Monday, August 29, 2011

Karol Jozef Wojtyla

As I see it...

-historically speaking-

In the spring of 1920, Karol Wojtyla was born in a small Polish town.

It seems to be that trauma was a large part of his life, which was probably pretty normal for most people in the 1920's in Poland and in any other part of the world for that matter. If trauma was the norm, then what was trauma?

His big sister died before he was born. Then, when he was 8, his mother passed away. Left with his elder brother, he stuck close and looked up to him. Then later on, he died too.

All the while Karol seemed to grow up as a caring and selfless child. This Catholic boy would volunteer himself to play soccer with the Jewish team when they were running short on players. Crossing uncrossable borders and connecting the dots at an early age.

A little later, he was rescuing people from the Nazis. A young girl had passed out on a train track and Karol carried her to a train and accompanied her to a hospital, caring for her the whole way. A good Samaritan story if I've ever heard one.

He did a lot of other things with his life later on, but I was pretty surprised with how all of this early life stuff played out.

Karol was shot at least once. A guy stabbed him another time. A guy tried to explode himself next to him but it didn't work. Karol visited the shooter in prison and he forgave him for the crime even though it is not known whether or not the man wanted to be forgiven.


The widower's wallet squeezed dry of feeling, dreams, and ration.
A boy left alone through disease, the sadness of lonely compassion.

To keep moving forward, to keep pushing along.
For the trumpet to freeze yet to keep playing the song.

In and out of War, the badge of reconciliation proudly worn.
The badge has been yanked from the uniform,
but the humble marches on.

Into the system of tradition and through it a hopeful heart all the same.
Cut through the politics, a selfless heart remained.

Assassination, forgive them. Assassination again.
Forgive them, Father, pardon them all in your son's name.

Reconciled enemies, crossed over, called them friends.
The simple work of a broken man, freely to the end, bitter burden gone,
for the humble marches on.

-The Death-

I had heard of your death when an eager reporter mechanically told us so over an errant microphone. "Pope is dead. Pope is dead."

More so than that, Karol has moved along. With honors, traditions, and fancy titles that kind of matter and kind of don't, Karol has moved on into an Age of yesterday, today and forever.

May 18, 1920, Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

30th Birthday Think Back: Part 6 "25 to 30"

25 to 30

These are the recent years. I am still living in them until tomorrow Canada time.

First of all, we moved to China when I was 25.

I remember getting here and most of the people that we knew were out of town. Thus, without any language capabilities, we stayed in most of the time. It was kind of like everything was leading towards moving to China and then when we finally showed up we didn’t know what to do next. I am still like that a lot of the time. I ask myself, “What do I do next?”.

I remember going to the English corner helping people learn English. One particular time I was sitting with a large group of Chinese students. Two of the students told me that I looked like Brad Pitt. It’s kind of true, I guess. We both have white skin and our names start with B and we are both sexy.

Moving right along, 2006 turned into 2007. 2007 was Barbara’s pregnant year. At the end of that kind of year comes a baby. Our Miles was born on December 29th, 2007 at, I believe, 5:15pm. I remember that being a pretty hectic experience. When you have a wife who wants to have the baby without drugs, it’s hard to remind her of that when she is in pain laying on the floor of the hospital bathroom. I took a big risk in saying, “You can do whatever you want, but remember that you said that I should remind you that you don’t want drugs for this.” That could have been it for me:

“Um, I know that there is a human being coming out of your %*#)&@ right now, but listen to me, I know nothing of pain but I must remind you that you wanted to go through this in the first place.”

Why is it that guys have the easy job in this whole situation? I’m not complaining, It’s just a question.

Nevertheless, Miles was born. I remember imagining the moment before it actually happened. I was always trying to imagine what it would be like to see a little baby that looked like me, that would later call me Dad and demand that I give him hugs and kisses before I leave the house.

Miles shot out of there screaming murder. His cry hasn’t changed much to this day. I remember holding him in a bundle of blankets and thinking that he was so light that it felt like I was just holding a bundle of blankets. And there’s a heart and a brain and a soul somewhere in there.

During the first few months, when Miles would cry I would cry too. My heart could not handle it. Then I prayed that I would be able to handle it. The next day, when Miles cried I started to laugh. Then I felt bad about laughing. I’m not sure why I was laughing. But for the next 2 years or so I would laugh every time he would cry. He would look at me laughing at him in anger. I would have to hide my face when he cried so that I wouldn’t hurt his feelings. I think that I’m over it with Miles, but I still smile a bit every time Jonas cries.

