Saturday, December 28, 2013

Kiss From the Heart

When You Kiss Me - Shania Twain

This is a new style and experiment for me. Personal narrative exposing vulnerable thoughts and feelings. Rather than what was and what has been it is what if and maybe someday. 

The kisses....oh the kisses. I have learned that in times of despair and loneliness you can wrap your arms around you and pretend that someone else is giving you a hug. You can snuggle with yourself in blankets and imagine the warmth of another near you but nothing can replace the feeling of a kiss. Intimate or not, a kiss is from the heart. 

The slobbery kiss of a dog's tongue running up the length of your cheek says I missed you like nothing else that can be imagined. Spontaneous and without prejudice. Love! There isn't another kiss in the world that can express that kind of enthusiasm. If you've ever experienced that level of appreciation, I know you are smiling just remembering it. 

The obligatory double cheek kiss shared with relatives is more contrived and less emotional. But still conveys respect if not just familial duty. There is other bodily contact only if this is a rarely seen relation. I know too many wanna-be's for this to have a lot of meaning so I focus on remembering the ones who take the time to whisper a greeting in the ear while you are still cheek to cheek or the one who grip your upper arms to keep you close and drink in your presence. Celebrities can take a lot of credit for the dispassioning of this kiss. Who are they kidding, pursing their lips and then clearly smooching the air beside the cheek they are nuzzling.

The kiss on the cheek between parent and child reaffirms the love and pride shared. This sign of affection is performed too rarely and there is often a long span between the childhood kiss goodnight and the return in adulthood. It seems that our children have to leave the nest before we can openly show affection to them again. And them to us. The feelings don't wan but the desire to grow up means that sometimes we have to push away to move forward. Accepting that, I have come full circle and my kids and I can greet each other with a kiss again. And say goodbye too as we hope it's not the last.  

This Kiss - Faith Hill

But the kiss I long for is the kiss of passion. The long slow emotionally charged kiss that comes with love. The prelude to the union of souls. A simple joining of lips in the seductive dance. The involuntary sigh as the mouth of a partner comes ever so nearer, the heaving of the chest in the expectation of what is to come. The lips part ever so slightly in the anticipation. An audible sigh escapes with the breath. 

Kiss Cup artwork by Pottery Farm
With a head tilt that is executed like a well choreographed and rehearsed dance the newly moistened lips join and with the connection made, the electricity flows and sparks fly. Breath is exchanged through barely parted lips. 

The hands roam the body automatically and without thought but with a purpose. Trying to memorize ever curve, every muscle flexing, every bone protruding. The smooth skin, the soft down of fur and the stubble because time has passed since you last caressed. With a moan he takes his cue to run his tongue along her teeth, probing until she reaches out to meet him. It happens without thought or plan. It feels like the right thing to do, naturally. 

Bodies pressing against each other with an intensity that makes you think that you can never part. And never want to. It's impossible puzzle pieces that don't look like they can go together but somehow everything fits perfectly. The differences in size and height are irrelevant. 

Too soon, it is over. All that's left is to gaze into the other persons eyes and try and drink it all in. Memorizing every strand of hair that frames the face. The wrinkle of experience in the forehead. The smile lines at the corner of the twinkling eyes. The strong nose that provides the perfect depression below it, giving exquisite shape to those luscious lips, now full and glossy. The smile stretches across the width of the face giving definition to the cheeks, slightly reddened now. You see he feels the same way that you do. Your goals are the same. Shared passion.

Alone and hand in hand they go.

I miss the kisses. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Chrismas Miracle

2000 Miles - The Pretenders

It started off two days before Christmas. For me it might as well have been Christmas Eve for the next day I was scheduled to board a plane that would take me back to where I left the only family I know. My children. Despite the cost, they were determined that I would make the trip back to city that thinks it is the centre of the universe. Toronto isn't even the centre of Canada. Among the provinces, Thunder Bay, Ontario takes that geographical honour. :p

Once I landed in Toronto, I might be spending some time people watching and wandering the vast expanse of Pearson International Airport waiting for someone to be able to pick me up. Some would still be sleeping others working. It was all good. I would have things at the ready to pass the time. Last minute Christmas shopping at the airport is not one of the choices of activities. So everything had to be done before I left. Going to the drug store was one of those chores. 

I talked with the pharmacist when I re-filled my prescription and explained the bizarre symptoms that I believe are a side effect of the medicine. I don't react to medication in the "normal" way. Pain in the middle of both feet so intense I could barely walk and a burning sensation in one finger is how I reacted to a form of antibiotics. The pharmacist and I laughed as he had pulled out his bible of drug reactions and knew he would find nothing like that listed. 

So, when it started feeling like something was crawling in my ears followed by a pressure build up that lasted 30-45 seconds before subsiding I blamed the medicine I had recently started taking. I had the same reaction on a previous medication and no one believed that it could be so. When I gave him the history, this pharmacist bucked the Ontario doctors beliefs and said, switch meds, it won't go away on its' own. Then he shelved his own reference bible. 

It wasn't a good time for me the last time that I was taking this family of medication and with the symptoms ignored I flew and by the time I finally landed back home, I was suffering terrible ear pain. I finally ended up insisting on seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist who fixed me right up. He said there was no need to suffer and if it happened again I could call him direct and he would take care of the problem immediately. My problem is I don't remember what he did or exactly what my major symptoms had escalated to. I do however remember his kindness and understanding! Believing when none of the other many professionals I was seeing didn't. 

