We had a boy!

Well, I’ve been wondering for 8 months or so who this little person would be – thankfully I don’t have to wonder any longer.

Friday night and early Saturday morning, my wife had some low back pain, and she figured that our baby was on its way.  She was right.  At 7:00 AM on Saturday we called her sister to come over and look after our girls, and headed to the Grey Nuns.  We arrived there at about 7:40 AM and Aimie requested an epidural – contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart.  The epidural was set, and Aimie fell asleep – which allowed me to head out for bacon and eggs, my tradition on the mornings of the births of my children.  When I got back, we chatted for a bit and at about 10:58 AM, Aimie mentioned that she was feeling some pressure and wanted to push – coincidentally the OB was just walking by, and the nurse asked him to check Aimie to see where things were at.  He had a look and goosed her and declared that it was definitely time to push.  Aimie pushed three times and our little guy was there.  Andon Noah Wilhelm joined our family at 11:04 AM on December 11, 2010.

Andon weighed 7 lb exactly and is 20-1/2″ long.

As some of you might remember, he was due on Christmas Eve.  That was his due date all along, and it didn’t budge even with the two ultrasounds.  Add to that the fact that his two sisters were born on their due dates, and that his mother was measuring exactly the same in terms of her belly and her weight gain (to the 1/4″ and to the pound, respectively) as she did in her two previous pregnancies, and we were absolutely certain that he would arrive on or very near his due date.  We’re very grateful to be able to welcome him into this world earlier – we prefer that his birthday remains somewhat distinct from Christmas, even though it’s only a couple of weeks away.

Lots of people have asked about his name.  Allow me to dissect:

Andon – is Latin and is an ancient Germanic evolution of the Roman name Antonius.  Andon refers to the Prince of the Sea.  We liked it because it is simple, because it can be shortened to Andy (which we like very much), and because it has Germanic/Teutonic roots, which means a lot to me.  Also, we’ve heard but aren’t sure of this, that andon in Filipino means “to tie together” – if that’s the case, it’s great because this little gent has certainly completed our family.

Noah – this is a Hebrew name meaning rest or comfort.  We’ve always liked the name, and in our opinion, there is an amazing biblical story attached to this name, in terms of incredible faith.  Whether one believes the story, or chooses to dismiss it, I believe we can still take something away from the incredible amount of unwavering faith it delivers and I hope my son will have faith in something some day.

Wilhelm – I wouldn’t need any further reason to name my son this because it was my father’s name.  My father is someone who has had an enormous impact on my life, and though I lost him 16 years ago, he continues to affect me on a daily basis.  Aside from this, Wilhelm is Germanic and means will and desire in conjunction with helmet and protection.  I do hope I instill will and desire into my son, and that he remains protected – by me while I can, and by good fortune and good decisions when he flies out from under my wings.

I’ve always been raised to be proud of my heritage and have wanted to impart my Germanic heritage to my kids in teaching them where we come from by passing on stories and legends and if possible, giving them names that reach back into the dark  hallowed depths of time when our people were in their infancy.

I’ve mentioned this before – upon finding out that we were pregnant, everyone’s response was “Awww, you guys are trying for the boy!”  Not true – as a matter of fact, I consistently told people that if I had some say in the matter, I’d choose a girl again.  Having met Andon and recognizing that I never had any say in this, I’m thankful for the opportunity to raise a son.  He’s a cool little dude, and the gravity of what lies ahead weighs on my heart.

I know I joke around a lot in terms of my social media exposure, and I’m like that in real life for the most part.  However, I try to take my parenting seriously.  I want my kids to have fun in life, but I also want them to succeed and by success, I don’t mean material success.  Yes, I wish that they won’t have financial concerns, but that would be the least of my worries.  I hope that I can lead them down a path where, after having practiced what I preach for the first years of their life, they will recognize the difference between good and bad, and will be able to make good decisions for themselves.  I hope they will surround themselves with good people and choose good habits, and that they will give of themselves to those around them.  I hope they will reap the rewards of what they sow, and when that harvest comes in, that their faces glow and their souls swell with pride and joy in what they have done.

Here’s hoping to a great father-son relationship, and the beginning of something incredible.  Though seemingly unfamiliar because I’ve never raised a boy before, I look forward to the challenges and trials by fire – I look forward to holding my son’s hand as we venture forth into the unknown and I hope that he will one day come back to me with his own daughters and sons and that I’ll see him being the man I always hoped I’d be.  That would be the greatest reward of all.

Thank you kindly and from the bottom of my heart to those of you who, by the hundreds it seems, responded via Twitter, Facebook and email to our birth announcement.  We are honored by your well-wishes and appreciate that you took the time out of your day to send them.  Now if you’ll just accompany those well-wishes with some cooking or baking, your work will be done here.  I kid.

I’m blessed to have been entrusted with three children – each one of which is a very different animal and presents unique traits and challenges, and each one of which makes my soul leap bounds when I think of them.  To add to this, I have the privilege of raising these children with my true soul-mate, who has made me a better man.  I can’t ask for more of this from life, and yet I do – I ask that I would be the best father I can be, and in doing that, make my children the best people they can be.