I remember that Miles looked like an alien when he was born. My brother and I compared him to Quatto, from Total Recall, but upon further review that was neither nice nor a very accurate comparison.


2008, I went on a trip to Si Chuan province, right through the area where there was a massive Earthquake a few months later that killed 70 000 human beings. Let's stop here for a moment.

Massive mountains and winding roads for hours on a bus with air condtioning. The air conditioning meant that you could not open the windows. I remember people puking all over the place. Puke sloshing against my shoes. All the while my travel companion (Namchen) slept like a baby.

Namchen is a local Tibetan friend. Earlier that year he got smashed on the back of the head with a brick and was left for dead. I remember when Jamin called me on the phone to tell me that he was in the hospital with Namchen. We had just eaten noodles with our friend Sky. I rushed to the hospital and waited with Namchen while Jamin got some money so that they could admit him into the hospital.

Later that night, the doctors told us that his neck was broken at the top of his spine, and that he probably was not going to make it. I remember hearing this and going down the hallway to cry. I got home really late. A few days later the doctors said that he was going to be okay, that the break was not as bad anymore. I remember telling Namchen that it was a miracle that he was still alive. It really was.

2009 showed up in the middle of another pregnancy. We flew home again for this one. Jonas was born and I worked the summer at camp. Compared to Miles, Jonas was born in about 15 seconds. Our doctor missed it, just like my doctor might have missed me when I was born. Jonas was also very purple when he came out, just like I must have been when I was born with the cord wrapped around my neck.

I remember when I saw Jonas how happy I was, but I also remember how quiet the room was when he came out. I realized that he was not moving and he was purple/gray. For a moment I had thought that he had died. But just as I thought that I saw that purple color get brighter until it turned pink and Jonas breathed his first breath with a giant wail. It’s crazy that Jonas breathes all the time now and I was there to witness the first.

I worked the summer at camp, Miles helped me water the little garden I had made beside my parent’s house. It was a good summer.

We came back to China for a few months and then we went to Hawaii for the film school. It is now 2010.

I remember telling everyone in the film school that my favorite movie was Tombstone. In reality, I don’t really like that movie at all. I corrected myself and said Unforgiven, which I like but it’s not my favorite. The director thought that I said Armageddon. It just kept getting worse. In the end, I think that I was able to clear things up.

I remember sitting in the front row for our speaker, Grant Curtis, who was the producer of Spiderman 3. I remember that I had written a paper on how much I disliked that movie and noticed that it was sticking out of my binder at the time. I tried to subtly push it back into the binder before he noticed it. I was able to conceal it and I am very thankful that I did.

I learned a lot in those few months. Looking back on it, I learned that you need to make crappy movies before you can make good ones. I am in between the crap right now. I think that the next one I make will be a lot better than the other ones.

Back in Canada, we took the kids out trick-or-treating. Um, I mean "harvest festivaling". I will always remember Miles choosing to be a piece of pizza for Halloween. What a cool guy! The last house we went to, just the two of us, he fell off of the step. I had to carry him home. I carried this little, crying piece of pizza home! I had never thought that I would ever carry a crying piece of pizza home.

Back to China. There have been a lot of good memories thus far. Most of them have to do with my kids and their discoveries and interaction with this country. Though, I might wait to talk about them because they all seem to be too recent to talk about now.


I was born on Monday, May 18th, 1981, and since then I have gone through so much of it without having any idea as to where I was going. I never would have thought that everything would take me to this desk that I am sitting at right now. I don’t really know where we’ll be a year from now, let alone 30 years. I hope that I can revisit this at that time. It will be interesting to see if I remember anything else to add to these first 30 years.

Thanks for your patience. I started out not knowing if this would be worth writing down or not. It might not be the most interesting read, but I have learned a few things, and I’m glad that I did it.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

30th Birthday Look Back: Part 5 "20 to 25"

I was 20 years old when I got married. I met Barbara the year before and it seemed like a really good idea to ask her to be my wife a year later.

I married an 18 year old. “Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.”

We were young and figuring out how married people are supposed to act around all of their friends. It sometimes felt like we didn’t fit in anymore. Though, I think that slowly but surely people got used to us being in holy matrimony.

