Thursday, 30 May 2019

Betty's Run... Walk... Hop, Skip, Jump... Wheel, Skate, Drag or Roll... is here again!


It's almost June, and that means it's almost time for Betty's Run - Calgary's annual ALS Society fundraising charity walk.
For awareness, thanks if you share with your friends, and more thanks if you donate to the cause - here's the link to my (David's) fundraising page for this year's run 



Summer is almost here - 3 weeks, according to the Farmer's Almanac and most modern calendars.

Summer means different things to different people - to some it's 3 months away from school, to others it's a period of swimming, backyard BBQs and sunny road trips.

I'm planning my next road trip for late-summer - most of August, actually.
I'll be crossing from Calgary into Montana and heading eastwards across the northern US - a route that Richard and I didn't make the last time we tried it - we'd had 18 or so days together, and that last morning, with 4 days remaining in the plan, we decided that the snow & cold (it was Feb 2017) was just a bit too much to spend 3 more days doing the Dakotas. "We can always do them next time," we agreed.

Well, next time came the following year, and somehow we traded the Dakotas for the Isles... the British Isles... and instead of Mount Rushmore's Presidential heads, we visited the Loch Ness Monster, the Titanic and the birthplace of Richard's grandfather & family.

So in August I will do the Dakotas - much of it in Richard's memory.

It won't just be for him, though - I'll spend a few days in southern Ontario (Toronto-area) visiting family, before heading back - about 3,000 miles each way.

I hope to find a good travelling companion for the trip, or at least part of it - 3 weeks off work doesn't come easy to many, and I expect to work a day or two during that time, remotely from wherever I am.
But it will be a road trip - a road trip that encompasses the final bit of 'unfinished business' in the road trip draft plans in my files.

I feel somewhat obligated to post here about it, as he would have done.

So touch base here around Labour Day - I should have something written about the trip and how Richard might have felt about it.


In the meantime, enjoy your summer, whatever you're doing!!


Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Delight Mid the Doughty

"The Seafarer"

An Old English poem giving a first-person account of a man alone on the sea.
Considered a reflection on spirituality.

Written a millenium ago, it was first (known to be) published in the Exeter Book, a manuscript of Old English poetry, recognized as one of the "world's principal cultural artifacts," dating from the late 900s AD.

Translations abound, the last century seeing many poets referring their own comprehension of its meaning - many words' true meanings being lost to history, and phrases sounding nonsensical to the modern ear.

I don't know if Richard knew the verse verbatim - it wouldn't surprise me if he could recite it - possibly some in the original Old English; I'm certain he was familiar with it, though.

He loved the sea, and loved being on it.

It is fitting, then, that on Saturday his ashes were scattered to sea, in Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver, as he had always wanted.

His pals Chris and Chris took Richard's four kids - Meghan, Mary, Kate & Rick - out around noon and said their last goodbyes.


Richard passed away 7 months ago.

Time does not dilute the memories; if anything, it brings them more in focus, recalling the good times, and the bad, reflecting on the changes to one's life that another person's simple existence can make. 
His existence changed me, that's for sure- for the better, I like to think.


His truck was sold this week, almost the last of his affairs now put in order.

There's no more to do at his apartment now - it stays on sale in a soft market - but I have nothing to offer on that front; the realtor is the last man standing in this case.  In fact, one more check for un-forwarded mail, and I'll be dropping off the keys with the building super.


We will always miss him; those who knew him, up close, from afar, and online as many of you.

The Calgary 'Gang' will gather now & then, raising a glass to his memory.  He was the glue that held us together.  We needed him then, and in some ways, need him now.

So we will do the annual Betty's Run (the local version of the annual ALS fundraising walk/run) in June, as we've done for 6 years now.
But without Richard leading the pack, there will be two differences:
First, we'll move faster!!
Second, there will be more pizza for the rest of us when we have food & drink afterwards.
I hope we will continue this tradition - both the walk, and the pizza!


I don't know if any particular words were said at Horseshoe Bay.
There would be reason to say something deep and meaningful; but also reason to stand in silence for a moment.
I took a moment to reflect, and raised a glass myself that night.



The Seafarer.  Ezra Pound translation, 1911.

