There Is Here

Like so many others across Canada and beyond, I am doing as I should, and staying home during this COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-February we traveled to visit family in Malaysia and while gone, seeing as how the car would just sit in the garage, I put parked car insurance on it. When we returned to Edmonton, we did 16 days isolation and then, due to the situation, any travel for me was restricted to a limited number of places. So, being retired, I just stayed home, and my car insurance remained unchanged.

Don’t get the idea that I had no desire to get out once in a while. Of course I did. And also, in the garage, I had a way to make that happen. My motorcycle!

Now, seeing as how a motorcycle is not a car, I couldn’t get parked car insurance for it, therefore its insurance remained in full force. So I could get out and move around a bit – right?

There was, unfortunately, a bit of an issue however. Mother Nature. Seems that this year, she had decided that Spring would be delayed. And delayed. And delayed. The last two years, I was able to get out on my bike end of March, beginning of April. Not this year. First day out, when the roads and weather were fairly decent, was April 15. And more importantly, the #%&*@^ ice was finally gone from the laneway in front of the garage.

In the month since my first journey out this year, I have been out on the bike about twenty times. There were a few blank days due to low temperatures or rain, with a wee bit of snow thrown in as well. It is Alberta after all.

The question is, with all this COVID-19 stuff, where do I go. You may have heard an expression, “you can’t get there from here”. In my case, I can. Because, you see, there is here.

I would go out for a ride, sometimes 150 to 200 kilometres, and my destination was always my start, so, there is here. The only stop I might make on a ride was to fuel up, and that was seldom as my bike gets very good fuel mileage.

I know I am not alone in this type of endeavor. I have a number of retired military comrades who also ride, and for many of them the experience is the same.

Bottom line. It is really nice to get out, see different areas of surrounding countryside, receive “wind therapy” as we call the ride. However, until such time as we can actually go more places, this fact will remain accurate.

There is here!

Yes, We Have No Bananas

I have a friend. His name is Jim. Usually though, I refer to him as Gunky. Strangely enough, usually he refers to me as Gunky. That’s the way we roll. The title of this post is one of our favourite expressions.

Jim and I first met September 1970 in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, when we began recruit training for the Canadian military.

We have both gone through a great many stages in our lives, some with each other, however most apart. Yet, in some inexplicable fashion, we were always together, linked by some unfathomable force.

Such has been our friendship over time.

What is friendship? I came across this description from Friendship – Simple English Wikipedia. “Friendship means familiar and liking of each other’s mind. People who are friends talk to each other and spend time together. … A friend is one who admires a person’s skill and helps or encourages them to make the right choices and do not get into any trouble at all.

If one fires up their favourite search engine and enters “friend” or “friendship” there comes a plethora of information, some of which may actually be germane to one’s personal situation.

Generally, I believe that each friendship is unique, and as such, one can have many friendships (be they casual or profound), all different in some way (minuscule or significant).

Interestingly enough, Jim and I are what could be considered a “loose fit” for the description I provided above. Particularly the ‘talking to/spending time with’ and ‘not getting into trouble’ parts. You see — we don’t really do these parts as described.

‘Not getting into trouble’ is a topic for another time. Suffice to say, there could potentially be more than enough subject matter available.

The ‘talking to/spending time with’ is my focus for today. I believe this area shows the depth of our friendship.

First, the ‘spending time with’ part. Oh yeah, we have had times where we lived together (basic training, trades training 1970-72) or lived close by (1984-87 while I was stationed in Nova Scotia). For the most part however, we have lived far apart, and on more than one occasion, have had absolutely no idea where the other was.

As far as the ‘talking to’ part, this might be considered by others to be a bit of a “dog’s breakfast”, particularly during the periods we were not near each other. That would account for forty-four of the last fifty years. Actually for the last ten or so years we have been connected via social media (primarily Facebook), so now there are only thirty-four years to account for.

During those years we would pop in and out of each other’s lives on a sporadic basis, often with gaps of several years. One thing however was consistent. When we would get together, it would be as if no time had passed, as if we had just spoken the day before. On occasion even our conversation subject would continue from our last encounter. For example, years ago, I was living in Ottawa, there was a knock on the door, and there was Gunky, unannounced, unexpected, but definitely not unwelcome. In he came, we sat down, shared a beverage (or two), and continued as if it were a normal daily visit. Four years ago, while Kim and I were in Nova Scotia, we stopped in to visit he and Ruby. It was just as if we were regulars at their place.

I have always marveled at this aspect of our relationship and consider it an indication of how deep our friendship is.