I remember living in our apartment in St. Albert. We had no meal at our wedding, just desserts, and we also had a wedding cake that we only used for ceremonial purposes at the wedding. So, for the next month, in the middle of an Alberta winter, we kept this great chocolate cake out on our balcony. Slowly we worked at it and eventually it was gone.

Later, about a year later, we went to Nepal. One time, as I mentioned earlier, we had to hike up a mountain to teach English. Well, on that same mountain, we showed a movie to a bunch of people in the village. They had electricity but no tv. So, on the back of a motorbike, I strapped a 27 inch tv to my back and leaned forward enough to not fall backwards and down the mountain. That was a really hardcore moment for me.

I remember, in Nepal, seeing a traveling group perform quite an act. A man stuck a knife into the shoulder of a child, behind the neck, and out the other shoulder. There was blood and everything. The crowd was amazed when he stuffed the child under a curtain, handed him a “magic pill” and then removed the sheet to show that the child was completely okay. The villagers ran away to their homes to get money to pay these swindlers. It looked real, that’s for sure. Heck, maybe it was. But I know that if their medicine worked that well then they would not be traveling around in such a crappy vehicle.

To tell you the truth, this segment of my life is the hardest to remember. Maybe it’t because it was also around this time that digital cameras were made easily available. I’ve got thousands of photos of all of these times but not much in my memory.

I think that around 2004 I got a job at the Teglar Youth Centre. It was an indoor skate park and a youth group gathering place. The funny thing is that I could not skateboard at all. I learned along with a couple of other little kids.

I remember the first time I tried to drop into a ramp on a skateboard. I landed on my face a knocked the wind out of me. My little skateboard buddies cheered me on. Not wanting to disappoint them I got up and made my way out of the room without showing to much of the pain I was suffering.

I think that it was about 3 years after I stopped working there that the White Stripes performed some sort of secret show there. It’s kind of sad that I missed out on that.

One time I had the day off and Barbara was at work. I rented “The Ring” and I had to fast forward parts. Keep in mind that this was the middle of the day. Ever since then I’ve had a hard time keeping my eyes open through movies like that.

Okay, listen to this. One day I heard that a certain band was recording a music video at West Edmonton Mall. I told Barbara about it and we went to try to be in the video. When we got there and the band came out and started playing the music, it suddenly dawned on me that I absolutely hated this band. When the camera cranes would float by I did my best to avoid them. We left a little after that. The band was Nickelback. Seriously, I made a wrong turn that day. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.

Barbara and I moved to China in February of 2006. We came to Xining at a time when a lot of the people we knew were not around. So, we stayed at Bill and Amy’s first apartment and watched a few seasons of the tv show 24. About a month ago we got a little completion in our lives by finally watching the last season. Jack Bauer had been there being awesome the whole time we’ve been living in China. We’ll miss you, Jack.

Language class was a headache. I remember, in the middle of one class, just getting up and walking home. Not words. No explanation. I just got up and left. Frustrations abounded.

One of our classmates was a guy named Tyler from California. He was a cool guy. He wore overalls a lot. In China, you wear overalls if you are pregnant. I don’t think that he was pregnant but California is a pretty crazy place, so who really knows, right?

Barbara and I have been in a lot of places together. It was almost 5 years between having our own apartment. We lived in community for most of that time either at camp, in Edmonton, or in Hawaii. I remember when we were packing for China Barbara and I had an argument over the inclusion of a potato peeler in our luggage. She said something like, “I haven’t had an apartment in 5 years and I am going to have my own potato peeler in China!”. I guess it was a really nice potato peeler or something. Okay, the truth is that I know it is a great potato peeler. I use it all the time. I guess this was one argument that I am glad I lost.

Anyways, I guess the main point I see here is that even though China was, and still in most ways is, completely foreign to us, it was the first place where we finally felt like we had a home. Then, our leases came up in our first 2 apartments and now we find ourselves in our 3rd apartment in 5 years. I don’t even really know how that is possible.

Monday, May 16, 2011

30th Birthday Look Back: Part 4 "15 to 20"

At 15, I was beginning high school. At 20, I was beginning marriage. Quite a gap.

I’ve already covered high school, and maybe I should have split this up differently, but lets see what happens.