"May I for my own self song's truth reckon,
Journey's jargon, how I in harsh days
Hardship endured oft.
Bitter breast-cares have I abided,
Known on my keel many a care's hold,
And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent
Narrow nightwatch nigh the ship's head
While she tossed close to cliffs. Coldly afflicted,
My feet were by frost benumbed.
Chill its chains are; chafing sighs
Hew my heart round and hunger begot
Mere-weary mood. Lest man know not
That he on dry land loveliest liveth,
List how I, care-wretched, on ice-cold sea,
Weathered the winter, wretched outcast
Deprived of my kinsmen;
Hung with hard ice-flakes, where hail-scur flew,
There I heard naught save the harsh sea
And ice-cold wave, at whiles the swan cries,
Did for my games the gannet's clamour,
Sea-fowls, loudness was for me laughter,
The mews' singing all my mead-drink.
Storms, on the stone-cliffs beaten, fell on the stern
In icy feathers; full oft the eagle screamed
With spray on his pinion.
Not any protector
May make merry man faring needy.
This he little believes, who aye in winsome life
Abides 'mid burghers some heavy business,
Wealthy and wine-flushed, how I weary oft
Must bide above brine.
Neareth nightshade, snoweth from north,
Frost froze the land, hail fell on earth then
Corn of the coldest. Nathless there knocketh now
The heart's thought that I on high streams
The salt-wavy tumult traverse alone.
Moaneth alway my mind's lust
That I fare forth, that I afar hence
Seek out a foreign fastness.
For this there's no mood-lofty man over earth's midst,
Not though he be given his good, but will have in his youth greed;
Nor his deed to the daring, nor his king to the faithful
But shall have his sorrow for sea-fare
Whatever his lord will.
He hath not heart for harping, nor in ring-having
Nor winsomeness to wife, nor world's delight
Nor any whit else save the wave's slash,
Yet longing comes upon him to fare forth on the water.
Bosque taketh blossom, cometh beauty of berries,
Fields to fairness, land fares brisker,
All this admonisheth man eager of mood,
The heart turns to travel so that he then thinks
On flood-ways to be far departing.
Cuckoo calleth with gloomy crying,
He singeth summerward, bodeth sorrow,
The bitter heart's blood. Burgher knows not --
He the prosperous man -- what some perform
Where wandering them widest draweth.
So that but now my heart burst from my breast-lock,
My mood 'mid the mere-flood,
Over the whale's acre, would wander wide.
On earth's shelter cometh oft to me,
Eager and ready, the crying lone-flyer,
Whets for the whale-path the heart irresistibly,
O'er tracks of ocean; seeing that anyhow
My lord deems to me this dead life
On loan and on land, I believe not
That any earth-weal eternal standeth
Save there be somewhat calamitous
That, ere a man's tide go, turn it to twain.
Disease or oldness or sword-hate
Beats out the breath from doom-gripped body.
And for this, every earl whatever, for those speaking after --
Laud of the living, boasteth some last word,
That he will work ere he pass onward,
Frame on the fair earth 'gainst foes his malice,
Daring ado, ...
So that all men shall honour him after
And his laud beyond them remain 'mid the English,
Aye, for ever, a lasting life's-blast,
Delight mid the doughty.
Days little durable,
And all arrogance of earthen riches,
There come now no kings nor C├Žsars
Nor gold-giving lords like those gone.
Howe'er in mirth most magnified,
Whoe'er lived in life most lordliest,
Drear all this excellence, delights undurable!
Waneth the watch, but the world holdeth.
Tomb hideth trouble. The blade is layed low.
Earthly glory ageth and seareth.
No man at all going the earth's gait,
But age fares against him, his face paleth,
Grey-haired he groaneth, knows gone companions,
Lordly men are to earth o'ergiven,
Nor may he then the flesh-cover, whose life ceaseth,
Nor eat the sweet nor feel the sorry,
Nor stir hand nor think in mid heart,
And though he strew the grave with gold,
His born brothers, their buried bodies
Be an unlikely treasure hoard.

Amen."

Monday, 4 February 2019

Reflections on Road Trips

Reflections on Road Trips
Road Tripping without Richard - it’ll never be the same…

***I must apologize for the awful formatting of this post.  Photos don't sit well on this platform, and the result looks NOTHING like the even, neatly-laid-out columns I painstakingly created.  :)  ***

I took a road trip in January - the first road trip without Richard as my co-pilot.
I had intended to post this on my return, but realized that if I waited for (today), it would be exactly 2 years since we set off for Louisiana to see his brother Adam.  I thought it fitting to post this today, as you'll see shortly.


