Farewell My Friend

Just over two weeks ago I did a blog post and a podcast about attending a special Remembrance Day Ceremony for Mike, a friend and fellow veteran, suffering from Stage 4 prostate cancer. It was a very special event.

Today I got the sad news that he passed away this morning.

Mike was a loving husband and father, a caring friend, a distinguished soldier, a proud veteran and a patriotic Canadian.

He will be greatly missed by all. Condolences and love to his family.

Bravo Zulu Mike, for a life well lived.

A Very Special Remembrance Day

For myself and a couple hundred others, Remembrance Day was different this year.

Not because of the weather, although it was not the usual weather for Remembrance Day in Edmonton. It was sunny, blue skies, and 5C. The weather was excellent.

This year, the location for all of us was different from the usual. We were not at a cenotaph, or a Legion hall, or a high school gym. We were gathered at Mike’s driveway.

Now, why on earth would we gather at Mike’s driveway, and for that matter, who is Mike.

Well, Mike is a friend and fellow veteran. He had 35 years of service, been wounded in Afghanistan, and has not missed a Remembrance Day ceremony for as long as we can figure.

So, why his driveway of all places.

You see, Mike is suffering from stage 4 prostate cancer, and his daughters knew that, because of his dedication to Remembrance Day, he would ignore his pain and travel to attend the local ceremonies. To prevent that, they came up with a plan.

They called out to Mike’s friends, colleagues and fellow veterans, inviting them to take part in a Remembrance Day ceremony of sorts in front of Mike’s house. And thusly came into being, “A Very Special Remembrance Day”.

In response to the efforts, persistence and dedication of Mike’s daughters, many others became involved in various ways and a most wonderful event was the result.

A local cafe provided coffee, cocoa, and special Remembrance Day cookies. There was a piper, another provided a mike and speaker system. One of Mike’s fellow veterans used the PA system on his truck to provide the appropriate Remembrance Day music. There was a chap who called Mike’s daughter and asked if they had a flag. She indicated no, and he indicated, well now you do. Then he proceeded to come by and erect a temporary flag pole in front of the house. During the ceremony the Canadian flag was lowered to half-mast as per protocols thanks to this gentleman.

Mike is a biker, so what should appear, but about half a dozen motorcycles which arrived and parked on the side of his driveway.

At the beginning of this you will recall I had mentioned a couple hundred others. Both directions up and down the street were packed with people.

When the ceremonies began, all serving members and veterans in attendance formed up and came to attention under the direction of Margaret, our honourary sergeant-major. Having had much experience as a military wife during her ninety-five years, she certainly had all of us in order.

After the ceremony there were a few speeches, including a lovely one from Mike’s daughter. There were a few presentations, including one from Mike’s former colleagues at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.

Mike shared some very emotional words as we came to the end of the event, which touched all of us.

Just at the end, after concluding their own Remembrance Day ceremony, members from the local Royal Canadian Legion arrived, including a colour party, and performed one final presentation to Mike.

As I had indicted in my podcast earlier, it was a different, and most excellent, Remembrance Day ceremony. One of the best that I have attended.

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of the event.

It was indeed – A Very Special Remembrance Day

Crash of BOXTOP 22

It has been suggested by friends that I write and podcast about my military career, and I have decided to do just that from time to time moving forward.

First however, I am writing about something that happened shortly after I retired, but not to me.

As part of my time in the Canadian Armed Forces, I had four tours of duty at Canadian Forces Station Alert, in Canada’s Far North. We would travel there by CC130 Hercules aircraft, flying from Trenton, Ontario, quite often via Thule, Greenland.

Later in the year that I retired, such a flight, callsign “BOXTOP 22”, crashed on approach to Alert. There were eighteen passengers and crew on board, and almost miraculously, thirteen survived.

Earlier today on Facebook I posted an article from the Canadian Military Family Magazine remembering the crash, as well as a photo of the aircraft wreckage on the ground in Alert now. Here is the link to that article.

