Monday, December 29, 2014

A Day in the Life of Customer Service

(This post is gratefully dedicated to those overworked, stressed-out, under-appreciated but very capable customer service colleagues whom I was fortunate to have worked with over the years.)

First, a dictionary Definition:

Then some company classroom theory:


And finally... a "real world" customer:

All of us who work in customer service have likely known days like these; days that would come along when too much became more than enough and patience ran very thin while muddling through cumbersome, seemingly incomprehensible and inflexible internal company procedures that only set-up more roadblocks to further agitate an already extremely irate, impatient and demanding customer.

Sound familiar?

Following is an e-mail letter that was actually sent out on one of those days to that one unreasonably impatient and extremely irate customer who just would not accept “wait” as the answer in response to processing the request.

As if to exact a sentence of justice for the crime of being made to wait, the customer demanded an immediate written explanation to detail the reasons it was necessary to wait for the request to be processed.  

Normal people would probably call the demand a waste of time, however, customer service is after all, responding to customer requests no matter how inane the request may appear to be.

The following reply was sent. (Names and industry-specific details have been removed)

Dear Customer,

The changes you have requested were submitted to our head office this morning. We are now waiting for that request to be approved and the required internal system amendments to be made. Hopefully we shall have this all sorted out and completed by tomorrow morning, or the morning after at the latest.

In response to your frustration and impatience, which we truly understand and sympathize with, we are providing you with this written confirmation that you have rightly requested so that you may pass it along to appease your understanding customer.

We also acknowledge that the change you requested is simple and straight forward to carry out, however, our internal procedures must be strictly followed without question; company policy of course. To further assist you however, we are pleased to provide the following unofficial explanation that has been borrowed from an unnamed source which we believe to be very reliable if not entirely believable.

You are correct! Years ago making the required changes you requested only took minutes when we could make all the system amendments here in the local office. As you now know, everything is done elsewhere outside of the country and may require several days to accomplish.

In today's modern business environment and practices, this paradigm shift from what was once a task that required minutes to accomplish into a task that now requires days to accomplish stems from what is known as centralization, streamlining, reducing costs and improving efficiency. Most companies you are doing business with are also following similar practices in one form or another. That may be one reason they are giving you the business instead of doing business with you. 

The quantum leap that was achieved here was going directly from minutes to days thus bypassing the need to go from minutes, to hours, and then to days. Now you know where the efficiency was gained; in the quantum leap itself.

In the 20th century, the question was, "How many people are required to change a light bulb?"

In the 21st century we all accept that a group is required to change a light bulb, therefore the question now is, "How much time is required for that group to change the light bulb?"

This change in question is called partial evolution because we no longer have to ask, "How many?" but instead we ask "How long?”

The word partial here becomes necessary for two reasons. The first, because the answers required for both questions remain unknown quantitative numbers that business management math experts are still puzzling over. The second, because throughout the 20th century a consensus was never reached regarding the definitive number of people that light-bulb groups required. Regardless of which century is analyzed the answer remains unknown because it just doesn't add up whichever way you try to figure it out.

In conclusion, we are compelled to confront one final question. Why are people today busy with reading and answering e-mails that detail possible conjectures concerning when needed changes might be made rather than simply allowing that overworked someone to more constructively use their time to actually follow-up on that requested change? 

Don’t panic! This is only a rhetorical question.

The final answer to your initial question, “When?” is “Eventually!”

This answer shall always endure the test of time. Surely you will agree it is re-assuring to discover that some things do not have to be changed in the name of progress.


Anyway, the obvious message here was to me rather than to the customer: time to get out of this line of work. 

Having done so, I shall never return to it.

A parting shot:

Hopefully this shall never apply to aircraft maintenance crews... or surgeons... or the mechanics who work on my car...or your car... but one just never knows for sure.

The Oddblock Station Agent

And one more just too good to pass up...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Prisons of our Own Making

Sunday morning, December 21, 2014 at 08:27

Lord God of Israel, the one Creator and giver of life, I am thankful to you alone that I see this new Sabbath day arrive and I am truly grateful to you for another day of life which you have granted me. Again I thank you Lord.

