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.

 

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 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

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.

The Days Before Tomorrow … An Afterword

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” -Richard Bach

My deepest thanks to all who took the time to read the tale of the mess my first love and I made of the last 29 years.  I’m glad that I seem to have touched quite a few of you with the events of Her, and the coming meeting with my son and daughter, in spirit if not biologically.  And yes (and this is how I knew that I would touch someone with my words), the last 2 entries were probably the hardest pieces I ever had to write in my life, and there’s been a few tears on my own as my wife, WK can attest to.

Last night, Georgia texted me.  She had read it all and I think she’s probably a little shell shocked right now.  Through my words, she has just found out the bitter circumstances to my sudden departure and the reality that in a different world, they were supposed to be my kids.  Being an 18 yr old girl, I’m not quite sure how she will digest all this, or Terry for that matter.

We’re going to talk tomorrow night. What will happen after, I leave it to them with my blessing and advice if desired.  WK is definately worried for me, as these circumstances are in deep uncharted territory that we can’t guess on what can or will happen.  She’s wise beyond her years, but in this, she’s speechless.

And yes, I am afraid to lose them again.  Terrified actually. So this is what a taste of parenthood is like.

Fortes Fortuna Juvat.  Fortune Favours the Bold.

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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 … Epilogue and Answers

“We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.” – Unknown

“Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.” – Dylan Thomas

“Together forever, never apart. Maybe in distance, but never in heart.” – Unknown

“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” – Charles R. Swindoll

You’ve read my tale, of first love, loss and so much more. She was the first girl I ever truly loved, and she has made so many fundamental changes to my outlook on life.

I’m writing this entry to answer a few questions that I never really answered well to myself. Questions like, why didn’t I leave with her all those years ago. Why didn’t I rejoin her when the chance came back. Why didn’t I fight for her legacy harder. I can’t answer really. But it was in those questions that I found that She taught me a lot in so many ways.

Never take love for granted. Never take the time you spend with the ones you love lightly. Be careful with what you might say to those you care for. Approach life with flair when you can, for fortune does favor the bold. And the one precious gift she gave me that I hold most dearly, how to savor the thunder and the lightning, in it’s purest form in the night skies.

In the here and now, I’m happy with my wife, and I love her dearly. But she notices the ghosts behind my eyes from time to time, and the profound sadness and wondering that envelops my heart and mind in this matter. There are other answers to those questions… answers that might make the ghosts fade. But as She is gone now 9 years, and with what you’ve read, I’ve never had my chance to properly mourn her. Those ghosts will always be there in one way or another. And in all honesty, I’ve lived with them for so long that I don’t know if I can ever conceive of a time without. But there’s hope now… for the first time in almost a decade, there’s hope.

Very soon, I’m going to be back in Vancouver, for the first time since the restraining order had expired. T is 21 now. G is 18. I have not been a part of their lives for over 9 years, 11 years or so if you add the time that I hadn’t seen them in person and had only sent gifts and calls of love and encouragement.

In all of these years, I have not had the chance to tell them about my memories of their beautiful mom, and how I have to keep quiet on how much I wanted to be their father. When they last saw me, they saw me from the eyes of children, and now they’re almost as old as she and I were when this tale became something twisted and strange.

Last Christmas, they found me. We spoke, and talked, as they did haltingly and rushed and confused and filled with millions of questions and with no answers to call from. It was quick, it wasn’t much, and we haven’t spoken much since. They were calling from their dad’s place, and in a few brief moments, years of walls came crashing down. Years of stories, and myths and questions of smoke and mirrors, all brought to a crashing halt in the discovery of a few letters. There’s probably a few shadows still in place, as there will always be some secrets of Her’s and mine that I will carry to my grave.

Once, long ago, I found my dear friend Karen E. once again through a friend of hers who found the newspaper ads I placed all over Cleveland. You can read that tale, Serendipity and Valentine’s Day, as it was the first entry of this blog. But, that would have never happened , if I hadn’t learned the value of being bold from my 1st love. And just as Serendipity and Fate had played with my life then, it seems that Fate has decided to intervene again.

Not long ago, G found the notes I wrote her mom in high school. G was graduating, and she went through her mom’s storage to wear something to keep close to her heart. She found my ring, my Loyola High class ring, attached to a selection of notes I wrote.