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And what if it’s a boy?

In my last post, I touched on the possibility of us having another daughter and what that might mean to me as a father and to us as a family.

I want to explore the possibility of us having a son now, as it appears that’s the other alternative.

We have two daughters – Abigail is 6, and has VERY clearly stated that she wants a brother. She has a knack for getting under her sister’s skin and for finding extraordinarily inventive ways of starting fights and arguments. So the fact that there is some animosity between the two sisters is, at this point, mostly her fault. Why she thinks this will improve with a brother is beyond me. Amalie is 2 and hasn’t offered an opinion yet. She is conscious of the fact that a baby is coming, and that it’s in mommy’s tummy right now. I think she’ll mesh with a sister or a brother just fine because she’s much easier going than Abigail.

So what happens if we have a boy?

Well, in many ways we’ll be starting over. I’m comfortable with daughters, but wouldn’t really know what I’m doing with a boy.

Let’s start with the basics. First interactions with a son would be of course holding him and changing his diaper. I’m fine to hold a baby, but the diaper business with a boy…. Well, the equipment that boys are blessed with allow any bodily liquids to be directed towards you at the time of the diaper change. That’ll be a treat. I’ll likely consider taking him in to have mud flaps installed to direct any flow downwards.

Next will be play and activities. Eventually the little guy will start playing. Having been raised in a conservative household, I want my son to grow up being a strong, manly man. I want him to be everything I wanted to be growing up and that I aim to be now. So this leads me to my first question: do I raise him differently than my girls? Do I treat him differently? I rough-house with my girls, and I don’t baby them. I think when it comes to physical interaction, I would treat a son the same way. I would always make sure my child knows it is loved unconditionally. I would always make sure to have physical contact with my son, holding him when I want to, and taking his hand, literally. I would also show my son that I love my wife, just as I do with my daughters right now. I never shy away from hugging or kissing my wife and I want my son to know that it’s OK to show love.

So where do things go from there?  Well, this boy would likely start interacting with his sisters and conversely, needing his own space as well.  I think I’d respect his need for that.  Our two girls play together well, but also need their own room to move once in a while.  I’m guessing if we had a boy, he’d play with the girls as well, but also need some space to find his own way of playing and using his imagination.  I’d afford him the opportunity to do that – maybe giving him his own part of the playroom.

How about sports and community involvement?  Well, I’ve thought about it, and I don’t think a son would get any different treatment.  Abigail has been in ballet and now wants to get into soccer.  We’ve decided that we will support our kids’ wants when it comes to getting involved in things, as long as the requirements aren’t out of line with what we see as our family structure.  Meaning this – if my kid wants to do ballet, soccer, hockey, Girl Guides, and community service and volunteering – we’re all for it.  However, if doing all these things takes us away from being a family unit more than we see as acceptable, we will pare it down to ensure we remain strong as a family and can do things together as well.  It’s a fine line, to be sure, and something that I’ll have to learn to flex with.  A son would get the same opportunities as our other kids.

Growing up – here is where things get a little different.  We are a traditional family – wife, husband, kids.  We were raised in conservative, traditional households, and for the most part, that is what we are teaching our kids.  My first daughter, Abigail, has already started talking about her wedding (she’s 6) and we’ve discussed the needs from our perspective.  She knows the requirements inside and out – and she’ll gladly tell anyone who will listen.  Her husband will need to be kind to her, and make her feel good about herself.  And he will have to be approved by mom and dad.  Of course, that’s a utopian perspective, but for a 6 year-old girl, considering she gets it, I think that’s a good start.  I guess with a son, I’d have to go about this in a different way.  I would need to teach my son what I think is the right thing to do.  I’d want him to find a girl that makes him a better man, and I’d want to see him speaking to her and treating her with utmost respect.  I’d want to hear that her dad is proud to call my son his son-in-law.  Of course there will be girlfriends (good and bad) along the way, experimentation, lessons learned.  But I will be there the whole way, guiding my boy to do what is right and helping him to come out on the other end a grown man.

I suppose I can’t see much further than this in life – because I haven’t gone any further myself.  I don’t know what it’s like to have grandkids, and what it would be like to see my own children hold their kids.  But I figure if I can set them up for success in terms of treating others properly, taking care of themselves and trying to do the right thing, no matter what the result – well, then there’s hope for my kids.  And when the time comes, if I’m blessed with being able to hand my kids over to their partners, and hopefully some day, hold my grandkids tight – well, I can only hope that my kids will continue to try to make the world a better place. 

In the end, it appears that having a son won’t be much different at all – it won’t change how I think about people, and it won’t change the values I pass on.  I hope I have the strength to stay strong, and stick to my values and beliefs and I hope that my kids will see the world through their own eyes and that they’ll make it a better place, partially because of what I’ve taught them and what they’ve witnessed me saying and doing.

Last point – we are rapidly approaching the birth of our baby – it’s still due December 24th, and I’m not sure how much more I’ll say about it – until it arrives.  I have about 4 more blog posts in the pipeline, all unfinished business, so there will be more shortly.