I had my first serious girlfriend in high school. I was able to kiss her on the cheek, no problem at all. I got to know her family pretty well. We got a long most of the time. In the end, we just were not going to last. Truthfully, I liked someone else and it was not fair of me to treat her the way that I did. A few years after high school I worked at Movie World. She came in to rent a video and I took that opportunity to tell her that I was sorry for being a dummy in the way I broke up with her. I guess one of the facts is that I just never had any real “break up with someone” experience. She was kind of my first.

The only other thing that I will say about my relationships is that both of my ex girlfriends ended up marrying guys named Brett. That is a weird coincidence, isn’t it?

After sports and girlfriends, life started to round out for me. I got my first real job at Movie World. I started making money and spending it. I had a sweet car too; a 1981 Dodge Diplomat. It was basically a police car from The Blues Brothers. One vivid memory with that car was when the town was having it’s annual Farmer’s Days parade. The parade was starting soon and I was going to take the car out to pick up my friend for the parade. Little did I know that our house was located inside the parade route and there was no way out. The exits were already blocked off. So, here I was, driving down main street minutes before the parade. There were hundreds of people lining the street, some in bleachers. Some sarcastically cheered for me. One man yelled, “Get the Hell off of the road!”. I tried to shrink down to climb inside the glove compartment but it did not work. So, I drove for another 5 or 6 blocks until I found an out in the Saan store parking lot. That was one of the more embarrassing moments for me.

My first car was just like this beauty, only it was dark green

I started working at camp with Dad when I was 17. I hated it. Every time I had a day off I would drive back into the city to hang out with my friends.

I remember being so happy to leave camp that I would crank the stereo. At this time I think that I was driving the ’84 Accord. I would crank Dave Matthews Band and sing to the cows as I drove by.

Eventually, I started to hang out with a few people at camp. One of these people, indirectly, was my wife Barbara. I remember being with a group of people and playing around with the video camera. We were sitting on a couch and we were doing a thing where we edited it to look like people were changing places as we were sitting there. Barbara and I were both there, but I don’t think that we actually talked to each other. It was cool because I took off my shirt for one of the frames so, in the video, it looked like my shirt disappeared for a moment. I bet that that little move is what hooked Barbara. Yeah, I bet it was.

I moved to Montreal for a few months in the Fall of 2000. I remember that being an interesting time of reflection. I also missed Barbara a lot and wrote her a lot of letters. I remember finding the cheapest phone card I could find in Chinatown. I think it was 10 cents a minute.

I was walking down the street once and, for the first time, a man tried a pick-up line on me. He asked if I had a girlfriend or boyfriend and then asked what I would prefer. I was speechless. Not really flattered, though I guess that maybe I should have been. Luckily for me I could kill the awkwardness by saying that I had a girlfriend.

The long distance relationship thing ended up working pretty well. We got to know each other a lot better because we had to put it in writing instead of gazing. I ended up seeing Barbara 6 months after I left for Montreal. We met up in Hawaii in between the courses we were taking there.

In Hawaii I went to see The Vandals, a punk band. The thing I remember after walking through the door was seeing a 2 year old kid sitting at the bar. He had a mohawk. 2 girls were “looking after the kid”. Basically, they thought that it would be cute to give the kids sips of beer and try to get him to puff on their cigarettes. What is wrong with people? Maybe you could say, “What is wrong with you, Brett? Going to see a punk band?”

After that I spent 3 months in the Philippines. Beautiful place. Beautiful people. I was just thinking the other day that the cutest kids in the world are Filipinos.

In the Philippines we got to do a lot of cool things. One thing I remember was going to serve people at an old folks home. Most of the men in this place were alone. They didn’t have any family at all. I got a bowl of some sort of soup and they told me to go feed an elderly man that was laying down on his bed. They said that he could not sit up but was used to eating on his back. They told me to just kind of shovel it in there.

So, I went over and the first thing I noticed was him noticing the bowl in my hands. Then he smiled a big, toothless grin; he was hungry. So, I shovelled it in there and he smiled at me the whole time. He could have been the happiest person in the world at that moment, laying on his back in a home, no family, but a bowl of soup was just what he needed.

I came back to Canada and Barbara and I worked at camp again. By this time we were pretty sure that we were pretty great together. We went out and bought her an engagement ring. It wasn’t very expensive, but Barbara liked it and said that a modest ring would be nice if we were going to be traveling around. There would be less temptation for someone to steal it. I thought that it was nice of her to say that instead of saying that it’s okay that I can’t afford a big rock.