G told me how much both her and her brother had missed me, but were too young to understand why I left them so cruelly after their mom died. I don’t know the full extent of the stories told about me, but I’m getting the impression they weren’t flattering. But more importantly, she shared to T my many letters of love, and they both understand how it was supposed to be, but not how the reality came to be. It’s in writing this, this story of love and anger, obsession, passion and hatred, of deep loss and sorrow, and most importantly through it all, how I loved her as she did me despite it all.

To T & G, as you read this all, I truly hope you understand the choices and the decisions that has come to this moment. I’ve written this all, maybe to help exorcise some ghosts from my mind, to remind me of your mom, or even as an exercise in ego perhaps, but really, I’ve actually written this for you two. I never wanted to leave you. You were supposed to be my children, born of two who were as entwined and fundamental as lightning and thunder. Don’t be upset with your dad or your grandparents, as they were only trying to protect you both and I hold no grudge. But remember, I have always loved you both as if you were my own.

In June, I will be paddling with the Red Eyes Paddling Club in Vancouver. I will spend 2 1/2 days there in my chosen athletic passion with a group of people who I care deeply for as both friends and family.

But on that first night back to Vancouver, the first … tomorrow after so many lost and wasted days, I won’t be with them. T & G will be waiting for me at the airport for answers.

And I will be there.

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Writer’s Note 12/2013: I wrote these words in April 2013, an emotional time to say the least, with no small amount of tears between myself, Terry and Georgia when we finally reunited in June 2013. It’s an ongoing saga now under “The New Frontiers”, and I invite you all to continue on my exploration with my new family. On Christmas 2013, I will be writing a special update, of events that change everything once more.

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, Afterword

The Days Before Tomorrow … Pt. 4

“I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep on turning without me, I can’t do anything to change events anyway.”   – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl    

“After all, how often do we get a second chance?”  – Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

“No matter how many plans you make or how much in control you are, life is always winging it.”   – Carroll Bryant

“She’s still in love with that f***** and did this to hurt him.”

“They’re divorced.”

Those words bounced around in my head as I sat there reading the divorce papers again and again.  This mad game had taken a whole new dimension, and I found myself in familiar territory once again in matters of Her, namely utterly confused and stunned once more. A few years of peace had gone by, so I shouldn’t have been particularly surprised that the past was returning to haunt me again.

A few hours later, She called me, a little afraid, a little meek.  The voice of the confident woman determined to keep me close had changed to that of a small little girl, one unsure of herself and her world.  This divorce had been in process for months, even years, and she had struggled to find the right time to tell me.  We spoke a little bit then cut it off as we both needed to process the news.  But despite it all, we avoided the elephant in the room, that for the first time since the whole mess began, the two of us were effectively single.

A few more months went by, and we spoke haltingly at best.  I really didn’t know what to think, and she was still embarrassed about her choices all of this time.  Worse, being across country, there really wasn’t too much either of us could do at the time.  She had a home with 2 kids and family on the west coast.  I had a job, and my own friends and family on the east, but realistically speaking, I could have left pretty much any time.  Why didn’t I?  I would probably say pride, or hurt or work or all of these things.  But I think the real reason was pettiness.  All of these years that she struck back again and again out of my emotional break, I didn’t have the same deep feelings as I once did… or maybe just buried those feelings out of a survival instinct.  The marriage.  The kids.  Being a godfather.  Seeing the mess unfold in front of my eyes.  Each and every act made was like a dagger to me, and they cut deep.  Could we have forgiven each other and made the right decision for once?  I personally strive every day to be a better person… even a little bit more.  But after 20 years of trying to hurt one another out of love of all things, I just didn’t know if I had it in me.  I had felt tired, and needed a change from the whole mess (plus I was deep in another one with a redhead (my weakness) I was kinda dating in Ottawa), so I took a job with a company in Ottawa.