Walking has become important to me, a daily obsession to try to stay well, and already I have been out for my usual early morning walk. This month thus far I have accumulated 44.3 miles of recorded walking. In truth, this record keeping is meaningless, but I do the walking and keep the mileage records for my sanity and occasional de facto peace of mind. Almost always I feel better while walking and for a time afterward, therefore walking has become a vital part of my mental well-being. On top of this, walking is good for heart health and, an integral part of my ongoing long term recovery from the heart attack.

Before I sat here to begin writing I was resting on the bed and thinking, mindlessly letting my thoughts drift and wander. Slowly realization came that I spend most of my life here at home in the house, and most of those hours are spent in this room upstairs. This said, I am the same as a prison inmate except that I am the one who by choice confines me in this room. I am by no means complaining but simply making an observation about my life and perhaps about life in general.

When I go for my walks around the neighbourhood I rarely see people walking outside (aside from dog-walkers) unless they are going to or from their cars, or walking to or from the bus. This said, few people seem to walk; most seem driven having just made that anxious dash from house to vehicles.

This age of instant communication has made us become all the more isolated as we withdraw further; spending more time in the shelter of our abodes and vehicles. Perhaps in desperation we feel a narcissistic need more than ever to retreat from the increasingly busy and crowded world around us, yet in spite of more time huddled in the believed safety of our refuges, we seem to suffer all the more from that loss of human contact that we increasingly dislike and avoid.

I do not subscribe to Facebook, Twitter or any of the like, but I do admit to having glanced at Kie's Facebook; Simply setting up a blog was a quantum leap forward. I can perceive logical explanations why people do not talk to each other or spend as much time together these days. Almost everyone communicates by deluging the cyber world with a flood of information about anything and everything concerning what they may or may not be thinking about on the spur of the moment; almost every single moment.

At times I feel like a lone turtle in a horse race wondering where everyone went. Reality is that I have been left far behind at the starting line while everyone has sped off and far ahead. Again, I honestly do not know what to think and at times wonder if I should capitulate and join in.

But why?

I have not been able to convince myself with a valid reason aside from that usual, meaningless standard, "Everyone is doing it!"

Signs of the times and blazes for life's trails:

"But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase."
(Daniel 12:4)

"Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold."
(Matthew 24:12)

"But go your way till the end; and you shall rest, and stand in your allotted place at the end of days."
(Daniel 12:13

God knows what and when, but aside from the glimpses given, those are not for us to know. We may wonder all we want, and God has given us the minds to understand and freedom to wonder, but God has not given us the minds to know when.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Bridge Between Two Solitudes

Trying to belong but never quite belonging.

For many years now, trying to make sense out of life and struggling to figure out the purpose of life has been one of my quests; the human endeavour no doubt. Again this morning while pausing, writing and reflecting, I have been wondering how to define the years thus far in my journey.

My life is a story of east meets west, or west meets east, and that is how the years have unfolded. I cannot say why I was chosen to travel this route, but for most of my life I have known this was my calling. In retrospect, I can remember some signs and clues that were there along the way.

As I observe this world around me, I see a world that has been changing. I see a Canada and North America that have been changing, but having said this, I do not see a Canada that is ready for these changes. Oh yes, faint progress has been made, even sometimes reluctant acceptance of east-west relationships, but too often reality is that west and east are not really wanting doors to open, bridges to be built and change to come. This I can truly understand well.

Resistance to change is human nature. Forget self-righteous political correctness that would imply differently! That is nothing more than holding one's nose while swallowing something distastefully detestable and then in hypocritical self-delusion pretending that it tasted palatable. Political correctness is nonsense! Completely insincere nonsense!

Disliking change has always been a part of my own nature which I must struggle with, question searchingly and then my answers live with. My own feelings and racial prejudices are a part of what defines me and those which I must contend with. The invisible walls I occasionally confront at work vividly remind me about the “two solitudes” mentality that was and is so successfully pervasive in Quebec society. At the office where I am employed today the players are different but the subtle and not-so-subtle barriers are as distastefully familiar as life in Quebec was.

My own interracial marriage does not remove my prejudices from within me or resolve my problems with racism. Strangely enough the reason is that I do not see in my own marriage that she and I are racially different, yet we are undeniably different nonetheless.

So today I momentarily awakened, put together some of the pieces of that perplexing puzzle that have accumulated over the years, and realized that a part of my life is defined as a bridge; a bridge between west and east. Yes, at times a reluctant bridge, but nothing more and nothing less than a bridge… and believe me, bridges are walked all over from either end.