Shortly after I had posted the article, a fellow trade member, and a crash survivor, posted a short video about the event. He kindly sent it to me and I shared it on Facebook and also share it here.

Although I had retired from the military by then, when I watched the video this morning I found myself to be quite emotional. Knowing people who were on that aircraft, and actually having flown on that particular plane, CC130 – 130322, a couple of occasions previously, it struck very close to home.

Below is the video and then the photo of the plane as it is currently.

Roll Call (courtesy of Monty Montgomery)
Here is the aircraft as it is today. (Courtesy of veterans.gc.ca)

My thanks to Monty for sharing the video.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

Pain – A Personal Perspective

Today, I thought that I would write about pain. Not in a technical, medical or scientific fashion. Rather in personal thoughts, opinions, experiences and observations.

To me, pain manifests itself physically, mentally and emotionally, at times all three simultaneously. A prime example of this would be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Being a member of a military veterans group, I have a number of friends who suffer from varying amounts of PTSD, which they are usually able to deal with it in a number of different ways. They may use some combination of a cautious and guarded lifestyle, or utilize medicines and cannabis products, or have supporting service animals. One thing all have is a cadre of brothers and sisters who make themselves available when needed.

Personally I am fortunate suffering only slightly from PTSD as a consequence of a couple events in my past.

So what prompted me to decide to write about pain today.

Well, partially because I suffer from pain myself, and some of my observations of others in pain, much of which is complicated by our current Covid-19 pandemic.

My personal aspect is that I have severely arthritic hip and am on the list for a total hip replacement. Due to the Covid Delta variant filling hospital ICUs basically all scheduled elective surgeries in Alberta have been cancelled or seriously delayed. My brother recently asked about my hip and I told him I was lucky that my surgery had not been postponed or cancelled, however that was most likely because it wasn’t scheduled yet.

So, because of my hip, I have pretty much daily pain. How much varies with my activities, the weather, and quite possibly, the whim of the pain gods. I am like any number of folks with a similar ailment, and do the same as most must do, which is just put up with it as best I can. I know there are many people awaiting various surgeries whose circumstances are much more difficult than mine.

At times, the physical pain is not the primary issue. The mental/emotional pain is. The frustration of not being able to do any number of routine tasks is.

I was unable to ride my motorcycle as the pain would not allow to mount the machine. So, eventually the remedy was to replace my cruiser with a trike, which I was then able to ride. However, as my hip changes, even riding the trike is difficult. Now it is put away for the winter so who knows what spring’s arrival will hold.

Fortunately I am still able to walk, with a cane, but stairs definitely slow me down. I am still able to drive my car, but getting in and out is definitely not a speedy operation. The bathroom is now fitted with mobility assist devices. Getting dressed meant developing new techniques, particularly putting on socks. There is a specific procedure for sitting down and standing up, and not all chairs are suitable.

I don’t say these things to complain. They are part of the process. They are, however, indications of the frustrations I have experienced. Now add to this, the aspect of the Covid pandemic, which has curtailed physical contact with friends and colleagues, and almost eliminated many of the volunteer activities I was used to doing with both my local Kiwanis club and my veterans group. Even with my hip pain I was able to do some of these things as well as travel with my wife to visit our children and grandchildren in Malaysia. Now all on hold.

I would be lying if these situations didn’t lead to some degree of mental/emotional pain. I like to be involved in things and have found that when I do nothing, then I do nothing, almost like withdrawing. Unfortunately my wife, God love her, is the one who has to deal with me. Honestly, I would be in much worse shape if not for her.

With her kicking my ass, in a manner of speaking, I am making an effort to be more active, hence an increased blog post activity, beginning a podcast and a few other things. As well, I have a friend in Nova Scotia, his name is Rob, who has been stirring up some of my creative juices as well, so we’ll see how things go. There will be more about both these two in future blogs and podcasts.

Most people know that pain is a challenge. A challenge which, with support, although we may not be able to overcome it, we can adjust to deal with it to a large degree.

Thank you for reading. As always, your comments are welcome.

Autumn Is Showing It’s Hand

Looking out of my home office window this morning, I saw a sight that is totally representative of this time of year in Alberta.