I think the Fates must’ve been laughing their asses off that day.  At that exact same weekend when I moved into Ottawa, I got a surprise call on my cell from Her…. from MONTREAL.  While I was unsure of my feelings, she had not.  I had been essentially her one true love and had worked behind the scenes to moving back to La Belle Province.  So secretly, She took on a new job at McGill University as a researcher, and had been preparing to move back with the kids for a year try out.  She had taken a leave of absence from her work, quietly found a place and a school for the kids, set up the essentials for her family, and then once she thought she was ready, calmly made her call.

This definately wasn’t a moment of Serendipity, or even Irony… just pure tragedy I believe.  She called my cell to my still-Montreal number, and surprised me with the news.  No, not surprise, I would say absolutely and totally shocked me.  It started with a cheery hope to meet that night, to renew, talk and reevaluate our situations, and her absolute desire to be my wife.  I was just dumbfounded, and let her talk on and on, of her regrets, her loneliness through all the years, how much she missed my words of encouragement and mutual attraction, and how we finally had a chance to make everything right.  My first real words shattered her heart once more.  I told her that I was now in Ottawa on contract, and how I didn’t have the option to return.  I told her that I still cared for her, but I had so many many doubts about us ever coming back.  I told her that I still cared for her, but I wasn’t sure if I could be her husband.  And to the sound of her tears and sorrow, I asked her to give me a little time to think about it.  We would talk many times later over other issues with the kids, and to give me time to get used to possibly being their dad by having them stay with me for a few weeks.  We talked about her dad and mom, and about her new job.  But I never could have known that one conversation was the very last one I would ever talk to her about our feelings.

In March 2004, She was killed.  It was a car accident by a drunk driver.  It was quick and sudden, stupid, senseless, and she never had a chance. 

In April 2004, I was busy looking for a summer day camp for the kids, as I had been transferred by work to Calgary of all places.  At least in Ottawa, it was close to Montreal, and I had all sorts of resources to draw upon thanks to being a true son, although Asian, of Montreal.  As such, I didn’t really know my new city all that much at the time.

I was supposed to take them in July for a few weeks, and given my work schedule at the time, I had decided on putting them through day camp so I could spend the early mornings and evenings with T & G.  I was researching amusement parks, theme parks, trips to Banff, Medicentres for emergencies, food recipes and the 1,001 little things that I needed to know to make sure the kids would be fine and have an awesome time with me.  They had never spent more than a few days at a time with me, and definately never actually lived with me, so I was trying to do my best to be ready for them.  I was still unsure of my feelings for her, but I knew that those two were in so many ways, my kids, and there was nothing I wouldn’t do for them.  What I didn’t expect was a lawyer coming into my computer shop instead.

It was bright and sunny.  A Chinook was going through the city bringing us a stunningly hot day.  The air was strong, though a bit acrid.  But overall, it was a day full of promise and light.  To me, that’s how it started, but the rest of the day was dark and forsaken.  This man entered my store, and gave me a letter explaining why his presence.  The woman I loved with all my heart was dead, and our future together was now comprised of ashes.   I didn’t even read any further until he asked me simply, when would I be ready to accept the children.

I really didn’t understand anything at all, but as she had full custody, and that I was both official godfather and appointed guardian should something happen to BOTH parents, I was to receive the kids.  As He had not contested custody at all originally but still alive and well, some legal twist had awarded me custody.  Suddenly, all of that research became even more important, as I was now their father though I really didn’t understand how if He was still alive.  I always thought that his natural parental rights superseded any legal ones I might have had.  Why’d I have to be so right?

Only 2 days later, I was proven right.  Her dad walked into my shop, calm yet you could practically feel the air aflame with his silent fury.  Since her death, her parents had stayed in Montreal to care for the kids and to settle her affairs.  They had viewed this whole mess up close over the years, and probably never forgave themselves for agreeing to my mad breakup schemes, and never forgave me for being the man their daughter wanted.   He spoke calmly, yet precise in his intentions.  The kids were to return to their custody, and eventually be reunited with their dad.  I was supposed to agree to it, as I didn’t stand a chance legally, and they would spend their last dollar to bankrupt and ruin me if I fought.  That meeting me had destroyed their daughter, and ruined all of their lives.

