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How to Remember

My son, like many eleven year old boys, loves to play “army guys” and “war”. Would his interests be different had he been our son from a younger age, rather than adopted at the age of eight? Who knows. This weird boy games/girl games stuff seems to be everywhere so he may not have been any different. I’d like to think he would have, but probably not. His interest in all things war makes us uncomfortable. We get that he doesn’t understand the realities of war so it’s all fun and games to him, but still.

We took him out of school early on Friday so that we could meet with family for a vacation. This meant he missed the school’s Remembrance Day assembly. I felt uneasy about this. I didn’t want the school to get the idea that we don’t feel such assemblies are important, that we’re all “Woo hoo! Extra vacay day!” But more importantly, I guess I have a hope that there might be something in such an assembly that might convey to my son what I don’t know how to about Remembrance Day: War is hell. Let’s not do it again. For so many reasons.

That’s why, today, I am struggling with what to say to my son as he plays on the beach without a care in the world. As he lives a life children in other countries don’t get to, a life his grandparents didn’t get to. As he lives a life not knowing the realities of war. As he lives the life we (my wife and I, my family, my country) have worked hard to create for him; a world without war.

I don’t know a lot about war myself. It is one of the privileges of being born into a country like Canada at the time that I did. But in my own way, I have seen its effects. And it isn’t fun and games to me. Like many people my age, my grandfathers were both in the war. It broke them. Plain and simple, it broke them. I cannot imagine what it is like for young men to “fight for their country” and I in no way mean to disrespect the intentions of those who did. I understand completely that they all did what they believed was right and that, yes, there are times when such measures are necessary. My heart breaks for my grandfathers and all the men (and now women) who have fought in wars; those who lived, those who survived, and those who were never the same. But, for me, Remembrance Day is also about more than them.

I know what damage was done to the families of those men who were never the same. Mine was one of them. While I didn’t come along until 1970, that damage influenced how I was raised (both positively and negatively), shaped my family, is carried on in me. I have choices about how I live that my parents didn’t. Not just because I grew up in a country without war, but because I grew up in a home without addiction, abuse, and terror as a result of war. That privilege influences how I see the world, how I parent, and what I fight for. I am well aware of my privilege. But I am aware of my family’s history too.

So, how do I talk to my son about that history? How do I help him understand that, when we mark Remembrance Day, it’s about honouring the lives lost, but also the lives damaged? That those lives may include people who never, ever saw war first hand? How do I teach my son that it is never okay to hurt a woman, no matter how much you are hurting. That it is never okay to violate a child, no matter what violations you have seen that changed your brain irreparably? How do I share with him that these things are what I think about when I honour Remembrance Day? That I cry for my grandfathers, yes, and for all the lives lost, but that I also cry for the other casualties of war? That so many people lived but, in essence, didn’t survive. That, despite never having been at war, I was shaped by WWII and that I am one of the lucky ones who came out virtually unscathed. Actually, luck had nothing to do with it. “Luck” was my parents’ conscious decisions that I would not be a casualty of a war that was over decades before I was born, and yet still, I was impacted by what went before. And how do I explain to my son that I am overwhelmed with gratitude that he doesn’t know anything of that.

How do I navigate that line between letting my son grow up in a life free from war and its far-reaching destruction and a life without knowing our important history?

My son is eleven. I am well aware that there are eleven year old children in countries currently being impacted by war and my concerns are trivial compared to what they are living through. I am well aware that he does not have a father broken by war, a mother responsible for picking up the pieces who is abused when she tries to. I am aware that he does not live with the ghosts and monsters of the war screaming in their sleep down the hall. And for this I am grateful. But those who are not aware of their history are doomed to repeat it. And my son has been through a war of his own. While I don’t want him to be burdened with anything more, I want him to understand why it’s not fun and games, why we remember, why we guard ourselves against forgetting, and why, most importantly for me, we promise each other: Never Again.

As I write this, my son comes out onto the deck of our vacation home with a message from my wife, “It’s time to make the salad.” While he tells me, he shoots off a cap gun that he snuck into the basket at the store today without us knowing, that we decided to let him keep because, hey, it’s vacation. That now seems like a terrible choice.

I don’t know how to talk to him about these things.