Thanks for taking the time to read – and I look forward to introducing you to either a daughter or a son soon.

Posted in get to know me, I need help, my family, one of my theories, where I'm going | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

What happens if we have another girl?

As you may know, I’ve been licenced to father children, and thankfully, unlike some people who haven’t been screened and licenced like me, I am not producing these children at an alarming rate.  Our two kids are 4 years apart, and we’re expecting another one roughly 3 years since the last one arrived.  This rate of reproduction suits me just fine.  I feel like I got some quality time with each of my two kids right now.  I have no issues with those parents that pop out offspring in rapid succession – hey you have to do what works for you and your family.  We decided to space them apart a bit, and it has worked out for us.  We got 4 great years with Abigail, and now we will have had 3 years (almost) with Amalie when Peanut arrives in late December. 

I’ve been putting a little thought into the what ifs of our new family member.  So what if we have another girl?

We already have two girls, and so, in many ways, having a third girl would be a blessing.  It would feel comfortable.  I feel like I know my girls now, and I’m pretty easy-going when it comes to my girls.  I think it would be straight-forward to add another girl to the mix.  Amalie is such a little mother hen, and absolutely gushes and fawns over any baby within a 20 mile radius of her, so we think she’ll take to a little sister really well.  Abigail, well, she’s Abigail.  She’s definitely a head-strong little woman.  Let me tell you a story about Abigail.

One day when Amalie was 2 weeks old and sleeping in her crib, and Abigail was 4 years old and watching some loathsome show on Treehouse, my wife was in the shower.  She heard the phone ringing multiple times, but knew she was getting out of the shower shortly and so she didn’t rush to the phone.  When she finally got out, dried herself off and ambled casually to the answering machine to see what she may have missed, she was in for a shock.  There were 3 panicked messages from her twin sister.  Her sister indicated that my wife needed to call her immediately and that she was very, very concerned.  My wife looked around – no noises from the baby monitor, and Abigail was laying on the floor, quietly watching Dora.  Puzzled and anxious, she quickly called her sister.  Her sister relayed the following situation:  Abigail, who had memorized some people’s numbers at that age, had called her to report that Amalie had a bleeding nose.  She was worried about her little sister, but couldn’t really help her out of the crib, and her mommy was in the shower.  Upon further questioning, Abigail admitted that it was her, in fact, that had caused the nosebleed.  Further pressing revealed that she had punched Amalie in the face until her nose bled.  Aimie hung up and ran to Amalie’s room – sure enough, our little 2 week-old angel was laying peacefully in her crib, sleeping – her face bloodied and crusted over with blood and the bed sheet full of blood.  You can imagine that I got a call next.  We were absolutely astounded and when we talked to Abigail about it, she admitted freely that she had done this and that she had been upset at Amalie for getting all the attention.  As freaked out as we were, we certainly learned a lot from this too.  We punished Abigail and clearly outlined what was acceptable behaviour towards a baby in the house.  It never happened again, and I think we all learned something that day.  It scared the daylights out of us, to think we might have a little psychopath on our hands, but we quickly gathered that we certainly weren’t alone in this and this happens more than we thought. 

So Abigail – well, we’re not sure how she’ll take to the new addition.  But she certainly has the ability to be a wonderful big sister – for the most part, she is a caring, responsible child and takes very good care of her little sister.  Do they fight?  Heck yes!  Do they make up as quickly as they started and move on?  I’m glad to report that they do.

Another girl would mean 3 girls.  And I’ve seen only too closely what the “middle child” syndrome can do to a child, as well as a family.  There appears to be a human trait that causes us to focus most on our first-born and our last-born.  Ridiculous, you say?  It’s not – it’s been documented.  That works out really well for families with 2 kids.  Add another into the mix, and I firmly believe you have to actively watch your own behaviour towards your children, such that favoritism (intended or not) doesn’t shine through.  It can be devastating to a child’s psyche and their development.  A child, I’ve learned, can quickly read into our behaviour, even into the little things like body language.  When you are focused on your first-born and on the baby, it will quickly become apparent to the middle child where they fit in.  And that might feel like nowhere.  I do NOT want this to happen in my family.  Amalie is as precious to me as Abigail and as whatever we have now.  And one thing I’ve heard over and over from folks with 3 kids is this:  if you have 3 kids of the same sex, the middle child syndrome is also perpetuated amongst the children.  There is a kind of pig-in-the-middle thing going on and often 2 of the 3 will band together against the other.  I’d hate to see that happen.  We’ve been told by people who have 3 kids, with 2 of one sex and 1 of the other, that it appears that less infighting takes place.  Why that is, I don’t know.