Christmas All The Time - Tom Cochrane

And so it was that I found myself in the pharmaceutical aisle a little closer to home, I was trying to navigate the vast array of winter malady remedies. Cough and cold, just runny nose, sinus pain, congestion, dry hacking cough, fever, no fever. Argh? I had none of it. I was looking for something that would relieve pressure in my ears that might intensify with the flying experience. I felt I was in a trance picking up one box after another, turning it over in my hand hoping that the answer would jump out at me. I instinctively stepped back when I felt the presence of another shopper nearing.

It wasn't until she was within arms reach that I noticed her flowing floor length coat was brushing against my ankles and I continued my gaze up until I reached her face. It didn't take long for she barely reached my shoulder, if you gave her hat perched on her fluffy white curls credit for her stature. She was looking right at me through her wire-rimmed glasses, eyes sparkling and rose red lips spread into a smile as wide as her rounded cheeks. I smiled back and it felt good. Like a relief. The Christmas spirit was alive and well. Kindness for our fellow citizens. 

But then she did something I didn't expect. She reached out and put her hand gently under my bent elbow as a gesture of support. I felt safe at the same time as I wondered if she thought I was maybe someone else. I didn't speak, I didn't want this moment of comfort to end. Then as I gazed down at her she spoke. "Don't worry so," she said, "it'll give you wrinkles and you deserve laugh lines." I let out a sigh and a chuckle, I felt my cheeks go taut with a smile. It felt so good. 

Without releasing my gaze her free hand extended blindly to the shelf on our left. And then she was pressing a box into my hand and she said, "This will help you it is what you need." 

Finding my voice, I quietly thanked her, as I grasped the unseen box even tighter. 

As I sensed a gentleman shopper was nearing, I prepared to leave. But she held me in place with her gentle hand at my elbow. "How about a Christmas hug?" she said. I bent down to reach her in a cheek to cheek embrace and it felt so natural to be hugging a complete stranger in the middle of the cold remedy aisle of the local drug store. It was only a moment but I had barely risen to my full height when she said in a somewhat mischievous little voice "How about another?" How could I say no? 

But to my surprise the elderly male shopper had come to stand beside her with an arm draped over her shoulder. Her husband she explained. Why not I thought. So in the spirit of Christmas I walked into those outstretched arms of the man, his smile hidden under the pristine snow white beard and overgrown moustache. But his eyes twinkled and shone like the North Star perched on the round hillocks of his cheeks. His arms wrapped around me like a comfortable blanket making me feel safe. His strong roman nose grazed my forehead and I felt his warm breath fluttering my eyelashes. It felt familiar.

As we parted he very gently kissed my cheek and whispered into my ear, "You are worth it. Follow your heart and go where it leads you."

Arm in arm, they walked away and disappeared around a corner. I felt lighter somehow, as if they had taken some of my weighty burdens with them. Hope replaced doubt and fear. 

And so it was that in this moment of bliss, I finally looked down at the box that I had been clutching so tightly that it was beginning to get deformed in my sweaty palm. It wasn't a box of commercially prepared concoctions. My name was on it and it was wrapped with festive paper. On the back was written these lines:

This box is filled with love
From people who have gone.
When you feel sad or lonely remember
That tomorrow will come the dawn.
And the light will shine

Open you arms and heart and
the love will be eternally possessed.
Should you need a hug or two 
hold the box close to your breast 
You can carry on just fine.

My eyes were closed tight trying to commit this moment of peace and love to memory forever. 

The next day on the plane, I made sure that the little box stayed with me and it brought me comfort and much joy. Memories flooded back. Just the good ones. Just the ones that brought pleasure. The hugs and the smiles, the kind words and the helping hands. 

I closed my eyes and envisioned the times that were and the times were yet to be. And I smiled as the emotions spilled from my eyes and my heart. Filled to capacity and overflowing with love and happiness. The silver bird swiftly took me to the place where I left memories. If only for a short time to relive the joy...

Partially reality, partially fantasy, partially a dream. All original :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pancake No Syrup - Round Two

Somewhere In Between - Lifehouse

Forgive my melodrama but enough is enough. This all feels like a nightmare that I can't wake up from. Maybe I am feeling sorry for myself but I don't even care because it is high time someone did...and if it is me so be it. 

The sun wasn't up yet and walking the streets before even the birds were up was the peace and solitude I needed at the moment. Although that peace for me does not mean silence; for when the music stops, I know I'll be dead. One ear was plugged into the I-Pod. The music was not only soothing but took my mind off the journey's end. 

The sidewalks were still ice covered from the rain that fell after a few centimetres of snow. I walked in the tracks of the sidewalk plow because the tracks left groves for the boots to try and grip as I tentatively put one foot ahead of the other. And then it occurred to me that it was a good thing I was nearing the hospital should I slip and fall. This close, I could drag myself to emerg. 

My destination was a huge complex of hospitals and clinics and university medical schools. Google wasn't too much of a help in finding the correct building or even entrance so I meandered the halls trying to get a lay of the land and get my bearings. It was so early in the morning that most of the staff had yet to arrive. As much as I dreaded this appointment I didn't want to miss it and be forced to re-schedule. The lead up was way to emotional to suffer through again.

Someone saw that I looked lost and although the jug of ice she carried told me that she probably had other places to be, she nearly took my hand to guide me and navigate the maze. I'm sorry for whoever I made wait for that refreshment. 
Two elevators and several long halls later, I arrived at the appropriate reception desk. (clearly I came in the wrong doors and into the wrong building). How I would ever find my way back was the least of my worries.

There was a steady stream of women collecting their numbers to wait their turn. Some came with partners, some of us alone. I had walked a tightrope of fear all the way there and sitting in front of that receptionists giving her all the details of my next of kin, I felt like I was ready to snap like a frozen dead twig. 