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My Kid Drew Some Cats

In support of my fundraising campaign, my kid agreed to do one-of-a-kind portraits of people’s cats if they sent him a photo. We grossly undervalued them at $10 and they sold out in no time. The first round were so great, the people were crying out for more. My kid agreed to do 10 more at $30 each. Again, apparently we could have charged more! People have suggested a book, as a fundraiser for VOKRA. My son having a book deal before me?

Great.

But I’ll allow it.

He is truly hilarious.

 

Click on the photo to see all the drawings

Click on the photo to see all the drawings

 

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All Cats All the Time

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I know you’ve all been sitting patiently by your computers, dying for my next rant or goofball kid story. Or not. But I have a good reason!

I’m in the middle of a fundraising campaign called Help Morgan Save Kittens in order to help me do good for my favourite charity, VOKRA–Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association. 

I hope you’ll take a minute to check out my GoFundMe page, watch my video, check out the great perks I’m offering, and support me if you can. If you are desperate to read some of my writing, head on over to the new VOKRA blog I’ve started to hear about the amazing work of a group of caring, dedicated people that I love very much.

I’ll try to write something more here soon but right now, if I tried it would just be like this:

catscatscatscatskittenscatscatscatscatskittenscatscatscatscatskittenscatscatscatscatskittenscatscatscatscatskittenscatscatscatscatskittenscatscatscatscatskittenscatscatscatscatskittens

 

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And on the Third Day

My friend is 100.

Last summer, I received a phone call from one of the staff members at her care home. He said it was the end and that I should probably come and see her pretty quick if I wanted to say goodbye. Of course, I rushed to her. She wasn’t really conscious and didn’t seem to know I was there. I sat beside her bed and held her hand. I cried and cried, telling her how much I loved her. I said I would miss her like crazy but if she was ready to go, I understood. I stayed for a long time, not knowing when I’d said enough or cried enough, not knowing if I’d said the right thing. Then I kissed her on the head and left.

When I showed up for my volunteer shift that week, I went by her room, preparing myself for the tell-tale empty bed or worse, someone else in her place. And there she was, sitting up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, greeting me as if nothing had ever been wrong. I burst out laughing. I chastised her for making such a fool of me. “Here I was, blubbering like an idiot, telling you all sorts of deep and meaningful things!”

When I went to visit her last week, these many months later, her speech was off and she wasn’t quite herself. We had our visit, during which she uncharacteristically said, “You do the talking.” Lucky for her, that’s never been a problem for me. When we were done, I sought out the nurse on duty. He told me she was nearing the end and that he thought she was ready to go. I wondered if I should go back to her room and tell her I loved her one more time or say something important. Then I thought, “Oh, I’m not falling for that again!”

This week she was still there but much the same as last week. “You do the talking,” she instructed, and I obliged. I felt very aware that each thing I said to her might be the last so, of course, I tried to make it as funny as I could. I think if one has to go, one should go out laughing, after all.

I did ask her if she felt like she was ready or if this was just another plot to embarrass me. “Who knows?” she answered, and I left it at that. I told her stories about my week; cat rescues and filming and, her favourite, the kids’ shenanigans. I talked about Easter coming up and then said, “Wait a minute. This isn’t all an Easter prank, is it? You’re not planning on dying and then coming back to life this weekend, are you? Off you go and then, boom! Resurrection?”

She continued to stare into nothing for a while and I worried I’d taken things to far. Then her eyes got bright for a minute and she looked directly at me.

“Yeah!” she laughed, lifting her hands into the air. “Surprise!”

 

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Brevity is the Soul of–Oh, get on with it, would you?

My friend is 100 years old. When I visited her last night, she wanted to talk about Mickey Rooney dying. I started to say, “Well, he lived a good long life.” Then I realized she is 7 years older than he was when he died and thought maybe I’d shut up.

She wanted me to read her his obituary so I pulled it up on my phone and obliged. It was really, really long, chronicling everything from his start as a baby in his parents’ vaudeville show to his 8th wife. When I finally finished, I told her she should figure out what hers should say, you know, for when the time comes. I asked if hers would be as long and she said no. I asked what it would say.

After a moment of thought she replied, “That’s it.”

I asked if that was with an exclamation point or a question mark.

She said, “Both.”

