Of Fathers and Sons-in-Law

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:30 a.m.

I don’t usually like to chat about goings-on in my family; you all have your own lives and your own problems that are probably far more interesting than mine, but indulge me on it this week as I try to make a point or two.

This past weekend, I went to see my nine-one year old father in New York City. Just before I went to see him, his hospice social worker caught up with me and told me that she was just about to call me as she was very concerned about the state of my father’s hair, moustache and beard. My father took a violent dislike to the nursing home barber and refrained from any form of haircut or shave. The social worker asked me if perhaps, I could do something about it. She also commented on how much she loves to visit with my Dad. She loves his stories. Dad tells people great whoppers: he was a four star general, he worked with Eisenhower, and he helped Albert Einstein develop the atom bomb. It is a family mystery to all of us whether Dad actually believes these stories or just simply enjoys pulling everybody’s leg, but Marcy the social worker doesn’t worry about the veracity of his stories; she simply enjoys them and lets Dad enjoy telling them.

When I saw my father, I knew that we really did have to do something. His moustache was curled into his mouth and was caked with the red juice that they gave him to take his medication. It would be easy to accuse the nursing home of negligence, but they have strict rules that you cannot force a resident to have any form of treatment, including barbering. I’ve been told by the staff that my father is normally gentle and friendly, but he can be pretty scary once you get his back up. That’s the Dad that I know and love.

Dad was perfectly amenable to having either of us help him out so it fell to my bearded husband who has far more experience and courage than I do in these matters to wield the scissors and risk the wrath of my impatient father. When we showed up with a just-purchased supply of scissors, comb, and mirror, I fully expected my father to bail on us and flatly refuse the makeover, but I was wrong. We did bring him his favourite treat of seedless grapes plus a Hershey bar which he happily devoured before my very nervous husband started snipping away at the back of Dad’s head.

When the hair was done and my husband got to the sideburns, my Dad asked if my husband would kindly trim his moustache as that was bothering him. With sweat beginning to accumulate all over my husband’s face, he gingerly began hacking away at the encrusted moustache which every now and then pulled at my father. This part was a much more difficult as Dad had to stop munching on the grapes, stop talking, and hold still. All through the procedure, my husband continued to apologize if he was hurting Dad and Dad gently responded that all was well. Then my husband took on Dad’s chest-length beard. By this time, my husband’s shirt was drenched with perspiration as he worked on my father’s face with courage and determination.

Once the procedure was over, we helped my wheelchair-bound father out of his hairy shirt and into a clean one. Seeing my father with his shirt off and with the once muscular arms now flabby made me sad. My father once wielded heavy bags and now he was utterly helpless to even lift a telephone and make a call. The way he maintained his dignity was embellishing his past to strangers.

Finally, my husband gave Dad’s mouth a good cleaning and my father looked much more like a retired officer and gentleman than a wild old hermit of the mountains. I looked at these two important men in my life – my husband and my dad – and remembered how unsure Dad was over thirty-five years ago that the young man who was about to marry me would be the right man for his daughter. I also remembered how, in my mother’s declining years, both of my parents admitted that they had been wrong and that they now loved my husband as if he were their son.

This experience made me realize how short life is and that the people that we trust the least may turn into the ones that we have to count on the most, so we should all be open to changing our minds…and girls, when you fall in love, take a hard look at your husband to be. If he’s the kind of guy that will trim your old dad’s wild and dirty beard some time in the future, you’ve got a winner, no matter how rich or poor he is.

It’s not something that I would have thought of in the days when my father could hold up the world, but I’m convinced that deep down, I knew that my husband would come through for my parents, and in the end for me, and for that, I am truly grateful.

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Digital Community in the Superstorm of 2011

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 5:51 p.m.

It was a difficult drive back last Sunday after visiting my father. We drove through the Adirondack Mountains to Montreal where my husband, who had a meeting in Montreal on Monday, got me to the bus station so that I could take a bus to Sherbrooke. The road conditions were awful in the mountains of New York, and there was a bad accident in which people who had gotten out of their cars were hit by oncoming traffic. Once I was safe at home, the Environment Canada weather warnings made me nervous about what I was to face the next day.

Usually during a snowstorm, I can hear a snow plow going by between 5:00 and 6:00, but all was deadly quiet outside. I got up, ready to walk my dogs and go to work. When I opened my door, snow tumbled in. My car was buried under snow and my driveway was nowhere to be seen. I let the dogs out as I shovelled snow away from my front and back doors and tried to get the excess off my car. One look told me that I wasn’t going anywhere.

