I’m not much of a shopper so the fact that today is Black Friday was lost on me. Apparently, I am in the minority as throngs of shoppers hit Costco this morning with a vengeance. As one clerk told me, when I asked if it’s always this busy on a Friday morning: “It’s Black Friday. We don’t participate in it, but they all think we do”.

I foolishly chose today to visit the Costco optical department for new glasses. The parking lot was jam packed so I, as many others did, circled the parking lot in search of an elusive spot in which to park. I circled so long, I was able to notice who had just arrived and who had been hunting for awhile. After being beaten to spots by old and new entrants on several occasions, I decided to circle just one strip rather than the whole lot.

On my third rotation of one particular strip, I was once again beaten by a newcomer so I drove past him and spotted a couple loading up their vehicle. In anticipation of their imminent departure, I pulled up and engaged my signal (to my right), indicating my desire to obtain the spot.

On my left, facing me, was a large pickup truck occupied by a couple that I can only describe as looking “retired”. The male driver had his signal on as well, but he was signalling to my left (opposite to where I was signalling).

The couple loading their car were taking a good amount of time to carefully place their purchases into the back of their tiny hatchback. After a bit, the female passenger of the pick-up truck got out and found herself a shopping cart in the adjacent cart-drop off spot. I thought she had decided to get a jump on shopping and was going to go into the store while her companion idled his truck nearby.

Finally the occupants of the space started backing out and before I could move an inch, the woman with the shopping cart swung it in front of my car, completely blocking my attempt to gain access to the space as her male companion turned his behemoth truck into it.

I opened my window and shouted “hey, what are you doing?” She retorted that they had been “waiting ½ an hour for that spot”. I knew better and when I disputed her assertion, she yelled at me: “Are you an angry shopper?” Well, I am NOW!! The gentleman within me quickly departed and she became the recipient of a string of epithets that would make a sailor blush. I ended up abandoning my quest and parked across the road.

Later, the poor optician made the mistake of asking me if the parking lot was “crazy”? Still steamed, I recounted my woeful tale to which she commented, “that was a violent act toward you by that woman”.

It hadn’t occurred to me that I was a victim of a “violent act” but I guess looking at it through a different lens, I suppose the optician was correct. Perhaps when my new spectacles arrive, I will see things from a new perspective . . .

I miss my doctor . . .

I’ve posted on my previous blog site about my family physician and how I came out to him. I have reposted it in the “Other Stuff” section as: Archives: What my Doctor said . . .

I’ve seen Dr B for over 10 years now. Until now.

'Your last annual check up was eleven years ago.'

Yesterday, I decided it’s time once again for my semi-decade, over 50, “annual” physical exam so I called his office whereupon the nice receptionist informed me that he is no longer seeing patients. He is only working emergency at the hospital now.

She further announced: “We have a letter at the reception that explains it all”. A lot of good that does me, sitting in my office 25 miles away.

She continues: “Dr P is still here and I can give you an appointment with him. Or you can wait until the replacement doctor arrives”

Me: “When is he coming?

Receptionist: “SHE is coming in October”

Me: “OK, I’ll take Dr P.”

I’m actually in shock. I knew Dr B was around my age, perhaps a year or two older, and I knew he’d eventually retire and he has been only working half time for a few years. Unfortunately, the cold hard truth of it has left me somewhat rattled. I’m reacting to this disturbing news in the way I’ve seen “old” people react to change. The realization of that, then, rattled me too. Let’s face it, I’m just rattled.

I’m now regretting not waiting until the new doctor arrives. My initial reaction was that I’ve never had a female doctor and at my age, I wasn’t sure I wanted one. But Dr P isn’t my favorite already. He and Dr B had been sharing one position on a weekly rotation ever since Dr P returned from a ten-year compassionate mission for his church in Africa.

I had to see him once for a vaccination or something when Dr B was on his off-week. Somehow the conversation rolled around to me having goats and that the Latin word for goat is caprine which descends from the same root as capricious. This is when he lost me. He quoted a passage about capriciousness from the Bible. Really? The only reference you have is the Bible?

After learning the disheartening news yesterday, I decided to contact Dr B and thank him for the years he looked after us.