Strip to the waist, wash off any deodorants and powders, put the stripped gown on first open at the back. The solid blue goes over top of that. Keep your purse but you can put your clothes in the locker. There was a sign in the change room that said that Aluminum can cause false readings. That's when the anger kicked in. God-damn it, I was the one who preached to anyone (male and female) who would listen to not use anti-perspirants. My mother used to tell us that if God put it there, there was a reason for it. At the time she was talking about tonsils - she felt that doctors were too eager to yank them. I agree with her. Maybe the tonsils are the garbage pail of the body vulnerable to every bug that passes, but what if they weren't there. The bugs don't leave, they just find somewhere else to settle. 

No I am not a doctor, I don't even like science. But I took that reasoning which seemed logical to me and applied it to anti-perpirants, the use of which increased as women entered the work force in greater numbers. Why does sweat smell? Bacteria perhaps? And if we stop the sweat from leaving our bodies in a natural way, what happens to it? The only thing I know for sure is that the rates of breast cancer in women when up with the increased use of anti-perspirants. To be fair, at the same time that women went back to work, they also were less inclined to breast feed their babies. But still...

I thought I was doing the right thing. I would spend extra money (that I didn't have) on a dedicated deodorant in the natural health section or go without before buying a mass marketed anti-perspirant/deodorant combination. More than double $9 vs less than $2. But my health and principles could not be compromised. Maybe I was wrong but why take the chance.

So, am I angry that I am dealing with this now? Damn right!

Cry On My Shoulder - Gowan

We sat like fraternal twins. All dressed the same, like soldiers waiting for our turn to face the enemy. This time was different for me, because it was like I only had one breast. All this expensive machinery was there to probe only one breast. One mass. One that betrayed me. 

The first test was like the one before but with added angles. The pressure is less than I remember from years ago and quick for as soon as the image is taken the machine pulls back on cue and you can breath. 

But this is a exploration mission so the surface plate is then swapped out for one that is much smaller. Like a tea cup saucer vs a turkey platter. Putting the same pressure on compressing the breast it like putting your finger in a vice and leaving it there while someone tightens. You wanna scream "Make it stop". But without permanent damage it stops alone very quickly. 

The wait for the images to be assessed by the radiologist is interminable. For some people this is the end and you are free to go. For others, an ultrasound is the next course of action. I honestly did try to remain positive because if I didn't I would have been awash in my tears. The music helped but 4 songs passed before I was called again.  

The radiologist still had some concerns...that my weak knees held me up and continued to carry me down that hall and into yet another exam room still amazes me. I was grateful that the same radiologist was going to do the ultrasound. It's hard to be modest after someone manhandles your breast like it's a bag of jello (with a rock in it) but it was still oddly comforting. My hands trembled as I tried to remove the cover gown, she was quick to help and kept her hand on my elbow as I went to the bed. Move this way, put your arm here. It was all mechanical motions and I didn't process any of it. Fear was all I felt. I couldn't stop myself when she positioned me to face the wall and started by applying the warm gel the tears fell out of my eyes. It seemed like forever that she ran that "mouse" on my breast. If I didn't know where my enemy was lurking before there was no mistaking it now. 

Now, the wait was in a dark, silent room. I was afraid to move. The arm above my head was cramping but I didn't trust myself not to run away screaming if my feet touched the floor. I stayed completely still aware of only every tear that rolled across my cheek. The technician said that ultrasounds results are operator defined and the radiologist may want to do the test herself.

The problem with having a positive attitude is the fall that comes when you are let down. When the radiologist came in and introduced herself, I couldn't even look at her. I was crushed. She saw nervousness and tried to be reassuring. Her exam was brief, her explanation wasn't. It's everything she wants to see to say non-cancerous but...

A letter will go to my doctor and I will be informed of my next scheduled date. It will be more invasive she says. Don't worry, she says. It's just to prove to you and me that my diagnosis is correct, she says.

I'm tired, I say. But no one heard me. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Flames of Hell Are Nipping at my Heels

Waltzing Along - James
May your eyes be opened by the wonderful

I have to say that this really sucks. Two steps forward and one step backwards. I am trying to remain positive about this latest news that has been delivered to crush my soul, however right now the only thing that is running through my head is that I am positive that I am tired of continually falling into the abyss. Quite frankly, I don't know how many more times I can claw my way out since the worn footholds are getting smooth and I am slipping.

I thought I was being proactive, I booked an appointment with my doctor for my annual physical. There is always a bit of dread there because we have heard so many times via the media about silent killers. I was not completely convinced I want to know about these murderous evils lurking in wait to off me. But that is irrational since medical advancements have led to many satisfactory outcomes if the little devils haven't gotten to far in their destruction. So to that end I agreed to the invasive probing and promised to book for preventative screening. If was just a fluke that when I called to book for my mammogram they happened to have a cancellation December 3rd. Panicked, I took it knowing that with fewer than 4 full days to fret I would be more likely to keep the stress at bay. I know people who have waited months for these appointments so I guess I felt kind of lucky. 

I know what these appointments are like. I've had one done before, although I can't remember when or why. It may have been in my 20's. It was definitely long before mammogram and breast cancer became familiar words in the news and media. I assume that my doctor at the time found something abnormal in the routine breast exam or I had some complaint. I don't remember that but I recall the pain. Fortunately it only lasts very briefly. 