I kept the ring and waited until I could surprise her with it. Then, at camp on a walk, right after Bluegbird cabin #4, I knelt down and surprised her with the proposal. She wasn’t sure if I was serious considering that we had agreed that I would propose after the summer. Well, the surprise was that I decided not to wait. She said that she would marry me and, in the end, she kept her word.

The wedding. The main memory I have of this event is that it all happened so fast. It was surreal. I cannot remember the ceremony that much at all. I remember feeling relieved when the ceremony was over and I felt a lot more comfortable at the modest reception. At the mic, I tried to thank absolutely everyone. I was just so happy that so many people from my life from so many different parts of it were there at the same time.

The years flew by. I found a great girl and decided to take the plunge. It turns out that she is much better than I could have ever hoped. Surprising even myself, I have realized that I am not an easy person to live with all of the time. I get frustrated, depressed, bored, intimidated and confused quite a bit, sometimes all in the same day. Barbara is quite an emotional girl herself, but when it comes to supporting me, she is always a big help. I guess that I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I got married at 20, but it turned out to be a pretty good deal.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

30th Birthday Think Back: Part 3 "10 to 15"

This is it. These are the years that I am sure effected my life the most. As many of you can testify, and doctors and scientists most certainly have documented it well, our teenage years are a wasteland. And for all of us, the most awkward times of our lives.

The vivid one I need to start with was my infatuation with a girl, much like Kevin’s Winnie Cooper. I will keep names out of it, but some of you will remember that I was in love. I can’t quite remember how it became official, but we started “dating” in 5th grade.

We had set it all up to have our first kiss, which would be on the cheek, on the Forest Green school behind the gazebo after she, and the other couples ready for their first kiss, were finished their babysitting training course for that day. I did not want the responsibility of babysitting so I did not attend the course and I waited on the swings until they all came out.

There were 4 guys that were going to kiss their girlfriends for the first time. The other guys pulled through, but I was a chicken and delayed the whole thing. It was a really wussy moment in my dating life. Finally, out of frustration and not wanting to get home too late, she kissed me on the cheek. The lowest of lows, when the boyfriend chickens out and the girl has to provide the first cheek kiss.

So, I must have been 10 or 11 when I had my first girlfriend. We “dated” on and off until the end of junior high, I believe. She would dump me over and over and when she wanted me back I would gladly oblige. I cried a lot of tears over that girl.

But I think that’s how it goes for most of us. The first love is always the strangest thing. It was so hard to see that that little girl probably isn’t going to end up being my wife. But you can’t tell that to a 12 year old. To him, the future is set. “Let’s just get the next 15 years over with so that we can get married.”

At the same time, those experiences are good for us. It’s good to taste rejection. It’s good to go through a pre-teen relationship where you’re too nervous to even hold her hand. And when you eventually hold her hand your hand sweats so much that soon enough you are both clasping a puddle. But, it took so long for you to hold her hand, and it was so awkward, that neither of you has the guts to let go of the other’s hand and you just stand there like a couple of idiots. I think that these moments, looking back, are hilarious! At the time, kill be please.

It’s good because life is full of challenges and if you don’t learn how to survive them, then you just might end up being afraid of life.

Other than relationships the teenage years were filled, once again, with sports. Basketball was amazing. Playing ball with some of the same guys all through Junior High and High School was a lot of fun. In Junior High we were really good. Though, as I mentioned in another post, we always lost to Spruce Grove. But that didn’t matter. We had a great time.

I remember our coach’s breath being so bad one time that a guy joked that he must have downed a bottle of whisky before the game. That’s a pretty good joke for a kid in junior high.

I remember it being a weeknight and a teammate and I were walking through the forest going home from school. We saw two other teammates in the forest smoking pot. We were so amazed that these junior high kids did that kind of stuff on a weekday.


It was also around when I was 12 when I had my first experience with death. I only knew the kid because I remember noticing that we had the same watches on. On the way out to a campfire on a wagon ride we talked about the good qualities of our watches. Then I never talked to him again. On the ride back he was at the front and fell off. When he fell off he got run over by the wagon carrying us 50 kids. We all looked back to see him stand up after being run over with blood running down his face and a bone sticking out of his arm. He was in shock and trying to form his voice into a noise. I am pretty sure that most of us knew that this was very serious. He died that night in the hospital and it broke us all.

He would have been my age but suddenly his aging just stopped. He will always be remembered as a little boy. He missed out on all of the girlfriends that would have broken his heart. He missed out on football. It all just stopped. The watch just stopped ticking.