I suppose I should just come out and say it.  Having a third girl would be easier.  We’ve got the clothes, the toys, the experience.  We could easily bunk up two of the three girls.  I could use the same baseball bat on all the boyfriends that come along.  I’ve fallen in love with my two girls and I know I would fall head over heels in love with another one.  I’d look forward to that instant bond with my baby girl – the one that causes me to get up in the middle of the night to hold my girls and just stare at their faces in the moonlight – amazed at how blessed we are and thankful for their lives that have been entrusted to me.  I would think it would be an easy fit into our family, and I would welcome another little girl.  The honest truth, and I’ve said this before, much to most people’s surprise – if I could pick, I’d want another girl.  Our only real issue is the name – we ain’t got one picked out for a girl yet. 

But what if?  What if it’s a boy?  My thoughts on that are coming up in my next post…  Do you have experience in the parenting department?  How many kids do you have?  A mix, or all the same?  How have you played the hand you were dealt?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you care to share.

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Having a gir…. no, I mean bo…. I don’t know!

Well folks, as you may know if you’ve read some of my previous posts, we’re having a baby. My wife is due December 24, 2010. Our first two children arrived on their due dates, and with two ultrasounds come and gone, this baby’s due date hasn’t changed a bit. Soooo, it stands to reason that we might be having a Christmas baby. Not ideal, by any stretch, but in the end, if baby and mom are healthy, it’s not the end of the world.

The birthdate isn’t what’s on my mind right now. It’s what we’re having. Much like its older sisters, this baby absolutely refuses to share its sex with us. We’ve had two ultrasounds – one was at 6 weeks and related to my wife’s health – through a set of fortunate circumstances and a connection or two in the health-care industry, I was able to get access to the ultrasound process for us and we have 6 week ultrasound pics of Peanut. Can’t see much, but I’m pretty sure it’s still the cutest thing in the world.

Fast forward to 22 weeks. We were booked for our first (and likely last, barring any unforeseen complications) real pregnancy ultrasound. There are remarkable similarities between this one and the older two. They are absolutely crazy in the womb, cruising around in there non-stop. I told my wife to swallow a basketball or something, so the thing can kill off some energy. Our babies have all been extraordinarily active, such that my wife’s belly constantly moves. It’s not the “Oh, look, the baby kicked!” business. Nope, it’s a scene right out of Alien, and there is constant movement below the surface, with occasional sightings of sharp little elbows or feet grazing the uterus and showing right through my wife’s belly skin. As gross as that sounds, it’s amazing.

Anyway, another similarity between all our kids is this – crazy active RIGHT UP until the ultrasound. Without exaggerating, the kid is bouncing off the walls, and the second the ultrasound tech puts that lube or whatever that goop is on my wife’s belly, the baby goes into hibernation. Seriously, it is so aggravating. The kid just kicks back, has a Coke and a smile, and doesn’t show us a thing. We actually did want to know the sex of our babies, and the last two did the same thing. Nothing different going on with this one – insane-o until the ultrasound, and then…. I was looking at the screen, and got a little alarmed. I saw a significant bony structure lying outside the scope of its skull, and I asked the tech if that happened to be an arm growing out of our baby’s head. She laughed and said, “Oh no, that’s just it’s knees. It has folded itself in half right now and is touching its knees to its forehead. This baby does not want to show us what it is.”

And so it was – for the third time in a row, we don’t know what we’re having. I suppose it’s not that big of a deal. If we are having a boy, we’ll be starting over and it would be nice to know about it beforehand when it comes to planning, preparing the nursery, etc. But we’re not talking life or death here, are we? And it is one of life’s last real surprises.

And this brings me to my main point – I’m so torn about what we will have. I know this is out of my hands. I know I have no say as to whether we have a boy or a girl. But I do know this – I have two girls and they have made my life complete. The second I saw Abigail, my first-born, I knew I couldn’t have had anything but a girl. I loved her more than life itself, and that hasn’t changed. It was the exact same when we were blessed with Amalie’s arrival.

People almost invariably say to us: “Awww, that’s great – you guys are trying for a boy.” Actually it couldn’t be further from the truth. In discussing having a third child, we both have thought of it as another girl. If I got to choose, I would take a third girl without hesitation. I love my life with girls in it. I have some kind of bond with my daughters that words cannot describe aptly. Mere vocabulary can’t express what happens to my heart every single day when I come home, and I hear the pitter-patter of feet – first running down the hallway upstairs, then coming down the stairs and jumping down the last two with a loud thump, and then…… then comes the best part – both of my princesses run into my arms as fast as they can, yelling, “Daddy, daddy!” I brace myself for it, because more than a couple of times, I’ve caught a full-on crotch smash, but somehow when it’s part of your daughters’ hugs, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much. I live for that moment every day, because whatever happened during the day is instantly washed away.

I think about my life with my girls and can’t imagine needing a son. I definitely don’t go easy on my girls – we have a lot of horseplay, we play contact hockey (even the 2 year-old) on the driveway, we play full-contact soccer in the yard, we wrestle in front of the TV. Both my girls can identify classes of cars (sedans, wagons, SUVs, trucks…) and both can quickly identify Audis by their four rings. Anything that you stereotypically do with a son, I do with my girls. But somehow, when it comes to my girls sitting with me while we watch a movie together and stroking my hair, or just laying on my tummy and looking up at me and smiling, I can’t imagine having the same bond with a son.