Written November 04, 2008
The Oddblock Station Agent

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wednesday morning, August 14, 2013 at 08:20

Before, life was just working hard. Today, life is working hard to try to remember. (A drawing by Kimberly)

Four things I forgot this morning that I should not have forgotten:

1. I forgot to thank God for this new day when I awoke.
2. I forgot to take my pill before breakfast.
3. I forgot to take the blood pressure records back upstairs.
4. I forgot that Sheridan Medical was going to call me today.

I am really bothered by the fact that completely I forgot these things, especially the 2nd and 3rd items because I was thinking about these particular two only moments before they were to be done, yet they were lost from my thoughts nonetheless. Both were completely forgotten when I started doing something else first - distraction really - but my short term memory is starting to fail me. 

The 4th item was completely out of mind because it was something from yesterday. 

The 1st item I was able to remember before I got out of bed, but I had been awake for a while.

These forgotten things are seemingly small and trivial because they are, but the fact I am forgetting in this manner is new to me - and I am bothered by this new reality that I cannot seem to change or prevent.

Anyway, yesterday was Mom's 79th birthday and I did not forget that day and event. I was not able to pick up the telephone and call her for the reasons I mentioned before. She did not even know that yesterday was her birthday. Such is that awful curse of Alzheimer's Disease. Instead, I posted a few pictures on the blog and recorded some of my thoughts.

All I know is that the years pass by and the world we know changes. We change; I change.

Nothing remains the same except for God's word and God's love. He has promised us that these two will not change and they will not depart from us.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014, Mom's 80th Birthday

Eighty years ago today, on August 13, 1934, Mom was born in Milan, Quebec. Very few people in the world can make this claim because the population of Milan has always been sparse.

Today Mom reached her 80th birthday, but sadly, she is not even aware of this special milestone in her life. For the past fifteen years, perhaps a bit longer, she has struggled with Alzheimer's disease as it has slowly, agonizingly and relentlessly robbed her of everything in life, except her life thus far.

"Go eat your your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already approved what you do."
(Ecclesiastes 9:7)

... and this is the way Mom has lived for as long as she has been able.

Photo of Mom thirty years earlier celebrating her 50th birthday doing what she loved to do during the hot summers, sitting in the back yard and having a picnic dinner.

"Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, "I have no pleasure in them.
(Ecclesiastes 12:1)

While celebrating another birthday, Mom is with Aunt Shirley, her only sibling, who was visiting from Vancouver.

Mom was fascinated with the "Little Girl" but was unable to understand this was her first great-grandchild.

Mom in the early 1950's. We rarely ever thought of Mom as once being young and a teenager.

Mom and Dad at Serampus Falls in Maine, making a pause while en route to Rangeley. At this time Mom was already early into her struggle with that hated disease. Mom always loved visiting this spot in Maine.

In spite of the afflictions that come upon us, life is a single, one-way journey; a precious gift of time that God alone grants us. 

"There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him."
(Revelation 22:3)

Mom always reminded us to always enjoy the moment because this is all that we have. 

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum August 14, 2014

80 years old! I wish we could know what she is thinking, but she cannot tell us. (Photo by Alan)

Addendum August 26, 2014

If only life was this simple and the following possible...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

No Fool Like An Old Fool

"Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
(Galatians 6:7)

This item is something that I found during the past weekend when I was sorting through old papers to dispose of. I know this handmade gift had to do with Father's Day and I wish I could recall what year it was. Perhaps 24 or 25 years ago; all I know now is that it was a long time ago.

Kimberly made this card for me before she reached her teen years. I do not know how many hours she spent to make this, but I do sort of recall how long I looked at this when she proudly gave it to me; probably 30 to 60 impatient seconds and without giving this gift much thought. 

What a fool I was!!

Front cover

I was a blind fool and did not recognize what was truly important in life. I was too caught up in work, trying to survive in a job I hated, living in a city I did not like and selfishly feeling sorry for myself believing that life was unfair. 

What a fool I was!!

And maybe I am still that fool.

I wish that I had taken more time to look at this thoughtful creation when it was new. I wish I had taken the time to carefully read what she had written when her thoughts were fresh. I wish I had given some genuine thought into how many hours Kimberly spent making this when she could have been watching TV instead. I wish I had said a meaningful, heartfelt thank you rather than simply being polite and then putting this aside for a quarter of a century.