Trying to remember the details of that first pancaking of my breasts was at the forefront of my mind as I sat in the clinic waiting for my turn. The technician explained the procedure and then had me disrobe from the waist up. The machine has changed since I last saw the beast. Double whammy for both breasts. One top to bottom squish and a second side to side. Fortunately the machine plates move and you don't have to. Wandering around topless at my age is not a fun prospect even if the only other person is a professional technician. 

The screening clinic was in the local mall so being close to Christmas I put it out of my mind and did some shopping. I felt good that I did something positive about taking care of me. 

I guess the last thing you imagine is that you will be one of those people who get the ABNORMAL grade. It was a positive conversation that I was having with my doctor. The date was 11.12.13 - it was touted as a day of good fortune. Things were finally looking up for me and I was feeling hopeful. The look on her face changed when she reached for the paper after I had told her about my quick mammogram appointment. Her face said it all before I heard her words. I failed the test. My body had turned against me and betrayed me. There is something there that isn't supposed to be. I have to go for more testing. And although there is nothing to worry about the tests are next week. Pretty quick if it's nothing to worry about. I am grateful that my timely appointment meant that she could tell me about it rather than being alone to see the death sentence. It seems I will be getting a similar letter in the mail advising of the results and appointment times. If I don't get the mail, if I don't open the letter, can I pretend that this isn't real?

I think I was in shock. I went for the rest of my appointments and finished my errands. But as I drove home it was like driving in a blinding rain storm. I couldn't see for the tears running down my face and clouding my eyes. I've never been one to feel sorry for myself but damn I was mad. This isn't fair. 

The one thing that kept running through my mind was that saying "What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger." Dear God, it wasn't meant as a fucking challenge. People keep telling me (much to my chagrin) that I am strong. Clearly I have reached my limit there since I snapped like a whip, cracked like an egg, broke like branch, shattered like crystal nearly 3 years ago. With no strength left to be had, maybe my limit has been reached. Maybe my time on the earth's parking meter is expired.

So forgive me, but I am having a lot of trouble coming to terms with this news and remaining positive. In my head, I am preparing for the worst. I don't want to touch myself, I am afraid that if I find the offending mass I'll cut it out myself. I don't want to look, because all I see is a deformed me. My breasts were the one thing I liked about myself and now they have turned against me. For all the flaws, I was able to find some positive somewhere and that lay in part on my chest. Changed with age but still a part of my body I could like.

To continue in a changed way. 

A friend often says he is not a great catch but what he forgets is that he is already caught and everyday that he wakes up, there is someone who loves him unconditionally and forever. He was loved when he liked himself before and now when he aged and changed. He talks physical attributes and forgets that he is so much more - I see it. Others see it. He needs better glasses. 

I have never known that devotion. He is lucky. 

A fisherman will see beauty in a large mouth bass. Your average person will look past the scaly skin and bones and appreciate and savour what's inside. But nobody wants a clown fish except for a good laugh. 

Knowing that someone loves you for who you are can make all the difference in the world. And the doctor asked, is there anyone that can go with you to the appointments. And I saw a video that was posted about the guy who dressed in a pink tutu and took pictures of himself to send to his wife to make her smile while she was undergoing treatment. And I'm tired. I don't want to go through this alone or with anyone else. I don't want this to be my reality.  And although it may be a little premature and fatalistic, I don't need another scar. For the strikes against me have put me out of the game a long time ago. 

Hope is gone and although the plate is full, it's brussel sprouts and liver that nobody wants. Not even me. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Day Canada Changed Forever Twice

Hero - Family of the Year

Today marks a day in Canadian History that should never be forgotten for 2 reasons. One happened in my lifetime and one is nearly forgotten outside of the province where it occurred. 

In 1989, 25 year old Marc Lepine entered the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and deliberately and with an agenda in his warped mind shot 28 people in the classrooms and the halls of the school of engineering. He was methodical in his hunt and clear on his prey. In the first classroom he entered he separated the males and females to opposite sides of the room and then ordered the 50 men out. Of the 9 women left, 6 were mowed down and 3 left injured. 

I am somewhat sympathetic for the family having to live with the shameful legacy left by the troubled young man who had no intentions of accepting responsibility for the carnage he caused since he carried with him a suicide note and saved one bullet for himself. I continue to be annoyed that as a society we (me included) usually have no trouble remembering the names of the "monsters" that disrupt and forever change our perceptions of the world around us, but the names of the victims are not recalled so readily. In some cases this is because it is much easier for our mortal brains to recall one name rather than several. 14 in this case, 6-49 for Robert Pickton, 26 in Sandy Hook. I remember the victims here in print.

  • Genevieve Bergeron
  • Helene Colgan
  • Nathalie Croteau
  • Barbara Daigneault
  • Anne-Marie Edward
  • Maud Haviernick
  • Maryse Laganiere
  • Maryse Leclair
  • Anne-Marie Lemay
  • Sonia Pelletier
  • Michele Richard
  • Annie St-Arneault
  • Annie Turcotte
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

December 6th has become the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and is supported by a white ribbon campaign. Wearing a white ribbon on this day we are honouring not only the memory of the students at the Ecole Polytechnique but all women who have suffered violence at the hands of another. 