I feel that a father has a certain chemical connection with his daughters, or at least he should. There is a sense of protection, and in my case, overprotection. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t shelter my kids. I’ve let them make their own mistakes, and try to guide them through the situation and help them learn from it. But when it comes to harm, I wouldn’t hesitate on either of these – I would die for either of my kids, and if need be, I would kill to save my kids. I don’t like thinking of these situations, but on occasion it crosses my mind, and my heart rests peacefully, knowing I would fulfill either of those two horrible tasks if called upon, if it were to protect or to save my babies.

My 6 year-old recently brought home a note from a boy, proclaiming his love for her. In Grade 2. My first reaction wasn’t “Awww, how cute!” Nope. It was: “You little bastard! Someone hold me back!” I know it’s innocent, and I know nothing will happen to my girl. Frankly I’m glad this boy hasn’t converted to the “Ewwww, girls have cooties” religion yet, because most already have at that age. But somehow, I don’t think that I would react the same way if I had a son and the shoe was on the other foot.

Anyway, my point is this – I have two girls, and my life needed them. I need them. It’s just that simple. Now I’m blessed with another child coming into our family, and I wonder what it will be. And I wonder this simple thing – if it’s a boy, how will I react?

I’m going to write another post about the what-ifs from hereon in. There are two situations to consider – it could be a girl, and I know what I’m doing in that case. Or secondly, it could be a boy, and I’d be starting fresh as a father, learning as I go along. Actually, I suppose there are three possible scenarios, if we consider a hermaphrodite, but I probably won’t go there.

If you have experiences with your kids or with your siblings or even parents that you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!

Posted in get to know me, my family, Uncategorized, where I came from, where I'm going | 5 Comments

Saying goodbye

How do you feel about saying good-bye?  How do you do it?  Something crossed my mind the other day, and I thought I’d share it, and hope to hear from some of you if you have some thoughts on it.

How many times have we said good-bye to people?  Hundreds of times?  Thousands?  More?  I’m not sure, but I’m positive it’s many, many times throughout our lives.  Frankly, I have to say that it’s become a bit of a robotic response after 30 some odd years of living.  You leave a scene, you say good-bye.  It’s simple and it’s a social norm in this  society.  Virtually everyone does it.  People from other cultures, recent immigrants, you name it – you can observe them going through with this ritual just as anyone you grew up with here does.  So saying good-bye is basically a way of ending a temporary meeting.

Now, I can only speak for myself when I say that saying good-bye almost invariably touches on an unspoken fact – that it is a temporary parting of ways and with most parties I say good-bye to, I expect and for the most part, want to see them again.  I’m guessing that this will be the same for most people.  Yes, I say good-bye to people I can’t stand and honestly wouldn’t care to see again, but they’re far and few between, and with very, very few exceptions, I wouldn’t wish them any harm whether I want to see them again or not.

So let me throw a wrench into our best-laid, best-intentioned “good-bye” plans.  What if you knew this was the last time you’d say goodbye to that person?  What if you had a crystal ball, and you were given the gift of clairvoyance just that one time?  What if you had to say good-bye and you had the normally hidden knowledge that you would never see that person again?  You can fill in the blanks, I don’t care – you can assume that they will just disappear off the face of the Earth, you can assume that they die, it really doesn’t matter.  The fact is, you will never be able to say anything to that person again.  And I have a rule – you can’t warn them that you’ll never see them again – that would be too easy.  Of course, in some instances, that will be a given and the person you are saying good-bye to will know it’s the last time – I’m going to give you an example of that right away.

I’m guessing that I can speak for most of us when I say this:  if you knew this was the last good-bye, it would depend on who the person is, for you to come up with your response.  A loved one, a spouse, a child – those words would be etched on your soul for eternity and you would make them worth every breath it took to get them out.  A kind stranger who just saved your life – you might not ever see them again, but it may well be the last words you ever speak to them.  A co-worker that you don’t see eye to eye with.  So many possibilities, with an equal number of differing responses, I’m sure.

I have two examples that I’d like to share:  my Dad and my brother, Gary.  I’ve lost both of them, and I’ve had to say my last good-byes with both of them.  One of them, I knew it was the last one – the other, I didn’t.

As you may know from a previous post, I lost my dad to cancer.  He went through a couple of years of illness and passed away after spending the last two weeks in a hospital.  It was those two weeks that made his passing real to me, and I spent every single day at his side.  I was the only person there when he took his last breath, and I was holding his hand when he went.