I listened to all of this, speechless, with only sorrow and guilt overwhelming my being in every way that mattered.  I asked for a day, to absorb all of this and to ponder.  He granted it, sure in the righteousness of his position, left and told me he’d be back the following day.  I made a few calls, to lawyers and friends to get their take on the matter.  And in the end, they all agreed with me with what I knew myself was true.  The father was still alive, of good character, with the support of his parents and her parents.  I had the help of my own friends and family, but I couldn’t in good conscience bankrupt my family in a foregone conclusion.

The following day, I met her father in a cafe.  He already had a lawyer waiting with him, and I signed away my parental rights once and forever.  I broke my last link to her, and broke my promise to always protect her kids.  And to add insult to injury, they imposed a 5 year restraining order on me.  I was to never contact the kids again or even be able to approach her grave.  In a few days, I had lost my first love, and then lost our kids as well.

End of Part Four.   Epilogue to follow.

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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, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow … Pt 2

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!” – Scottish Poet, Robert Burns

“You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn’t hurt at all
You always take the sweetest rose
And crush it till the petals fall” – Songwriter Alan Roberts, Sung by Peggy Lee

So there was the impasse.  She didn’t want to leave.  She didn’t want to leave ME.

As we walked together after that moment, she couldn’t imagine life without my irregular notes in her door, or the awkward silences as we both danced around our feelings all of those wasted years.  I couldn’t imagine the nights not spent talking on the phone as the lightning roared and the heavens thundered.  Just the way she would grin silently as classical played on into the air, or the scent of her hair.  So many things I realized I would miss.

The following day, I secretly skipped class and went to talk to her mom.  She had long known about our almost secret relationship, and was always encouraging me to take it to the next step.  In her eyes, her daughter had a boy who truly cared for her, was kind, considerate and sincere, but more importantly, one who cared enough for her girl to give up his world.  And I did, so the plans proceeded.

I made myself less available day after day, and the notes became shorter and shorter.  Comments on life and love, spirit and music on the page evolved into simple gossip and banter about my “brothers”, inane school events and complaints about the Quebec government.  I tried to portray a callous, unfeeling Terry who was unworthy of anyone.  I ceased to walk over to meet her in the mornings, and would “forget” about our rare special evenings in exchange for nights of popcorn and movies alone or with my best friends.  The campaign, I knew would be long and hard, and I was going insane in thought.  My spies in her midst, her mother and father would continue to argue and rant on their end to ensure her departure and feed me information.  It wasn’t very successful, as she saw through the whole ploy with laser like accuracy.  Worse, she tracked me down at my favorite McDonald’s (well, yes, I wasn’t much of a foodie admittedly back then), sat down, told me to quit it, and kissed me on the cheek.

Time was running short, and I really didn’t know what else I could do.  The problem with having written hundreds of pages of my feelings and thoughts to her, is that she knew me fundamentally deeper than any person alive.  Deadlines on events that deal with life situations weren’t really something I was particularly good at, especially when considering  it was with one who loved me so well.  So I went back to her parents and we talked one more time. In the end, we all agreed, there was only one action left to do… and it’s one that has always scarred and shamed me in so many ways.

The day we broke up was not a particularly exceptional day, but it’s one I will always recall.  For those who know me, I have cherished in my heart the code of Chivalry and the pursuit of knightly honor to be my most highest belief.  In fact, that dedication was always greater than what I once believed as an evangelized youth, my comic books, movies and geekdom highlights.   As the days counted down to the final cut off to accepting the scholarship came close, all I could think was acts of desperation.  My sweet girl  had it in her mind that she wasn’t leaving and was just going to wait and work a bit until a time would come when we both could leave and excel.  But in the meantime, the days had become a monotonous routine, where we would meet, then argue about the lack of time left, then kiss, then allow her to enrapture me with the joy of her presence and then argue again, and then have her remind me that I’ll be forced to quit it pretty soon so I might as well stop there and then, and the day would progress as it would.  This time, I added a few more factors… the presence of her parents and a deliberate dedication to be ugly, to be angry and to be evil in the basest manner possible.

I won’t go through the full details, but the ambush was successful in raising the tension.  Voices were loud and angry as we were pleading and begging, and then (and with prior secret approval) accusations about me would be made and so much more.  But in the end, as it all came to a head, I did the one thing I didn’t want to do but realized was the only thing I could do to turn her passion away… I raised my hand, and in front of her family, shoved her hard onto the floor and started the first move to a follow up action.  Her mother knew I might had to do that.  Her father didn’t… and with that shove, the air in the room stood still.