*PS. This evening on speaking of the Montreal Massacre a prominent Toronto newscaster said that Marc Lepine "kindly took his own life" after the rampage. I don't know if I can express how deeply infuriated I am by this callous remark. I don't care who you think you are that is a cruel judgement to pass on a fellow human being. Without a doubt, what Lepine did was heinous and inexcusable. But I don't think that is a reason to celebrate his death. The man was sick - maybe treatable, maybe not - but he wasn't in his right mind. I hope that this newscaster can find some compassion in his stone cold heart if someone in his circle of family or friends is afflicted with mental illness. :(


She's Called Nova Scotia - Rita MacNeil

Coming up the hill to Fort Needham Memorial Bell Tower.
Looking through the gap in the structure you can see the
exact spot where the explosion took place. 
December 6th is also a day that deserves remembrance for another reason. I am deeply bothered by the fact that very few Canadians are even aware of this catastrophic event that occurred in 1917. Today I had the privilege of being able to attend a memorial at the Memorial Bell Tower at Fort Needham Park in the north end of Halifax. Among the dignitaries, school children and members of the general public was one survivor. She didn't speak, she sat bundled up in her wheelchair in the crowd not drawing any attention, but when she was acknowledge by the MC at the end of the ceremonies, she was the only one who garnered appreciative applause from the crowds that had gathered. 

I got to speaking to a woman before the memorial began and she told me about growing up in Halifax and making it a point as an adult to attend the annual service. Last year was exceptionally cold and windy and when she felt the bitter bite of winter, she also felt more compassion for the 6000 people who suddenly found themselves not only homeless but often alone in the world. She felt lucky to have the option to go home afterwards to warmth and love in her home. 

She lives in the rebuilt north part of the city and she told me of her neighbour who she watched painstakingly building a wooden picket fence. She watched as he ran his fingers up and down each picket gauging it's position on the cross braces. Each picket was straight and true and hammered in by him alone, despite he was blind. It was after his death that she learned he was a victim of the Halifax explosion and lost his sight when he ran to the window in his home to see what all the excitement was. He never talked about the moment that the glass exploded in his face and his world went dark forever.  

The epicentre of the explosion and the range of the most severe destruction.
Halifax was a thriving community of some 50,000 people doing their part for the war effort. One of the largest natural and deepest ports in the world that remains ice-free in the winter, Halifax was a hub for troops and supplies preparing to set off for battle overseas. Many people flocked to the pier to see the excitement when the Belgium relief vessel Imo and French munitions ship Mont Blanc collided. A small fire had started on the deck of the Mont Blanc that began drifting out of control toward Pier 6 on the Halifax shore. 20 minutes later at 9:04 an explosion annihilated everything in an 800 metre (2600 foot) radius. An ensuing tsunami swept survivors on both the Halifax and Dartmouth streets into the frigid harbour where they drowned. 

There is no explaining why 88 women in a factory were killed leaving two to emerge after 8 stories of concrete floors and heavy equipment fell on top of them. There is no reason why one child survives in a home that claims his parents and 9 siblings. The second largest man-made explosion left very few families in the northern part of Halifax unscathed. Nobody in the city wasn't affected somehow. Called into service to help or volunteered their time and whatever they could spare. 

9,000 bodies etched in the sand at Normandy
The statistics are harsh. 2,000 are killed. 9,000 are injured. 1,600 buildings are destroyed completely. 12,000 homes are damaged. 6,000 people are homeless, another 25,000 are left with inadequate housing. I want to put this in another way that may help people recognize just how devastating this was for the civilian population. Recently I wrote about my thoughts on the futility of war and the remembrance of the sacrifice (I have added a link to that post below). This picture is an artistic interpretation depicting the bodies of 9000 soldiers who died in service to their country on the beaches of Normandy, France. That is the number of injured in the city of Halifax 9,000. Plus 2,000 dead. Not to diminish the importance of a life but in some ways a soldier knows what they are expected to do and the potential dreadful outcome. On December 6th in Halifax it was a clear and crisp day with ordinary people carrying on with their lives. They were people like me and you. More people were killed in Halifax on that cold December day than died in the horrific factory collapse in Bangladesh, or because of Hurricane Katrina. Again I am not trying to diminish any loss of human life but just trying to put it in perspective. 

It will never cease to amaze and upset me that the rest of Canada is almost oblivious to this horrific tragedy and important part of this nations history. I went through the school system in Ontario and while I will agree that history although a compulsory subject was not my strong suit, I have zero recollection of ever hearing about this event. I paid more attention to the history lessons my children were subjected to (also in Ontario) and nothing. And I spent some time assisting in the field of education and specifically in history classes as recently as 2009 and nothing was ever said. That is both sad and pathetic. I will continue to do my part to teach and make people aware. I hope you will share also. 

The City Hall with the clock stuck at the time of the explosion 9:04
Mayor Mike Savage giving the Nova Scotia Tree of Thanks for Boston a fitting send-off
The bells in the Memorial Tower are operational and the gift of a survivor of the explosion to the city.
Mayor Mike Savage sharing remembrances and hopes for peace while a Councillor/MC/ the sister of the woman I was speaking with stands behind
Premier Stephen McNeil lays a wreath at the Memorial
Standing guard

My thoughts on the Halifax Explosion 2012

My thoughts on Remembrance Day 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

Two Smoking Guns and Eyes Open Wide

Smoking Gun - Blue Rodeo


November 22nd 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the person many believe was the greatest president elected in the United States of America. Indeed it is hard to find anyone who has not heard of John Fitzgerald Kennedy or the Kennedy family. JFK (as he was known) was gunned down as he traveled in an open limousine in Dallas, Texas. Many lined the streets along the designated route taking pictures and home movies, but one became the most watched and scrutinized for it's graphic capture of the moment a life ended. It is known as the Zapruder film because of the camera operator and an enhanced version is included below. 

