Posts from the ‘Family’ Category

25 Years doesn’t change a thing – Truth, Duty, Valour

In 1983, I set foot onto Canadian Forces’ Base Chilliwack, British Columbia and started an experience that still continues to this day.  At that time, I was a young dewy-faced, neophyte –

ASF circa 1983

and because I knew no one, I was alone. But, as it happens, so was everyone else.  And in our shared solitudes, we all tried very hard to ignore the shouting, the stress, and the discomfort, as we challenged every ounce of our beings to understand our new culture – in a new place,  far away from our homes.

We were 18.

And in that brief 6 weeks, in which we learned to wear the uniform, to march, to live in the field, to run long distances, to navigate and to lead small teams, we all made a few friends. But these friends were at a different level than  “friends” that share a few common interests, or say hello when they see each other in the street; nope, these were new friend that I would learn, and need, to depend on implicitly.  These were people I would trust with my life.

And for the next four years, we shared everything. Good times, bad times…happy moments and tears.  We took on challenges as a team, and we endured – not

The Collwood Eight

always victorious, but always together. We consoled each other, we encouraged each other; at times we scolded each other and offered life advice – offered from the vantage point of worldly young twenty-somethings.We played sports together, we studied together, we ate together, we watched TV together…and given the horrible state of the military buildings, we shared an intimacy that broke any barriers of self-modesty, as we showered and did our ablutions together in old World War II infrastructure.

RMC v Westpoint 1986

We shared clothes and smokes and beers and money. We were each other’s wing-men – taking on names like Carl Gustav and Tommy Gunn to advance the cause. And on occasion, we stopped fights and sweet talked bouncers or Kingston’s Finest for each other – the Cadets from the Institute.

We jumped into the cauldron with each other – not war – but preparation for it.  We were young, and we were Soldiers (and Sailors and Aircrew).  We were invincible, healthy and ready to take on whatever anyone threw at us.

We forged friendships that will last a life time. And in that bittersweet moment when we walked through the College Arch – no longer students, but full-fledged

The Troll, Spenny, Spud, ASF, Mitch, Miff. Grad 87

leaders – we spread to the four corners of the globe, executing our duties. And over time, we matured. We honed our crafts; we fell in love; we married; we had children, and we grew wiser. And as the hour-glass of our lives slowly filled, as happens to all close groups, we  drifted – imperceptibly – apart. But this separation was only physical.

Some of us left the military. And using the same self-discipline, courage and adventurous spirit that brought us together in 1983,  these brave ones struck out into fields unexplored, creating new paths and achieving new success.  And their success has validated us, and all we did when we were younger.

And some of us stayed in uniform – taking on growing leadership challenges to achieve success for Canada and her citizens.  And, again, our success has validated us all.

But no matter where we are, or what we are doing, every five years, most of us return to the Mothership. Like pigeons to the roost, or bees to the hive, we return to be with our Buds.  And be it five years, 10, 15…or as just last weekend, 25 years since Graduation…it was just like we were back in our youth.  The stories, the lingo, the memories are just as good today as they were then.  And though we may be older or rounder, perchance greyer or balder, the friendships have not yellowed or frayed.   In fact, the comfort, the ease, and the love are just as strong today as they were 25 years ago.  Time has not changed a thing.  It is uncanny. And I see nothing but the same for many years to come as I watch our Elders celebrate their 40th, 50th, and in some cases 60th reunions together.

I know it is crazy, but being with my Buds makes me younger. It takes me back to the time when The Clash was new, when a new Ford Mustang cost $10,000, when shoulder pads were hip. Back to a time when I had my whole life, and the whole world ahead of me.  And when I am in their company, I still feel capable of wonderful things – like taking on our newest generation in rugby, or water polo – or partying like its 1999 (or earlier). It is rejuvenating, like drinking from a fountain of youth.

And as my wife commented after my 25th reunion weekend: I am so lucky to have friends who are timeless; to have friends with whom I have gone through “the shit”- friends whom without, I wouldn’t have made it through.

It is something to cherish.

And when we meet again – tomorrow, or next week, next year, or in five years – it will be like time stood still.  I will still love them just as much. Amongst all the people I know – probably thousands – there is no tighter circle than ours.   And while I do miss them when we are apart, I know that neither time nor distance does anything to diminish our bonds and our trust. I know that tomorrow, like today and yesterday, they have my back. And they know that I have theirs.