I need to say however, that I’m actually a little perturbed with Dr B, and this may not be fair on my part because doctors are busy and they are people as well who undoubtedly struggle with the death of patients, but when Bill died, somehow I expected contact from Dr B.   He is my doctor.  Perhaps a condolence or an inquiry as to how I was doing. But I got nothing. The liver oncologist in Victoria called me to express her condolences and to let me know that Bill had been one of her favorite patients. But nothing from our own family physician. And, it’s not like he didn’t know Bill was gravely ill. He saw us both in his office two days before Bill died. He gave Bill a hug at the end of the appointment. He knew he was never seeing Bill again.

But, in the end, I took the high road. I let Dr B know that Bill really loved their connection (they were both thespians who would spend more time chatting about theatre than medicine) and that I was grateful to Dr B for unreservedly taking Bill on as a patient when I asked him to; during a time when people couldn’t get a family doctor locally. This was years before Bill’s diagnosis but he willingly took Bill on because Bill was my, then new, partner. And I thanked him for giving Bill a hug the last time he saw him.

I also couldn’t help express my concern about Dr P and I explained the Bible incident which causes me some reservation as a gay man. My hope is he will say: “Don’t worry about Dr P, he isn’t bothered about homosexuality” or “you should probably get another doctor” or something.  Maybe “you’re welcome”.

I miss my doctor . . .


The world is different . . .

Bill and I never felt comfortable doing the most normal thing that married couples often do in public: hold hands. Public expression of our deep love and commitment to each other was not something we felt we could do.  Sure, we made our commitment official in front of two hundred people but we knew those people loved us.

During Pride month this year, the Council of the City of Nanaimo, BC approved the installation of two rainbow coloured street crossings in the downtown core.  This was phenomenal progress toward acceptance considering the tenuous relationship the LGBTQ community had had with previous Councils.

Unfortunately, sometime overnight yesterday, someone scrawled religious graffiti quoting Leviticus and other biblical passages all over the crossings.  The police have taken this matter very seriously and are investigating it as a possible hate crime.  The City sprang to action and immediately began to erase the offensive text.

But this incident helps to illustrate why Bill and I felt the way we did.

If anyone who is not gay wonders what it is like to live in this world as an LGBTQ person, please take 20 minutes and watch this Tedx Talk by Panti Bliss on YouTube:

Panti Bliss Tedx Dublin talk “All the little things”

Like Panti, I’m tired of it too.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this is why when I saw two young men holding hands at the Saanich Fair on Sunday, I had to speak to them. I had to tell them that I thought they were awesome and I wished Bill and I had felt as free as they did, to be who we are. With all my heart, I wish they were right when they told me “the world is different”. . .

I hope I made their day . . .

I went to the Saanich Fair in Victoria BC for a couple days this past weekend.


It’s my favorite annual agricultural fair. I suppose I’m biased because I was once on the board of directors. As a family, we’ve also shown our swine and goats at this fair (when I was a farmer). It’s purportedly the oldest continually operating fair in Canada, west of the Great Lakes. Even as other fairs, in other communities on Vancouver Island, seem to be diminishing and disappearing, this fair still thrives.

One of the nicest things about this fair is that they reserve spots for ethnic organizations to set-up food booths. At one time, the rule there was that all food vendors onsite had to be non-profit groups that needed a venue for fundraising.

Our family tradition is to always stop at the Hungarian booth for a Lángos (fried bread akin to a “BeaverTail” or “Elephant’s Ear”) and the Scout/Guide booth for a BBQ Beef on a Bun.   I usually stop by the Jewish booth for a Kosher hot dog or the Indian booth for some pakoras too. This year, the Philippine booth satisfied my craving for coffee.

On Saturday, as my adult kids abandoned me to my picture taking and visiting with old farming friends (both activities that bore my kids to tears), I wandered the site and it occurred to me that I am not seeing any “obvious” same-sex couples. I saw many hetero-couples wandering about, holding hands or pushing a baby stroller while enjoying the activities and displays. I wondered why that is.

Victoria is demographically very white and very senior. Perhaps the age demographic might provide some insight however Victoria has one of the biggest Pride festivals in the Province every July. The Saanich Fair, which allows no alcohol on the grounds, draws families in droves. But, gay families exist too so why aren’t I seeing them? Each time I see two men walking next to each other I ask myself, are they gay?