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If I Had $10,000

A little while back, I received the “speaking request” below. It seemed so ridiculous to me that I posted it on Facebook for a laugh. A friend did some Googling and found out that, surprise, surprise, there is a scam behind this and that at least one person has fallen for it, agreeing to send something like $1000 USD to an individual to help secure a Visa for their speaking gig. Another friend, the talented and hilarious writer Guy MacPherson, suggested I respond to the “speaking request”, engaging the scammers for the purposes of entertainment. “Who has time for that kind of nonsense?” I asked. Well, apparently Guy does. With my permission, Guy posed as my manager and wrote to Pastor Jason Joe. Below is the original email followed by Guy’s correspondence with the scammers. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SPEAKING INVITATION REQUEST

Dear Morgan,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, My Name is Pastor Jason Joe from the First Baptist Church we are writing to Invite you to be our guest Speaker at the up Coming  First Baptist Church 2014 Anniversary which is taking place here In UK England, We are writing to invite and confirm your booking to be our Guest Speaker at up Coming First Baptist Church 2014 Anniversary. Other Ministers Of God are coming from Different part of the World.

The Venue as follows:
Brookhouse Road, Alsager, ST7 2PA,
Website: http://firstbaptist.co.uk/
Expected audience: 300 people
Duration of speech per speaker: 1 Hour

Host: PASTOR JASON JOE
Topic: LEADERSHIP MARRIAGE COMMUNICATION COMEDY
Date: 21th September 2014
Theme: TIME OF FULFILLMENT
REFERENCE: EVENT BROCHURE
SIGNING OF AUTOGRAPH: ALLOWED
SELLING OF CD’S AND BOOKS: ALLOWED.
TELEPHONE: + 44 704 205 6151
MOBILE: + 44 703 193 6251

The purpose of these conference is to re-brand the heart,mind,body and soul of Christians who have gone astray and are diverting their whole attention into mundane affairs and ensuring that it is possible for Christians, whether new or of long standing, to deepen their spiritual lives and gain eternal life. Also bringing a heart of deep compassion and a strong commitment to the fullness of life that is found only in the redemptive love of Christ, we are Sorry about our late invitation
it is due to the fact that our Speaker had back out because of her sudden illness.

We came across your profile on http://www.morganbrayton.com/ The lord has direct us to email you for this assignment. and we say it’s up to standard and we will be very glad to have such an outstanding personality in our mist for these overwhelming gathering. With your Multi  talented speech more lives will come close to GOD. Arrangement to welcome you here will be discussed as soon as you honor or invitation. If you have any more publicity Material, please  do not hesitate to contact us. We are taking care of your  traveling and Hotel Accommodation expenses including our Speaker fees you are bless as you honor this invitation it is a pleasure writing you.

Hope to hear from you Asap.

In His Services,
Pastor Jason Joe
First Baptist Church
TELEPHONE: + 44 704 205 6151
MOBILE: + 44 703 193 6251

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dear Mr. Reverend Pastor Joe,

Greetings in the name of my client, Morgan Brayton. Ms. Brayton passed along a message she received from You asking her to be a guest Speaker at your church in beautiful downtown UK England. Ms. Brayton and I are thrilled about the opportunity.

We receive numerous opPortunities like this and, truth be Told, many of them are nothing but scams. But I can tell from your Missive that this is completely Legitimate! I know this because, 1) you are a Church and churches don’t go around fooling People (the bible expressly forbids email scams), and b) you are offering Free travel and Hotel Accomodation. For this reason, I need not even complete a cursory google Search. You are good people. I can smell it a mile away (or 5000 miles away, as the Case may be! LOL!).

I notice on your Offer you say there will be approximately 300 people in attendance. That’s exciting! Do you happen to know if they hear in English? Unfortunately Ms. Brayton is only permitted to give her “talks” in English, despite speaking over 20 other languages (21). If you can confirm the audience will be hearing in English, I think we may have a deal!

I have some more questions, if you Permit me. It’s very important that these be Answered in the order I ask them:

• It is noted that SELLING OF CD’S AND BOOKS is ALLOWED. We think this is a wonderful idea but we are curiousing if there is a wholesale CD and Book shoppe in the Area where Ms. Brayton can peruse the selection because She is quite fond of her own CD and book collection and doesn’t want to part with any of them, no matter how much she can fetch for them on the open market at a Church.

