly unique opportunity has come up, an invitation to run for office and have a voice where it matters.

Why am I standing up for what I believe in, when others could have been content from the sidelines? It was Terry who inspired me. He took the chance and had the bravery to come out to me, telling me a truth where so many other children found themselves ostracized, beaten, abused or even banished as my friend, photographer Kelly Hofer. With this decision, he showed me what true bravery was, and why I fight now.

One summer long ago, my first love and I kissed. It was a cheeky french kiss at a time where I was helpless while pretending to demonstrate mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing. It was a kiss full of mischief, joy and bold acts of young love and sweet moments. It put me on a path, through her legacy, that guided me to this moment of perfect clarity and the bravery to act.

The First Kiss

The First Kiss

To my wife, my friends, my city, the people of Calgary-Glenmore, and the bravery of a young man who I love as my own son, I dedicate myself to serve, to inspire others, and most importantly, I choose to lead. I am Terry Lo, a dreamer fighting to make a great Calgary into reality, and I want to be your MLA.  And this is a call to action to all, and I beg of you to stop being neutral or silent. Help me, be brave and stand up and act.

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The Story of the Days Before Tomorrow and the Children

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

The Days Before Tomorrow, The 10th Anniversary of Her Passing

The Days Before Tomorrow: The 10th Anniversary of Her Passing

“Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.” – Mitch Albom

“Though lovers be lost love shall not.” – Dylan Thomas

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Almost 30 years ago I met her. A bit over 20 years ago I broke both our hearts. 10 years and a few days, she broke mine, and those of “our” children one more time forever, when she was killed by a drunk driver.

The daughter of my heart, if not by genetics and marriage, my dear sweet Georgia will be coming to Calgary in a few days for a friend’s bachelorette party. I’ll see her for an evening, and then she’s back to Vancouver, all 3-4 months pregnant as well. But I know that while our reunion is in her mind, today of all days 10 years past is there as well, as in my son Terry’s too, as it was her death that profoundly changed things in all of our lives those days long ago.

As I think upon her, and of the path not taken, I still wonder what it would have been like to have had her in my life and to have raised the kids as my own. Would we have finally fit in the cosmic scheme of things? Would all doubts I had towards reconciliation broke us apart again? I really just don’t know.

But I do know this, and it’s something I’m simply so amazed by my wife, WK, is so understanding about. There will always be a part of me that was with her, despite the madness, the insanity of the situation and secret unspoken longings that we both shared yet never uttered to one another.

She was my muse of beauty and light, a mystery within, an enigma wrapped in a smile that could dazzle and warm the coldest of hearts. She was a lover of fine music and arts, curious of the glorious stars and galaxies above and a shield maiden to those who threatened her family. She hated high heels and the illusion of fashion, yet stood for all that was right in the world without, even if not satisfied personally within. She was that rare spirit that yearned to be free, yet was determined to be tied to the chains of love and memory. She was a warrior against fate, and saw that fate was in large part what we made of it, and fought for the chance for the both of us to reunite.

In the end…. she was as rare as lightning in a bottle and just as electric to the touch. The memory of her kiss, her skin, the deepness in her eyes, and the simple way … the way she embraced joy in the dance of thunder above still aches in me deep inside. She was my 1st love, and no matter how strange things came to be, I am thankful that she was a part of my life.

Good night my sweet these 10 years now past. While I may not believe in a heaven, if there is one, I hope you have found it and that you have found peace now and forever now that your… no… OUR children and I have been reunited after all this time.

Good night. I miss you. Terry, Georgia and I. We miss you.

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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

The Days Before Tomorrow / The New Frontiers – 1 Year Since We Met Again

Almost 10 years ago, the woman I first loved had died in a stupid car accident. She left me her 2 kids to care for as my own, only to have those plans torn apart, and divided them from me supposedly for good.

Last Christmas, after finding and watching me on social media, they contacted me in the hopes to rebuild a relationship though in what nature, only time will say.

As can be read in the New Frontiers, we’ve met in Vancouver. It was awkward. very strange but liberating as well. Even though the two weren’t raised by me, I can see my influence in their deeds and the way they act. More importantly, when I look into their eyes, I can so see the eyes of their mother in my mind’s eye. In some ways… it genuinely hurts, as every time I look at them, I wonder about the path not taken and the ghosts of Christmas past.

Terry, the older one, has turned out to be the son of my heart. As my fellow Calgarians can attest to, I’ve become a recognized foodie in the city (no, not a famous one, but it’s nice to be one of the crowd). Terry has turned out to be quite a chef-in-making, and is well on his way of getting his red seal while still completing his culinary studies. He’s apprenticed at 2 of Canada’s best restaurants, and now has an opportunity to work in Las Vegas under a truly legendary chef. Needless to say, you’ll hear about him a decade from now. I’m sure of it. Strangely enough, he’s actually working on a unique style that can only be found in the streets of New Orleans, a Cajun/Creole/Asian style. His crawfish po-boy with hoisin sauce is still a work in progress, but his updated version of bread pudding using Asian steamed bread is honestly to die for.