I did have a chance, many chances as a matter of fact, to say good-bye to my dad.  I took every opportunity to speak to him, to get as much out of our time together as I could, knowing the day would soon come where he couldn’t speak to me anymore.  At our last chance to speak, about 2 hours before he died, I felt it was the last time and I was right.  He didn’t say much, but I know he heard me.  I told him that I didn’t want to say good-bye, but I had to.  I told him that he had been the best father I could ever imagine, and that he had lived his life to the fullest.  I told him that every step he took, and every word he had ever said in my presence had not been in vain.  I told him that I had learned how to be a man from him, and that I couldn’t imagine being loved more than I knew he loved me.  I told him that I would take care of my mom, and I told him he could let go now.  I told him he had fought a good fight, and that he deserved to be out of this pain.  I remember tears streaming down my face, even though I had prepared myself for this, and dripping onto his hand and my hand, together.  And I remember him reaching up one last time to wipe his 20 year-old son’s tears away and telling me, “Son, I have to go now.  I love you so much but I can’t take care of you anymore.  Always do the right thing, and I’ll be watching out for you.”  And with that, his eyes shut and he left us and crossed that great river into somewhere peaceful and without pain.

My other example, although quite different, is just as hard to remember.  My brother Gary was a black sheep of the family.  He spent years in jail, and he lived a hard-boiled existence.  He was 10 years older than me, and he was like a deity to me.  He was massive – anyone who knows me from years ago and who had met Gary will attest – he was a monster.  Gary moved to B.C. to get away from his life here – he got married and had a baby daughter and did his best to be a good husband and father.  I think he succeeded at the father part, but perhaps not so much at the husband part.  Gary made a concerted effort to visit his family in Edmonton whenever he could and would always bring his daughter with him.  We loved seeing him – everytime he’d come, he’d pick me up in his arms and hug me until I couldn’t breathe.  He was 6′, 3″ and weighed 290 lbs – and was at 8% body-fat.  He really could squeeze the breath out of you.

Although he was a bad man in his other life, he was also the sweetest person you had ever met, and I know for a fact he would die for a stranger if he could save their life.  The week before Mothers Day weekend in 1994, we got a call from him, saying he couldn’t wait to come up to Edmonton for Mothers Day. I talked to him, and told him about what was new with me.  He always wanted to know what I was doing and told me to be a good kid.  I told him about my girlfriend at the time.  I told him about my progress at the U of A.  I told him about my Audi and some modifications I had just done to it.  I told him about my recent speeding tickets, leaving the room so my mom wouldn’t hear about it.  My dad, of course, knew and smiled to himself.  And I told him I loved him and couldn’t wait to see him in a day or two.  He said he loved me too, and that he’d see us soon.  I told him to drive carefully.  My mom was so excited, as always, and we prepared to have the whole family there.  The Friday of that weekend, we received another call.  It was from the RCMP in Richmond, B.C. – my brother had been killed in a car accident.  He did not have ID on him at the time, but they identified him through fingerprints because of his criminal record – but still needed family to identify his body.  I’ll tell the rest of this story in another post, but I think my point it clear – we had our last good-bye without knowing it.  Would I have said anything differently?  I’m not sure – if I follow my rules, I can’t warn my brother that it will be our last good-bye and so, I think maybe I covered the bases, even though I didn’t know it was the last time.

Does that seem shallow?  I look at it this way – life is short.  Life is short, even if you live a full, long, healthy life.  Our time on this planet is but a fleeting moment in history.  I have been taught, and am teaching my kids, that telling someone they are important or at least letting them know that they are important to you somehow, is critical in life.  And I also feel that telling someone you love exactly that can never be a wasted moment.  I feel that we often say good-bye (or “I love you” instead of good-bye), but don’t mean it.  When was the last time you said “I love you” to someone as you were leaving each other and meant it for what it truly is?

I propose that we make our good-byes more meaningful, because we really never know when it might be the last one.  If we say “I love you” to those it applies to, and we part ways peacefully with those that we don’t necessarily love but are a part of our lives nevertheless, then what more can we do?  Not much, I’d say.  We’ve done our part to love people, and to life in peace and harmony with others.  And that way, when it is time for YOUR last good-bye, you can look back on the legacy that you’ve left behind, those footprints on the great sandy beach of life, and not regret a moment of it – rather, you can be thankful for the love you experienced and gave back, and for all the times you paid it forward.  That’s the way I want to go – smiling with the knowledge that I’ve treated my loved ones and my friends the right way, and that those who barely knew me still were treated with respect and dignity, and that hopefully I made a difference.

So what would you say to someone if you knew it was the last good-bye?

Posted in get to know me, one of my theories, where I came from | 4 Comments

The C-word – I mean the nasty one

Now that I have your attention – let’s talk about cancer.  It’s a nasty word.  There are very, very few positive connotations associated with this word – as a matter of fact, the only ones I could come up with are remission, or better yet, survival.  The negative attached to this word is overwhelming – the word itself is apt to produce a unique chemical reaction in our brains and has been shown to have a physiological effect on some people, causing them to exhibit physical reactions to hearing the word.  Why is that?  Why does this word, that describes a vast family of diseases, wreak such havoc and ruin so many peoples’ days?