Of course, the thing to say is that it could have happened to anyone that day. It could have been me. It could have been someone I knew well. What I do remember at that time was the ignorance of my sheltered life. I didn’t know that a kid could die.


In Canada, we have grades 7-9 as junior high and grades 10-12 as high school. Age 15 is when you are the king of junior high and the loser of high school all in the same year. All of that ego that you have been building up for the last 3 years gets flushed down the toilet in a swirly. Start over, loser.

Good thing for me I had sports. They were my piano lessons. They were my ballet, if you will. They were my mechanics class. Every kid needs a hobby that helps anchor them down. I am very thankful for sports, though sports is probably the most useless of the hobbies. It is good for staying in shape, but man do I wish that I would have learned more about cars, and construction, and photography in school.

It’s probably true that the kids you think will never amount to anything end up amounting to quite a lot. Junior high is a popularity contest. If only they could get some influential person to talk to us when we’re in Junior high and say…

“For the kids that feel left out and lonely, don’t worry, things will get better. For the jocks and the cool kids, unless you smarten up, this is as good as it gets.”

My other idea is to get the government to pass a bill that would allow the schools to perform some sort of electric shock treatment so that we all come to our senses a little earlier in life. The other option is doing the all-boys school, but that has a whole other set of problems.

I guess it’s just a way of life. Get through it without being a total jerk and you’ll probably be okay.

Winnie Cooper moved on to someone else. Brett Gitzel moved on to high school.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

30th Birthday Think Back: Part 2 "5 to 10"

Okay, it’s starting to come back to me now.

The way to organize this stuff is to think back to what grade I was in when I was 5 to 10. I think that this layout will work for this entry. Let me take you through the years.

I’m pretty sure that I started Kindergarten when I was 5. My teachers were Mrs. Little and Miss. Robinson. I remember taking a pair of scissors and cutting a little bit of my hair. Later that day Mrs. Little found the snippet of hair and asked who did it. I was too scared to confess so it remained a mystery… until this very day! The punishment of not fessing up? Baldness.

I also remember getting the little red boxes of raisins in my lunch. To this day, Sun Maid raisins remind me of those crazy Kindergarten days. Looking at the new version of the boxes, Sun Maid seems to have gotten a lot sexier as the years went by. What, she makes raisins AND does yoga?! She sure did make good raisins.

1st grade lead to Mrs. Saunders’ class. More of the same mind molding as in Kindergarten. I remember learning the months of the year.

2nd grade was good, with Mrs. Anderson. But the low light of that year was when I peed my pants. Bladder control seems to be a theme for me. That day, I needed to pee and I asked the teacher. She told me to wait until lunch, which was nearly 20 minutes away. I started dancing around in the back of the class. Finally, when she said that I could go to the bathroom I announced, “I already did.” She rushed to the back of the room and gave me paper towels to dry off. I don’t remember the other kids being too means about it. Maybe they were too little to understand cruelty towards a fellow classmate. But boy, did Mrs. Anderson feel bad about it. Not as bad as me, though, cause, you know, I peed my pants.

One of my favorite times at school was recess. We always played soccer. This is around the time that people knew me by my childhood nickname: “Bryce’s little brother.” I even remember when some older kids would ask me who I was and I’d simply say that I was, “Bryce’s little brother”. I’m pretty sure that this was good for me; it got me into the soccer games and people seemed to have a little more respect for me as the years went by, knowing that I could probably turn into some kind of athlete like Bryce. A few years later and Bryce was in Junior High, so I was able to eventually get my old name back.

I can’t forget the brief period when I wore red bandannas around my neck. I wore them to school and people made fun of me, but I thought it was cool. My dad called it my “trademark”, like Jughead with his crown. I think it was my friend Reagan who told me I looked like weirdo and that was that. I must have been 8 or 9 in that time. At least I didn’t wear a crown.

When I was 6, Barry was born. I remember going to the Stony Plain hospital to see mom and my new little brother. Barry was actually the first baby that I was ever allowed to hold.

At home, Dad eventually put up a ghetto basketball net onto our garage. I am amazed that that thing held on for so long. We played there a lot. As mentioned in a previous entry, I also played a lot of street hockey. Sometimes Bryce would join me, or a neighbor or two, but other times I just played out there alone. After shooting the ball around over and over I decided to dress up in goalie pads and flick the ball at myself. I was awesome! I was always either stopping a big shot or scoring a big goal!