My mother just turned 75. 
Naturally, she being halfway across country, I planned to make the trek to be there for her birthday.
The question was; do I just fly back or take a road trip/vacation?  Richard and I had spoken of driving down there for the birthday - they'd spoken a couple of times on the phone - with a live-in caregiver aboard, taking half the driving off my shoulders, it would have been a nice trip, for the both (or maybe, all) of us.
I didn’t want to reach out to friends for a road trip, during which I’d be taking off on my own for several days; and besides, I got a new car just a few weeks before - it was a good opportunity to run it in & see how it travels.
So with a little Travelocity searching, I found reasonable airfare to Toronto from (of all places) Boise, Idaho the day before her birthday, and worked out a road plan to get there just in time.
It’s somewhat bittersweet that the route I chose would take me almost entirely over roads that Richard and I had driven in the past - we scoured the western US in August of 2014, and much of the western third of the US in February of 2017 (this is the trip we began 2 years ago today); and this trip would cover just a few new roads for me.
But part of this decision was to reflect on the good times, and good drives, that Richard and I had done before.  Memories of stops we made then, coupled with some new memories of stops I could now make on my own, gave me both familiarity and comfort, and new discoveries. 
So on a Saturday morning, I loaded up the RAV4 and set off on a (only-slightly-new) adventure, wearing the sweatshirt Richard bought at Trinity College, Dublin when we went there in June of 2017.  I thought it fitting to wear something that would keep his memory close.
Just across the border that afternoon, I detoured to Cut Bank to see the “Coldest Spot in the Nation” - a claim hotly (or coldly?) disputed by at least a few other US towns - but none of them have a talking penguin, so I found this a two-for-one stop to make!
Richard wouldn’t have cared for a Penguin selfie, but I would have driven the vehicle around to get him beside it, like it or not!

Further south, into Bozeman, MT towards day’s end, I found (we both WOULD have agreed) the brewery district where we could get a sampler flight of good craft beer and a really bad burger.

Regrettably, they offered none of this serving size once you got inside the door.















The Lewis and Clark Motel would have thrilled Richard’s sense of history - being along their Trail and all - and he’d have enjoyed the sizeable rooms & quaint lobby area.

We never made it to the Computer Museum in Bozeman, MT during our prior trips, so I made that a priority this time, as it’s hyped as one of the best little museums of computer culture in the country - and I must agree.  It’s actually the American Computer and Robotics Museum, which is why I have a photo of me with an original Robbie the Robot!  

Here, Richard would have loved the various sci-fi icons around the walls, and technology on display.

 











 





Nearby, a Mexican restaurant's mascot, the Red Iguana "doesn’t care for selfies" as he glowers disapprovingly from the parking lot.  But he was behind a fence, so I felt safe enough.

Then on to Salt Lake City, UT - where we had spent a couple of days previously - I spent some time at the Mormon’s Family History Library doing some family history research - and the rest just driving around as a restful do-nothing-specific kind of stop.
Finding the very first Kentucky Fried Chicken was a surprise - but fortunately, they’ve updated their original menu to keep up with the times.  A quick shot of me, the Colonel and the actual secret-herbs-and-spices inventor Mr.Harman, and I was ready to move on.

At an ungodly hour for a vacation day, I rose to drive the nearly-2-hours to Bonneville to get a sunrise  photo at the Salt Flats, before testing the upper limits of the RAV4.  Regrettably, the big winter blizzard that tore down the region several days before had left enough water to make them un-driveable, and I couldn’t* test the performance - although we did so with Richard's truck last time.
(*Mom was quite content to have just the sunrise pics and not any speed-running video this time!)
The sunrise was un-spectacular in photos, but the 10-minutes before shots seem to have turned out quite nicely.


 


North from Bonneville, through the NE corner of Nevada and into Idaho, to Twin Falls - home of Evel Knievel’s Snake River Canyon Jump attempt.  Unfortunately, the road down to the actual location seems closed in winter, as we didn’t make it 2 years ago, and I couldn’t get there this time either.  Perhaps the next summer trip.
 
This time, I made do with a quick stop at the Visitor's Centre, next to the Snake River Bridge, where I saw the last couple of a group of base-jumpers tempting fate by dropping off a perfectly good iron railing & into thin air with nothing but a strip of fabric, string & a lot of hope, to keep them safe.


One last trek for this leg - to Boise for the night, then an uneventful morning flight to Chicago, where the next leg saw a jet fuel spill on the gateway next to us, delaying our departure by an hour.   It looked like a scene straight out of Die Hard 2! 
David's delay in Chicago
Die Hard 2: Die Harder

However, I got home just fine - and thanks to a silly time-zone mis-calculation, arrived exactly when I had intended, stayed with a friend that night, got to Mom’s the next morning, and a good weekend was had by all.
It's very different driving alone than with a friend - I suppose I expected as much - and it will never be the same with anyone else.  