So until we meet again, stay well class of ’87.  See you at our 30th.

TDV

(PS. Miff – you rock. Figuratively and literally.)

Later,

ASF

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The Canadian Army Run – way more than just a run….

This past weekend I participated in the Canadian Army Run.  Now, way back in February when I signed up for the run, I was full of good intentions to train hard and hopefully come close to meeting my personal best.  At least that it what I thought 7 months ago…that I could match a time that was achieved when I was eight years younger, 20lbs lighter and whole lot less arthritic.  (Roll eyes now…)

I started training and for three months I was doing really well. Speed work, hill work, endurance runs… I did everything that John Stanton recommended and I was feeling powerful.

But then life got in the way.

First the debilitating pinched nerve – the one I blogged about in May – then a house hunting trip from UK to Canada, and then a full-fledged move which included 30+ days in a hotel.  The latter was the killer: restaurants and beer and fried eggs and the occasional work out.  Any half-marathon discipline was wiped out by waves of stress-related hedonism! Time ticked away and I consoled myself that I had two months, then a month, then three weeks…blah blah blah.

And as 23 September loomed closer, the sinking feeling of “Man…this is gonna hurt. Hurt real bad!” started growing momentum. And while I wore the badge of “I am running the 21.3km Army Run”, I was a bit worried that I was going to embarrass myself and not finish. Instead of eagerness and impatience, there was a bit of unease and anxiety. And occasionally, I would think that the easy thing to do was to forgo the whole experience and take a “pass”. Everybody would understand that I was “not ready”.

But I couldn’t.  And with the exact same logic, neither could my wife. We said we would, so we had to.

So Sue and I sucked it up and headed off to Ottawa to do our bit.  To finish what we set out to do and to complete our respective 5k and 21k.

And during, and after, our respective runs, we both wondered what the heck we were worried about.  For among the 17,000 runners in both events, there was no thought of failure, no thoughts of poor performances, no winners and no losers.  It was a celebration: a celebration of an institution and its values.  Of taking on a challenge and sharing in everyone’s victory. Of cheering on everyone and applauding their commitment – whether they were Olympic calibre athletes or novices who wanted to show their support by taking on a huge challenge.

And mostly, it was humbling.  It was humbling to watch the disabled and the injured soldiers and fellow citizens take on the same challenge as us.  And honestly, nobody cared how fast they were. It was simply sobering to watch a triple amputee, injured in an IED attack, walking on two prosthetic legs holding a cane in his good hand. I can only describe it as awe-inspiring. It talks to the human condition – the drive and spirit that make us do things that we thought we could never do.  It put all of our challenges and worries into perspective.

And alongside this multitude of marvellous, amazing individuals, ordinary Canadians of all

His Excllency the Governor General particpates in the Canadian Army Run 5k

shapes and sizes, colours and creeds, ran, or jogged, or walked, defeating their own internal demons to make it across the finish line. And while their challenges may not have been as mountainous as the disabled and hurt, their victories are no less significant.

And after it all, the array of emotions that faces displayed were incredible.  Happiness, relief, tears, incredulity…the full gamut.  And why not?  It was a wonderful day full of personal bests and personal victories – of completing what you may not have thought was possible. And as I look at the pictures friends have posted, and the comments that they and all the people who care for them have made, I know that everyone feels the same.  It was so worth it!

And I feel a wisp of shame that I thought about avoiding it because I was not “ready”.  Because if I had not done it, I would not have been rejuvenated by the remarkable role models and spectrum of positive emotions throughout the course, and the valuable lessons it taught me.

No one cared if I ran slowly. No one mocked me for my slower finishing time. It was simply a celebration of what I, and We, achieved.  How we achieved the “objective”.  That we were a team focused on the same goal.  And that, in a nutshell, is how I would describe the Army and the Canadian Forces. How perfect is that?

So, if you have not attempted the Army run – 5k or 21k – join the thousands that have done it and will return for another year. It is a reawakening and a nice demonstration of what is right about sport and personal endeavour. Despite your fears and worries, you can do it just like others did.