There are, of course, many other aspects of our friendship, things we have done together, experiences we have shared, and so on. This particular aspect is one I cherish and am extremely thankful for.

Take that Gunky!

Memories – Usually A Good Thing

Near as I can recall, it was the summer of 2008 that I became active on social media, basically Twitter and Facebook. Now, if you look off to the right, you can see I’m still active (at least to some degree) and in more than just those two.

Today, one aspect of social media, and some software, which has evolved over the years, is the concept of “memories”. Facebook will remind me of posts which I have made, my photo software will remind me of pictures which I have taken, and so on.

I am liking this more and more as I grow older. These memories are, in various ways, snippets of me. What I have done, who I am, what I think about, what affects me. Generally they are positive. If not, they may be critical but not in a destructive manner.

As I move forward with my blog, I will be sharing some of my memories with you. I will place them here as a post, or perhaps as a story which you can access from the menu above.

Four years ago I shared the video below on Facebook and the memory showed up on my timeline today. Now I share the message it contains with you.

Thank you for reading.

My blog is slowly growing, comments, likes and follows are greatly appreciated. I am working to increase my interactions with others as well.

Bringing Back The Past

Finally!

I have completed the first part of a project that I have long thought about. Writing and compiling stories from my past, and adding at least some of them to my blog.

I published the first one yesterday, “The Murphy’s Law Vacation”, where I relate events from a family trip taken forty years ago.

I am planning to do more, although folks won’t have to wait another forty years for the next one, particularly since I am already into my eighth decade now.

Short post this time, however I wanted to make sure I got this project on the record. Harder to back out now! Ha!

Stay Tuned & Visit Often

Has Spring Sprung?

My last post was the beginning of January and so much has happened in the past few months.

I have thought many times about doing a post, however it is obvious that thinking and doing are vastly different.

The spark for this blog post was rain, or more accurately, the smell of approaching rain.

As a youngster growing up in the rural countryside of central Alberta, just northeast of Edmonton, one of my fond memories was the smell of a pending spring rain, bringing with it life and freshness to wash away the final vestiges of winter. Sitting in my home office yesterday afternoon that delightful smell entered my window and once again touched my olfactory receptors. The rains came after and continued in a steady fashion for just over twelve hours. Overnight the lawn across from us has changed from brown to green.

Methinks I will need to type a blog post or two in the next while to catch up on the events of the past few months, both local and international, along with their effect on us. For now though, I will just concentrate, and enjoy, the fresh smell of a spring rain.

When Seniors Age

This post does not originate with me, but rather has traveled across different parts of the globe.

Written by a gentleman in Georgia, USA, for a local paper, I came across it contained in a Vietnamese blog (maybienvh.wordpress.com).

Being well over 65 I think this is a great list, which we should pay attention to as we grow older. It is a good read. Enjoy!

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“AN EXCELLENT LIST FOR THE AGED”

By Steve Korker, The Miller County Liberal, Moultrie Ga. (May 27, 2017)

01 – It’s time to use the money you saved up. Use it and enjoy it. Don’t just keep it for those who may have no notion of the sacrifices you made to get it. Remember there is nothing more dangerous than a son or daughter-in-law with big ideas for your hard-earned capital. Warning: This is also a bad time for investments, even if it seems wonderful or fool-proof. They only bring problems and worries. This is a time for you to enjoy some peace and quiet.

02 – Stop worrying about the financial situation of your children and grandchildren, and don’t feel bad spending your money on yourself. You’ve taken care of them for many years, and you’ve taught them what you could. You gave them an education, food, shelter and support. The responsibility is now theirs to earn their own money.

03 – Keep a healthy life, without great physical effort . Do moderate exercise (like walking every day), eat well and get your sleep. It’s easy to become sick, and it gets harder to remain healthy. That is why you need to keep yourself in good shape and be aware of your medical and physical needs. Keep in touch with your doctor, do tests even when you’re feeling well. Stay informed.

04 – Always buy the best, most beautiful items for your significant other. The key goal is to enjoy your money with your partner. One day one of you will miss the other, and the money will not provide any comfort then, enjoy it now together.

05 – Don’t stress over the little things. You’ve already overcome so much in your life. You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present. Don’t let the past drag you down and don’t let the future frighten you. Feel good in the now. Small issues will soon be forgotten.

06 – Regardless of age, always keep love alive. Love your partner, love life, love your family, love your neighbor and remember: A man is not old as long as he has intelligence and affection.

07 – Be proud, both inside and out. Don’t stop going to your hair salon or barber, do your nails, go to the dermatologist and the dentist, keep your perfumes and creams well stocked. When you are well-maintained on the outside, it seeps in, making you feel proud and strong.