I was thrown out by her dad, and justly so.  He didn’t punch me, but I honestly hoped he would.  Since growing out of elementary, I had never raised a hand in anger against a woman ever, and I couldn’t believe I actually did.  She looked out at me from her living room window, stunned, and angry.  She was always strong willed, but with that one act, I shattered every image and belief she had in me.  And as dearly as I wanted to run back in to hold her, to apologize and beg forgiveness, the anger of her father had put an end to that.

She called. I didn’t answer. I wrote no notes. I never walked with her again. Camelot had fallen, and to free her, I shattered both our hearts.  And in those months to come, we had no more contact no matter how much we both wanted it.

Here is where fate decided to give me a good s***kicking for my audacity to strike a woman.  In those months, I got word from her mom about how depressed she was, and how all our efforts might go to naught if she dropped out instead.  I had done my job too well.  But to tell her that I attacked her to force her to go to school and it was orchestrated??  I foresaw a pretty angry woman getting off a plane, and then throttling her family, and then me.  So what to do, what to do … when inspiration hit.  Maybe if I had a friend show her around, cheer her up, maybe she’ll improve and I even knew who to befriend her.  He was an old friend of mine from childhood, who moved to that city long ago but we still kept in touch.  Friendly, outgoing, emphatic and simply a nice guy, I asked him to see if he could look her up and gave him the full story on the event that drove her off so he had some reference.  That wasn’t a great idea in hindsight.

Months more went by, and as the days passed, while I missed the regular notes and her presence, I still did my best to go on.  The first summer was the hardest or so I thought.  When lightning struck, I looked up and closed my eyes trying to imagine her near me, letting the sound of thunder rumble through my body.  I still wrote, but this time it was notes to no one.  And as the notes piled, the amount slowed down to a smaller flow, and then a trickle, and then none.

It was in August that I got a call.  My buddy who I had asked to keep an eye on her was in town.  Considering that I really owed him one, I wanted to hear everything, but more importantly, offer some payback for a favour I never could really ever repay… or so I thought.  So feeling nostalgic, guilty and 100s of other feelings, I met him at le Biftheque for a good ol’ fashion steak dinner.

I always loved that restaurant.  The old classic wood and barn look that hasn’t changed in decades.  The dim lighting and the chuckwagon red and white table clothes.  The fresh bread baking all the time, filling the rooms with the scent of utter joy and pleasure.  And most importantly, the booths, where I walked over to meet him… and HER.  My sins had come to roost.

Awkward really doesn’t even begin to explain the next few hours.  I was stunned, guilty, lovelorn, angry, sad, and probably everything else you could expect.  Honestly, if I had the chance to put my fist through the wall, I probably would have gladly.

As the evening progressed, I barely heard anything they were telling me to bring me up to speed.  Eating was probably the last thing on my mind, but I focused as best I could to ignore the banter… until the last few words.  While he was keeping her company to cheer her up, they fell in love.  And with me as a lesson for the follies of not making a final decision, they decided to get married as soon as possible and flew back to Montreal to ask for my permission.

You know, they say the road to hell is paved in good intentions?  It definately is.  In my “good-ness”, I was the architect of this Titanic, but now looking desperately for that chunk of ice on the horizon to put me out of my misery.  And on they talked, and explained, and then came the special request, an iceberg worthy of this ocean of hell.

“Terry, we want you to be the BEST MAN.”

End of Part Two.

—————

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 1

The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 3

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 … Pt 1

“Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face” – Alanis Morrisette, “Ironic”

”They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true. What they don’t tell you is that when it starts again, it moves extra fast to catch up.” – Ed Bloom, Big Fish

“The magic of our first love is our ignorance that it would never end.” – Unknown

This will definately become a multi-part blog, as it’s a pretty long story.  It’s one that’s probably worthy of a soap opera, and it literally spawns over decades.