• It is noted that each speaker will be given 1 Hour. How many Speakers do you plan on speaking? Could you speak to the speakers and ask them how long each one intends to speak? The reason I ask is because Ms. Brayton always has a Stipulation in her contract that insists she be permitted to speak longer than any other Speaker. So if one speaker goes the full Hour, Ms. Brayton MUST be able to speak the Full hour PLUS One Minute (61 minutes). Does this make sense?

• What tempo should she plan her Talk at? Ms. Brayton usually speaks at 110 BPM (beats per minute). We’re not sure what Baptists typically are used to. Come to think of it, I forget now if Europe uses BPM or if they’re on the Metric system. Excuse my ignorance. But I’m almost 90% certain England is right next to Europe.

• Your message says SIGNING OF AUTOGRAPH: ALLOWED. In Ms. Brayton’s case, can we change this to DEMANDED? Most likely all 300 in attendance will want her autograph, but on the off chance there is a Malcontent amongst them, we would request that you lock all exits until each person has happily received Ms. Brayton’s scrawled signature on a piece of paper. (Also we Request a #2 HB pencil and a sharpener.)

• As her agent, I receive a 15% commission. One question: Do you think that’s Fair? (Please keep that between us.)

Now that you’ve answered these questions (in order), we can get down to detail. Specifically when would you need Ms. Brayton to arrive in UK, England? I notice the Engagement is to be on September 21th, which is a Sunday in Canada (I assume that’s a Monday in UK, England). And when would she be leaving UK, England and returning to Canada? Will she have time to stop and smell the Flowers? This shouldn’t take long, depending on how many flowers there are. (For the record, how many flowers will there be?)

Finally, we must know how much money she Will be receiving for her efforts. Obviously, a talent such as Ms. Brayton doesn’t come cheap. She commands $.05/word (five cents per word), which usually works out to approximately $10,000 USD. (Aside: Do they have US dollars in UK, England? Ms. Brayton is allergic to British pounds. And gluten.) Obviously you will require many rolls of American nickels. To make things easier, we will need a court stenographer to transcribe her speech on a Word document capable of calculating the word count. We’ve found, through trial (no pun intended! LOL!) and error (no pun at all), that it’s too time-Consuming to count by pointing to each Word with a pencil and counting that way. And sometimes you Lose track, trust me! LOL! Been there, done that! LOL! #veryfrustrating

That’s all from our end. What do we need to Do to make this Happen?! Ms. Brayton is eager to re-brand the heart,mind,body and soul of Christians who have gone astray and are diverting their whole attention into mundane affairs and ensuring that it is possible for Christians, whether new or of long standing, to deepen their spiritual lives and gain eternal life through Lesbianism. We appreciate the Opportunity. Please thank the lord for directing you to email Ms. Brayton for this assignment.

Looking forward to awaiting your Reply!

Yours in Christopher,

Steve MacPhee

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Dear Steve MacPhee,  Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! A blessed Year to you and your family. How are you Steverino and we thank you for the response, we would like to let you know that event organizing committee has come to an agreement to bring Morgan Brayton down to England UK. Our Budget for the up coming First Baptist Church 2014 Anniversary is $50,000 and we are taking care of your traveling Flight, Meal, Hotel Accommodation and your honorarium fee. Here is the Topic:  LEADERSHIP MARRIAGE COMMUNICATION COMEDY Here is the venue of the event: 27 Mowbray Rd, Northallerton. London UK,  you can ask anything you may like to know regarding this Anniversary via telephone or E-mail: Tel: + 44 704 205 6151  or + 447031 936 251  or Firstbaptistchurchengland@Gmail.com. May God bless you as you honor this invitation. We looking forward to hearing from you Asap.  In His Services,  Pastor Jason JoeFirst Baptist ChurchTELEPHONE: + 44 704 205 6151MOBILE: + 44 703 193 6251

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Hey-ho, Pastor J.J.,

I hope you don’t mind the nickname I’ve assigned you but I’ve always had a knack for nicknames. You might say I’m “Dyn-o-mite!” at them! (Laugh-O-L!) (PS Did you get Good Times in England UK? Hope so! If not, please kindly disregard first paragraph and greeting. I’ll think of a new nickname for next time.)