08 – Don’t lose sight of fashion trends for your age, but keep your own sense of style. There’s nothing worse than an older person trying to wear the current fashion among youngsters. You’ve developed your own sense of what looks good on you – keep it and be proud of it. It’s part of who you are.

09 – Always stay up-to-date. Read newspapers, watch the news. Go online and read what people are saying. Make sure you have an active email account and try to use some of those social networks. You’ll be surprised what old friends you’ll meet. Keeping in touch with what is going on and with the people you know is important at any age.

10 – Respect the younger generation and their opinions. They may not have the same ideals as you, but they are the future, and will take the world in their direction. Give advice, not criticism, and try to remind them that yesterday’s wisdom still applies today.

11 – Never use the phrase ‘In my time.’ Your time is now. As long as you’re alive, you are part of this time. You may have been younger, but you are still you now, having fun and enjoying life.

12 – Some people embrace their golden years, while others become bitter and surly. Life is too short to waste your days on the latter. Spend your time with positive, cheerful people, it’ll rub off on you and your days will seem that much better. Spending your time with bitter people will make you older and harder to be around.

13 – Do not surrender to the temptation of living with your children or grandchildren (if you have a financial choice, that is). Sure, being surrounded by family sounds great, but we all need our privacy. They need theirs and you need yours. If you’ve lost your partner (our deepest condolences), then find a person to move in with you and help out. Even then, do so only if you feel you really need the help or do not want to live alone.

14 – Don’t abandon your hobbies. If you don’t have any, make new ones. You can travel, hike, cook, read, dance. You can adopt a cat or a dog, grow a garden, play cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, golf. You can paint, volunteer or just collect certain items. Find something you like and spend some real time having fun with it.

15 – Even if you don’t feel like it, try to accept invitations. Baptisms, graduations, birthdays, weddings, conferences. Try to go. Get out of the house, meet people you haven’t seen in a while, experience something new (or something old). But don’t get upset when you’re not invited. Some events are limited by resources, and not everyone can be hosted. The important thing is to leave the house from time to time. Go to museums, go walk through a field. Get out there.

16 – Be a conversationalist. Talk less and listen more. Some people go on and on about the past, not caring if their listeners are really interested. That’s a great way of reducing their desire to speak with you. Listen first and answer questions, but don’t go off into long stories unless asked to. Speak in courteous tones and try not to complain or criticize too much unless you really need to. Try to accept situations as they are. Everyone is going through the same things, and people have a low tolerance for hearing complaints. Always find some good things to say as well.

17 – Pain and discomfort go hand in hand with getting older. Try not to dwell on them but accept them as a part of the cycle of life we’re all going through. Try to minimize them in your mind. They are not who you are, they are something that life added to you. If they become your entire focus, you lose sight of the person you used to be.

18 – If you’ve been offended by someone – forgive them. If you’ve offended someone – apologize. Don’t drag around resentment with you. It only serves to make you sad and bitter. It doesn’t matter who was right. Someone once said: Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. Don’t take that poison. Forgive, forget and move on with your life.

19 – If you have a strong belief, savor it. But don’t waste your time trying to convince others. They will make their own choices no matter what you tell them, and it will only bring you frustration. Live your faith and set an example. Live true to your beliefs and let that memory sway them.

20 – Laugh a lot. Laugh at everything. Remember, you are one of the lucky ones. You managed to have a life, a long one. Many never get to this age, never get to experience a full life. But you did. So, what’s not to laugh about? Find the humor in your situation.

21 – Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. They’ll do it anyway, and you should have pride in yourself and what you’ve achieved. Let them talk and don’t worry. They have no idea about your history, your memories and the life you’ve lived so far. There’s still much to be written, so get busy writing and don’t waste time thinking about what others might think. Now is the time to be at rest, at peace and as happy as you can be!

And, remember: Life is too short to drink bad wine! Or, in my case, a bad “Arnold Palmer,” (a drink that is half sweet tea, half lemonade.)

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Hope you enjoyed this list. Catch you in the next blog post.

2019 – Almost Done

Well, here we are, approaching the beginning of 2020 and as often happens, folks say it is time for reflection and review of the soon to end year.

2019 has been an interesting year for me. It’s the first year I have been officially retired and unemployed. During the year I marked my 70th birthday, spent two months in Malaysia, met the Governor General of Canada, logged about 7000km on motorcycles, participated in Kiwanis activities in two countries, didn’t win the lottery, and lost several good friends.