John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Nov. 1963
The assassination is one of those times that many mark as a life milestone. Do you remember where you were when...moments in time? I wasn't much more than an infant and have no recollection. Yet, I felt a strange connection with the man because his death coincided so close with my birthday. I learned about the events when I came across a book on my mothers book shelves I didn't read it but I flipped it open to put a leaf between the pages as we often did (the leaf is still there). When I opened the book, it was the pictures that drew me. He looked kind and caring and Jacqueline was beautiful in my eye. She reminded me of my mom and I imagined that my dad was much like JFK. Of course where she was concerned the similarity probably had more to do with the hairstyle and the kindness I saw in her eyes.

Over the course of time, I learned more and more about the man who made young ladies swoon and men admire him. But truth is that I knew far more about his death than his life. Admittedly, I got caught up in all the conspiracy theories because the official version of events didn't make a lot of sense and very few articles and programs talked about the Warren Commissions findings of the version of events but rather disputing it. 

The evidence of there being more than one gun is right in front of our eyes and I never saw it until it was pointed out. There is no dispute that Kennedy was struck twice. Once (the supposed magic bullet) that passed through the neck of JFK then the chest and wrist of Governor Connally before coming to rest in his thigh. The bullet was recovered relatively intact. The second bullet struck Kennedy's head and exploded sending skull fragments and brain matter flying. One bullet passes cleanly through another fragments upon impact. Conclusion - TWO weapons. And two guns makes a conspiracy. 


So this is how I see it. There were 3 shot fired. There were two gunmen. There was no conspiracy. There was however a deadly accident. 

Bullet casings as found in the snipers lair
Lee Harvey Oswald only got off two shots. Despite there were 3 shell casings found in the snipers nest on the 6th floor, it is quite likely that one of those casings was used as a storage plug to keep moisture our of the weapon. If they were all fired from the same position at the window, all three casings would be in the same area. But as you can see in this photo to the right, two are right below the window and one is a distance away.

The first shot nicked the president and went on to hit the curb and James Tague who was in the further ahead of the motorcade. The limousine was behind a freeway sign and the shot was therefore not captured by the Zapruder film. However this explains why Gov. Connally turned around in his seat. There have been reports of the President holding his neck and saying that he was hit. Contrary to the picture I posted, Tague was hit before the president's fatal head shot. If the bullet that hit Connally was recovered that only leaves a first errant bullet.

The layout of the scene of the crime
The second shot (the so-called magic bullet) was a straight shot made by Oswald that passed through the president and the governor. It surprises me that people still talk about the "Magic Bullet", even the TV show Seinfeld made fun of the theory. Someone put a little common sense to the theory and soon discovered the truth. The bullet traveled straight and true. The governor was seated slightly lower and to the left of the president and turned almost 45 degrees. The Warren Commission seemed to support this single bullet theory but did not explain to the skeptical public how it was possible. Trying to make sense of the nonsensical people turned to conspiracy and the government appointed Warren Commission led to government cover-up. I don't think that there is any way to dispute this single shot fact any longer.

There is no question either that this bullet was fired from Oswalds' Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. This weapon was often referred to as a humanitarian weapon because it was designed to stop a victim without too much damage. 

The third shot was the fatal shot.  None of the bullet casings found in Lee Harvey Oswalds sniper nest in the Texas School Book Depository was of the caliber or type to cause the catastrophic trauma seen in even the Zapruder film. One bullet is designed for combat soldier to be able to have one shot penetrate several enemies. In this case both the president and the governor. The other bullet is meant to scatter fragments upon impact causing the maximum amount of damage to the individual. In this case the head of the president. We don't see this explosive impact with the previous shot.


Secret Service Agent Hickey holding the machine gun
So where did this shot come from. The Secret Service car travelling directly behind the presidential limousine. Specifically Agent George Hickey. With no conspiracy involved but rather a tragic accident that was followed by an extensive cover-up. Public awareness that the beloved President of the United States was shot and killed by a member of the team assigned to protect him would have had a very negative impact on the perception on the ability of the Secret Service Agency. George Hickey was a new recruit who was assigned car detail (preparing vehicles and/or driving) not protecting the president. Yet, circumstances found him in the follow up car charged with doing exactly that.

Supporting this theory are several often over-looked facts by both the Warren Commission and the public.

  • several bystanders and dignitaries in follow up cars in the motorcade testify to smelling gun powder at street level. Wind conditions that day in Dallas support the source coming from the front of the motorcade and not from above (either book depository or over-pass or even the grassy knoll). 
  • following the trajectory of the entry wound at the back of the president's head indicate the shot came from a lower angle than where Oswald was stationed. 
  • There was an AR-15 machine gun loaded, cocked and ready to go on the floor of the follow up car. This was denied to Warren Commission but later stated as fact by the Secret Service
  • The weapon accessible to the Secret Service agent was loaded with the hollow-point type of bullet that would expand upon penetration and cause increased internal damage before creating a larger exit wound. 
  • George Hickey was never questioned by the Warren Commission but in a statement wrote that he picked up the gun, cocked and readied it after the head shot was evident. Pictures and 11 witness accounts refute this timeline. Witnesses include 7 other agents some of them in the same car.

I really don't believe in a conspiracy theory in that George Hickey or any member of the Secret Service had intended to kill President Kennedy for it would be quite co-incidental or conspiratory for the Secret Service to have the intent to commit such a crime at the exact moment that Lee Harvey Oswald is firing from his 6th Floor perch. Hickey was a relatively in-experienced agent who in his efforts to protect the president after he was hit picked up a weapon, flicked off the safety just as the motorcade sped up knocking him off balance and the weapon went off. Kennedy was for all intents and purposes dead.