I’m going to say, as in all my blog posts, I do NOT have the answers to any of these questions.  I only have my own experiences, my values, my beliefs and my theories.  In this case, I really can draw from experience – in a number of instances.  When I was younger, I lost one of my favorite uncles to cancer.  I saw this amazing man suffer and lose weight, I saw him fight a fight of champions, and ultimately saw him succumb to this disease.  I saw the impact that this had on his family.  If you read my previous posts, you may know that I’ve also lost my dad to cancer.  My brother had cancer and was miraculously healed – whether you believe in divine intervention or higher powers is none of my business, but something caused advanced Stage III lymphoma that had spread to his whole lymph system to completely leave his body with no medical treatment and he has been disease-free ever since.  My mom has had cancer, and I’m so grateful to be able to say she survived and is doing great.  Frankly, it’s difficult to think of a family I know that hasn’t been touched by this disease.

I too have come in intimate contact with that nasty word – as I was relaying but a fraction of my feelings on the subject to a Twitter friend, I was encouraged by a number of you to share my experience, and I’m glad to do it.

It was April 2000 – a mere 3 months before our wedding, and I was 26 years old.  Aimie and I were at the Home and Garden Show at the Agricom with a few friends, getting some ideas for the house we were building – our wedding was in July 2000 and we were shooting to have the house done ready to move in to after the wedding.  At the Home and Garden Show, I felt something in my neck.  At the time, it felt like swollen glands, yet somehow I immediately knew it was more than that.  It was only on one side – the right side.  The swelling was visibly noticeable and Aimie noted that she could see it too.  I kept feeling this lump, which was about 2 inches long and maybe 3/4 of an inch wide, and running my fingers over it.

I kept an eye on this swelling, and over the next few days I got concerned.  I wasn’t getting sick and I felt that if it was swollen glands, I should be coming down with something by now.  I went and saw my doctor.  She measured it, felt around that area in my neck for a very short time and announced that she wanted this looked at immediately.  If you don’t think we have a multi-tiered health-care system here, you obviously have a lot to learn, but let me tell you – having a connected doctor who can pull some strings makes a big difference.  That first doctor’s visit was on a Friday – this is what happened after that – 2 biopsies with pathology results, an MRI, a CT-scan and several x-rays.  11 days later, I was at the Hys Centre, being seen by a very well-known ENT surgeon from Ontario who flew here to see me.  He advised me that I definitely had cancer, a very rare type of thyroid cancer.  Not only that, but I had an even more rare occurrence of this cancer in that it was a thyroid cancer that didn’t originate in my thyroid gland, but rather in my throat – it moved into my thyroid gland after that and then spread to my tongue, and into my lymph system.  I was advised that I would be having surgery on Friday – exactly 2 weeks after first seeing my doctor.

And so it was – on Friday I showed up at the Misericordia Hospital, went through a couple of hours of pre-op goodness.  The surgeons came and marked my neck – a thick black felt line was drawn from my right ear straight down to the base of my neck and then across my throat all the way to the other side of my neck – a great big L.  I asked them “Oh, is that where you’ll be operating on me?”  The surgeon answered: “Oh no, this will form a triangular flap to open up your whole neck – that’s where we’ll be digging into you” and with that I was put under.  I underwent 5 hours of surgery, including a radical neck dissection, a thyroidectomy as well as the removal of all my parathyroid glands and all the lymph nodes in the right side of my neck.  I was left with 99 stitches and 2 drains in my chest and I woke up about 6 hours after being anaesthetized.

I felt like crap when I woke up, but the fun was only starting.  I had a typical recovery from surgery – woozy, not feeling too hot, about 6-10 hours of that.  After 3 days, I was able to go home.  With this massive incision running down and across my neck, I was told to take it easy and not to make any sudden moves with my neck.  My mom picked me up from the hospital – as you may have already guessed, I’m not a great listener at times – first thing I did on 170th Street was see a 911 Turbo flying by – of course that warranted a shoulder check – and I bled all over my mom’s brand new BMW.  It wasn’t a good thing.  We went back and the doctor advised me to let it heal and he would gladly laser the scar tissue away once it had closed up.  I’ll get back to this later.

I took the next week off work – my doctor said I should be off for 3-4 weeks but I was going crazy!  I kept feeling better and better as the days went by.  I was in a marketing position at the time, and frankly, after a week I had practically forgotten that my neck looked like Frankenstein’s.  One of our biggest customers was in and they were staring at me as I was talking to them – only after the weird looks did I remember I had 99 stitches on my neck.

In follow up I was told that there was still residual disease, and somehow I wasn’t surprised.  I think once you’ve went through cancer surgery, you feel like you’ve got most of it and you’ve just got to take care of the rest.  That was my feeling on it anyway.  I did have to go for regular CT scans and a couple of MRIs.  After 3 months, I had to go back for my first round of radiation.  Not the beam radiation, but rather the liquid radiation.  I think it’s an irradiated isotope or something like that.

Anyway, I went to the Cross Cancer Institute and was told to pack for an overnight stay.  I was NOT told what to expect.  I was taken to a room on the southwest corner of the 3rd floor – overlooking University Ave and the ravine/river valley basically.  A doctor came in – he explained that I would be drinking radiation and would have to stay in quarantine until I wasn’t dangerously radioactive – a period of 1-3 days.  Shortly thereafter, a guy came in in a biohazard suit.  I’m not kidding.  A full bio-hazard suit.  I was thinking this is from some bad movie, but was told that the employees need to protect themselves from the radiation because they are exposed to it day in and day out, all year long for many years.  Whatever man!  Even if it’s only one exposure for me, you want me to drink that?!  I figured OK, here we go – I was given a little orange juice to mix it with and down the hatch it went.  No taste, nothing differentiating it from the orange juice.

