I’m Writing a Memoir. It’s Damn Hard but I’m Loving it!

It’s been a long time since I have posted anything. I’ve been busy since Spring 2022 getting to the things I’d put off for years. I have no excuse to put them off any longer.

No excuses

My husband and I work from home and our sons are grown and gone and are climbing the ladder of their lives. Apart from the occasional visit or video calls from the boys that feel like we are catching up with old friends, it’s really quiet around here and it’s easy to waste time. The time had come to stop talking about what I was planning to do and do it. It was time for me to write about our journey as a family living with an older child’s autism.

Taking Action

I did my research and hired a book coach. She helps me organize my thoughts and pulls the story out of me and expects me to meet my chapter deadlines.

I used to think I knew how to write.

Oh, was I wrong.

I am able to use language beautifully, but I don’t know how to write a book. But I am learning and as it comes together, I can imagine what it’s going to look like and how it’s going to feel when I get to hold it in my hands. I am also excited to share how we managed to get our boys to adulthood while living with Adam’s autism because just maybe, I could give hope to a young parent of a newly diagnosed child. If I could help just one parent see that their hard and bumpy journey doesn’t have to feel tragic all the time, my time spent going through the emotions of writing this book would have been well spent.

Sometimes DYI Isn’t The Best Way

Writing a book isn’t something just anyone can do.

I know we live in a world where tradition is shunned and the DYI option is the chosen path for almost everything. Today you can choose to renovate your home yourself, be your own real estate agent, financial advisor, car salesperson and publisher. We have taught ourselves to expect that everything can and should be done faster and all profits should be our own, but in my opinion, taking the slower route allows us to gain knowledge and develop patience.

In my opinion, utilizing other people’s connections and paying for their good service leads to the success I want to achieve, and by opting to pay for professional service, I am going to have a successful and powerful product that might provide help to someone else.

Success To Me = Freedom

I know I am not going to make millions selling my book but what I will do is get this story out of my mind and off my chest. Adam’s autism will never leave me but sharing it will give me a sense of freedom I have been seeking for as long as he has been alive — the freedom to proudly say to the world, it was difficult and I didn’t think our family was going to make it, but we did, especially Adam. It will give me the freedom to let him know how proud I am of him and that I love him exactly the way he is. Most of all, I am hopeful that our family’s story will be the one a young parent is hoping to find. The story I couldn’t find when Adam was little.

Trading Useless Distractions for Worthwhile Ones

Choosing to write a book, pushed me to look for something to distract me from the job of writing from time to time. Knowing I could not solely devote all my free time to the craft, I needed something other than exercise and crochet to spice up my life.

My husband enjoys cooking lately, so he has set about re-modeling our kitchen and I have completely released the cooking to his deft hands.

With the exception of Instagram, where I can stay connected one photo at a time with the goings-on of my sons, I decided to release social media. I had always found social media to be annoying, time-wasting distractions and ditching them was easy.

I got busy growing out my salt and pepper curls. I embraced my curvier fifty-something year-old body and found a talent agent around the same time I hired my book coach. Between last spring and now, somehow, I landed three commercials and a bit part in a TV movie which helps pay for my book coach and contributes to the fund that supports the cruising fetish my husband and I have developed.

The Ladder of Life

I hadn’t been on a film set since my early twenties when I occasionally worked in front but mostly behind the camera. What terrified me then, brings me great joy now, as I embrace it with womanly savvy, confidence and joy.

I don’t know how many roles will come my way. All I know, is that I’m having fun.

I don’t know when I will finish my book, but as long as I am alive, I will patiently see it through to the end.

When I was a young woman, I wanted everything to happen immediately. My mind was not mature enough to recognize the advantages of being patient. When I was young, I thought everything was running away from me. I know now, that everything isn’t for me but the things that feel right, are the things I am supposed to run toward.

I believe the rungs on the ladder of life have their golden moments but mostly, every rung is an opportunity to learn and grow as a person as we make our way to the top of our ladder (in spite of our aches and pains).

Some ladders of life are more concentrated than others, but for every ladder, the hardest point lies somewhere in the middle. If we allow ourselves to give and receive kindness and love … if we hold on tight and keep climbing, keep learning and dreaming, I believe the last rungs of the ladder of life will be the finest of all.

With Grace, Dignity,and Strength.

Since Queen Elizabeth II passed away last week, I find myself taking in some of the ceremony that goes along with the death of a British Monarch. I am not a Royal connoisseur, and do not know all there is to know about the late Queen, but being Trinidadian-Canadian, I am very used to Commonwealth life and I have always admired the demeanor of Queen Elizabeth II, a woman bound to a highly scrutinized public life.

I have been watching the news, taking in the various stages of celebrating the life of a monarch and as I observe British people of all generations, pay their respects to their beloved late Queen and her family, I cannot help but wonder what this monumental appointment of Queen must have been like for this remarkable woman. One can only imagine how she must have felt when she had to compartmentalize her grief for her late father and bravely step into the role of Monarch. The abdication of her uncle King Edward VIII, followed by the death of her father King George VI, catapulted the then Princess from being third in line, to first in line, to assuming the throne at just 26 years of age — a responsibility placed upon her that she accepted and carried out for 70 years with grace, poise and quiet confidence. What were you doing at 26?

Queen Elizabeth II assumed the Crown when the world was predominantly a man’s world. She grew up in an era when princesses did not have a formal education but was tutored at home, perhaps differently from how a prince at that time would have been educated. Upon assuming the Throne at 26, she knew the only way to survive being thrown into the deep waters of the spotlight was to swim. And swim she did, doing whatever had to be done, learning whatever had to be learned to be effective as a Monarch.