Inside left

In spite of what was written here, I should have known what was important in life, given Kimberly a hug and told her that I love her, instead of being distracted, disinterested and doing nothing. 

Oh, what a useless father I was! Those years are gone and I shall no longer see creations like this nor am I likely to. 

Just yesterday, Kie said something to David about the wooden crates I make. Not knowing anything about this rediscovered card and subject, Kie said that only my children have no interest in the things I make. One day later I now know and understand the reason - they have learned to respond to me exactly as they were taught, which now I admit was the wrong way.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
(Proverbs 22:5)

Now that Kimberly and David are married adults and have their own young children, I truly wish that they shall be better and wiser parents than I was. Truly I desire that they do not make the same mistakes that I made.

Only now do I understand some of the advice that my mother gave me 25 or 26 years ago concerning my relationship with Kimberly and David. At the time I was annoyed and thought Mom was meddling. I was wrong! Again, I truly wished that I had attentively listened to her wisdom and could today hear her repeat those words to me again. She can't and I can't. Although Mom is still alive, the ravages of that hated Alzheimer's Disease robs both of us of that.

Inside right

The time that God gives us with our family, with friends, with people, and for our lifespan itself is a gift; be warned though, that time given to us here is not infinite.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum, August 21, 2014

One of Grandma's photos: David and Kimberly in spring 1989 when Grandma and Grandpa came to visit.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Look Up!

A verse in the Bible tells us to look up.

"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing."
(Isaiah 40:26)

Grandpa holding Jonah and looking up at an aircraft passing high above. 

"One generation shall laud thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts."
(Psalm 145:4)

The Oddblock Station Agent

Eulogy for Dad

June 15, 1985

A verse in the Bible tells us, “A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” (Ecclesiastes 1:4)

Another verse reminds us, “The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)

A death in the family and a funeral service brutally remind us of this stark reality; that our time here is very short, and our years pass away very quickly.

Last summer Dad spoke about the brevity of life. He was astounded that he had lived 89 years but he was also very troubled that those years were gone; that they had gone so very fast.

About year ago when Dad was not well, he also talked about his wishes knowing that his remaining time was likely short. He said he wanted his memorial done at Westminster Presbyterian Church, he specifically mentioned Rev. Joe Reed, and in Dad’s own words, “And have someone say a few words over me.”

Dad would occasionally comment afterward during our Sunday lunch about a sermon he thought had been too long. Maybe that is the reason he deliberately said, “a few words.”

Seriously though, what does one say about a life that has spanned 89 and a half years?

The challenge is not to leave something out that should be remembered and said, and the danger is saying something that should be forgotten and left unsaid, so to Ted, Kathy and Alan, I ask for your forgiveness for my failures in this respect.

1924 - New mother holding Dad
Dad, who was known all his life as Stan Morrison was born in Montreal on May 30, 1924.

Dad would best be described as a typical Canadian for his generation.  He grew up going through the Great Depression of the 1930’s, but he rarely spoke about those times as being hard. Dad always spoke of those growing up years as the best times in his life and when he did the things he loved; playing hockey, started smoking; sometimes fighting; visiting his grandmother in Milan; learning to swim in a real swimming hole.

In 1939 Dad was offered a job and the opportunity to learn a trade at The Montreal Gazette. At age 15 he quit high school and began working.  He often remarked about his starting salary of $7.00 per week. If he ever had any regret about that life-defining decision, then it was not finishing high school… at least that is what he often told Ted and me when we were struggling through high school.

In 1942 at age 18 he joined the war effort and served in the Canadian Navy. Dad rarely spoke about his time in the navy until later years, which was so typical of WW II veterans. Nonetheless, he served as a signalman on a mine sweeper patrolling the west coast of Canada. If you have ever seen those WW II documentaries showing navy ships with blinking lights… then that is what Dad did. Dad always said he never saw active combat, but he once spoke about the ship rolling depth charges and shooting at unexploded mines in the water.

After World War II ended, Dad returned to his job at the Montreal Gazette. In those years that followed Dad really enjoyed life.

He loved sports; hockey in particular. In his home hanging on a wall is a picture of Dad and the Montreal Gazette hockey team celebrating their victory… Dad was the game star!