On the family side of things, Kim and I celebrated twenty years of marriage, son Colin became engaged to Amy, daughter Anita and her husband Aaron had their 10th anniversary, daughter Jaclyn and son Colin both had their 40th birthdays, oldest grandchild Valen became eighteen, Kim’s brother Philip passed away in November and her brother Jimmy overcame a serious health issue about the same time.

Overall though, it was my year, the year that I experienced, having both highs and lows.

Losing friends is a difficult part of our existance, a part which is never easy. This year I lost five good friends, one being family, and the latest happened while I was developing this post. Each person was very special in their own way, and each is an important part of my year.

Just after mid January I headed off to Malaysia for two months. My home base is Melaka and I traveled several times to Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur. The intercity bus service was excellent and travel was quite comfortable. I also got some wind therapy in Melaka by putting in almost 1000 km on a rented scooter. Visiting with family and friends, along with a number of Kiwanis functions, kept me quite busy most of the time. Oh, and as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the food. Missing the coldest February and March to hit Edmonton in years was a bonus.

Shortly after my return to Canada, son Colin and his lady, Amy, came to visit from “Jolly Old”. Not only did he celebrate his birthday during the visit, he proposed to Amy while spending time in Kananaskis Country (she said yes). A short time later it was back to England for them. Quite a successful visit for sure.

Will You – Yes I Will

Less than two weeks later, Kim and I were off to Ottawa for a very special occasion. I was to be presented with the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers by Her Excellency Governor General Julie Payette. It was a great honour as well as an amazing event.

After our return to Edmonton, lo and behold, it was summer. Our local Veterans UN/NATO Canada crews put on a successful fundraising event at the Kipnes Centre for Veterans. Shortly after Kim and I celebrated our 20th anniversary, and then came the Kiwanis Club of South Edmonton Annual Summer Picnic. I helped provide communications for the annual Edmonton Heritage Festival, and a week later we were attending the Kiwanis Western Canada District Convention. During all this, I managed to get in about 6000 km on my motorcycle, albeit mostly local around Edmonton.

Late September saw a number of our Veterans Crew head down to Red Deer to honour one of our members, Terry Turner, who had passed away in the spring. We sponsored a flag and plaque in his memory for the annual Flags of Remembrance ceremony. The flags and plaques were on display for two months (until Remembrance Day). When they were taken down, there was another ceremony where they were presented back to the sponsors or family. Kim and I took Terry’s wife Wendy to Red Deer and she received his flag and plaque.

Wrapping up the last quarter of the year were a number of Kiwanis activities along with our Veterans Group Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Well, there you go, a bit of an overview of my year. A sampling, as it were. There were, of course, many more happenings and events, however those included here are key memory items for me.

In a few days, a new year of happenings, events, and memories will commence. Bring it on 2020, lets see what you’ve got.

Wind Therapy

Many folks will read the title of this blog post and know instantly what I will be talking about.

As I go thru life I have done and enjoyed a good number of things. One that I did when younger, then missed out on for about forty years, and have taken up again, is riding a motorcycle.

Riding a bike on an open road provides that magic panacea, “wind therapy”.

It matters not whether one is alone, or with a group, wind therapy is present.

Like many bikers, I frequently ride alone, often on lightly traveled roads that have varying characteristics (up and down, nice curves), usually at or near the posted speeds. It can be, to a degree, therapeutic, this wind therapy.

Other times, we ride in groups, perhaps two or three riders, often about ten or so, sometimes many more as is shown in the video below.

Leaving Wainwright heading towards Edmonton.

This ride occurred in August 2018. The Rolling Barrage is a rolling fundraiser presented by Military Minds Inc, in support of veterans, serving members and first responders, as a show of strength, and unity to conquer the stigma of PTSD. A good number of the participants ride from the Atlantic to the Pacific across Canada. A number of our local veterans rode from Edmonton to Wainwright (just over 200 km) to meet the Rolling Barrage and accompany them to Edmonton. The video is from my helmet cam showing us leaving Wainwright with a police escort.

Most bikers are very generous people and we can often be seen getting our wind therapy by riding in fundraising charity events. A definite win-win situation.

The reason for this blog post in mid-December. Well… I miss my wind therapy! Although I can’t get out on the bike in a Canadian winter (it is hibernating in the garage), today I can reminisce with my videos and share with others, giving me a pseudo fix at least.

Getting Older – Not Fussy About It

Not really sure about this getting older thing. I’m not going to say I’m old, because there is always folks who are older than I, and at least one of them will be sure to point that out. At least that’s how it seems to go.

Anyway, last month I entered my eighth decade, which surely means I’m getting older, at least by some scale of measurement.