The word queen has many meanings to different people in today’s society but the common idea behind the word is confidently owning and showing who you are. At various stages of my life, I have had to step up and own the woman I needed to be and now in my fifties, I’ve realized that I have collected all the women I have been and combined them to establish the woman I am. Little did I know, I have been subliminally influenced by great women over time and the Queen was one of those women. She represents not just what humans, especially women, have had to adapt to and endure in order to carry out ones duties. Sure, she was a woman of privilege, but like so many of us, she juggled being a wife, mother and worker, quite seamlessly under all kinds of pressure that the rest of the world never got to witness. The Queen possessed the ability to cope, which is rather difficult for many people living in our world today. The crosses she has had to bear publicly, may seem to many to be problems of privilege, but they were her crosses to bear forged out of pain, tragedy and occasionally scandal. But bear them she did, with dignity and grace.

As I continue to have the privilege of good health, I find myself deciding how to live the rest of my life while bearing the crosses of my comparatively ordinary life, with dignity and grace. To me, this involves a willingness to forgo the hyper-zealousness of my activist teens, the overbearing ambition of my twenties and the strive for excellence in my thirties during a time of overwhelm. Now I am laying the bricks of knowledge and experience I have gained over the years on a foundation created by the epiphanies of my forties and the stillness I have acquired in my fifties.

While I have not been as polished as Her Late Majesty, I believe I have done my duty as a daughter, sister, spouse and parent, friend and citizen progressively more gracefully and more dignified throughout the years. The late Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II might have not meant to some what she meant to the British people, but she did have an impact on our lives, especially the lives of women. She certainly had an impact on mine long before I realized she had. She played her part in inspiring women worldwide by the way she chose to navigate her way through a seventy-year reign as Sovereign of Britain and as a global monarch. She showed us all that power and strength need not be loud, disruptive, forceful or boisterous but disciplined, kind, dignified and therefore, stronger.

Rising up, albeit slowly.

I’ve allowed myself to feel grief and pain about what happened to my son without springing back up for about 3 weeks. It has been difficult to let myself do but I believe it’s been the best thing for me. I’m still battered and I still think about the thing that causes me pain but I suppose you could say, I’m absorbing it, processing it and dare I say, I’m healing. I am rising up one millimeter at a time.

Over the three weeks, I’ve distracted myself with work in the city and I’ve given my husband a hand with building a back deck when he needed one. I still thought about my problem, but not as consistently as I had in previous weeks and I had moments when I was only focused on the tasks at hand. Meanwhile, my son who was the physically afflicted party continued to move on in a positive way. I haven’t seen my son much since his surgery but he looks good and seems happy and that encourages me to feel the same.

I’m still not where I’d like to be but I suppose I am where I need to be, inching my way towards full acceptance and a sense of peace. I’m trying new things, busying myself at work and looking forward to good things to come.

Resilient… He still is but can I be just one more time?…I’m not so sure anymore.

My son, Adam lives with autism. He is 22 years old. He copes with the byproducts of autism daily but he manages to have a good life nonetheless. He is a busy person who loves to move, create, experience and explore. He is an artist, a decorated summer and winter Special Olympian and he enjoys cycling and kayaking as of late. For everything Adam has accomplished whether it was learning to speak, read, tie his shoes, swim or live on his own, there has been struggle. His is a life with double and sometimes triple the obstacles faced by others who live without physical or mental afflictions but for every time autism rears its most browbeating attributes, with his family and amazing support staff at his side, he rises up and shines. 

As his mother, in my heart, I always want the most recent challenge to be the last. We have already gotten up and dusted ourselves off so many times in the twenty years he’s been living with the effects of autism that I just want it to be smooth sailing from the end of each hurdle for the rest of his life. I always want the conquered hurdle of the moment to be the last, but life does not work like that no matter how much I want it to. For my family, there have never been any miracles or quick fixes for the heavy duty stuff that autism is able to lay upon us —  upon Adam. For all the joy, triumph and miracles we never thought we’d see surrounding Adam, I am weary from pressing myself up off the ground after having been run over by the Mack Truck that autism drives from time to time. I can’t dust off the tire marks anymore; the repeated rolling over me has left deep grooves that have reached my soul —  and then I look to my son, who gets up faster than I do every time and just continues on with his day and I realize that I need to do the same. But I am getting older. For me resilience is becoming harder. It (autism) is still here. It isn’t going anywhere and while Adam is older and manages it better and better, it won’t stop being a life long challenge for any of us, especially him. Living daily with Adam’s autism might have become easier in general, but its the occasional out-of-the-blue sucker punches that’re going to get us as long as we live.