He also bought a motorcycle… and we heard stories about that… and later a car... and then he learned to drive. His journeys always seemed to take him eastward to Milan, a tiny, non-descript village in the southeastern Quebec highlands.

Dad loved Milan, He spent his summers and holidays there. He often mentioned that he was sent there to look after his grandmother, but in later years he admitted he rarely did that… because… in his own words, “I was always out having a good time with my friends.”

So it’s really not surprising that he married a girl from there, and as Alan has described, "Dad married the love of his life."

The usual story about how Dad met Mom has often been told. He was to take Mom to her high school prom, and being ten years older, Dad was trying to get out of it, saying that he had to meet and pick up Uncle Rod. Of course Dad’s Uncle Alec fixed that excuse by saying he would meet Uncle Rod, and so Dad went on that date he did not want to go on.

But Dad once told me the first time he actually met Mom was quite a few years earlier when she was a toddler. Dad was walking by her home in Milan and Mom was sitting beside the road. Thinking that place was too close to the road and too dangerous for a little girl to be alone, Dad picked her up, moved her away from the road and set her down near the house. Of course Mom was screaming. We cannot say it was love at first sight.

Mom and Dad in summer 2000 on the Tennessee side of the state line with North Carolina. Dad once said he never thought he would ever see Appalachians of the southern United States; scenes and locations often mentioned in the country music he loved to listen to.

First impressions notwithstanding, Dad and Mom were married in Milan, Quebec, on June 20, 1953.

Fifty years later on June 20, 2003, we celebrated the anniversary of that event here in this church, and after being asked, Dad and Mom refused to reveal to the four of us how Dad had proposed to Mom.

Through the decades that followed, they did what most married people did, started a family, bought a house in the suburbs, and grew older together. In those first ten years the four of us were born: me, Ted, Kathy and Alan.

In June 1985, Kathy and Bill were married here in this church, and the one impression of Dad that comes to mind about that particular day was this; Dad was the most nervous person present… and he wasn’t even the one who was getting married!

As more decades quickly passed, Dad’s four grandchildren, Kimberly, David, Liam and Aislyn made their appearances in his life. Dad was also blessed with a longevity that allowed him to attend one of his granddaughter’s weddings, and then later see one of his great-grandchildren.

Last June Dad and Mom reached sixty years of marriage, and the four of us as no longer young adults, had more to learn from Dad… about commitment to marriage while living the though the, “for worse” part of that  “for better or for worse.” vow.

One of the last pictures taken of Mom and Dad together. By the time this scene was recorded, Mom did not know who Dad was.

Watching the true love of his life suffer and slowly fade away from Alzheimer’s Disease was hell for Dad. Many times we would see Dad upset because Mom was no longer at home. He would go and visit Mom only to return home later hurting all the more because Mom no longer knew him; that really tortured Dad.

For those of us who remember those summers in North Hatley, surely by now the four of us have realized that Dad rented that cottage for us to enjoy because he spent so little time there.

North Hatley 1978 - Dad, as expected and with a cigarette going, was relaxing in the easy chair.

Let me share this scene of Dad with you from one of those hot July weekends.

Dad was up and had already made the morning pot of coffee. He had also driven into downtown North Hatley to pick up a copy of the Montreal Gazette from Earl’s. Dad always starts his days with the Gazette and, as expected, with a cigarette going he was sitting in the easy chair reading his morning paper. Many people take their work home from the office to work on during evenings, but Dad is probably one of those lucky few who can actually claim that he has someone else deliver his work to his home free of charge so he can look it over the next day after the work has been finished by someone else. Then again, employment with the Montreal Gazette did provide that unique benefit, except during vacations when Dad had to go out and buy his paper like everyone else.

In 1985, after 43 years at the Montreal Gazette, loss of sight in one eye compelled Dad into retirement a few years earlier than he expected. Many people who met him afterward never knew that he was totally blind in one eye. Dad must have truly understood the expression ‘to turn a blind eye’ because he rarely complained, learned well to adapt to unwanted circumstance and never behaved as if he was visually impaired.

Almost a third of Dad’s life was spent in retirement and for the most part he was content to stay at home and find things to do there; he lived in the same house for fifty-three years. That said, Dad really enjoyed his retirement years. He and Mom drove across Canada; not just once but twice! Dad and Mom really did get to do the few things they truly wanted to do when retirement came.