I remember begging dad to play catch with the football. He usually agreed. Those were good times.

My football “career” started around this time. I must have been 9. I was a backup for my first game, but the starter (Brent) was late to the game so I had to go in. I was so nervous that as I lined up on the line I got a nose bled. I played through it until the series was over. That’s how tough I was back then. Crazy tough!

Who could forget the time we went on holidays to BC and I was supposed to be watching Barry when he tripped and fell on his bottle. Dad rushed him to the emergency with a pretty serious cut under his lip. I felt so bad that I sat on the bed and cried, thinking that Barry’s life was in jeopardy from the way he was screaming in pain. Barry has the scar to prove it. Years later, I got an elbow to the face in the high school basketball game. My tooth went through my lip. Now I have a scar above my lip so that Barry doesn’t feel too bad about the one below his lip. At least, that was the plan anyways;)

Ah, Barry. Bryce and I worked him hard like any good brother would. We would “time” Barry with our imaginary watches to see how fast he could get us food from the kitchen. We just wanted food and were too lazy to get it. Barry “broke his record” every single time. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bryce was probably my main nemesis during that time. He made me scream at him so loud that the fire alarm went off. He also got me so angry that I swore for the first time. I called him an a—hole and I think that he told mom and dad. That was lame of him.

Bryce would baby-sit me on Wednesday nights and we would watch Unsolved Mysteries. I would go to

bed sweating to death, sure that the killer was going to come into my room and dispose of me. He never did show up, and every week I refused to learn my lesson by watching it again and again.

What can I say? There are a lot of memories. I think that the 5 to 10 years were filled with sports and good times for most of the time. If I relate my life to Kevin Arnold’s of The Wonder Years, which I did a lot back in those days, these were the innocent days of playing in the yard with Paul Pfeiffer. Little did I know that life would get much more complicated in the next 5 years.

Friday, May 13, 2011

30th Birthday Think Back: Part 1 "0 to 5"

Lets see… where do I begin?

How about at the beginning. This is a little bit of cheating since I don’t remember the beginning at all. I’ll share a quick situation or two that I heard about my birth. Since I make up the rules I find it okay that these are not memories.

First off, May 18th, 1981. I imagine that the city of Edmonton has awoken to a lovely Spring morning. The city is rather lovely this time of year. Though there was more to this specific day; it was Victoria Day. This is a holiday in Canada. So, as people were heading back home from the cabin or home from the festivities downtown, I was brewing.

What time of day was I born? I think it is around 10:15pm, if I remember correctly. I have been told that there were a few interesting complications to the whole deal. Nothing serious, but worth noting.

On Victoria Day they ran waterfalls off of the High level bridge. It’s a piping system that takes tap water up to the top of the bridge and sprays it down into the river, like a waterfall. This bridge connects the North and the South side of the city. The hospital I was born at is located several blocks north of the bridge. I am told that my doctor was on the south side of the city when he got the call and had a heck of a time getting across the city with all of the holiday festivities, particularly the waterfall. I think he made it in the end, but not by much.

Also, when I was born I apparently had a little tangle with the umbilical cord. It was wrapped around my neck, perhaps in a tussle over it’s refusal to leave the cozy confines of my mother’s womb. Can I personify my umbilical cord?

Anyways, I was a little blue coming out. Partly because the world is a strange place and partly because I had this cord wrapped around me. Though, in the end, I made it. Now my feet and hands get cold very easily. Is there a connection there?


My first memory has got to be around the age of 2. I know that there is a photo of me and my dad on my 2nd birthday, so that could come into play here, but still I remember sitting his lap in front of a plate full of cupcakes. They were in the formation of a giant 2. This is my first memory, literally as far as I can remember.

We lived on the farm. In a trailer across the yard from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I remember playing in the yard, sometimes getting to go into the cool house where the chickens lived. Though I remember not feeling safe on my own in there.

Bryce had a little yellow bike with wooden block pedals on it. He would do pop-a-wheelies, or someone older than us would come over and do them and Bryce and I were fairly impressed by it.

Bryce and I spent most of our time together on the farm. He had a birthday party when we lived in the trailer and it snowed a lot that week so we made giant snowmen with all of the kids he had invited over for it. I remember doing this again a few years later at our house in Stony Plain.