The Covid-19 pandemic was the perfect setting for a good old autism sucker punch. Hell, we even readied ourselves and still it took us down and delivered a flurry of rapid-fire fisticuffs that took our breaths away for months. The pandemic was hard on everyone and it was a right *$&! for people living with special needs. Everything in Adam’s life changed and he just was not able to understand why he couldn’t do the things he loved to do. He was in his last year of school and the sudden staggered school schedule confused him and shattered the routine he’d proudly created for himself. He was fine with washing his hands more often and actually loved wearing a mask but he wasn’t sick and just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t go to the social dances, speed skate or participate in track and field. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t volunteer, go to the movies or to his favorite restaurants. We couldn’t let him go for walks on his own anymore as we wanted to make sure he stayed protected from the virus. What if he took his mask off and went up and spoke to someone? What if he tried to enter somewhere and didn’t understand the Covid protocol? It was easier for us to accompany him during this time than let him be on his own because no one understood very much about this pandemic and we had to keep him safe. No matter how we tried to explain the pandemic to him, Adam felt like he was being punished. He felt punished and he resented us for “punishing” him. He became bored, frustrated and angry. All the skills he learned that enabled him to live on his own fell by the wayside as he plummeted into behaviors brought about by the loneliness and boredom caused by the pandemic restrictions. At 21, autism aside, Adam wanted what every young adult wants — independence, separation from his parents and his family, the opportunity to work and be productive, to make new friends and the ability and freedom to be his own boss. He saw that his younger brother still had these things in some form but because of Covid-19, he’d lost them completely and it wasn’t fair. Autism never plays fair and we chose his health and safety as priority one and postponed his launch into complete independence.

Adam developed severe anxiety and he quickly became someone we did not recognize and though we tried, we struggled to help him feel better. With everything and everywhere locked down, it took us about 3 months to find a psychiatrist and several tries attempts at finding the right medication to help our son. We drove back and forth to the hospital on days when he felt so anxious he asked to see a doctor. He was lonely and needed people but of course, he didn’t want Mommy and Daddy at this stage of his life, who would? I set about trying to increase his support staff as in his latest condition it seemed best for him to have 24 hour supervision and I sought to create a team that was a blend of people with years of experience as well as people close to his age so that he would feel less “baby sat”. Support persons were difficult to find but as usual, I kept trying as I believed there had to be people out there still willing to work with people like my son during the pandemic. I made the social services agencies aware that I needed assistance putting these things in place for my son urgently. Social Services struggles in the best of times to do whatever they can to help their clients and try as they might, they could not be as immediate as Adam needed them to be because nothing was happening immediately during Covid. Still, everyone at the agencies inched along working as hard as they could to help us, help Adam, and I am extremely grateful for their efforts. Unfortunately, things hit rock bottom before they stabilized and got better. Not only did my son singlehandedly destroy his community support apartment, he starting hitting himself in the face to try and stop whatever it was that was that was making him irritable. He also became aggressive towards us because we are his family. He looks to us for answers, comfort and to make things better and with my son’s autism, sometimes rationalizing and waiting are not strong suits. As spring 2021 approached, Adam settled. He was calm. He was living in a bigger, brighter place. He was happy and he was in control of his life once more. He became (as he likes to call himself) “the boss” again as plans to help him heal slowly fell into place. I hired him the most amazing, compassionate support staff, got him a fabulous psychiatrist and through the social service agency, was introduced to an absolute miracle worker in the form of the wisest and most intuitive psychologist in our area. The sun shone on our son and our family once again. As more people were vaccinated, things began opening up and we all slowly got our lives back. Adam started smiling again and he re-discovered the joy that was suddenly cut out of his life. At our 2nd annual staff meeting in May, the team was so happy and proud of Adam’s rebound. We had much to celebrate and if I could pick a theme song for our family to describe this time of renewal it would be Ella Fitzgerald’s Blue Skies. You know the one, right? ~

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see

Blue days
All of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on

 Shortly after our merriment in May, Etta James’ Stormy Weather had taken over the number one spot on our music chart as it had throughout the years, knocking MS. Fitzgerald’s Blue Skies completely out of contention. Because Adam had taken to hitting himself hard in the face over during the first year of the pandemic, I sent him to have his eyes and ears checked as often as I could, even paying out of pocket as by the second visit, it was outside what our provincial health care would cover annually. On each occasion, Adam had perfect hearing and 20/20 vision in each eye. His father, his support team and I did all we could to make sure he was okay as we went through the process of the therapy and the medication working together to gradually help Adam with his anxiety. He’d stopped the destructive and self harming behaviors. Even the dosage of his medications were reduced. (I hear you, you’re thinking we should still be singing along with Ella, right? WRONG). Despite all our efforts to make sure his eyes and ears were healthy and unharmed, Adam somehow had damaged his left eye. In early June, one of our support workers found his left pupil looked cloudy and we took him to the hospital where they said it was a massive cataract. In young people massive cataracts are often the cause of blunt trauma. We had made sure his eyes and ears were in good shape so while we knew he did engage in harming himself, we were sure he hadn’t done any damage. The x rays and scans were clear, he could read the eye charts perfectly with each eye and he displayed perfect vision. Did he fall? Did he hit his head? Everyone on our team was stumped. Adam is not only the most surefooted person we know, he hadn’t had any accidents with his return to skating and track and someone was always with him and there wasn’t an incident we knew of that could have caused this eye condition. Now, hold on a hot minute! When Adam started leaving the movies in the middle of a show back in May, was that a sign that he couldn’t see well in that eye? No, Batman was too long and not his kind of movie and I mean, Pattinson, the vampire boy? Not Adam’s type of superhero. Plus with the second movie he’d gone to see, he’s already seen a couple times. Maybe he left because he was bored with it? He’s the kind of guy that would leave if he wasn’t having a good time. Soon after he saw that Top Gun revival with his Dad and sat through the whole thing. Surely if he couldn’t see well, Tom would have noticed, right? The questions swirled around our family and his support team like a tornado. Everyone was stunned and saddened when the doctor had discovered Adam wasn’t seeing out of his eye at all but were hopeful that it was just a cataract because you can fix a cataract!