Another thing that Dad started doing after retirement was getting involved here at Westminster; helping to look after the building and sometimes fixing things that needed attention. Dad also helped with getting some larger projects done… the heating system here was legendary… and Dad was often on the phone with Jack Smith talking about the heating system. Through those years Dad and Jack Smith became good friends. Although Dad was always friendly toward people Dad did not readily open up to people, so Jack was an exception.

Who was Dad?

What a person says, what that person does, and more so, how a person is actually seen to live, reveals much about who a person is.

That expression, “What you see is what you get.” That really was Dad! What you saw truly was what you got.

Dad readily complained about things he did not like but he simply put up with them rather than doing anything to go out to changing things.

Dad was hard-working and honest… he rarely missed work or stayed home even when sick. He never brought anything home that did not belong to him.

Dad long had an interest in stamps and stamp collecting until his eyesight became too poor. For years people would come up to Dad and hand him an envelope stuffed with stamps they had clipped saved for him. Stamp collecting was something he started after his father passed away. Dad took over Grandpa’s collection and kept it going. A few times Dad mentioned that his wish was that one of his children would take over and continue the collection. Dad we’re sorry because this is one area where we have disappointed you.

When we were younger Dad would tell us tales about some of the people in Milan. His Uncle Alec, who was probably the one person in life he looked up to most… Johnny Doak who told jokes and laughed harder at them than anyone else did… Mom’s Uncle Walter who knew where to go fishing and when to go to catch the fish… Dad’s stories made these people come alive when he talked about them… people who had made life-long impressions upon him.

During our visits to Milan, Dad would spend hours driving us around on every two-rut back road he could think of. Occasionally he would stop the car, point at some non-descript location that meant nothing to us and then tell us a tale about something that had once occurred there… the farm where his mother was born… or someone catching a large fish in a small brook… or someone else who killed a porcupine… or someone unusual who lived in a house that no longer existed… a beaver dam that flooded the road his car once stalled in. These were all small events that had made an impression on him and he shared them with us.

Milan, Quebec, in the mid 1950's

In later years Dad no longer wanted to visit to Milan; he simply said it wasn’t the same. For a time I thought perhaps Dad was becoming too old to travel and visit but the true reason is that Dad had loved the people there who were no longer there. Milan was never just a place to go to; it was a way of life that had vanished because the people he loved had also departed… and now he too has left to join them.

Dad could find humour in very unusual circumstances. Another particular scene of Dad that comes to mind was soon after Alan was born. Dad came to talk to Ted and me and he had this large wet spot on the front of his shirt. Dad informed us that Alan had peed on him while they were changing the diaper. Dad was laughing because he said his three sons had all peed on him in the same way.

Looking back over the decades, especially as the four of us went through our teen years, at times we certainly did worse things than just pee on Dad but he never reminded us later about those incidents. Dad had an amazingly good memory… but he knew what to forget.

David wearing that T-shirt Dad had made
Dad never wore T-shirts or any type of shirt that did not have buttons in the front but this did not mean he never bought a one. Dad had a T-shirt custom made with something David said that Dad had found amusing and he never let David or the rest of us forget it. Dad laughed about that for years.

When Ted was in grade one at school he was having trouble learning how to read. Dad spent some frustrating evenings with Ted but eventually taught him how to read. Mom always said she could never have done that.

If only one word could be used to describe Dad, then that word is patient… and that was the one word that Mom had used more than once to describe him. She called him, “The most patient man I know… except when waiting in line.” Dad hated waiting in line-ups.

When we were growing up I remember Dad giving us our independence early and the freedom to do things we wanted to do, or go to places we wanted to go, but he expected us to work and earn our own money to pay our way. Some days that seemed harsh… at times unfair… but looking back… that was a valuable lesson about the responsibility that goes with independence.

Dad always seemed to have an opinion about most things, but he rarely offered his opinion on some of the things we would do. That afternoon when he drove me to Dorval Airport, that day I was leaving for Indonesia to marry someone I had never met,  Dad never said a word on that subject… not one single word!

Quite some time later I heard from Kie that Dad had been curious and had asked her, “Did your parents think you were crazy?”

Early in 2013 we saw signs that all was not right.

For years Dad always insisted, “TV is the greatest thing ever invented.”