It’s a tale never written in full, but it’s time that its told, even in summary.  It’s about a pretty special girl who I will never forget, and in many ways never forgive as well. It’s about love and loss. It’s about passion and fate, pride and stupidity.  It’s about obsession.  It’s about hatred. It’s about the law. It’s about the moral right against the legal right, and how it’s so hard to tell where the line between the two is sometimes. And in the end, it’s simply about a girl, who loved a boy, who loved her back, and how they both lost one another.

But to tell the tale, I have to tell you a bit about how it all started.  Just to let you know, because some people are still around in this whole mess, including 2 innocent kids who I still love so all names have been concealed save mine.

When I first saw her at the community pool, I think I could honestly say that I was just breathless.  It wasn’t one of those teen flashes of “babeocity”, where hormones ran rampant and hearts flew. I was just stunned.  There she was, in her simple 1-piece swimsuit, her smile and that look… that look that turned me into a deaf mute.  Again with the buts though, this was a time when I was young, insecure and painfully shy.  I aspired to be the knight of olde even then, but all I could pretend to be was the new squire to be ordered and ridiculed.

I wasn’t one of the cool crowd back then.  I was the geek, the kid who was nervous and self conscious and jittery.  I was the one who everyone liked, but not necessarily would invite to a night out for a drink and would be far more at home in a basement playing Dungeons and Dragons than watching a football game.  So while I was struck by her, I was equally intimidated by her as well.  It was like a “5” was striving to win a “10”.

So the first few weeks went, with course after course learning how to rescue dive, to perform CPR, use a spinal board and so on.  There I was, longing to know her and being too shy but it took the secret “summer friend” event at the YMCA to change things.

In the day, I was working for the YMCA as a day camp counsellor and then would bike to swim classes.  To promote friendship among the staff, a secret summer friend project was launched, whereas a summer friend would get to do something special for another one secretly based on names picked out a hat.  Simply put, I kinda sucked as a secret summer friend.  With my busy schedule, I kept forgetting to do something special for my “friend.”  But my secret friend rocked!  One day, I went to check my personal mailbox, only to find a bag full of fresh baked cookies!  Pretty jazzed by the gift, I brought it to swim class and lost pretty much all inhibitions and offered them to HER.  The cookies rocked, but what happened right after rocked ME.  She kissed me on the cheek,

From thereon, we were great friends.  We were always sitting together during classes, talking, joking and chatting, working out times to go out together and so on.  It was a glorious summer, and as the weeks passed, my feelings grew ever more.

But as all good things, classes came to an end and I dreaded the time to miss her presence.  With that, I knew I had to take one great chance.  Fortes fortuna juvat.  Fortune Favours the Bold.

It was the day of the final swimming exam where we had to “rescue” each other, take each other out, and perform mouth to mouth.  Everyone walked in ready for the challenge. I walked in not caring at all for that one, as I had a greater challenge in my hands…. a bouquet of roses.  Before class started, I faced her, and quietly gave her the bouquet, and secretly reveled in my glorious action.  I didn’t give her a chance to answer.  I didn’t give her even a word explaining it all.  I just showed her that I really, really cared for her.

The exam went on, and we all performed as expected.  Swimming a few miles in the pool in the different styles.  Diving in one way or another.  Dealing with panicked swimmers.  But then came the mouth to mouth, and it was her turn to rescue me.

Well, here I was, “unconscious” and partially “drowned”, doing my best to pretend to be a swimmer in distress.  I was partnered up with her, and I just really hoped that I didn’t have really bad breath to make her exam unpleasant.  Nope. It was so far completely from unpleasant that she honestly did take my breath away.

It was a typical procedure of course.  Tilt the head.  Check for breathing.  Clear the airway.  Pinch the nose. Take a deep breath.  Cover his mouth with yours.  Begin to secretly give him a french kiss in the middle of a mouth to mouth exam knowing he won’t endanger your mark and hope he doesn’t freak out.

Yes people, that was my first french kiss.  She knew I reveled in flustering her with the roses, so she french kissed me in a very unusual way, and in the one place where she knew I would never run.  Each “kiss” had to be quick and short, but as her tongue touched mine each time, the moments lasted damn near forever.