We were referred to a specialist who wanted to make sure the rest of the eye was in tact and he performed a more revealing ultrasound and saw a small funnel retina detachment that he felt could be repaired along with the cataract. With the cataract being so big and thick and the retina being detached, laser technology was not an option and Adam was referred to a surgeon in Kingston. After the appointment the surgeon booked him for surgery the following week. I asked the first specialist if there was a chance that my son would lose vision in his eye and he told me that that was always a possibility but so was restoring some percentage of vision in the eye. I know that matters of the eye need to be tended to quickly, and I realized that while my son’s condition was serious, given the time between the in-depth ultrasound, the referral to the surgeon and the date of Adam’s surgery, it was still serious but less urgent than it seemed before and I began to prepare myself and my family for the reality that Adam might be down to one functional eye. My husband and other son also reminded me that there was a window of hope but being in this autism rodeo as long as I have, as the main person speaking to the doctors over the years, I knew we had already started down a darker rabbit hole because of the lack of urgency for the next steps. The surgery took longer than anticipated because the surgeon tried his best to repair the extensive damage to the retina but when my husband relayed what he had said post surgery, it confirmed what I knew in my heart — what I most feared. Adam was going to be permanently blind in his left eye.

I will say this, if Adam was not autistic, he would have said something about his eye when he first noticed his vision was changing. While he reads, understands, spells, texts, writes and speaks, verbal communication has been his primary hurdle. He is a man of few words. He is an observer and a planner. The fact that he can communicate as much as he can verbally and by writing and typing is incredible considering he stopped speaking at 14 months and did not utter a sound until he was 2 1/2 with phrases and sentences returning 2 years after that. If Adam was not autistic he would have drawn attention to his left eye which was slowly failing him. Instead, he quietly adapted, much like an animal would I suppose. This quiet sucker punch to me was the worst one autism has delivered since his diagnosis. I actually feel I accepted his diagnosis of autism better than I am accepting that my son is blind in one eye. I think it is the worst blow I have received. I have learned to navigate around and incorporate Adam’s autism into our lives and it has become our normal. I don’t resent it for being a part of Adam because it is what makes Adam unique and the Adam we know and love, but I have spent so much of my life with my husband doing all the extras to protect him from the things that he would not readily be on the look out for, that I cannot understand how he wouldn’t just say, “hey, what’s going on with my eye?” I mean he talks about things that make him uncomfortable all the time. Why didn’t he say anything this time? Autism. Fucking autism, that’s why. And what is worse, I missed it. The doctor said this damage occurred long enough that the retina was too scarred to be repaired. Somewhere between the eye exam at the end of winter this year and June, Adam was losing vision in his left eye. I’d seen him numerous times and the staff was working with him every day and we missed it. If Sam (who works with Adam) hadn’t stared at him that day when she thought she’d seen something cloudy in his eye, we wouldn’t have known anything was wrong. We took him to the doctor immediately but it was too late. We missed it but in my heart, I missed it and I don’t miss much and when it comes to Adam, his brother, Logan, their father and myself regarding our health. This is the first thing I’ve missed and it sickens me because I can’t change it. I can’t fix it. I can’t give him my left eye. If it was a possibility that you could transplant and eye, I would have done it without a thought for myself. The whole time I was going between the ER and the specialist and the surgeon, I was thinking, this will will turn out aright. We might not get 100 percent of the vision back but we will get some and we will get the right glasses. It will be fine. Adam has autism and he’s been through so much and come through so much and he’s so healthy, he’s never sick and he heals quickly and shit, the guy lives with autism, he doesn’t need any more grief. He will be fine. He’s always fine. Then “will” turned into he “should” be fine and that changed to he “might” be fine and as logic switched back on in my brain and reality slipped back into the channels that keep me focused, the sentence I saw in my mind clearly read “he’s lost the use of this eye and we are entering a new phase of Adam’s adult life journey”. My head hit the mat hard and then my body landed in slow motion. Autism pinned my neck down with it’s foot and the referee counted me down for the loss and I haven’t had the energy to get up. Not this time. Not yet.

I know as a parent, we try to do all we can to take care of our children and I know I can’t protect them every second of every day. I let my sons do all sorts of stuff but I’ve always been able to advise them, and show them how to be smart and protect themselves as best as they can but this was a big blow for me. It’s the biggest blow to Adam, of course. He now has to live with monocular vision and really take care of that right eye. Of course, he’s adapted to it since he first started to lose vision on the left. I mean he duped us all because he just went on being himself never giving any physical indication that he could only see on his right. He went kayaking, swimming and hiking as usual. Heck, he even went to an outdoor concert in Toronto before his surgery and after the surgery went to a barbecue at someone’s house. He’s going for walks and going to his favorite restaurants and in a couple weeks he starts working again at the Y and at the food bank and he’ll be able to go rock climbing and kayaking again in about 3 weeks. He’s moved on so now I pretend that I have as well when I’m with him. I’m not going to give him any indication that I am worried or sad about what has happened. I need to continue to encourage him to live his best life just as I always have and show him that I trust that he understands that he has to be super careful with his vision now. We have discussed that he will be seeing more of his eye doctor to help him with this new journey and I have to step back and give him his space. As usual, I am in awe of him and I am very proud of his resilience. He’s living his life. He’s adapting more to this change every day. He’s donned his very cool protective glasses (he has several pairs) and is as handsome as ever while wearing them and he knows to always protect his eyes when outdoors in the sun as well. I will schedule him regular eye exams and make sure he continues to eat healthily and act with caution when he’s doing his activities and be there and be as ready as I can for the next hiccup. 

