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

How NOT to Hide from Your Mom in the Morning

Hi all, sorry I haven’t written in the last 2 weeks or so, but I’ve been insanely busy with YYC Burger Week!  It’s a new food event that the fabulous Sabahat Naureen thought up, and enlisted myself and her fiancé Chris, that involved 16 top grade restaurants, all locally owned and operated and dedicated to local food sourcing.  Those 16 had offered a $15 burger platter, of which $1 went to an assigned charity.  We’re still tallying up the money, but it looks like over 5000 burgers were sold, and probably over $6000 was raised for 8 great charities, and we had gotten a TON of press.  The restaurants all reported a boost in business, the charities had gotten more exposure, and the 3 of us had a chance to give back to the Calgary community.  All in all, being our first year, it was a great success!  I’ll write a blog post soon enough about the whole event, so others can see what we did to make their own event.

But in the meantime, back to the blog.  There’s more news about my “kids“, and the reunion is 1 month, 1 week away.  That’ll be the next entry of the “New Frontiers“, and then a new piece on “What To Do When Trust is Gone” based on my adventures in the spy biz.    But before I get back to those tales, here’s a fond embarrassing memory for younger days….

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I was in my 20s, and living at home at the time.  I was dating a gal I met at McGill U, Fahima E., and it was looking pretty serious.  It had been a few years since the wedding from hell and I was comfortable to be dating seriously again.

She had started to spend her nights at my house, and would sleep in the guest room in the basement.  I would usually sleep in my room, but … every so often, we would sneak to each other’s room to sleep together.  And yes, I mean sleep, as we simply liked each other’s company a lot and if you’re making any other assumptions, that’s entirely up to you. 🙂

Of course though, mom and dad, as modern western minded as they are, there were still a few conventions they would follow, or at least liked to have the illusion of following.  One of those is that if there ain’t a ring on each other’s finger, you don’t stay together in the same bedroom.   Yes, it’s a bit prudish in the modern world, but you do have to admit it’s kinda cute as well.

Well, one late night after classes, we both came up fairly late to a dark home.  Everyone was asleep, and Fahima and I went off to bed.  I quietly closed my own bedroom door, making it look like I was asleep in my room, and she and I went to the guest room (as it was a double bed).  We promptly passed out and that was that…. until the morning.

Now I’m normally a bit of a light sleeper in the AM, while Fahima was not.  The vent system in my old Montreal home only made that trait of mine worse, as I usually can hear conversations in other rooms pretty well.  This was no different, as I was slumbering, I suddenly heard my parents up and about and talking about going to some event later in the day.

My first thought… dammit, they’re up and there’s no way for me to get to my room without being seen.  Usually, this wouldn’t be a problem as they would rarely wake me up, and would go about on their business in the morning and leave the house.  But when I heard the words, “event”, my mind instantly calculated 2+2 together and came up with “freakin’ hell”.  You see, my mom has so many dresses and coats and what not, that she often stored a lot of her favorite dresses in either of the two guest room closets or a 3rd closet in the basement.  So what could I do then?  I knew that escape was impossible, as I had only seconds to act. So with escape not an option, my tiny reptile mind went into survival “hide” mode.  I leaped right into one closet, and took my chances.  There was a 33 1/3 % I would be discovered, and started looking to the gods above for salvation (ok, I wasn’t an atheist back then admittedly).

Then, as mom entered the basement and approached the guest room door, I heard her tell my father, “I need my red dress with the flower design.”  Well, I quickly looked around and voila… there it was next to me.  I started to mentally curse the gods for their sense of humour, and heard the door of the guest room door open.

Mom was a little surprised to open the door and found Fahima unconscious in bed, but then said “Oh, excuse me,” and not missing a beat, walked straight to the closet where I was hiding in.  Giving in to the inevitable, I took the dress off the rack, and when the closet doors slid open, there I was, only in my briefs, and quietly presented her with her dress.

Now the look and surprise on her face was priceless admittedly.  She was startled, but I think she had a sense of humour about the event.  She looked at me exactly the same way a mom would look disapprovingly at bad behaviour, while I was beet red, embarrassed, and looked like I had just been caught with my hand in the cookie jar all the while standing in a closet with Fruit of the Loom briefs.  Mom then took the dress, had that odd smirk, and closed the closet door on me.  She walked out, and I just stood there in the cold, dark closet stunned.

It was a lot like this...

It was a lot like this…

Now I don’t know what she may have told my dad at the time, or if she said nothing, but we never spoke of it since.  I had to admire her sense of restraint and discretion.  It was another of those Terryism moments that I’m so prone to in my soap opera life, and as I look back, it was one of those funny memories that I’ll always love about her.  Thanks mom for the giggles.

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

Dancing in the Dark… Taiwan Style

Back in the 80s, I was honored by an invite to be a part of the Taiwanese Chinese Youth Corps cultural tour.  Every year, hundreds of up and coming Chinese kids around the world were invited to the island nation to see a little bit of Chinese culture, connect with fellow other kids our own age, and learn a few skills along the way.