I know that I have gotten to the point that I actually do suffer from what I call (very tongue in cheek) part-timers, when I forget things part of the time. There are many folks who tell me that they suffer from the same thing. For instance, when speaking of someone, I can see them oh so clearly in my mind, however their name seems to be on holiday on the far side of the moon or some other unreachable place. Makes for a great conversation as we try to identify them utilizing a number of various descriptive techniques, to essentially no success. And then, of course, the person’s name comes to vivid recollection long after the conversation has been completed, in the process accomplishing nothing, other than creating the occasional utterances of frustration generated verbage.

As well, there are times when my body gives the occasional indication that there are other aspects to growing older as well. Occasionally with a sharp reminder that “you can’t do that anymore”, but generally with usually subtle hints that I am not as quick, flexible, strong, sharp-eyed, handy (you get the idea), as perhaps I once was. When these hints occur, they may be met with a degree of frustration, however mostly with the realization that they “come with the territory”. I also have an arthritic hip and at some point I will be able to relate to Steve Austin when at least part of me becomes a bionic man.

Becoming older brings other aspects though, one of which is entitled “retirement”.

Now “retirement” is an interesting phase of one’s life. I am at a bit of a loss as to how to define it in real terms. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines retirement as “withdrawal from one’s position or occuaption or from active working life”. However, should you ask, say 100 people, to describe retirement, you would likely get quite a number of different responses. I know retired people who are seldom home because they travel so much, others who say they have never been so busy in their lives, still others who sit at home and do absolutely nothing. For myself, I am actually somewhere in the middle. For instance, I had never traveled outside of Canada and USA until I was 60 and went to Switzerland for a Kiwanis Convention. Now I travel to Malaysia for two to three months almost annually and scoot around Asia a bit while there. After retirement I worked as a casual guard in a RCMP cellblock for over six years, I remain active with Kiwanis in Canada and Malaysia, am active with a veterans group in Canada, and just over two years ago I took up motorcycle riding again (after 40 years). Does that mean I’m busy, busy? Not really, as I also spend quite a bit of time at home, much of that online for both volunteer and personal activities.

Getting older also means, losing people that I know, at what seems an ever increasing rate. Now, throughout my life I have lost people I have known as a result of natural causes, and usually they were quite a  bit older than me. This is no longer the case, as essentially some are around my age or younger. Each occurance does tend to give me pause for thought.

Are there benefits of getting older? Of course there are. Experiences I have had, people I have met, the good I have been able to do for others, and of course, grandchildren. I would not be the person I am without getting older, making mistakes, learning from them, helping others avoid them.

Getting older is not a bad thing, it is not something I dislike, I am just not fussy about it.

And one more thing. You will note that this whole blog has been about getting older. It has not been about growing up, because I never plan to do that.

D-Day Plus 75 Years

As I type this, it is just about 0600 hours, June 6, 2019, off the coast of Normandy, exactly seventy-five years after the D-Day Invasion.

My father was an officer with the 43rd Battery, 12th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, part of the Canadian contingent assigned to Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

The 12th Field objective was to land at Courseulles-sur Mer, “Mike Green” as they knew it.

The air bombardment began at 0300 hours. At about 0630 hours the LCTs deployed for their firing run-in and at 0715 the blue flag broke out and corvettes, destroyers, cruisers, four regiments of artillery, landing craft rockets and landing craft guns began firing.

The first 12th Field Regiment vehicle landed on “Mike Green” at 0845 hours and as the remainder landed and deployed they were immediately called upon for supporting fire, starting at about 1400 yards. In doing so, they were the first artillery regiment to fire in France.

About 1530 hours the main exit had been cleared of mines and they moved to their first position inland, near Bannville. Casualties and equipment losses were not that serious and they had twenty-four guns in action off the beach.

In a few short paragraphs I have provided a quick overview of a day that in many ways likely defies description.

My father basically never talked about his wartime experiences. I have gotten the majority of my knowledge from online research and a book entitled “Into Action With The 12th Field”, essentially a history of the regiment.

I was prompted to write this today after encountering so many emotional individual tales depicting D-Day.

This is but a small portion of one of the most massive events in history, however it is an important portion to me. My father survived D-Day, and survived the remainder of the war, although he was injured in March 1945. He survived long enough to meet and marry our mother, raise three children, and do many amazing things until his death in 1992.

Interestingly, my father’s brother was serving on one of the Royal Canadian Navy corvettes that were part of the D-Day armada. He also survived and outlived his brother.

In some ways, this was not very easy to write, however to me it was important to do so. I do thank you for reading and appreciate any comments you may have.