 But, I’m not good with it. I feel like I’ve been beaten this time. Even though I did everything I could to make sure his eyes and ears were not damaged, it still wasn’t enough. We’re all tired. I am tired. I am so very tired from doing all I can to have just fallen short of being able to protect our boy. I am deeply damaged by this one for sure. I don’t know when this wound will heal and contrary to my personality, I kind of feel like staying down for the count with this one for a while. After all we went through during Covid with Adam’s autism I didn’t think I would have anything to share or write about because we came through it, you know? Nothing but blue skies, right Ella? And I didn’t want to re-hash it or re-live it or garner any sympathy from anybody, you know? I thought, well, this is great because we’re all just going to move on but this bitch ever so silently and stealthily wound up and got me on the jaw and I saw stars and I haven’t recovered. Adam seems to be on the mend but his momma just doesn’t have it right now and I’m not sure when I’ll get that gumption I need and rely on to move past this one and I don’t even want to try right now. I am deathly afraid that one day he will lose vision altogether even though he may have sight until the end of his days. He’s not the only pirate-come-lately in this family (oddly enough, I think they all lost vision in the same eye) but he is the only one with autism. I am his mother and he has autism and now he has one functional eye and I will continue to worry, fuck it! It’s my baseline. I know as time goes on, this left eye blindness will not take up the forefront of my mind. I know that one day I won’t feel the stabbing pain of useless guilt 90 percent of the day and one day I won’t wake at night worrying about his sight. One day I know I will be able to be completely engaged in a conversation without having my thoughts drift to my son’s blind left eye. I know until then I will continue to do what I do best when I am working on coping with heavy stuff — I will pretend that I’m okay, especially around Adam, in the hope that one day, I will make peace with it as he has. Though I am worn down and and blemished by 20 years of autism’s attacks on my spirit, I hope I too can be resilient, but for now, I may have to let Etta James croon about the way I feel a little longer ~

Don’t know why
There’s no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather…

Stormy weather, stormy weather
And I just can get my poor self together
Oh, I’m weary all of the time
The time, so weary all of the time

The Last Guy Left

White browed Sparrow leaves nest — Kenya (stock)

Last year, our younger child left home. He left to play Jr. A Hockey in the Maritimes and then for a team in Northern Ontario. Wanting to make the most of his last two years of Junior Hockey eligibility, he was not content to be on the top local team as the sixth or seventh defenseman. While he loved being on this team and he loved the coach and the organization, he wanted to play and at this level, the top teams sit and trade players right up to the deadline in December, because they want to win. At this level of competitive hockey, coaches of the top teams need to win. They need it because it secures their job for another season, opens them up to higher level hockey coaching jobs and since many of them have families to support with all the bells and whistles that come with having a family, job security is key. After surviving the bullshit of Minor Hockey, my son understands and appreciates the business of this more serious level of hockey.

Logan James — Defense — Photo D. Barsotti
2019–20 Logan’s last year in Minor Hockey — Major Midget Quinte RedDevils AAA
Photo D. Barsotti

Understanding the business of hockey is very important as a Junior player because you learn your value quickly and you learn how to train and market yourself to get to where you need to be, so, that in the end, all the dedication and sacrifice can get you what you want. Often that want is a scholarship to a university where you can further your education, get to a team in Europe, or for some players getting both and if amidst all the high level competition, you somehow make it to The Show, then that’s just fantastic gravy.

2020 Playing during Covid pandemic — Logan masked up and played with Picton Pirates Jr. C Hockey Club — Photo T. James

With all his friends either working or going off to school somewhere, my son, restless with his lot in life, went to his coach at the end of training camp and clearly, respectfully and maturely articulated that while he understood Coach had to do what he had to do to win, he also had to do what he had to do, to fulfil his goals and asked to be traded.

Photo — Deroche
Spring 2021 — Hockey returns after a Covid lock down — Logan Playing for Trenton Golden Hawks Jr. A Hockey — Photo — Deroche

A week after his meeting with his coach, my son experienced what it meant to “Ask and and you shall receive,” and he came to me on the back deck looking a little green in the face. He nervously told me he was offered a trade to the east coast and asked me what I thought he should do. I smiled at my just-turned-19-year-old and told him that I couldn’t tell him what to do. I already lived my youth. I explored, traveled and made decisions on the fly and navigated my way from my teens to adulthood pretty much on my own and that it was his turn to do the same. He told me it would be a 20 hour drive away from home and I responded that it was therefore a 9 hour journey by air, ferry and car adn that we would be able to get to him if we needed to. He said he would not make it home until Christmas if the schedule allowed and I reminded him that he was the one fretting about not going away to university or working like many of his friends from highschool and that to play here as a 6th defenseman while living at home would not be as fulfilling as starting his own unique adventure.

“Won’t you miss me?” he asked, indignantly.

I will not,” I replied, “I won’t miss you because I will be happy for you that you are chasing your dreams and goals. I won’t miss you because I am proud of the way you have made the leap from high school into adulthood in your own way. I will be celebrating the way you decided to throw caution to the wind and jumped in feet first at the opportunity to do something new and I am confident you will swim and not sink. Like your brother, you know how to cook, you know how to do laundry and take care of yourself. You can respectfully voice your opinion. You are not careless, rash or unsafe, you are good with money and you live in the era of advanced technology and we are a facetime and a text away whenever you need us. Son, if that doesn’t scream you’re ready, I don’t know what does. Whatever you decide, your father and I will support,” I said and because my personality is what it is, I also told him we were anxiously awaiting the opportunity to walk about our home for hours in the nude if we wanted to and that the longer he stayed, the longer we were going to be deprived of such freedom. He groaned, made a face and left upon hearing that sentence. Isn’t it funny how young people only see themselves worthy of being sexual and see their parents as asexual, platonic friends? Four hours later, after he literally slept on it, (he became a napper in his teens)he came back out onto the deck for dinner and told us he accepted the trade and was leaving for the east coast on September 2nd. He was beaming and and didn’t seem as nervous as he’d been just hours before, about the prospect of going far away from home. I could tell he was proud to have a new venture and I could see he was excited and ready. It was time to get the hell out of Dodge. We knew it and now he did too.