That’s great news that the event organizing committee has come to the decision to bring Ms. Brayton to England UK. We’ve always felt that out of all the Englands, England UK was the best. And I’m not just saying that!

In my previous email to you, I asked several questions. If you could answer them for us, it would be much appreciated (and expected! L-Out-L!). To find them, simply scan the message, look for the question marks (“?”) and work backwards from there. That’s what I do. #worksforme

A few other questions forthwith: What airline will she be flying? What hotel will she be staying at? Will she have a driver with a black hat? (looks more professional) I just checked Google maps street view of the address you’ve given and the area is beautiful. Which house is the church based in? They all look lovely. (Please answer these questions AFTER you’ve answered the previous email’s questions. I know that’s a lot of work but Ms. Brayton is worth it.)

While Ms. Brayton is a consummate professional who has given many, many talks to 300 people in churches located inside small houses, that doesn’t stop the butterflies. Surely you’ve heard the advice for nervous speakers to picture the audience in their underwear. Please ensure everyone in attendance strip down to their under garments before Ms. Brayton takes to the podium. It really helps lighten the mood. Seriously.

Is there anything else we need to know or do at our end? I’d like to get this all sorted out as s. as possible.

All the best to you and your Lord Jesus Christ.

Stephen J. MacPhee

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dear Steve,

Blessings and Holy Greetings to you in the Glorious and Matchless Name of Jesus. we thank the lord that lead us to Morgan.

May God bless you with out any further delay the Event Organizing committee has decide to bring Morgan down to England UK to come and speak at the First Baptist Church 2014 Anniversary.

We would like to know your Honorarium fee also we have come to an agreement to book your hotel accommodation, buy your Flight Ticket to England UK and also your meals.also we would like to know if you are really committing your self to be our guest Speaker.

We would like to know this from you before going on arranging for your contract agreement letter, we would like to know if you have been to UK London before also to know if you have your UK work Visa.

The UK Government has oppose a law that any international speaker coming to UK to speak he/she must procure his/her working Visa.Please do get back to us with a scan copy of your UK Work Visa if you have it. also get back to us with your full name so that we can go on arranging for your contract agreement letter.

You can ask any question you may like to know regarding this anniversary Via E-mail: Firstbaptistchurchegland@gmail.com you can also reach us at the Telephone number: + 44 704 205 6151 Mobile: + 44 703 193 6251

We would like to let you know that the event organizing committee has decide to have a prayer session for you.

May God continue to reveal to you the wonders of His Son and unveil the beauty of His finished work on the cross to you.

We await your response. Stay bless

In His Services, Pastor Jason Joe First Baptist Church TELEPHONE: + 44 703 193 6251

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Yo, daddy-o,

Greetings to you, too, Pastor Joe. I don’t know about the “matchless name of Jesus” (have you ever been to Mexico?), but greetings nonetheless.

I am pleased to report that Ms. Brayton is fully committed to being your guest speaker. She’s already scouring joke books to come up with some real “zingers,” as they call them in the professional comedy racket. Tell me, are any of your church members Polish? She’s been reading some Polish jokes that are real doozies and she’s excited to deliver them in her own inimitable style that she stole from Totie Fields but she doesn’t want to offend anyone. I told her not to worry because even if there are Polish people in attendance, they probably won’t understand the jokes! (See what I did there?)

You asked what our honorarium fee is. You probably missed it in my last message to you but it’s there. Go back and search for the dollar sign. It looks like this: $. The fee should be in that paragraph somewhere.

We’re still waiting for all our questions to be answered by you. Hopefully that comes in your next response. I may have asked too many questions, in which case feel free to take a fifteen (15) second break between each one. It gives your brain a chance to relax and reduces risk of carpel tunnel syndrome. Win-win!

As for the Working Visa, you are in luck, my good man! Ms. Brayton’s paternal grandfather on her mother’s side was born in England UK. This makes her a dual citizen with your country. She holds two passports and is permitted to work in both countries! Lucky you! Lucky Ms. Brayton! Lucky me (remember the 15% I mentioned before?)!

I guess the next step is the contract agreement letter you can go ahead and get started on. Plus the arrangements for flight, hotel, spa, escort, etc.