See you on the course next year!

Go Army!

Later,

ASF

…Most wonderful time of the Year!

First day of school! Back to school supplies, new clothes, lunches all sorted and arranged in a frenzy of preparedness…parents across the continent have snapped pictures and sent the kids packing.  A mixture of pride, and perhaps relief, with a whiff of sadness.  They are growing up.

And for some, the day is full of angst as four-year olds make their first forays into junior kindergarten, or their older kids start at a new school for the first time, and as older ones spread their wings and leave the nest in their first years of university.

So much emotion, so much anxiety.  Will they make friends? Will their teacher be nice? Will they be bullied?  Will they be happy?

The answers – yes, hopefully, hopefully not, and yes.  We were happy – just like the generations before us. Both at school and after school.

I can’t say that everything at school was fantastic, I mean my Grade 4 teacher Mrs. B used to chastise us with, “Stop whispering back there!  I used to listen for airplanes during the war – I can hear you plainly!” Also, several of her students passed out while executing the daily “Lead the Class in Oh Canada” duty…and there was the unfortunate “karate chop” incident that led to my one-on-one with the Principal…

But overall, thinking of school is nothing but a nostalgic visit with memories that make me happy.  We all have them. Things like:

Recess.  I mean recess…how cool.  Unless it was “Indoor Recess” because it was too cold or too wet.  Recess meant “foot hockey”…tennis ball soccer with goalies using their coats as “goalie pads”. Or it meant Four-Square or Kings’ Corner, with the red rubber bouncy ball (you know, the one that made the pinging sound as it bounced) and three opponents in a four sectioned square.  Or it meant tether ball, or dodge ball or Spud or tag or hide-and-seek or British Bulldog or red-rover.  These were the things that made school fun.

Or was it the School Sports Day?  One whole Spring day full of relay races, where everyone sat down in line – calmly – once they had navigated the obstacle course, or hula-hooped, or put on the clown outfit, or did whatever the teachers invented. A day full of competitive spirit, when every team was in the hunt for the coloured ribbons.  And it was the day when you got that awesome orangey-like juice from the McDonald’s cooler, to wash down the one lunchtime hotdog.

And what about assemblies…the whole school in one place. All the kids kept trying to get the attention of their best friend in the other class…or it was youngest siblings waving at their “cooler” older sibling who was trying their hardest to ignore them. And the snake-like cacophony of the teachers’ constant “shhh”s  as we waited for the Principal to introduce the Visitor.  Rumours were prevalent just before Assembly…would it be Elmer the Safety Elephant or Blinky the Police Car…would it be a guitar sing-song or a short film?  Would we be watching another class do a special play? So much excitement, so much fun!  Regardless of the reason, it was always an exciting break from the routine.  Good for some time away from the grindstone!

And in the same vein, what about the perennial Christmas concert…I have been to them as a parent, and except for that four-minute period that your own child is singing a Christmas medley of Rudolph/Frosty/Jingle Bells…it is painful.  Oh, wait…the kindergarten kids, regardless of their song, are so cute with their snowflake hats or elf costumes!! Regardless of the pain, for uncounted generations, parents have endured as their child has sung with gusto to be heard above the others in the Choir.

And lastly there was the favourite “Parent Night” (not to be confused with the dreaded parent-teacher conference.  Moms and dads coming in to the open house, as their children showed off their notebooks, their desk space (all tidied up and neat for the special occasion), and proudly pointing out the artwork that made the bulletin board, or the short story with the gold star at the front of the classroom.  For me and my sibs, the evening was usually capped off at the house with an evening treat – ice cream or cake and hot custard.  It was awesome.

As I sit and reminisce, I think of all the other things that made me happy to go back to school…

  • the 64 pack of Crayola with the built-in sharpener and awesome colours like Periwinkle Blue and Vermillion, which morphed into Laurentian Pencil Crayons as I grew older….
  • the utility math kit, with the compass and the protractor and the six-inch ruler and the eraser – which usually finished the season with a broken case containing only a snapped ruler…
  • marking your supplies with your name – and usually putting a masking tape “flag” on your pens on which to write your name….
  • Coming home at lunch time to tomato soup and a cheese sandwich as I watched Fred and Barney get into another jam. They were “Stupid Good-lookings”…a “Judo-chop-chop”
  • Chocolate bar sales as we raised money for some unknown cause, motivated by earning that Pizza Party for the class
  • Feeling slightly sad for the kid who forgot his indoor shoes during the winter and had to spend the day walking around in socks…but boy, could they slip and slide down the polished hallways!