The mid-morning sun removing the evidence of our first frost from the roof across the street, which in itself is the precursor of colder weather to come. Behind we can see two trees, one decked out in it’s autumn colours, and the other not yet ready to do so.

At my location, on the south side of Edmonton, this morning we awoke to a temperature of -2C, hence the frost on the roofs in the neighbourhood. You will note the clear blue sky, which, while nice, can in our climes can lead to lower temperatures during the cooler months of the year as clouds tend to hold any warm air down, particularly over cities.

Trees, like people, come in many different versions, where Alberta’s changing weather is concerned. Some people will grab a sweater at the slightest indication of cooler autumn weather, whereas some trees will seemingly instantly have their leaves change colour. Other people just carry on for much longer, perhaps even staying in shorts and t-shirt, not unlike the trees which retain their normal foliage for a while longer. Eventually, they as well will don their sweater, or change their leaves. And, like people’s sweaters, when the time comes, some trees will display a simple shade of leaves, whereas others will offer up a vivid potpourri of crimson, gold and brown.

Autumn is showing it’s hand, giving us a warning, and reminding us, that it’s time to consider any preparations we need to make prior to the inevitable arrival of autumn’s nastier relative, winter.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome. Thank you.

Put Down Your #&%#$ Phone!

The Blinky Thing

Whilst on the World Wide Web today I came across this image. I shared it as a bit of humour on a Canada veterans group to which I belong, applying the remark “This could really work if more drivers got their face out of their phones.”

I had typed that remark because many of my fellow veterans are, like myself, motorcycle riders, and vehicle driver phone use is a sore point with us. Not only us actually, but all bikers. As I posted the photo my mind said, “Hmm, there could be a blog post about this”, and sure enough, here we are.

Like many bikers, I started riding long before cellphones were a thing. In the ’40s and ’50s, what was perhaps the cell phone’s predecessor, existed for many of us in the form of Dick Tracy’s wrist radio.

As a person who rides a motorcycle, there are few things that upset me more than those who use their cellphones in anything other than hands-free mode. They are doing something that seriously takes their attention away from their driving and becomes a major danger to other vehicles on the road, particularly motorcycles as many drivers don’t notice us all that well at the best of times.

Unfortunately, I, like many in the motorcycle community, know fellow riders who have been killed or seriously injured as a result of improper cellphone use. These events cut very close to home, and I have narrowly avoided a very bad situation a couple of times myself.

If a text, or any other cellphone related activity, is so important to risk a person’s life, then bloody well pull off to the side of the road, stop, and stay there until you are done. Otherwise, as the title of this blog says, “Put Down Your #&%#$ Phone!”

Please don’t use your phone. The possible tragedy which can result is something that you will have to live with the rest of your life. Unfortunately we may not.

As always, comments and feedback are always welcome.

Thoughts About Family

Aging is an interesting process, and of course there is only one thing that can stop it, seeing as how nobody has discovered the Fountain of Youth, or if they have, they are certainly not sharing that information.

As I am continuing to age, I have become increasingly interested in knowing more about my family history. To this end I have been doing research using a number of genealogy and family history archive sites and have constructed a family tree using Ancestry, having been a member since 2014.

For me, delving into family history runs in spurts, at times on the front burner with the heat on high, and other times on the back burner with the heat turned off. One thing though, it’s always on a burner somewhere, not put away in storage and forgotten.

Yet, with all this interest in family history, I have had very little contact with my cousins or their families, either in real life or social media (which is only a shadow of real life). Not for any specific reason, just that life happens and we were all on different roads.

Recently however, my sister forwarded an email to my brother and I from our oldest cousin, that he had just become a grandfather. As I am a grandfather of seven, this struck a note with me, and I sent him an email of congratulations, along with a little blurb of happenings with me. In return he sent along a recent family update that he produces each year, and a blurb of happenings with him.

A few days later I received an email from another of my cousins. It seems that my email had been forwarded to all the cousins. Lo and behold, this particular cousin also had an interest in family history and soon we were exchanging information and we look forward to further collaboration.