My children are not typical by any means. After our first son was diagnosed with autism, we knew our family life was going to look very different from everyone else’s and when we accepted that, we were able to raise our boys to embrace being different and to be capable of taking care of themselves. Growing up in a small community makes being different very difficult but if you are able to show your children the value and the greatness to be celebrated in being authentically themselves, they will be confident, successful, accepting and inclusive human beings. As parents, we do not believe in the cookie cutter rite of passage where a child leaves high school and goes straight to university or college. We believe that teaching a child how to be independent and self sufficient is far more important. We believe that learning how to be a part of the workforce should come before pursuing higher education. We believe that a person should explore everything and find out what intrigues them so that they can discover their passion. We also believe that higher education is not for everyone and that everyone has a lifetime to learn, grow and change. We also believe that young people should embrace all the ways one can achieve higher education, if desired, and that some people do well with the bricks and mortar aspect of College and University while others, like my son, do better on line, one course at a time. So, in just 9 days, Logan packed up what he needed, had a farewell party, and even though he pissed me off when he missed spending a promised 30 minutes with me on what to expect when going through the airport since 911, he got himself to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in one piece. I have to say, even though he went for one last hurrah and blew off my tutorial on the airport, his father and I thoroughly enjoyed sipping our coffees while watching him blunder his way from the oversized baggage check counter then through security. In true baptism by fire, he did everything wrong and felt the wrath of the grumpy airport security staff. He took so long checking in, he didn’t have a chance to grab a bite to eat before the flight and ended up with only a small complimentary bag of 4 pretzels and 3 mini cookies during his two and a half hour flight. Hunger for an athletic teen is the worst form of torture. He was in the air at 9 am and by 9:19 we were at Ikea buying the things that needed replacing after raising two little boys in our home over the last 14 years.

The First Trade — 2021 Logan playing for Yarmouth Mariners — Photo Team Photographer

Don’t for one minute think we do not love and adore our boys. We do. We have done our jobs as parents. We were there raising them every day, step by step. We were there for all of it, the broken bones, the cuts, the stitches the bruises, the bullying, the anxiety, the arguements, the fighting, the yelling and the screaming. We were there for the confidence boosting, the rage, the crying, the doubt, the stress, the fun times, the crazy times, the zany times, the heartbreaking times, the first day of a new school at least 4 times each and the first wins, the first losses, the first loves and first heartaches. We loved them through it all and we taught them well and they absorbed our teachings and applied what they learned to their lives. They were equipped physically and mentally to go off on their own and most of all, they have grown into respectful young men of honour. We were proud to see them leave home and are excited and curious to see the rest of their stories unfold.

Albeit autistic, Adam, lives on his own with support, has 2 jobs and is pursuing his passion for art and outdoor adventure. Logan is playing Jr. A hockey, taking on line courses and pursuing a scholarship to a university to study Kinesiology with a desire to one day perhaps play professionally in Europe and my husband and I? Well, we are slowly renovating our home to our liking and planning our travel itineraries for the next few years. It’s our time again. Time for our new adventures and for re-discovering each other. Raising our family was not always easy. At times it was financially tricky and at times emotionally draining but we did it together, as a family, always appreciating what we had, and always working hard to get what we wanted. Sometimes we failed and while many may not consider what we we have achieved as the ideal picture of success, we consider ourselves massively successful. The nest is officially empty with a few drop-ins here and there and we can love them not as our little boys but as our adult children as they appreciate us not as Mom and Dad but as adult parents. It is indeed a very cool time of our lives.

Why is Figure Skating still an Olympic Sport?

Every Winter Olympic Games there is scandal in figure skating and it usually involves Russians and doping or bribing and cheating. The country’s name and flag have been banned from the Olympics since 2018 as a punishment from the World Anti-Doping Agency. It was a group of athletes from Russia, not involved in the doping scheme who appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to be allowed to compete as neutral competitors. Competing as the Olympic Athletes from Russia they have adopted the acromym ROC — Russian Olympic Committee when competing. But somehow, Russia fails to understand what being penalized truly means. They continue to sabotage their athletes but doping them without them even knowing it and the younger and more naive the athlete, the easier it is for them to be duped.

It is hardly likely 15 year old skating phenom, Kamila Valieva chose to consume a banned substance used for angina patients. The drug in question, Trimetazidine, can potentially help athletes perform at a higher heart rate for a longer period of time. This means on Olympic sized hockey arena ice, which is bigger than NHL ice, a trick laden routine can sap your energy. But if your heart rate is up and you can still keep going without feeling tired, well, you just might win an Olympic medal, preferably a gold.