It's not, of course, just the drive time.  I'd done much of the driving 2 years ago, and all of it on the summer trip to the UK.  It's the quiet, the lack of conversation, that got to me this time.
Richard always had something to say - sometimes useful, sometimes not, sometimes entertaining, but I was never really aware of how quiet it could be until I told myself (sometimes out loud!) "Oh, right, this is where so-and-so got scalped" or "I remember this plain from that trip" or even "Oh, yeah, that place had good french fries" because I recalled these Richard had said or done, from the last trip down here.

One unexpected smile was when I passed this sign in Idaho on the last leg home - Richard had nicknamed the wheelchair van "Lucille" in a nod to B.B. King's guitar (the story of the name here - https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Lucille_(guitar)), so happening across a roadsign, I had to stop, turn around & get a pic!  Richard WOULD have loved it.
 

A world away from New York, I also happened across Lady Liberty (of the Lake) in Idaho; an impractical rush for a wheelchair across a frigid park & out on a concrete pier though, but he would have wanted me to go, so I did.

On the final stretch, back in Canada, in Sparwood, B.C., I discovered something I doubt either of us knew about (else we'd definitely have stopped on one of the several Vancouver trips) - the "World's Largest Truck" (I think its record been superseded since it was parked, though).

  

I'm glad we had the times we did - good and bad - and that we did the things & went the places we did - this trip is dedicated to Richard and his great sense of humour.  I hope you enjoyed reading about it, as I enjoyed writing about it.
You can reminisce on Richard's musing about our Louisiana road trip by starting on Day One here - https://richardislivingwithals.blogspot.com/2017/02/road-trip-advice.html

Friday, 4 January 2019

The next road trip will be a little bit lonely

***This is David writing, under my own profile now.***


I'm going on the road again.
My mother's birthday is next weekend, and I'm off to Toronto to visit.

I don't have a blog myself, but feel it fitting to post my stories here, as it was Richard who brought the love of the road, into my life.

I have a new car and want to test its mettle by giving it a good drive.
Richard had seen this car in the summer, and approved, so it's fitting I initially write about it here.

It's just too bad he couldn't come with me this time - but I have a piece of him along for the ride... no, not an actual PIECE of him, but one of his annual ALS Walk (in Alberta, it's Betty's Run) participation medals.  It's too big for the rear-view mirror, but it's hanging on the back of the driver's seat.  So at least in some way, the big oaf is along for the ride.


I scouted the trip as the next trip Richard & I were planning to take - through the northern states (we called it 'the Dakota Trip') to Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas & areas nearby.
I thought I would extend it to Chicago & around the lake to Toronto.

However, many of the sites-worth-seeing along the way, are closed during the winter months, so it would be basically 3,600km (2,250 miles) of straight-through - not even Richard, who loved the road, would likely be ready for a bare-bones drive like that with nothing planned to see or do along the way.

So I scouted possible locations a few days' drive from Calgary (in all directions!) and what airfare to Toronto was like from those areas.  For this month, Salt Lake City won out as the place to visit, with Boise, Idaho as the airport of choice.

I'll drive 2-3 days to Salt Lake City, spend a few days there, zip up to Boise & fly out to see Mom for 3 days, then return & finish the road trip back home.

Much of this trip will be repetitive - Richard & I have covered the first 3 days' drive, and most of that distance we've done twice(!).

But this time, I'll do some of the things we didn't do before - either because he had zero interest in somewhere that I wanted to go, or because time didn't allow for the detour.


Richard didn't get much into taking photos; he wanted the memories and the experience.  But with the ALS giving him an expiry date, I made it a point to get LOTS of photos of him, so his family & friends could remember his experiences even if they weren't there with him,

I'll share some of my photos here - specifically those where I know Richard would have enjoyed something - and hope you will laugh along...

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

New Year, New Writings

***This is David writing again***

I wasn't sure how or if we should continue working with this blog; most of Richard's friends & family are on board with occasional posts, to remember him by and to laugh about the good times.

His family held a memorial service in November in White Rock, BC, where friends & family gathered to share stories, tell tales & raise a glass to him - it was a good afternoon.

Memories are made to be cherished, and many of those also to be shared.

Richard would want his memory both cherished and shared... and this is the perfect way to do it.

I cannot speak as a PALS, of course; the subject matter of any future posts would be of some other nature - Richard-related mostly - so I hope that those who have read his writings in the past, and who know some of the names of future writers - myself, his kids - will enjoy our posts like you enjoyed his.

So we will keep on keeping on, and post occasional musings, thoughts, and for my own part, road trip stories, remembering him as we go.

It won't be regular, but hopefully it will be worth checking in on once in a while.


-David

Friday, 12 October 2018

I miss my Dad...