Not long after that I heard from yet another cousin and we corresponded as well.

As I continue to age, I have been the family patriarch for a number of years, and am known by some family members as the Old Guy In Edmonton, or by some folks simply as the Old Fart (which is okay).

That being said however, I am excited and very happy to be connecting with my cousins and their families, yes, their families as well. I am reasonably active on social media and, since sending congratulations to my cousin, I am now connected with not only him, but a couple of his siblings, and several of their children. It is so interesting learning things about all of them, and sharing things from Kim and I as well as our children and grandchildren.

Maybe that is all part of what aging is about. Life, learning and family. Certainly much better than some of the other things we have to deal with in our daily lives.

Thoughts about family are important, because family is important.

In this world we are all different, and it would be most interesting to hear your thoughts about family.

Comments and thoughts are always welcome.

Podcast – Up And Running (It’s A Beginning)

This is just a short blog post to provide updated information on my fledgling podcast.

While working on my blog posts I had noticed that there was a podcast service associated with WordPress, Anchor, and after reading about it I figured this was perhaps something I could have a try at.

I had been told by various people during my life that I have a good voice for radio, and I did enjoy volunteering as a radio DJ during several tours at a far north military site. So, here we are.

Should you like to have a listen, here is my Anchor Podcast home page. My episodes are available on about a half dozen podcast platforms, and they are listed there.

As always comments are welcome, particularly as I embark on this new experience.

Let’s Talk About Dolichovespula Arenaria

For the vast majority of my readers the title of this blog post may well get a “say what?” type of reaction.

Today I will talk about the Dolichovespula Arenaria, or for those who don’t know Latin, the Common Aerial Yellowjacket Wasp, found throughout Alberta and beyond.

Recently, my wife and I were out for a motorcycle ride, and had a wee stop for a light snack. There we were joined by a few wasps, as they seem to have food radar.

Now most of us think of wasps as disliked pests, or, on occasion, as something to be even despised and eliminated at every opportunity.

It is true that wasps seem to have that type of reputation, however, they do play an important role in the entire circle of life. Wasps actually do way more good than harm. They capture, and consume, various insects such as flies, caterpillars and beetle larvae, hence playing a role in the protection of farm crops and gardens by helping to control the pest populations. As well, similar to bees, they are recognized as valuable pollinators, as they transfer pollen when drinking nectar from flowers.

Today’s subject, the Common Aerial Yellowjacket, are like a cleaning service, when they are out scavenging dead insects to feed their offspring. Often the problem comes when their scavenging habits are combined with their love of sugar, putting them in close proximity of us, humans with food. These situations usually end badly, primarily for the wasps.

For my wife and I, we actually had very interesting time with our lunch companions on this occasion, due to a small piece of candy which fell off an ice cream dessert we had acquired.

We were not only able to observe the wasp, but were able to video it as well. Those videos are shared with you in this blog post. I was most impressed with how they turned out and find them to be quite interesting. I hope you will as well.

I have included four videos for your viewing enjoyment. You will note from the final video that this particular wasp was not into sharing with his companion.

As always, I welcome any comments or feedback you may have. Thanks for reading.

Finds a nice piece of candy.

Sorry about the language of a man walking by with his wife and young daughter.

He really seems to be enjoying this.

Not into sharing it seems.

Coming Soon To A Streaming Service Near You

So… it is often said that one is never too old to learn new things, and I figure that now is a good time to put that axiom to the test.

As a certified (some would say certifiable) old fart, I have decided to get into the world of podcasting.

So you may ask, what will my podcast be about. Perhaps the podcast name will provide a clue. I have decided to call it “Whatever Comes To Mind”.

As far as the schedule for the podcast, it will be whenever that whatever comes to my senior mind (as long as I don’t forget it on the way to the computer).

I have registered with Anchor.fm to do my podcasts and the main objective is to learn some things, have some fun, meet more interesting people and, who knows, maybe even pick up a listener or two.

As always, any comments you may have are welcome.