That was that, the gauntlet was thrown, and we would become close in our own clumsy way.  Over the years to come, she and I would walk together in the morning every day before she would get onto her bus to school.  We were both from different school districts, so I never saw her in the weekdays much.  But we would write to each other day after day, note after note found awaiting the other.  On weekends, she would be with her friends, and I with mine, but still grew close through our words and our rare moments together. And… always, whenever possible, we would sit close, stare into the heavens and watch the lightning and the thunder play their dance in the night skies. 

By the end of that first year, I knew I was in love with her.  And I believed she loved me too.

Fast forward a few years, and as ever, we just couldn’t seem to keep a regular schedule together. We both had other boyfriends, girlfriends, dates and flings, but we always found ourselves together a few months later.  Each time was chaste, honourable and proper.  We loved each other, but weren’t quite sure HOW to love one another.  We both kept ourselves pretty busy and just kept passing one another by like 2 ships in the night.  We were young and stupid, and kept finding barriers to keep each other apart, yet would write to each other like crazy and still find ways to let our words touch the other.

We were now university students, but she was always in many ways far more focused than me.  She had won a full scholarship far away, and I was so proud and happy for her.  But, and again always the but, there was a problem.  She didn’t want to leave.

Was it because she was afraid of leaving Montreal?  Afraid of being alone in a new school?  We spoke, discussed, talked, argued and communicated in every way that was possible over days with the matter going no further ahead.  Her family was concerned, and I was worried beyond belief.  Such opportunities rarely came, and I didn’t want her to miss out on this chance of a lifetime.  And being a typical male, I saw it all in a black and white matter, when she showed me her one overwhelming argument in one burst of communication I never considered…. a kiss.

It was a long, deep kiss, full of longings, hopes and dreams.  It told me everything about her, her heart and what she wanted without saying a word.  I was the reason why she wouldn’t leave. No more… no less.

And with that, I started my plans to do probably the singly most noblest thing I’ve ever done, and probably the stupidest one as well.  I started to conspire with her parents to break her heart and shatter this almost a full relationship for good.  My logic, break her heart and drive her away to school where she can focus and become a great lawyer.  The problem? Logic never really works well in matters of the heart.   And from that moment, a mutual journey began.  It was one that would run over 20 years and tie our lives and several others together in ways that I could have never ever foreseen.

End of Part 1.

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 2

The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 3

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 4 – Those Left Behind

The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword

The Boy, The Barber Shop and the Talented Hooker

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” – Sigmund Freud

“Some of the worst mistakes in my life were haircuts” – Jim Morrison

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Young me, with a good ol’ cup of Van Houtte coffee

When I was young, daring, invulnerable and stupid, I did a fair amount of traveling on my own in Asia.  My folks had encouraged it, as my life in Quebec had produced a walking banana or a Chinese kid who is yellow on the outside but white on the inside.  I had wholeheartedly embraced my Canadian heritage, with little or no knowledge of my Chinese roots and admittedly didn’t even think of myself as an Asian kid.  So, when the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore came up, I didn’t hesitate (much).  I thought it would be fun, and in a time before the internet, it would be interesting to explore new lands and places that I’ve seen only in James Bond movies and the Noble House mini-series  (ironically starring a young Pierce Brosnan).

Well, the novelty quickly wore off and then some.  Being of a northern climate, the 30+C temperatures roasted me alive during the day, and the intense humidity made me gasp for breath.  Worse, all of these areas seemed to have been extremely influenced by the West that made it indistinguishable from some southern cities, just with way more Asians.

Of course, that’s not true.  There’s a lot of little subtle differences here and there if you’re willing to look and listen.  Some of even funny as heck, really.  Go to a Pizza Hut in Hong Kong around lunch time on the weekend.  They offer a set price for a bowl of salad, as much as you can fill from their salad bar for a few bucks.  On the weekends, you’ll see some of the most astounding acts of balance and scale ever, as ever growing 3 or 4 foot high salad towers arise from these bowls, with a starved group of students waiting in the booth for the salad acrobat to bring his creation over to.  Heck, look at the pizzas too, as scrambled eggs and scallions has their places of honour next to the pepperoni with extra cheese.  It’s the little things, where the West swamped them with our culture, and they turned around and made some tweaks to make it their own.