It breaks my heart to think that if this the true events of what happened that George Hickey had to live with the knowledge in a silent hell. For would the next Jack Ruby come after him or his family? I don't and can't assign blame for something that was completely unintentional and accidental but the law has terms and labels for that as well. I wouldn't want any of them to be assigned to George Hickey. 


Lee Harvey Oswald - looking smug
Lee Harvey Oswald is a character that despite his actions, still has my sympathies. He was a troubled boy who became a more troubled adult. He was friendless and bullied in part for his unpopular views and political beliefs. He was trying to find some acceptance and notoriety when he set out in this second assassination attempt. Yes indeed, he did make an attempt on the life of General Walker in April of 1963, possibly because he was fiercely and openly anti-communist. It is thought that Lee Oswald would finally find some acceptance among the communist movement. Certainly the only time in his life that he was recognized as important having been interviewed in May 1963 by the media while distributing pro-Cuba literature in New Orleans. 

Oswald wanted to be a part of the inner circle of Fidel Castro's entourage but was denied entry into Cuba. Killing Kennedy could put him in high regard with Castro. Eleven weeks before Kennedy was assassinated, Castro was quoted as saying "Let Kennedy and his brother take care of themselves since they too can be victims of an attempt that will cause their deaths". Perhaps Oswald took this as a challenge. Certainly things fell into place very nicely for him to carry out his deed. 

Maybe today psychiatrists would jump on the crazy train with Oswald and diagnose him with a multitude of ailments. His actions were definitely troubling regardless of what he expected to be the outcome. Did he think he would get away with it as he had eluded authorities with the Walker attempt? In some of the film clips taken after his arrest he certainly seemed cocky and even a little smug. But like Hitler and the German army, there was family left behind that had to carry the burden of his misdeeds. 

The Abraham Zapruder Film enhanced


Jack Ruby was a nobody who wanted to be a somebody. Based on what I have read and heard, I think Jack Ruby was as deeply affected by the assassination as the rest of the nation. But his "I'm a big shot" mentality led him to believe that he would be a hero if he offed the man who killed the President. His actions that day would seem to indicate that he did not have intent to kill Oswald. He left his dog in the car while he ran an errand a short distance from the police station. A delay in the transfer of the prisoner Oswald to the jail led to Ruby witnessing a commotion and going to investigate. Oswald appears flanked by police officers and he almost has a smirk on his face. Ruby is incensed and steps out and shoots him at close range, killing him. He is shocked when he is arrested by the police instead of praised and interviewed by the assembled media.

Jack Ruby about to shoot Oswald
Jack Ruby's own cryptic statement "The world will never know the true facts of what motive. In other words, I'm the only person in the background that knows the truth." only added fuel to the already out-of-control inferno of speculation.

If the Mafia contracted Ruby to assassinate Oswald to keep him quiet, why was Ruby running errands when the transfer was supposed to take place? Was there somebody in place to then assassinate Jack Ruby to keep him quiet? That would also mean that the Mafia contracted Oswald to kill Kennedy. Then I would have to believe that he was set up to fail and really was the Patsy that he claimed to be. 

But what do I really know about the Mafia and their motives for anything. It's not like I am in their inner circle and privy to information.  I just speak the language and share a heritage.


Because this is so far fetched that I can't believe anybody would buy into it, I share it here. The bullet was fired from 80 yards away and entered the back of JFK's neck and exited cleanly just above the knot in his tie It then stopped in mid-air for 1.6 seconds before turning to the right and entering Connally's back shattering a rib bone on the right side of his chest. The bullet then exited his chest and turned right as if exiting the vehicle but abruptly turned left to hit his wrist and fracturing a bone therein before exiting once more before coming to a rest in Connally's left thigh. 

The path of the "Magic Bullet"

How anyone could subscribe to that theory blows my mind? Was the Warren Commission really interest in finding out the truth or just placating the public? In the span of 10 days the Warren Commission heard from 552 witnesses which translated to 888 pages of information. No doubt, they had their work cut out for them. Without the ability to cross-reference the frequency of corroborating testimony, it is difficult to distinguish the recurring stories to validate fact from fiction. Plus eye-witness accounts are notoriously unreliable and biased. 

There wasn't a dispute that Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger with an intention of killing the president. The Commission was charged with determining if there was a conspiracy. Witnesses were questioned to support the accepted theory of events not to investigate for the Commission was comprised of mostly political figures and lawyers not investigators from police departments schooled in the interrogation of witnesses. 

It has been said (and I would tend to agree) that the Warren Commission report was a document of omission. Witnesses with valuable information and insight were not called. Critical testimony was not heard - often written accounts were read by committee members instead. Questions were not asked if testimony was contradictory. Evidence was ignored. There was many complaints that instead of continuing with relevant questioning the subject was changed. 

The only thing the Warren Commission got right was that there wasn't a conspiracy to kill John Fitzgerald Kennedy in so much that it wasn't a planned event. But more than one gun did strike the President and cause his death. The big conspiracy and cover-up occurred behind closed doors of the autopsy room after the announced death of the president.

credit where credit is due:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What is it like?

Just Breathe - Pearl Jam

I read a story the other day as I was browsing. It was about a young man looking out a train window and enthusiastically commenting on everything that he saw. The trees, the people waiting at the crossing the sky and the clouds to his father. His father encouraged him and was enjoying his seemingly infantile musings about such mundane things. A passenger who was sitting in the same area commented to the father that perhaps it might be wise to have the boy assessed. The father replied that he had and today was the first day that the boy could see for they were heading home after a successful eye operation. His son had been blind since birth. 