**David writing again...

Richard wrote this back in July.

It is unfinished, and I don't think it was intended to be a blog post, but it's exactly the sort of thing he'd share, when he was done with it.

It is somewhat fitting that he writes of missing his Dad, as we miss Richard.


"

I miss my Dad. I remember so much about him and often wonder what he would think of this or how he would handle that or what he would say about the next thing. He was my Dad. He was not perfect; he was deeply flawed, almost incapable of any emotional connection beyond anger. Yet he was my father, my Dad.

Richard Thomas McBride was born in East Kildonan, a part of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the center most province in Canada, equidistant from all three Canadian oceans. Perhaps that is why he was destined to join the Canadian Navy. Perversity was my Dad’s name just as often as the name he acquired in the navy, “Mac”.

His birthday was, and still is, October 3, 1930. He was born between the two great wars of the twentieth century, too late for World War One, where his father, uncle and grandfather all fought, and too late for World War Two, where is older brother Adam fought. I would like to say he was born in the sweet spot, at the perfect time, but that would be a betrayal of his service in the Korean War. There were plenty of wars to go round in the twentieth century and likely there will always be some place where men can kill other men in the service of something they don’t understand and will never reach.

My father spent his childhood years in Winnipeg, living at the end of the streetcar line where the bright yellow tram cars of the Winnipeg Electric Company turned around, taking the working class from this outer suburb into the Winnipeg city center each morning and returning them back each night. Like a great many cities in the depression era, the streetcars ran to the very edge of the city. In his case it stopped near the end of his street. At the other end of his street, off to the east, there was nothing but open prairie and the rail yards of the CPR. The other side of his childhood dominion was bounded by the sluggish and muddy Red River. He loved his childhood time; the prairie was his playground and the Red River was his personal Mississippi.

He was the second of four children. His older brother, Adam, was born in 1925. Then, five years later my Dad came along. Five years after that, in 1935, his sister Diane was born. Then, in the mid-1940’s his brother, born with Downs Syndrome, came into his life. For the whole of his life my Dad admired his older brother Adam in spite of his erratic and unkind, sometimes criminal, behaviour. For the whole of his life, my Dad doted on Ronnie, granting his every wish in spite of the damage to a man who, due to his incapacity to understand, would often ask for the very things that were worst for him; more food, more candy, more beer, staying up late. My Dad would not say “no” to Ronnie, and he could not say “no” to his older brother Adam.

The Great Depression hardly touched my father. He once said to me that if it weren’t for the neighbours and others around him, he would never have known there was a Depression. His father, my grandfather, worked for the railroad all through the 1930’s. While the pay was not great, there was always money for the family, albeit often subsumed with my grandfather’s prodigious ability to consume alcohol.
"


-30-

Monday, 8 October 2018

I have lots to give thanks for this Thanksgiving, really.

**David again...  (I feel the need to keep stating this... just in case...  :) )


Today is Canadian Thanksgiving.
Richard often gave thanks for having so many people in his life, who cared, who shared, and who occasionally put him in his place when he acted up.

He acted up a lot after the diagnosis.  Wouldn't you?
"Hi, I'm your neurologist.  I hope your credit card has a 4-year expiry date on it, 'coz you don't!  LOL"...  <sigh>
Richard would have thought that was funny.  I'd admit it if not...

He got angry.  That's part of life.  Often, it's a passing issue, like missing the last train, not having enough cash to buy lunch with, or being 20 minutes late for a movie.
With ALS, you have a lot to be angry about.  Life, the Universe, and Everything, can be blamed for it, but you still have to deal with it.  Having ALS steamed him up.

He blew off that steam with this blog, and more than a few of you, his readers, have thanked him for it.
He never felt he was a spokesperson, an advocate, a role model, or an inspiration.
His personal, real, day-to-day life, didn't seem that special to him.

Many agreed, and didn't think him that special... he was just being himself.
But there really WAS something special about him.
His ability to laugh at his terminal illness.
His ability to laugh at him peeing on himself.
His ability to laugh at anything, really.
It might take an hour, a day, or a few stiff drinks, but eventually, he'd be able to laugh at pretty much anything life threw his way.

Any time there was another bump in the road, friends around him would help remind him that "things could be worse," to which he inevitably replied with a smirking shriek, "I have ALS. How, exactly, could things be worse?!?"  Often, the reply was "You could be out of Scotch."
He'd give Thanks for a stocked bar.
Then he'd give Thanks for a stocked fridge.
For a roof over his head.
For friends & family to keep him centred.
He had a lot to be thankful for.

So did we, who knew him.