  • The audio centre at the back of the classroom, where we could put on a record, don the headphones and listen to “A Spoonful of Sugar” or the “Bear Necessities”… with the teacher tapping us on the shoulder to tell us we were singing a bit too loudly
  • The jokes we used to tell…Knock,Knock…I was born on a Pirate Ship…or the mildly risqué story that was made up entirely of Chocolate Bar Names (you remember, with Oh Henry and Sweet Marie…)
  • The foldy paper-thingy – a “fortune teller” or “cootie catcher” – that had numbers and colours and told you your future depending on the combinations you gave the owner…
  • The arts and crafts that produced Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards, or Easter baskets or snowflake calendars….
  • And finally, the classroom party – dressed up for Hallowe’en, or participating in the gift exchange at Christmas ( I remember getting socks one year.  Practical; but what 8 year-old wants practical?), or the Valentine Day card-giving (with the little cards, and the unofficial competition of who would receive more, and your parents’ advice to give one to everyone so that no one’s feelings got hurt), Easter and then the  year-end Party. Surprising that we got anything done.

I don’t know if all that happens anymore.  My kids have grown.

Maybe things have changed…maybe computers and smart phones or Health and Safety and our litigious nature have changed everything.  I hope not. I hope that underneath our radar, underneath the white noise of “earning a living”, or “paying the mortgage”, or “the pursuit of the material goods”, that our kids are doing the things that kids should do – and that they are having fun. That’s the way it should be.

And, because, kids are kids, whether it is 1976 or 2012 – I bet they are! And If I’m wrong, I am sure you will let me know.

Happy back to school, Everyone.

Later,

ASF

Oh oh….when is Father’s Day?

It will be Father’s Day this Sunday.  Or, for most dads, it will just be another Sunday. But do not fret; men are stoic, and strong, and stony, so whether our kids will remember Father’s Day or not will not matter to us. We know its Fathers’ Day, and having a day named after us is good enough.

It is funny how we all get weepy and maudlin over Mothers’ Day. Maybe it is because we know that moms spent hours heaving and groaning, sucking on ice chips, breathing like locomotives and finally screaming for an epidural, before We, as children, entered the world.  I guess that after someone goes through that much pain for you, you owe them – forever – because that is a lot of pain to pay back. And, yes, as always when it comes to mothers, there is always guilt.  Like, how I feel guilty that I did not  write an Ode to My Mother on my blog – or make a popsicle stick planter for her (again). But I did send a card, and it Is too late to write that blog now, so I will move on.

But, seriously, I will whine a little. With all that fuss and bother and concern about Moms, is it fair to just pay lip service to us Dads?  I mean, we can’t help it that we can’t share the physical pain of childbirth. It is an undeniable truth that every father would trade places if he could.  (Without a doubt, right lads?)  And do not underestimate the spiritual and emotional agony a father feels as he witnesses child-birth. He is an outsider and on top of that, his beloved is probably cussing him out with the vocabulary of a salty, sea-hardened buccaneer.  How do you respond to a statement like, “You are NEVER touching me again!!!!”  Really, if it wasn’t for daddy’s swimmers, mothers could not make that kind of sacrifice.  Shouldn’t fathers be showered with some kind of “collateral glory”?

Evidently not. Society does not hold that kind of reverence for Dads.  We have a love-hate thing for dads. We admire them, we mostly respect them, but we always mock them – though always with love.  I mean, my Dad has earned the nickname, “Chipsy.”  Why?  I can’t remember – I think it included a bag of Lays and his ability to always score the last ones.