And aren’t we lucky that the organizing committee is going to have a prayer session for us! Thank you so much! I can’t tell you how much it means to us for everyone to sit around and think about us resulting in no discernable changes one way or the other. It really does warm the cockles of my heart. And who wants cold cockles? Not I, good sir, not I!

Awaiting your response – and answers to all our questions.

Sarcastically yours,

Stephen O. MacPhee

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Dear Steve MacPhee,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, We thank you Steverino for the response once again, we would like to know the honorarium fee before arranging the contract agreement.

We will also like to let you know that the UK Government has oppose a Law that any international speakers coming to UK HE/SHE must procure his/her UK Work Visa if Ms. Brayton would like to be our guest speakers she must procure her UK Work Visa, for for info about that you can contact the UK British Embassy to know more.

Here is their contact Address:

Info.britishoffice@workmail.com

We looking forward to hearing from you Asap.

Hope to hear from you Asap.

In His Services, Pastor Jason Joe First Baptist Church TELEPHONE: + 44 704 205 6151 MOBILE: + 44 703 193 6251

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Dearest Pastor Joe,

Thanks for your speedy reply. It was so quick I’d almost think you were a machine that automatically sends out a pre-written reply no matter what I write! LOL!

Perhaps, in your haste, you missed the part about Ms. Brayton’s dual nationality, which precludes the need for a UK Work Visa. Ms. Brayton has given speeches all over England UK, both here and there. Also hither and yon. She is able to do this because she possesses an English UK passport. If you require, she is also able to supply a note from her father. So happy, happy, happy! You must be very relieved that this bit of red tape is not required this time. We saved you a headache, I’m sure!

Also in your haste, you forgot – again! – to answer my numerous questions. If they’re too difficult, you may phone a friend. Sometimes they can be quite helpful.

Praise be to Allah!

Stephen A. MacPhee

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Guy broke the robot. For all his efforts, he received the following one-sentence reply:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

what do you mean by all this what are you talking about Allah?

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dear Pastor Joe,

Please do not take offence at my closing line. Certainly none was intended. Here in Canada, we use all forms for the Creator interchangeably. So God is the same as Allah is the same as Buddha is the same as Yahweh is the same as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. All good and magnificent!

I’m not sure about England UK, but in Canada all religions get along together and love and respect one another. I can assure you that Ms. Brayton is a devoted First Baptist, the best type of Christian, and not a dirty Presbyterian or Anglican.

Now can we get back to planning for her big speech?! As I mentioned in my last two emails to you, Ms. Brayton is able to work in England UK because she holds a British passport. Only rarely does she let it go, usually if she needs both hands to carry something. But as soon as she puts it down, she brings the passport back in her clutches.

So from our end, we’re ready to go. I’ve neglected to mention one detail, but this shouldn’t pose a problem. As I’m sure you’re well aware, the Canadian government requires a Permission for Visa Request fee from foreign institutions seeking work from Canadian citizens. It’s a small fee of $1,000CDN. You can find out more by emailing totallyrealCanadiangovernmentagency@gmail.com. If you wire me the money, I can expedite this for you. And don’t worry, we can take this amount off the $10,000 owed to Ms. Brayton. Our way of saying thanks!

I’m a little concerned that you haven’t answered a single question that I’ve asked but you must have your reasons. Probably an oversight. If you like, I can resend the questions. Let me know because this isn’t a waste of time at all!

All the best to you and yours in the name of whatever deity won’t offend you,

Stephen L. MacPhee

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We never heard back from them again which is a shame because I was really looking forward to my $10,000 visit to UK England.

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In Praise of Steves

Our old neighbourhood had a giant, yearly garage sale. The first garage sale after the kids joined our family was spent hanging out with our neighbours, trading our junk for other people’s junk and generally loving our awesome little East Van clan. Once we’d sold off most of our stuff, we took the kids for a walk around the nearby streets to see what other people had for sale.