Later, I called my colleagues and found out that my employer was telling people who couldn’t make it in to stay home. I called my trusty driveway plow-man and chatted with his wife. He’d been out since 2:00 in the morning, and even the city plow couldn’t traverse some of the snow-covered streets.

I was snowed in and alone. Strangely enough, this made me feel a bit panicky and claustrophobic. Ever the city slicker, I couldn’t believe that I was stuck, but my power was on and my Facebook was working. I was not alone. My friends were online, The Record was online and Sharon McCully was online:

The Record Many Record carriers were unable to get out their own doors to get to yours this morning so your Record may not be delivered this morning. 8:02 AM

The Record The City of Sherbrooke has issued a notice that city offices will be closed today. Sidewalks will not be plowed and there will not be a garbage collection - it will be postponed till Friday. Essential services will be maintained. The city has set up an emergency service centre to respond to situations requiring fire protection and police services, public works. 8:03 AM

The Record Due to the continuing snowfall, and the risk to our employees who would have to travel to work, The Record will not publish today. Please see Wednesday's Record for full storm coverage as well as all the news and continue to watch The Record's Facebook page for breaking news and storm updates. 11:39 AM

All day long, I read Sharon’s and The Record’s posts and felt that I was in touch with what was going on. My friends posted photos and chatted back and forth with the latest measurement of snow from their backyards along with funny stories and words of encouragement. Meanwhile, I waited for my husband who insisted on driving home. My friends were sending me messages telling me exactly what to say to him in order to get him to turn around. He wouldn’t listen. Four hours later, when my husband finally made it up the street after being detoured by a stuck tractor-trailer in Rock Forest, I sheepishly posted the news that he was home and received lots of Hurrah’s and “likes,” as in people who liked the news that my husband was home. It seemed strange to him that I would post his doings on Facebook (he’s getting used to me telling tales in The Record), yet at a time like that, the commiseration of my Facebook friends was a wonderful support.

I think that Monday was a good example of what a digital community is. Sharon got the latest out to us on what was going on in Sherbrooke and friends did what friends do best, showing their concern and sharing the inevitable photo. Many people knock Facebook, but I believe that Monday was a great example of social networking at its best. Thanks, Sharon!

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Getting the News

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 2:55 p.m.

Just the other day, a friend posted a cartoon in which a prophet type looking character with long hair and a beard is seen walking down a city street carrying a sign saying, “The world ended while you were on Facebook.” I can be shamefaced enough to say that when I open my computer in the morning while I have my coffee, I go to Facebook to see what my friends are up to and often, I get the latest news that way.

That’s a pathetic way to get the news but since I have friends who are fellow news hounds and take to posting stories from new web sites, that’s slightly less pathetic than you might think. I’m glad to see you all reading The Record and supporting your local English newspaper. You’re getting the local story and keeping Anglo culture alive in The Townships but of course, you probably want to catch some news that’s further afield once you’ve read The Record from cover to cover.

Cable TV has come a long way so that news is readily available all the time…but it depends on the kind of news that you prefer. Nowadays, I turn to BBC News for my world news because I find that it’s fairly objective and covers places that Canadian news networks don’t. For example, with all the uprisings in the Middle East and northern Africa, BBC gives pretty good coverage of what’s going on, not only in such hot spots as Egypt and Libya, but countries such as Bahrain, Tunisia and Yemen.

I also get a kick out of watching the world weather on BBC because there’s something very old school in how it’s done. They broadcast their logo and a loud hum before the weather forecaster comes on, as if it’s taking time to hook up with the guy somewhere in Mumbai and they talk about the weather as if Timbuktu is right around the corner. If you ever want to feel like “it’s a small world after all,” then watch BBC weather which comes on just before 6:30.

For Canadian news, I tend to watch CBC or CTV because I like their local newscasts. Yet here’s a question for you readers: Am I the only one who was miffed when all three major Canadian networks decided that there were not enough Anglophones left in Quebec to warrant cancelling local morning news shows in Montreal? I hope not. If I support CBC, it would be nice to have the service that I pay for.

For American news, I tend to watch ABC, as I no longer get CNN. You can only take so much of Wolf Blitzer and his situation room for so long. I don’t appreciate news being made dramatic, as CNN likes to make it.

One station that we won’t be turning to is a Canadian Fox news network as the CRTC has a rule that newscasts must be fair and honest and the CRTC has decided that Fox News does neither. I was opposed to having such a news network in Canada reporting its own bias rather than the news. There’s a difference between censorship and regulation, and I believe that the CRTC got it right. Otherwise I might have had to turn off the news at six, and see what my friends are reporting on Facebook.

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