And while we will all think of the stereotypical Mom as caring, and nurturing, and dependable, all the Dads I can remember from popular culture are all caricatures. Don’t buy it? Follow me…I will show you what I mean:

The lovable grumpy, bigoted, rude, blustery Dad – Archie Bunker or Fred Sanford. Now Archie and Fred are the salt-n-pepper of the 1970s hey-days of racial jokes and verbal abuse. Not an episode went by where the son or son-in-law was not yelled at or insulted.  “You dummy…”, or “Hey, Meathead…” were the usual refrains. Though constantly complaining and criticising, always inflexible and dogmatic, usually cutting and ribald, they still managed to find a soft spot. Unbelievable in hindsight, we sort of loved them, faults and all. I guess deep down, despite their flaws, they cared and did right.  Sort of like our Dads.

The Cartoon Buffoon Dad.  Now in early cartoons, the fathers were just honest, simple nincompoops: Fred Flintstone and George  Jetson come to mind easily, but I am sure there are more.  Honestly, I would throw Herman Munster into that mix, though – as someone will undoubtedly highlight –  he was not a cartoon. These dads were fun-loving, hen-pecked, but basically hard-working Joes. And we were content to giggle at their Water Buffalo Lodge hi-jinks or marital faux-pas. But then Matt Groening went and introduced Mr. H. Simpson to the world, changing everything.  All of a sudden, loafing, and gluttony, and ignorance and stupidity became fatherly attributes. He was a cartoon version of Al Bundy.  And if that was not enough, The Family Guy just bumped it up a few levels.  Peter Abbot moved fatherhood into a whole new zone as he took parental advice from a dog; and while some say that it is “rude, crude and deliciously wrong”, but I must admit that sometimes I just miss the point.  Maybe it is the Dad in me who shudders instead of seeing the satire – or maybe I am just getting old.

The Tragic But Heroic Figure of a Dad.  Now we have to go a little ways back for this, back to the responsible days of the late 60s, and early 70s – before the Love Generation, back when men wore ties to a weeknight family dinner. Who did not want Eddie to find his widowed father Tom a new wife in the “Courtship of Eddie’s Father”.  And, carrying on with the single father theme, I will add, “Whatcha talking about Willis?”  In Different Strokes, a rich widower adopts orphaned black kids. What noble patriarchal sacrifice.  And lastly, what about Fred McMurray, as the hapless Dad who was busy raising three boys on his own.  Wait a minute.  What an outstanding great segue to the next category…

The Calm – sometimes fashionable – Sensible and Reliable Dad. Mike Brady – period.  Whether it was Greg or Marcia or Peter or Jan or Bobby or Cindy, Mike was always there in his fashionable jacket and tie, or bell bottoms and sideburns, to dispense wise words and sage advice as he cleaned up the family crisis in the mandated 23 minutes (7 minutes for commercials). And following in his footsteps were Steven Keaton, doling out loving left-wing values to his money-driven son played by a young, young, young Michael J Fox, and the mugging, sweater-wearing, jello-pudding eating Cliff Huxtable. There were very few houses that did not tune into the weekly antics of the Huxtables…I think it was really Lisa Bonet who drew the crowds (before she went all Bohemian in that crazy movie with Mickey Rourke).  And again, in the honoured “calm-sometimes-fashionable-sensible- and-reliable-Dad” template, a fable of Aesopic magnitude would emerge from the 23 minute dilemma, and a heart-warming and amusing ending would leave all chuckling and hugging each other. Just like life – right?

The Multiple Dads.  Recently there has been the emergence of the two Dads.  Originally the concept was the cinematic by-product of the women who ”loved” two men (with exact opposite peronalities and lifestyles), had a baby, and never divulged the identity of the real father to anyone.  The theme has now morphed in the 21st century with homosexual fathers doing admirable jobs in raising well-adjusted normal kids.  Just look at Glee and Modern Families.

So many role models to guide us – some good, some bad. And I am sure you will ask, with all the examples to follow, which kind of Dad did I become?  All I can say is, “Hopefully a good one.” One who found the right blend of authoritarian and mentor and provider and playmate and teacher and coach and comedian and the million other things that a Dad should be.

I hope that is what I did, because I had a great “real-life” role model – my Dad.