On Sunday, we went back to see one of the headline acts that were performing on the main stage that evening. Trooper, is a world renowned rock band based in Vancouver and they were finishing up their summer tour here. We arrived at the fairground early to stake our claim for seating. Then we decided to grab a bite to eat.

As my kids wandered off to make their own selections, I decided to get myself a Beef on a Bun from the Scout/Guide booth again. The line up to this popular booth was typical and I stood there, not thinking of much, when I noticed them. There, just ahead of the woman in front of me, were two people intertwined with each other.

I looked again. What was I seeing? They appeared to be two young “emo” dudes dressed up in tight fitting clothes and hats “Boy-George-esque” but coloured in basic black and grey. No I mused, one must be a female. I studied them intently from my position in line and eventually realized they both had deep five o’clock shadows. Yes, these were indeed, a male couple! And when I say intertwined, I mean they were holding onto each other as though they were on the deck of the Titanic just as she disappeared under the waves, each not wanting the other to slip away.

As the line slowly snaked toward the cashier, I decided I needed to talk to these guys. Luckily, the line split and I ended up at the counter next to them.

I leaned toward them and announced, “I think you guys are awesome”.

They looked at me, shocked.

“Thanks” they both replied cautiously.

I continued: “My husband and I would never have had the courage to hold hands in public”.

Their faces relaxed.

“Times are different now” one of them replied.

“Enjoy the fair”, I said as my bun was handed to me by the earnest Girl Guide.

They smiled, thanked me and walked off.

It warmed my heart to see them, surrounded by throngs of people, confident in their relationship and their safety. There are so many places in this world that they would not be safe being who they are. There are even still instances in Canada where gay people are sworn at and insulted, and even assaulted physically. Gladly, those are rare occurrences now. Nonetheless, Bill and I only felt comfortable holding hands in public when we visited the “gay village” in Vancouver, or attended a Pride event. We’d never do that in the greater community.

Something in me told me, to give these two young guys some positive reinforcement, whether they needed it or not. I wished I had asked for a selfie with them.

I hope I made their day . . .

I just felt the need . . .

I felt the need to post a poem in honour of Bill.  I don’t know who the author of this is, it’s just one of those suggested memorials published by the newspaper.  I found it matched his character and my grief very well:

Always so good, unselfish and kind
None on this earth your equal I’ll find.
Honorable and true in all your ways,
Loving and faithful to the end of your days,
Honest and liberal, ever upright,
Just in your judgment, always right;
Loved by your friends and all whom you knew,
One in a million, that husband was you.
As time has passed, our hearts still sore,
As time rolls on we miss you more;
A loving husband, tender and kind.
What beautiful memories you left behind.

Today is not a particularly special date or a milestone since his passing that may have warranted a poem.  I just felt the need . . .

Life on the farm . . .

One of the “little things” that Bill and I used to enjoy doing together was preserving the harvest. Even though we weren’t the best harvesters, when we succeeded in harvesting, we had a particular fondness for making homemade pickled beets, blackberry jelly, and salsa, etc.

We have one huge pear tree, of unknown variety, on the (sunny) southern side of our house. A few days ago I noticed the annual “pear drop” had started so I began collecting the fruit that had all fallen on the ground. Some were “wind fallen” even before being ripe but they’d be perfect for making into pear rings.


As I was under the tree collecting the pears, I discovered that the drop was being facilitated by crows cavorting in the uppermost branches. I almost needed to wear a hard hat.

Last year we dehydrated the pears as an experiment. I had given Bill a dehydrator for Christmas a couple years ago and we used it for making beef jerky and for drying our bountiful grapes into raisins. The dried pears were an instant hit so I decided to repeat the process this year. Once I finally found our dehydrator (it was “put away someplace safe”), I dried the first batch.   Here is a small pictorial of the process:

It was a bumper crop – I have tons more pears to do!

Such is “life on the farm” . . .

Walking through life alone . . .

The tears certainly aren’t stopping. Every day they hit me. Some days they hit multiple times. Yesterday was one of those days. I drove an hour and a half to our capital City and enroute, I cried. Perhaps I was thinking of meeting one of Bill’s cousins for coffee that afternoon.