Now, I was probably at the height of my “I am Canadian” phase at the time, that is, I tried to see myself as beyond being of Chinese cultural heritage (in general, I’m actually a mutt… but that’s a tale for another day).  Hell, if you asked me if I was Chinese, I probably would have said Quebecois first and foremost.  Yeah, I was definitely what we Chinese call a “banana”, yellow on the outside, white on the inside.  A little concerned, my folks suggested I give my heritage a bit of a break, and try to keep an open mind.

Well, admittedly the trip did change a lot of my impressions and thoughts on being Chinese, but there was an unexpected effect.  While I became more China-centric, I also let my guard down and became a full fledged party guy for a brief sliver of time.  It was pretty inevitable. get 1000 17, 18 and 19 yr old boys and girls and put them on the same campus with no parental supervision?  What do you think happens?

Now, I can tell you about the pub crawls, the late night dinners, sleeping in karaoke clubs, and more… but one particular night will always shine in my mind.

Kiss La Bocca. more affectionately known as just KISS, was probably the very first night club I ever went to.  There, with some beer and my new friends. I was introduced to the electrifying music of New Order, the smooth sensation of a Rum and Coke, the quiet delights of a snuggle in the shadows and the hot action of the dance floor.  It was there where my friends and I would sneak out every other night to relax after a hard day of Chinese language studies and road trips across Taiwan.  And it was there when lil’ evangelical me (back then, I was such a religious kook) had his first… well… I don’t know what to call it moment.

To understand this event, you have to understand that KISS’ layout is basically a dual level nightclub.  On the ground floor is one huge dance floor, with random lights flashing off everywhere.  At one end of the floor, there’s a large stage surrounded by huge speakers.  On the sides, there were bars, tables and chairs and so on.  The upper second floor is more of a huge veranda, surrounding 3 of the 4 sides of the room giving the crowd above a great view of the floor below.  Now that you have an idea of the room, let’s get back to the tale.

So there I was, with my friends and basically going wild on the floor below, when the music switched from techno to a romantic slow song. All of us left the dance floor, but Patricia (wow I miss her) came up to me and asked if I’d like to slow dance, and astonishingly I said yes and we embraced.  The lights shut down, and all that could be seen were couples holding close, fumbling in the dark.

It was… nice.  Her body close against mine, warmth against warmth, heads against each other.  I savored the moment between 2 good friends, and admittedly just the simple pleasure of a cute gal pressed against me.  And then… our eyes adjusted to the darkness.

It was a shock… and then some.     As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I started to see the other couples dancing cheek to cheek.  They were all close and intimate.  They were all in each others’ arms.  They were all men.

My eyes widened.  I closed them again and when they opened again… yep… it was all men.  I whispered to Pat, “Take a look around. Are we in a gay club?”  I couldn’t see her face and see her reaction, but a few seconds later she replied, “I think we are.”

Well, the tender, sweet moment between Pat and I was pretty much lost right there and then.  We started to look around us more in depth, and looked up together at the walkways above.  And again, we were shocked yet once again.  There they were, over a hundred Taiwanese pairs of eyes, all male, all watching Pat and me intensely like a Foodie on a diet staring at a 21 day aged well done Prime Rib.  We held each other tighter and continued to dance, and I asked her, “Are they watching us or just me?”  She replied, “We’re in the middle of a gay club, so I’m pretty sure just you.  I guess your ass has a lot more sex appeal than I thought.”

Remember, I was a bit evangelical and definately a little homophobic then., and if you know me, you know that my friends tend to have a sense of dry wit and humor.  Needless to say, Patricia hit the PERFECT words to freak me out and enjoyed it all the while.  So I did what any young mildly evangelical homophobic kid would do when slow dancing with a hot girl but surrounded by hundreds of gay couples and being watched from above by other men… I took the slow dance lead and lead us off the dance floor all the while Patricia was both mildly amused by my reaction and a little surprised by the whole revelation around us.  In fact, I slow danced us off the floor, didn’t even notice having left it and continued to go on right back to the safety and sanctity of my friends and our tables.

Now this is one of those cultural things that I never could have known about, just like in my previous blog about barber poles (check out The Boy, The Barber Shop and the Talented Hooker to see what I mean).  When I explained the whole event to a Tour coordinator, he spent a few minutes laughing before he could control himself long enough to breathe.  My friends and I went out on a Wednesday night, which to you or me probably wouldn’t have made much difference at all, but makes all the difference to a local Taiwan guy.  You see, Wednesdays seems to be the unofficial night for Taiwanese guys to go to night clubs, to take what they’ve learned from American videos and the past weekend, and to test out their new moves so they could impress their girlfriends on the weekend.  And being an obviously Western crew, we walked in on the one night where each and every one of them would watch and examine us to learn fresh moves from the US of A.  Being the only visitor guy who dared go on the dance floor for a slow dance, they were analyzing every little thing I was doing to see if they could improve their own skills, and thankfully not to check out my Chinese-Canadian ass.  (Thank heavens, I never thought my ass was particularly sexy.)

It was a fun night.  It was an awkward night. It was magic, and comfort, and sexy, and freaky.  And it was a night that was a step on my path to understanding on when to embrace the experience and run with it.  Thanks Patricia and all the crew of the Chien T’an 1989 Taiwan Cultural Youth Tour for memories I’ll never forget.