Just thinking about his life experiences and challenges have always provided me inspiration when I needed it. As a boy, he lost his father, and raised his younger brother. As a young man in India, he worked as a farmer, then a policeman, then a teacher, before packing up and moving to the UK to start a family – one that he supported through a variety of blue-collar jobs. He then decided to seek a better life by packing up again and going to Canada – on his own for three years – working and scrimping to save enough money to give his children a better future.  He raised a family in Toronto as he upgraded his education, part-time over 7 years.  He finally earned a Commerce Degree from University, concurrently working a series jobs as a lathe operator, a cab-driver, a financial clerk, and finally as an accountant. And it all paid off as he ended his career as a senior financial officer for the Government of Ontario several years ago.

And in between, he took the time to teach me to skate, to dribble a soccer ball, to toboggan, to hammer a nail, and to grow tomatoes; he taught me the value of fruit and fibre and daily walks. He taught me to study hard and to write effectively and to be confident when speaking to groups. He taught me to be respectful, and hard-working, and caring.  He taught me how to play games and forced me to lose gracefully and patiently – the latter as he sang his ridiculous victory song after a game of chess or Monopoly or Risk…”Loser the Packer, Loser the Packer…”.  He even gave me a sense of humour – the finest gift ever.

And he has given me so many memories…stupid hats at birthday parties, fantastic days at Sandbanks Beach as we swam and barbecued and played, impromptu ukulele songs (he does not know how to play the ukulele), our walks together, our constant debates over homeopathy and the healing power of garlic and ginger; and when I was a teenager, his amusing, but constant surveillance for the evil after-effects of Chinese herbs and drink. (Chinese herbs were his euphemism for marijuana – it took me a little while to figure that one out).

But it was not all happiness and glee….

When I was little, I can remember quivering when hearing the refrain, “wait until your Father comes home.” I can also recall the many times that I sat in my room during my teens – furious, frustrated, and stymied.  At those times, I thought to myself, “How can a grown man know so little about the world?” Ironically, it was only a mere four or five years later, after I graduated from university – no longer a boy but a young man – that I remember thinking, “Wow, has my Dad ever learned a lot in 5 years.”  Perspective is a funny thing, eh?  It is remarkable, in retrospect, just how much Dads know.  I wish I had realised that earlier. It would have saved a lot of painful “trial and error”.

So as I think of my Dad, and reflect on my Dad-ness, I will also think of all the fathers out there.  I wish you all a very happy Father’s Day: one full of children’s love and care, and a BBQ and a beer or two, a tie or a bottle or Old Spice or whatever else floats your father’s day boat.  I hope you enjoy the short 24 hours of parental royalty. Relish it; revel in it.

Because on 18 July, Mom ascends back onto the throne for the next 365 days – unless you can learn how to give birth.

Happy Father’s Day.

Later,

ASF

Sibling Joviality…I do miss it…

 Southall, UK…1969…Jammin’

Siblings…you hear all sorts of stories about them.  Bad blood, disputed inheritances, jealousies…

It’s too bad.  They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family – obviously said by someone older who has had a bad experience.  I don’t think anyone who is 12 or younger has ever said that! Why is it that all the problems arise only when you are older?

Really, of all the people in the world, who are you the most similar to?  Brothers and sisters have all the ingredients to be more alike – nature-wise and nurture-wise: same parents, same house, same schools, same toys, same food, same clothes (unless you were lucky like me, and were the oldest).  When and why do we go astray?  Simply age, I guess.

And even if you are fortunate enough to enjoy a close relationship with your siblings, do you ever really enjoy the same closeness, same joie de vivre, and energy as when you were kids?  I know that I enjoy my time with my brother – and would with my sister too (if we weren’t 7 time zones apart) – but when we were kids, oh boy were we inseparable!  And the memories we share – like all siblings, I guess – remind me of the craziness that kids can generate.