Georgia… ah Georgia… She’s her mom’s daughter. She’s smart, pretty, opinionated and multi-talented like heck. She’s mastered the flute, guitar and piano, loves cheesy movies and has some pretty interesting dance moves. More importantly, she’s taken the path not taken by her mom, and Is actually studying law on a full scholarship. Unfortunately, she’s also willful, headstrong and given to passionate actions that aren’t particularly well thought through. Yep… that’s her mom in there. Strangely enough, that’s exactly how I always expected a daughter of mine would be like.

What can I say, I love them both, though I’ve tried to establish the ground rules that I’m NOT their dad. That ship has long passed as I wasn’t there when It mattered. But, they both still insist to call me Dad as well… and they know that somewhere in my heart, I always wanted them to be mine.

Since the last update, it’s been an interesting time. I’m still learning all about them, and they’ve become open with their thoughts, their beliefs and their secrets. For example, Terry, it turns out is gay. He had the bravery to finally come out in October, and is now proudly showing that he’s accepted himself for who he is, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Fortunately, he’s also talking to a “Dad” Terry of 2013/2014 who has rejected religion altogether, which is in large part because of the stance against the LBGT community. I am proud to be the “dad” of a gay son, because it’s him at his essence. His boyfriend seems to be a nice sort, though I admittedly have no clue how to act in some ways. I always ran the scenarios of meeting the boyfriend with a daughter in mind over the years in my head, so it just feels a little odd to apply the same questions knowing it’s for a son instead. Still, they seem like a good couple, and let’s see where this goes.

Georgia, well, that’s a new story altogether. I can’t really explain the whole story STILL because there are some legal implications, but she’s happily married at 18 (note: I reallllly didn’t approve of it officially, but mostly because I think she’s so young). She had gotten married literally a few months ago, and had expected me to give her away. I had refused because I didn’t think it was my place, after all, her real dad is still around. In the end, NEITHER father attended since we both were in agreement that we didn’t think this was right. But, I did make the effort to at least call and talk to her. Her father didn’t. I guess that’s why Georgia and I are still on speaking terms.

How she can manage a part time job as a waitress, study at law school, and still be such a young wife at her age is still totally beyond me. Just in case, the economy box of condoms I passed on to her for Christmas should give her the hint to be sure to not get pregnant for now! (And YES, I DID send that for Xmas… and flowers). Her husband, well…. I see him as a bit of a flake really, but that’s more due to the fact that I really can’t relate to him. He sees the world from the eyes of an artist, a painter, while I tend to try to see things in a more straightforward manner. Ah well, when I visit in January, maybe I’ll drag him out to a bar and get him really blotto so I can interrogate him properly.

As for me? I’m about to start a new adventure of my own after 7 years in investigations and security. Hopefully this will give me more time to properly explore my relationship with my kids. Being in different cities makes it difficult, but not impossible. But either way… they are my kids in every way that matters. I love them… and I really especially thank my wife for being so understanding in a situation she never expected or wanted… but supports me anyways.

In the meantime, thanks for following the Days, the Frontiers and the rest. The story continues on….

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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

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.

#MONDAYBLOGS – RANTS ON FAITH: WHAT WENT WRONG PT 4

So now you know the bits that knocked holes first in my trust in the church, and then in my sense of belief.  All faith really is in the end is a surety of belief combined with unbridled trust.  I disagreed with the Church in virtually all of the hot topics, couldn’t reconcile the comedy of errors that comprised the writing of the Bible, and found that the teachings spoon fed me through my life were at heart to me, violations to human rights and dignity… and that was just the start.

As the years went by, I honestly started to be truly embarrassed and ashamed to be Catholic. But I found that virtually any and all permutations and combinations of Christianity were no better as it was all founded on the same mistakes and philosophies that I was opposed to.  And as I thought about it, I realized that it really didn’t matter about the religion in question, as that while the rituals and names of the deity in question were different, they were all basically a variation of the same belief whether it be God, Allah, Yahweh, Kali, Zeus, Odin or even the Man in the Sky. Religion then and there ceased to mean anything to me.

What was I exactly? I ceased to believe in any spiritual being, and even found myself quite outraged to have ever been part of that mindset. Back in high school, a fellow classmate, Dave M, had described himself as a secular humanist and not a catholic. Those words echoed back to me in those days of revelation, and I decided to check deeper into this. And it was in that definition, I finally found a truth that rang true.

“[Secular Humanism] posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. It does not, however, assume that humans are either inherently evil or innately good, nor does it present humans as being superior to nature. Rather, the humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of secular humanism is the strongly held viewpoint that ideology—be it religious or political—must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this, an essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy. Many Humanists derive their moral codes from a philosophy of utilitarianismethical naturalism or evolutionary ethics, and some advocate a science of morality.”

In other words. we control our choices and define our humanity, good or bad. More importantly, it means that the decisions we make, the people we are, isn’t because some deity somewhere had defined us as such… it is because we are responsible for who we are and what we choose as our actions.

With this, I found that a great weight had lifted from me, and strangely enough a fair amount of self-hatred as well that I never realized I was burdened with.  I still didn’t quite understand it, but a chance viewing of this debate with Christopher Hitchens put it all into perspective:

There it was. Religion poisons everything. Sure, there are examples of non-religious violence and so on, but compared to the carnage through the millennia, it wasn’t even a close comparison. And with the old saying, the truth will set you free. And without the shadows of religion of any sort, I now found myself with a new feeling… anger and rage to all things religion. That was a new one.

End of Pt 4. To be completed.