And this is where I come in.  I had spent a few months in Taiwan at the time, but having the mandarin language skills of a deaf-mute, I had to take a LOT of things on faith that it was identical to Canada.  Most of the times, being the seasoned traveler I was, I really kinda winged it most of the time.  Worse, I was guilty of a common traveler’s crime, that is, when encountering people of another culture who had no clue what the heck you’re saying, you repeat your questions over and over in English, but LOUDER.  Needless to say, I don’t think I really endeared myself to a lot of the locals.

Well, it had been months since I landed, but not knowing where my usual sources of useful services could be found, I hadn’t cut my hair in ages.  It was getting pretty bad, so I kept an eye out for hair salons and the like.  And it’s with total abandon and boyish glee that I ran over to the first barber pole I saw.

Before I go on, I have to explain a little bit about Taipei’s famous Snake Alley or Huaxi Street Night Market.  It’s a tourist wonderland, filled with some of the most awesome clothing, music and trinket deals, and some of the best street food on the planet (really recommend the oyster omelet!).   It’s also famous for it’s delicacy of snake blood and urine, mixed in a alcoholic aphrodisiac, and for being a den of sin and villainy to some extent.  Being the person who I am, I couldn’t resist exploring it alone.  (Yes, as I mentioned, I was young, invulnerable and stupid indeed.)

When I saw the barber pole. I saw it as a lucky event as what were the odds to find a barber in a place like this?  I quickly ran through the door and hoped there wasn’t too much of a line up.  There wasn’t… in the front.  In fact, in the reception, there was no one at all.

The room was quite unremarkable.  While everything seemed to be made of a dark wood with a dingy layer of dust everywhere, there were the customary barber chairs and mirrors, a little cash, and a curtained door in the back.  Lighting didn’t seem to be all too hot as well, but as I was in a barber shop for the first time in months, I didn’t really care too much.  I called out, wondering where the heck was everyone, when a young woman in a pretty tight dress walked out.  It quickly became apparent that there was a language barrier, as everything she said was pretty much greek to me.  So, I thought, might as well pantomine everything to show what I wanted done.  I walked over to a chair, dusted it off a little (yes, warning bells should have gone off but I was again, young and stupid), sat down, and indicated to her that I wanted a hair cut with a few hand motions.  She seemed to be a little puzzled, but played along and started to cut my hair.

Now, this was where things started to get weird.  The girl was a bit apprehensive when considering that all I expected was a haircut.  She seemed a little confused, and I just chalked that up to maybe dealing with someone who couldn’t talk back to her.  So I sat down and let her cut away, wondering why and so on while it was taking forever.  And things then started to take a different turn….

As she was cutting, I noticed she was getting closer and closer to me.  In fact, within a few minutes, I would describe the event as practically intimate.  With each snip, she started to rub her body against mine and I, being the catholic school boy at heart, was getting to be pretty flustered.  Was this some sort of new way to cut hair?? Is this the custom?  What kind of place was this?  Needless to say, I was just speechless.  I had no idea what to think about this, and would have jumped out and left but I didn’t want to leave with a half done job as well.  Besides, it… admittedly.. was getting to be kinda fun in a weird barber shop experience.

Finally, over 20 min later, the ordeal came to an end.  My hair was cut, maybe not expertly so, but decent enough to be able to walk around in society.  The girl was still looking a bit confused, and was now trying to get me to get into the back room for some reason.  Well, I hadn’t paid yet, so I thought maybe her cash was there and so I went…. into a back room with a few beds separated by curtains, lit candles, lots and lots of beads, the heavy scent of jasmine and more…  It suddenly hit me, this wasn’t so much a barber shop as it was a BROTHEL.

I can’t really elaborate on what happened after, only that the resulting fumbling, really nervous English dialog and me giving her about $30 (no idea what it cost, but at that time, I wasn’t really thinking straight).   I promptly ran out and hit a bar for a few drinks.

Here I was in Taiwan, a devout catholic kid at the time, and fairly naive in a lot of ways with no internet existing as we knew it.  How was I supposed to know that in some parts of Taiwan, barber shops and poles were used not to indicate a hair salon, but a prostitution brothel!  There were events like these and more, but this would be enough for this tale.  My brother in spirit, Dave, reminds me of this every so often, and I keep wondering, how the heck did I survive my stupid years.