Dad would spend hours watching TV and channel surfing with the remote control; we could only wonder, “Did he ever watch anything from beginning to end?”

He suddenly lost all interest in TV, refusing to watch it. We were disturbed by this sudden change of behavior and suspected that something was wrong with him.

Dad's 89th birthday - in the smoking room.
He also quickly lost strength in his legs and lost his ability to walk. Alan obtained a wheel chair and Dad adapted to being wheeled around the house. He complained more about pain in his arms and legs, his right leg and left arm in particular, but he just asked for his Tylenols and endured the discomfort. Dad spent more hours sleeping, saying that he did not hurt as much when he was asleep.

During his waking hours Dad would mostly sit in the kitchen, and later the smoking room and smoke like a chimney while he worked on his crossword puzzles; these are what he truly enjoyed doing. As his final months and weeks passed he found the crosswords were more difficult, slowly becoming all day activities, and then some days he was unable to complete them. He said he could no longer see them.

God’s Fifth Commandment is this, “Honour your father and your mother…” (Exodus 20:12)

As Dad’s health and strength continued to decline he needed full time daily care. Alan left his job and provided that care.

In his last months he also started revealing some of his regrets in life.

A few times Dad said he wished he smoked fewer cigarettes, which seemed strange to hear from someone who had been a steady smoker for 80 years, and then he would light up another one.

One thing bothered him most and he often said, “I wish I had not been such a worry to my mother.”

Kathy and Alan were with Dad in his final hours and then minutes. Earlier, perhaps it was the day before, Dad had told Kathy that he had lived a good life and he was ready to go. On Saturday afternoon, December 7 2013, Kathy called to let us know that Dad was gone.

Here is one more scene about Dad and how others saw him:

While I only met with your father a few times over the years, I really liked and admired him. I remember sitting in the TV room with him while we watched hockey, and chatted quietly about his life, his time in the Navy and his years with the newspaper. It was inspiring for me, how humble he was about his service, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his stories in the candid way he delivered them. I appreciated his wit, humor, and the endless facts he knew to complete his daily crosswords.

Final words...

If there’s a single defining image of Dad that stands out more than the others, then a scene in Milan in July 1976 remains after other memories have faded.

Before dawn that morning Dad had driven me to Megantic to catch the train. I was heading back to Vancouver but Dad simply dropped me at the station, said good-bye and quickly drove off before the train came.

About 30 minutes later as the train approached Milan, I went to the rear of the car I was in, opened the top half of the door and leaned out because I wanted to see my grandparents’ home once more as the train sped through town.

I was astonished to see that Dad was outside, standing on the verandah, holding his hat and waving at the train; Dad had never done anything like that!

Montreal Gazette photo
In the language of Dad’s mother…

“Is e Dia fein a buachaill dhomh, cha bhi mi ann an dith.
Bheir e fainear gu’n luidhinn sios air cluainibh glas le sith:
Is fos ri taobh nan aibhnichean theid seachad sios gu mall,
A ta e ga mo threorachadh, gu min reidh ans gach ball.”
(Psalm 23: 1-2)

No better words describe the Milan Dad remembered and loved.

The Lord’s my shepherd I shall not want,
He makes me down to lie,
In pastures green he leadeth me,
The quiet waters by.”

No better words describe the love that God has for each of us in the language we now know.

So let’s remember Dad as we see him in some of the photos Mom took: Dad smiling and waving his hat.

The Oddblock Station Agent

May 31, 2014 - Dad's wake - the day after what would have been his 90th birthday.

Dad wasn't always old... but some things did not change.

Winter 1959 in Milan, Quebec... and that always present cigarette.

Addendum May, 30, 2016

Today would be Dad's 92nd birthday if he was still with us.

Mom and Dad at the Serampus Falls rest area on Highway 27 in Maine. Although not known at the time, that short vacation in Rangeley would become their final Maine visit together.

Addendum May, 30, 2018

Today is Dad's 94nd birthday even if he's no longer with us. 

This year's different though because Ted too has gone.

Anyway, I've selected this one from those dozens of photos Mom took, photos that I don't know what to do with because both Mom and Dad have gone, as have their memories of the scenes they recorded together.

July 1989 and Dad in Nova Scotia

Today I can only speculate if Mom and Dad recorded this scene because it's very reminiscent of the scenes of the Milan, Quebec, area they recorded together back in the early 1950's.