Cute story and written to evoke some compassion and tug on a few heart strings. But the critical thinker would wonder why the father didn't have his head smushed up against the train window along side his son and really sharing his new found experiences. Also pretty bold of the passenger to make such a comment on the presumption of mental capacity - as a parent myself I would probably deck him before I would waste my breath explaining anything to the judgmental fool. 

But, that leads me to my own blindness. My blindness is not my eyes, it's my heart. I find myself over and over again of late asking a seemingly simple and stupid question. I want to know what it's like. 
- What is it like to have a mother who loves you and is/was a part of your life?
- What is it like to put your arms around your aging father?
- What is it like to love someone who is older unconditionally?
- What is it like to those people's eyes light up with love when they see you?
- What is it like to have an older brother or sister? 
- What is it like to have a younger brother or sister?
- What is it like to have family?
- What is it like to have someone be proud of you? 
- What is it like to be accepted and like for who you are? and what you have become?
- and What is it like to have someone love you and want to be your partner to share your life experiences each and every day of your life with no conditions. 

I had it. I had everyone of these things and I don't know anymore. I don't know what it's like. It's been too long. I remember pain, but I forget the love. I forget the hugs and I forget the emotions. I forget the joy and excitement of sharing celebrations like every day successes and Christmas. Weddings were replaced with funerals. Death anniversaries were celebrated - birthdays largely ignored. In my reality, no one ever gets old. Except for that stranger in the mirror. I am not sure if I even know how to love someone else anymore and that includes me. Being hurt so many times by false characters who only saw me as what they could take from me. I am afraid that I don't think I could love. And it hurts to think that after nearly a lifetime of alone, I will probably die that way. 5 years or 25 years that I have left will be spent like today. Like yesterday. Alone.

I was married, I had relationships but I have something that many people don't. I have the recollection of perfect memory. Everything about those early relationships is written down in the form of diaries. And I've been reading them and realizing how stupid and gullible I have been - wanting to be loved so bad, I paid for it. I was involved in a co-habitational situation and so starved for affection in that scenario that I never thought twice of going to a bar, having a few too many drinks and making like I was single. I could cut myself some slack and presume that maybe there was an intellectual spark somewhere buried deep within my brain that knew that the relationship was a use and abuse situation for him. Get what he needs in a financial sense without really giving a shit for me. It's too late to find out know from the horses mouth but I can say that I am glad that I eventually cut ties with him because he really was a loser. That may sound harsh, but in all honesty if I shared half of the details you would agree. But it doesn't say much about me hanging on for as long as I did. Not the right one for me but I thought it was the best I could do. My drunken indiscretions should have told me something but in hindsight guys are pretty quick to latch onto someone they think they have a chance with even for a single night of fun. It wasn't exactly the free love of the 1960's but we were young and thought we were going to live forever. I, of all people should have known that wasn't the case. But an immature brain and what I believe was an unconscious death wish I did a lot to sabotage my future existence. 

Chillout by Ze Frank

Before you rush off and start to cast judgement upon me I wish you knew me when despite it all I was the Grand Optimist with a willing hand to help anyone (even if it was stepped on afterwards) and a ready smile on my face. "Don't you ever get mad?" I was asked so often by the students I worked with. "No, dogs get mad. Life is too short not to be happy." And damn it, for all my flaws (for physically they are the same today as they were 5 years ago/10 years/20 years) I could still be positive about life and the future. For there was no doubt then that I was going to be a part of the future. Now, I am tired and not so sure that I will be fighting to stick around. For today I am still more broken than I have ever been in my life. And instead of people I care about helping me to heal, many of them are closing the door and then locking it. Not that I think they can fix me but a little support and a tiny bit of understanding can go a long way.

And while I applaud all the money and research that is going into such deadly diseases as cancer and heart disease - how about a little more for mental health. Recently there has been more media exposure on the topic and with it awareness but not acceptance. It is not viewed as an illness but an affliction - "get over your depression." We all have times of sadness. Suck it up. We've all had problems and issues. 

But do you know what it's like to know that there is some part of your brain - some wiring schematic - that has broken and you can't fix it. I compare it to the paraplegic who can see his legs there, where they have always been, but no matter how much he tries, they won't work the way he wants them to. The way they used to. That's my brain. I've been sad before but never to this degree. I've had nearly 3 years to try and understand what is happening and why, and try as I might, I can't make the sadness stop sometimes. Like the tides, with time the wave will subside and calm will return. I hope. 

And just for fun and some minimal understanding of the rest of what I was talking about, stop and look at television and media and consider how many references there are to family and relationships. If you are lacking it feels like a little dig. Like a club that you can't be a part of. I'm not alone. God help the person who is overweight for they are deflecting a lot of unkind stares and comments everyday live and through the media. Not to mention all the studies that have been done that has shown that even potential employers discriminate against the overweight when it comes to hiring. Everybody want the beautiful perfect people in their life. But have one strike against you and you are screwed. (I figure I have so many strikes that only if life was a bowling game would I have a chance at success). 

One of the news stations was doing a story in a school about nutrition the other day. They were filming in a classroom of the school. They filled the screen with pictures of belly's that hung over the top of jeans, of legs that barely fit between the seat and the desk that was designed for smaller students. No faces were shown but I felt the pain of the students excitedly turning on the news to see themselves on the world stage and then seeing the part of them that we taught them to be ashamed of. For the reporters commentary was not flattering and every one of those student knew what they were wearing and they didn't need to see their faces to recognize themselves. That compassion hurts me and the sadness flows. I feel their pain and I empathize. What comments did their classmates have the next day? I could tell you because I have heard them when they were spoken to me.