But results and information about cheating always has a way of leaking out during the most important competition for an athlete. As it stands, the figure skating world has a catty, diva-ish aura and a shady side when it comes to judges and scoring. You could be perfect in every way and come 4th while a favourite athlete from a certain country could fall on their ass multiple times and win gold. Skating tetters between the world of performance art and sport. In my opinion, it is closer to ballet than it is to sport with the music, the costumes and the makeup. Of course, like ballet and gymnastics (another question mark in the Olympics with it’s own share of abuse and judging scandals), figure skating requires a great deal of strength and athleticism. What is disgustingly and unfair is that this so-called sport requires the dedication, determination and sacrifice of any other sport but it seems to be the one in which adults are able to abuse and manipulate young athletes, especially young girls.

The story of Kamila Valieva is a tragedy. Four years ago she was an 11-year old girl who loved to skate and was damn good at it. Now she is a broken 15-year old who was embarassed and confused and splashed across the media and the internet for something that was done to her, most likely without her understanding or knowing that she was being doped. The Olympics are an athlete’s dream and Kamila’s own country truned her dream into a nightmare. Still, they young skater, went onto the ice and performed her two routines as best as she could given the pressure, scrutiny she was under and the comments she might have heard from other athletes and coaches. She fell numerous times but she tried her best. She even told the lie they told her to tell whe she said she most likely sipped water that belonged to her grandfather who uffers from heart disease. Yeah, that’s right, that’s how she got an angina medication in her system along with some other stuff too… Drugs incidentally, that have been previously found in bobsledders and cross country skiers that caused the ban placed on Russia from the games.

The cover was blown when the silver medal Russian skater, Alexandra Trusova, who was supposed to be part of a teenage Russian podium sweep, broke down and angrily expressed her hatred of the sport, and her hatred of her coach whom she told off just before the medal ceremony.

“You know everything that was going on!” she shouted at her in Russian. “I did four quads and I came second. Everybody has a gold medal except me. I am never going on the ice again. I hate it! I hate this sport!”

Since Valieva bombed her routine and didn’t make it onto the podium, the winners were able to have their medal ceremony, which is everything to an athlete at the Olympic Games. Two of Russia’s teens placed first and second and Japan took the bronze. I will not be surprised if we see Valieva skate again but I would completely understand if she didn’t. We know silver medalist Alexandra Trusova isn’t interested in representing her country again. Perhaps Russia should just be banned from the Olympics once and for all. Perhaps, figure skating should not be a sport but a performance fans and spectators pay to attend like a play, ballet or symphony. It is no good at being a sport because it is laden with scandal and cheating and for what? Ruining the greatest feeling an athlete can have after devoting their life to their passion and representing their country with pride. I don’t think representing ROC is easy. I don’t think it is worth the pain or the shame this young is feeling and will feel for years to come. Maybe figure skating could be a part of the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. Maybe it would be more successful and gentler on skaters if it becomes a stand alone art form. I will gladly pay admission to a figure skating show but I cannot bring myself to watch it as sport when all I see every four years is some little girl or boy of the moment sitting between adult coaches clutching a stuffed animal and weeping over missed jumps and tricks and low scores, due to the pressure of a scandal. Perhaps the only way to fix the problem with competitive figure skating is to get rid of competitive figure skating.

How to squash a pandemic: Are governments going too far or are their methods justified?

On November 11th 2022, Quebec Premier Francois Legault showed his province and our country he’d had enough. With the omicron virus spreading rapidly throughout the province, he reinstated lockdown protocols and curfews to try and curb the spread of this virus that is heading into a third year of squeezing the world in it’s tight grip. Sure, there were protests and those who broke curfew were fined or thrown in jail, but he held firm and didn’t relax any of the measures he’d put in — and he’d reinstated the tighter restrictions on New Year’s Eve to boot. Having lived in Montreal for five years, I know how much that hurt because Quebeccers know how to party, after all they embody joie de vivre.

Then, Premier Legault had another idea, no doubt arising from the reality that patients in the hospitals’ ICU’s and patients who died of Covid 19, were mostly unvaccinated, often asking for the vaccine moments before being intubated. To save lives, Legault decided that all Quebeccers who wanted to shop at liquor stores, beer stores or marijuana shops must have proof of vaccination. Vaccination rates have quadrupled since the requirement was put in place. Go figure.

And if you think that was a lot for citizens to bear, Legault announced that his government is currently working on a “health-care contribution” (a no-vax tax) that will be placed on all adult Quebec residents who refuse to get vaccinated for non-medical reasons. Not surprisingly, some citizens especially the anti-vaxers are outraged, infringement of human rights etc. but for those who have no problem getting vaccinated, well, let’s be real, they’ve thought about it and spoken about it amongst themselves. Many people in favour of vaccination were outraged when they learned the hospital care cost of Covid 19 to the taxpayer. According to a CBC news report based on data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), a COVID-19 patient needing intensive care in Canada is estimated at more than $50,000, compared with aproximately $8,400 for a patient suffering from a heart attack. The average hospital stay for a COVID-19 patient in Canada is about 15 days which is twice as long as as a patient suffering from pneumonia whose treatment cost is about $8,000. Severely ill COVID-19 patients are admitted to the ICU and are placed on ventilators and one out of every five dies in intensive care. According to CTV News, today in Canada (January12th 2022) 1000 people were hospitalized with Covid 19 while another 124 died . 13 percent of Canadias are unvaccinated and they make up 79 percent of the Covid 19 patients admitted to the ICU. We are losing the battle against this virus and people who work in health care are losing interest in their job and they are burning out and walking out for good. Some pro-vaxers say they are tired of the skeptics and that they are tired of having to undergo the same restrictions as those who have chosen to be unvaccinated. Everyone is pandemic weary. Everyone’s had enough … just like Premier Legault.