It was my first stop of the day and we met in a coffee shop in downtown Victoria. I had only met this cousin once before, at our wedding. I cried again. Bill’s cousin reached over and touched my arm. We hardly know each other but she also knew the pain since she lost her husband suddenly because of a heart attack at his work 11 years ago. She was sweet and loving and teared up a little too but said it gets easier to cope with the pain as the years go by. It was helpful speaking with her. This was the first serious conversation I’ve had with someone that has had a similar experience. I think her situation is worse than mine though, because at least Bill and I had a little bit of time to be prepared. She did not, and she still has a hard time facing December, the month in which her husband died.

She posted this “in memoriam” in the local newspaper the second year after he died:

“Two years ago today you left us suddenly and without warning. The sadness we feel is overwhelming and the pain of losing you never goes away. You are thought of often and we cherish the memories we have. We will miss you forever and love you always . . .”

“I have lost my soul’s companion
A life linked with my own
And day by day I miss him more
As I walk through life alone”

Then I cried again when I travelled to the next destination after coffee with Bill’s cousin. I was thinking of how he should be with me, since I was attending a barbecue with a group of his theatre friends from long ago. I had met half of them before and that was only last year. I was composed again by the time I arrived. Everyone was so welcoming and kind. They want me to continue attending their functions.

There was a woman at the barbecue, who lived next door to Bill when he was four years old. I met him when he was 54 so I’m just now getting to meet the young Bill (the Bill they all know and tell stories about). I wish I had known him longer.

The host had fountains made by Douglas Walker too. I was intrigued to learn that none of these instruments were supplied by the artist, but rather they were already owned by the homeowner, a music teacher.

It was a good day . . . even if I am walking through life alone . . .

Part of the family . . .

I’ve been hosting Bill’s niece and her fiancé for a couple of days. They visited us last winter too and we enjoyed their visit so much that we jumped at the chance to repeat the experience this year when they asked. They booked this visit long before Bills prognosis became palliative and when he passed away, she reached out to me and asked if she could still come and visit as planned. Of course I said yes. She is very sweet and quite concerned for my welfare. I’m so glad they visited.

I don’t have a solid relationship with my own siblings, much to my regret. Except for my kid brother, who I apparently mortally offended once, the other two just don’t seem terribly interested in maintaining a bond, notwithstanding my attempts. As the oldest of four, I have somewhat felt a responsibility to keep the family together. I believe I am the only one of the family that actually speaks to every other member of the family.

The eldest of my two younger brothers is the black sheep of the family and went his own way for quite a number of years. He never really seemed to thrive. In the past year he was diagnosed with Parkinsons (in his early 50’s) and since then has made more of an attempt to be connected. He’s even reconciled with our father in recent months.

My sister, as I’ve written previously, joined the Mormon church when her marriage broke up 20 years ago. I’ve always marvelled at how an organization such as the LDS, who espouse the principles of “family”, can actually estrange a real family from each other. My sister will not communicate with my Mom ever since Mom referred to my sister’s church as a “cult”. Yes, I see where that would be a wedge issue however, I’ve been very careful not to offend anyone, and my sister has pulled back from me as well. I think my sin in my sister’s eyes now, is that I’m gay.

My parents are immigrants from Europe and I never got to know any extended relations of my own.

Bill came from a very large family with 5 siblings and dozens of cousins. He was estranged from his father (at least ½ of his siblings don’t have anything to do with their paternal unit) and his mother passed away from ALS some years before I met him. The siblings that are bonded against the father have become quite close with me. Especially since Bill’s passing. Bill always used to joke that if his father found out he was gay, it would kill him. Apparently not, because even though I have never met the man, his father did call me following Bill’s death.

Bill was very close to with the oldest of his two younger sisters. Both have been wonderfully loving and inclusive to me, but particularly the older one. I feel like I am their brother. I’ve only met a handful of Bill’s cousins and those that I have met have also gladly welcomed me into family. His paternal cousin has “adopted” me as her own and I really enjoy visiting with her and her husband. And, I’m going to have coffee with two of Bill’s maternal cousins later today, hoping to cultivate a bond with them as well.  Two of Bill’s nieces refer to me as “their guncle Mike”.  One has invited me to help her and her Mom pick out her wedding dress in the new year.

It’s a great feeling to be included and I look forward to continuing to be a part of the family . . .

Magical environment . . .

The other day I posted about Bill’s fountain. I also like to sit by it in the evening, enjoying the sweet warm summer breezes as they waft over me, and the solar lights that surround me.  It is a truly magical environment . . .