The Boy had a new discman that The Wife had sold him. Yes, you read that right, she sold our child an obsolete piece of technology rather than popping it in the Free bin. Something about life lessons, I don’t know. So he was on the search for CDs. One street over, he came upon obsolescence mecca; someone was selling several of those big books with the CD pockets, you know the ones that zip up and hold hundreds of CDs? The Boy was quietly excited, slowly turning the CD pages over and over like he’d just discovered the most rare and amazing treasure. We encouraged him to go ahead and ask the guy selling stuff how much he wanted for his CDs.

This was a big deal for him, talking to strangers. It still is. And not just strangers either. Recently, I suggested he go and knock on the door of a neighbouring classmate to see if he wanted to play. “I’m not the kind of guy who just knocks on people’s doors!” he yelled at me, exasperated. But he really wanted some CDs that day, so he plucked up his courage and approached the guy. Now, I should say at this point that I would probably have been a little nervous to approach this guy too. He was a big dude. Kind of a biker type. Big boots. Utilikilt. A lot of piercings. Big black dreads in his hair and the beard of a pirate. Yup, think East Van pirate and you’ve probably got a pretty accurate image of this guy in your head. He seemed a bit gruff, to say the least, but The Boy wanted some CDs.

“Which ones are you interested in?” he asked The Boy. “Show me.”

The Boy led him over to the books of CDs and started flipping slowly through the pages again. None of the names were bands he knew. There wasn’t a LMFAO or a Katy Perry in the bunch.

“That’s a good one. You know Bob Marley?” the guy asked.

The Boy shook his head.

“How about David Bowie? You know him?”

The Boy shook his head.

“How much are they?” The Boy managed to ask again, still looking at the CDs rather than the guy.

“I’ll tell you what,” said the guy after a pause. “You can have as many of these CDs as you want…for free…”

The Boy’s eyes flashed open and flew to the guy’s face. Free is his favourite thing! Was this guy kidding?

“You can have as many of these CDs as you want…for free…under one condition…”

The Boy didn’t falter. He wanted those CDs. He was ready for anything.

“You have to listen to every single CD, all the way through, at least once. If you don’t like one, you never have to listen to it ever again. But you have to listen to it from beginning to end at least once. If you’re willing to do that, you can have as many as you want. Okay?”

The Boy nodded enthusiastically as we watched, somewhat dumbfounded. Along with the guy’s encouragement, The Boy picked out a big stack of CDs. The Pretenders. The Kinks. Aretha Franklin. Devo. Bowie. Marley. The list went on and on. It was a pretty amazing score.

“And when you’ve listened to all those, you know where I live, come back and I’ll give you some more,” the guy told him.

That night, The Boy fell asleep listening to his new favourite CD over  and over again, The Blues Brothers. And over the next while, he listened to every CD in his new collection, at least once.

We ran into the guy about a week later and his face lit up when he saw The Boy. He did some kind of macho fist bump thing that The Boy didn’t quite know what to do with but was thrilled to be included in all the same. He told us his name was Steve. One day, when we were attending an outdoor festival in a park by our house, there was a big piece of paper where people were asked to write down great things about our neighbourhood. The Boy wrote, “Getting CDs from Steve”.

There are a lot of things we wish we could change about our kids’ lives from before we adopted them. One of those things was the lack of good men they knew. The Boy really loves the time he gets to spend now with his Big Brother, with his uncle, with Grandpa and pretty much any other man we know and trust. Make no mistake, having two moms is just fine with him, but he sure does love the men in his life and so do we. Steve is no exception. In that small interaction that summer day, he did so many things right, probably without even realizing it. And every time we saw him out walking with his old dog, driving in his big truck, or riding by on his badass bike, when he saw The Boy his face would light up in the same way. And it made our guy feel important.

Good men are important for boys. They don’t have to be dads. They don’t have to be superheroes. But their presence, their old CDs, and their fist bumps can let a little guy know he belongs somewhere, that he’s connected–whether it’s through music or neighbourhood or family–to something cool and that he is always welcome.

We live in a new neighbourhood now but I often think of Steve and feel grateful every time I do. Sometimes I think of him when I see the giant posterboard of The Blues Brothers that sits on our son’s dresser. Sometimes it’s when I feed his fish, Bob Marley. But every time I think of him, I feel a little lump in my throat and I can’t help but smile.

Thanks, Steve. And thanks to all the good men out there who take a minute now and then to make a difference in a little boy’s life. I’m really glad to have you in our neighbourhood.

 

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