Roughly 10 per cent of adult Quebecers are unvaccinated and they represent about half of all patients in intensive care. With over 2,700 total hospitalizations in La Belle Province, with an increase of approximately 180 patients per day and over 200 people in intensive care and 62 deaths the day before the no vax tax announcement, are we really surprised the Legault government came down heavy handed? His bold actions and suggestions have made some other Premiers in the country, stroke their chins while other’s who are more conservative, or unwilling to fall through the cracking political ice beneath them as elections approach, have balked at Legault’s bravado. The Prime Minister, however, didn’t praise Quebec’s latest proposals but he didn’t shoot them down either, because like all of us, he’s mentally through with this pandemic and it’s variants and the toll it has taken on health care, ecomomics, employment, education and mental health.

Whether or not you agree with the Quebec Premier’s ideas, it’s hard not to admire a politician who has the gumption to make bold decisions and try and do something to curb the spread of Covid 19. Leaders are chosen to lead and in our society, we can vote them out later if we’ve disliked what they’ve done. Legault, like all leaders were caught off guard by this pandemic and as the world hemmorhages into a third year of covid misery, he’s trying to get to the end of it and not all citizens are on board. This pandemic has revealed in this era of widespread mis-information, conspiracy theory, skepticism and naivete, leadership has become tremendously challenging. The mis-trust of government, science and media is endangering society at large and during this pandemic it has led to the crippling of health care systems worldwide. And, so, when it comes to Legault’s ideas, and countries like Austria and Greece with fines in place for those unwilling to be vaccinated we ask ourselves, are brash government moves a step too far or are they justified?


My sons are entering what I like to call full adulthood. They are at the stage where they tackle problems on their own and let their father and me know the outcome. This is great to see, because we have all done the work to prepare them to do this and while they are relatively open with us and seek advice occasionally, more and more they’re trying to involve us less and less. It is a natural progression that is both beautiful and slightly unnerving to witness this carving of paths and shaping of lives and as their mother, I have to accept this aspect of their independence. Their father is far better at it than I am.

I check myself before I convey how I feel about them or when I want to give that boost of confidence they might need. The innate desire as their mother is to go back in time when I would hold them in my arms and tell them how special they are and how proud I am of them and end the pep talk with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek — but we’re not there anymore and those moments are what I refer to as fond foundational memories. I know they have dark moments. We all do. If you are alive you have dark days. In a world with so much failing around us, it’s impossible to avoid dark days when you feel like no matter what you have done right, everything is piling onto you. I am from the generation where we were told that we shouldn’t whine,that no load is too heavy to bear, that we had nothing to complain about and to suck it up. Today, we can go to the extreme if we are not careful and we can fail to teach our youth how to cope. Other times we can disable them by jumping in and disarming them of problems by solving it for them, parent-style. We walk a fine line as parents no matter the age of our children and we have to come up with ways to lift them up without patronizing them or disregarding their ideas and opinions.

Last week, one of my sons was working through an issue and we could tell in the initial phone call, he was upset and was making rash decisions and spoke about giving up on something he has been working so hard to achieve. He had done nothing wrong but the circumstance in which he finds himself is unfortunate and out of his control. All he could do is be his best self within the organization in the midst of the disarray and work on ways to get out and transfer to another that would be a better fit. After listening to what he had to say, we gently reminded him that over the years when we opened the door for him to quit, he never did and that he needed to give himself twenty-four hours to cool down and look at it with fresh eyes and not give in to making rash decisions.

The next day we listened to a much calmer young man who reiterated that he was not a quitter and that he was thinking with a clearer head and planned to take things patiently, day by day and continue to do his best until something better came along. We were happy to hear this but not surprised and it was then I recognized I needed to tell him something I hadn’t outrightly ever said to him or his brother in their teen years and this was the perfect time to tell him why I agreed with his plan. I simply said,

“This plan makes sense to me because of how important you are,” I began. “I hope you know that you are important, son,”

His silence indicated he was waiting for my explanation. I told him that beyond his academics, job and his sport; beyond his importance in our family and his circle of friends; he is important to society. I told him I was aware that he knows he is a good human being and I want him to remember that society, our community and any future community in which he finds himself, needs him. The world society needs humans like him. He is important for the survival of our species and our planet because he is a human who wants to do the right thing and knows how to get things done. He is a human filled with compassion and patience and he is a kind, loving and always-willing-to-help human who spreads happiness and joy. And while we are all flawed, he makes us proud parents because he is the best of us plus all the innate goodness he showed up with nineteen years ago.

I imagined what it would feel like to be told how important I was at a young age. If sometone tells me that now, I believe it because I am a parent, a provider,I provide service to clients, I am knowledgeable and I have the means to teach and to help. But when I was young and had nothing tangible to show in order for me to feel important…man, if someone explained why my mere existence and my actions made me important, hmmph, that would have lifted me up beyond the stars. We need to tell people they are important. We need to let them know that we see the role they play in life and why they are vital to our existence.We need to tell them that they don’t need material possessions or titles to be important because they are one unique and special piece of a much greater jigsaw puzzle that is life and we can’t be whole without them. We need to show them how their very presence on the planet is key to the success of many other people and that everything they are a part of would be worse without them. And while everyone is important, our young people are especially so, because they are the ones to take us into the future — a future, I might add, we have severely tarnished — a future they have to fix. We need them. We need them to cope so that they can survive. We can save their lives if we tell them how important they are…tell all of them, not just the ones who appear vulnerable. Tell them all!

You are important. You are needed. You represent change. You represent hope. You are the best of us and we are here to help however and whenever we can because you are important and the world does not work without you.