One day, Bryce and I, and I think our cousin Mike were near the driveway. This is when we lived in the house on the farm and Grandma and Grandpa had already moved to Stony Plain. There was a gopher hole. Mike and I dared Bryce to put his hand in the gopher hole, not knowing that Dad had put a gopher trap down there. The trap bit down on his finger, Bryce screamed a very bloody murder, and Dad, who must have been in the back yard, hurdled over the picket fence all in one motion. Like an Olympian. I remember being distracted from my interest in Bryce’s pain and the look of his finger by Dad’s amazing leap over the fence. If Miles or Jonas were ever in a situation like that, I wonder if I could leap out of our 10 story window and float down to rescue them.

One day I woke up in my brown metal framed bed and went downstairs for breakfast. Bryce looked at me and asked me why my one eye was closed. I thought that that was strange because I didn’t notice it being closed. I guess I had an infection. I needed to go to the hospital over night. The vivid memory is that while we were getting ready to go to the hospital I remember seeing my clothes that were laid out on the footstool in the living room. I’m not sure if I knew at that point that I was going to be spending the night in a scary hospital.

Behind Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a smaller house in the trees next to the road. I remember the pine smell that radiated around the yard. In that house lived Great Grandpa Frey. He was born in August of 1899. His name was August. I am glad that my name isn’t May. Grandpa Frey gave me my first harmonica. He called it a mouth organ. The box it came in had electrical tape to hold it together. Now, I have 2 little boys who always love to steal my harmonicas and wail the tar out of them.

This cool cat is brought to you by a great great grandfather

So, now I must be about 3 or 4. I think that this might be around the time we moved to Stony Plain. Maybe it was 1985 or 1986. I remember going into our new house in town and watching mom paint the walls. Not very interesting, but I remember it.

By now, Bryce was going to Kindergarten at Stony Plain Elementary. For Halloween, mom thought that it would be cool to dress me up as a clown. I remember having a Jonas type fit about it and I think that I waited outside for mom to be done with the party. There were ants on a log, though. The peanut butter kind. I also had a good picture of me sulking in my clown outfit, but I gave it to my high school girlfriend so it’s probably long gone. For shame.

It gets interesting when I talk about my bedroom. It was the first room on the left upstairs, just past the closet where mom and dad kept all of their coats. Mom also kept her camera with the big flash up on the shelf in there. But I remember my room.

I must have been 4 or 5 when I thought that it would be cool to pee in the corner of my room; right behind the closet door. The bathroom sat right across from my room but for some reason it seemed like I could save a little time by just peeing in my room. Soon, there must have been a smell, but I bet it didn’t bother me much. I’m sure that it bothered my mom. Boy, I sure hope that she’s not just learning about this now.

Mom and dad would read us stories before bed. I remember the one about the Rabbit, Brier Rabbit or something. A friend and I were just talking about that the other day. Looking back on it, that book seemed a little racist.


So, what can I learn from this? For one, I had the great experience of living in the country and a town before the age of 5. That is probably something that allowed me to appreciate the rural and urban parts of living. I’m not a big farm guy, but I like how everything is laid out in the yard and the farmer goes from place to place, doing his chores. Just like the song.

I went to the hospital for the first time. There are also the numerous vaccination shots that we needed to get every couple of months. The nurse would tell us to look up at a funny picture on the wall. I guess that hospitals might induce vivid memories. I feel bed for those kids that spend their whole childhood in those places. No matter how many friendly people and cool things there are in those places they are all distractions from the real reason why they are there.

It’s a cool realization that Great Grandpa Frey got me going in music. Specifically the harmonica. I love playing it with the guitar. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. Thanks, Grandpa Frey!

So, there it is. I’m sure that I could sit around and recall a few more things but it’s already gone on long enough.

One final note. I bet my mom remembers everything. I bet dad remembers a lot about my childhood, too. It’s amazing that I can only remember a handful of things. Why does it take so long for our memories to kick in? Perhaps to save us from a lot of heartache. I mean, Jonas cries about a lot of things these days. At those moments he must consider himself to be the most miserable kid in the world. I guess it takes time for them to realize that they are pretty blessed to have us as parents. As they begin to understand that, their memories start to solidify that stuff in their minds. It’s kind of a form of grace. We can screw up as parents, or be upset that we might think that our kid hates us, but we need to remember that they won’t remember that much about it!

Tomorrow we move into the next round of memories, 5 to 10 years of age.