I mean, who among us hasn’t damaged a sibling? And I don’t mean figuratively – who has “felt like pummeling them” – I mean literally “almost did them in”.  In Grade Six, pushing my 10 year-old brother to school, on – not in – an abandoned grocery shopping cart, we hit one of those ubiquitous sidewalk bumps  (young Canadian street-hockey players know it well, the kind of bump that rudely jams the butt of your hockey stick into your diaphragm as you are running home dreamily,  leaving you out-of-wind, spasming and gasping uncontrollably on the ground!).  Bumpity-bump bump, and then there was nothing but a whirling Matrix-like slow motion somersault of me over the cart, the cart over my brother, and my brother becoming the human shock absorber.  Thankfully, as the back of his head made full thudding contact with the rough concrete sidewalk, he cushioned my fall!  There was no doubt he was concussed, maybe he even had a fractured skull.  But as he looked at me with dilated pupils, not quite hearing what I was saying, we both knew that there would be hell to pay if Mom and Dad found out.  So after a bit of pleading from me, he toughed it out, suffering through the full school day with the wound congealing under his hair. He definitely put up the good fight. The folks did eventually find out – perhaps the fact that my brother could not remember his name was a clue – but what fraternal loyalty!  Now, before anyone gets on my case (and it was 36 years ago), keep in mind that he was no saint either. Ask my sister about her two front teeth jettisoned forcibly by my brother.  In his best Six-Million-Dollar-Man impersonation, he flying-kicked her “loot bag” novelty bugle during one of her peace-making charges to end a brother v brother UFC match.  Never has the cry, “Ta-da-ta-dahhhh…here comes the cav-a-wee”  been transformed into the piercing shrieks of de-fanged six year-old girl so quickly!!

If you kids do not settle down, I am coming up there! GO… TO… SLEEP!  I was a kid – so you woudl think I would get it as a parent, and let it slide!  I remember the ludicrous sessions with my brother – we did share a bedroom for almost 8 years.  Not being sleepy, everything we said or did – and I mean everything – was “side-splittingly” funny.  We would almost pee ourselves laughing as we did impressions, made strange bodily noises, recited Bill Cosby’s comedy routines, sang goofy songs and told jokes until all hours of the night (okay, in hindsight, maybe it was only until 10pm)…there is nothing like the innocent, uncontrollable hushed giggling of kids as they work themselves into a ridiculous unable-to-breathe frenzy – unless you are a baby-sitter or a parent.  The Giggle Sessions still continue on the rare occasion, but now they seem to be beer or wine-induced! And they seem to be a lot more painful in the morning than I remember.

The Sibling Fights…ahh, epics.  Now with three of us, there were always alliances and allegiances and double-crosses: boys against girl, youngest against oldest, all against the middle (mathematically, I think that is  3!/(2!1!)  – Grade 13 Relations and Functions for those Ontarians that are old enough to remember, or care!  Just think of it as my attempt to do a Conjunction Function). Early childhood fights were all so simple…what show to watch on TV, whose toy it really was (and if – at the time of the transgression– the owner was really playing with it), who really broke the lamp, who cheated playing a Barrel Full o’ Monkeys, who was supposed to take out the garbage (that cost my brother his beloved replica Led Zeppelin Concert t-shirt), or who Mom or Dad loved more (c’mon… seriously… parents can’t love ALL their kids equally ALL the time – can they? ) The fights were epic…pushing and pulling, pinning and holding, kicking and punching, biting and pinching…all good cage match/roller derby stuff. But in the end,  it never mattered who started it, or why – as the eldest always gets the blame. “You should know better!”, “You are supposed to look after you little brother/sister!”, “Grow up!”, “What kind of example are you setting!”…the usual the refrains heard all over the World, and ironically at our house usually punctuated by a good parental smack or two to reinforce that violence was never the solution to conflict.  Aaahhhh…good times.

And then there was my parents’ favourite strategy to keep me out of trouble when I was a teen – forcing me to take my little brother with me…I assume he was just as thrilled…but boy did he get an education!  I suppose it was the guilt of almost fracturing his skull that motivated me not to ditch him.

But when you grow up, you naturally drift apart.  Different towns, different careers, marriages, kids…the bonds flex and elongate – but, if you are lucky, and  nurture them, they will stay elastic.  Sometimes close, sometimes far…but alwas there.  And sometimes when they are stretched and thin,  I think back to the fun crazy times I shared with my little brother and sister – with a happy smile. And though the relationships have changed  – no more a question of oldest or youngest, biggest or strongest, smartest or funniest, girls versus boys…you realise it is more about knowing you share the same roots and same DNA.   And no matter what,sooner or later, you will get together and giggle uncontrollably again. When next my Sis’ and Bro’ meet to jaw about the old days, I’ll bring the beer (I am the oldest, after all…)

Think of your siblings and give’em a hug, eh? Not everyone is so lucky.

Later,

ASF