And then the tough part started.  I’m a bit of a social animal – I love my away time where I can have a minute or two to myself, but more than that, I require human contact.  I had none.  I was quarantined in a lead-lined room, with a locked door – there was a shield in front of the door, so I couldn’t even see out of the tiny window.  My food was slid in through a slot, prison-style.  The bathroom was completely covered by taped-on gauze pads – EVERYTHING was covered in it – because if you splash your pee on anything, it’s radioactive.  The phone – taped off.  TV remote?  Yep, taped off.  I had a radiation-measuring read-out on the wall that told me how “hot” I was.  All I knew was the number I had to wait for it to drop to, and until then I couldn’t leave.  It took three days, and they were the most miserable days of my life.  I missed my fiancee, I missed my friends, I missed my family, I missed working.  It seems trivial to spend 3 days in solitude to eradicate a disease from your system, I know.  I’m thankful that I could go through this treatment as it’s likely why I’m here today.  All told, I had 4 sessions of radiation treatment like this – all from 3 to 4 days – over the next 9 months.

After this, I was coming in to the Cross for check-ups every 3 months.  After a year, I was able to reduce my follow-up visits to every 6 months, and after two more years of that, I was able to come back yearly.  In November 2006, my oncologist gave me a clean bill of health.

I’m not sharing anything ground-breaking here, and I didn’t go through anything that millions of people haven’t experienced one way or another.  What I do want to share are some things that I realized while I was going through this experience.

First, I realized that life can end up being far shorter than we want it to be, and although it might seem like I complain a lot or bitch about things on Twitter, it’s not really complaining.  It’s in good fun, and almost always, I’m kidding when I complain.  When it comes to true complaining, I try my best never to do it.  I have learned to be grateful for things that I would have easily taken for granted before learning I had cancer.  I still try to do this 10 years later.

A variation on this topic is complaining about my health.  A lot of people said “Wow! I feel so bad for you – I can’t believe you have to go through this.”  No, it wasn’t fun hearing the c-word.  No, it wasn’t fun having my mind play the “You’re likely going to die” tricks on me and worrying about that.  No, having surgery wasn’t fun.  No, going back for what seemed like endless CT scans and MRIs over the years and follow-up visits to the Cross wasn’t a good time.  No, being isolated in a radiation-proof chamber in the Cross Cancer Institute wasn’t pleasant.  But let me tell you something – having to visit the Cross so many times truly opened my eyes.  I wasn’t one who really suffered.  There are people there who have been back countless times, for multiple diagnoses, who are dying right before your eyes.  And those people – they aren’t complaining.  How could I ever complain?!  Those people are amazing examples of strength and courage.

This brings me to my final point – remember how I tore open my huge incision wound on my neck within minutes of leaving the hospital?  Remember the kind offer of the surgeon to rid me of the ugly scar tissue once it healed up?  I never took him up on it.  I don’t talk about it often, and usually just tell people who ask that it’s a long story.  People probably assume it was a bad bar fight or something.  If you’ve met me in person, you know what I mean – you can’t miss the massive scar running down my entire neck under my right ear.  But, my friends, that’s the point.  I see that scar every morning – so why would I ever want to get rid of it?  It reminds me of all the amazing things in my life that I have to be thankful for.  And I never want to forget that.

A side note – if you are diagnosed with cancer, surround yourself with support and positive energy.  Talk to people about it.  There’s no shame in being diagnosed.  There’s no shame in getting treatment to save your life.  And there’s no shame in choosing not to go through with treatments if you so choose.  Cancer is a mental disease as much as a physical one.  You need to want to beat it, and you can.  You will.  And you’ll have so much more to be thankful for when you get through it.  If you’re reading this, and are going through a similar situation, or if you’ve already went through your experience – in terms of your own situation or someone you know/love, please feel free to comment and let others know how this parallels or differs from what you are experiencing or have experienced.

Posted in get to know me, where I came from, where I'm going | 6 Comments

If you could go back…

I want to follow up my last blog post with this one.  In having thought about growing up and always wanting to be older, I realized that I’d arrived there and frankly, being older isn’t as great as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong – I’m married to my dream girl and I have two healthy, gorgeous girls with another baby on the way. We have amazing friends and are surrounded by great families. My career is where I thought it would be, and I can’t legitimately complain about anything.

With that said, it doesn’t hurt to dream in reverse. Let me tell you why I think that dwelling on the past doesn’t do any harm in this case, and might just give us a little insight into who we are.  I’ve taken some more introspective time to reflect on my childhood and youth and couldn’t help but want to go back to some times to experience them again because they were so elemental, so formative, so powerful and so primal, that I want to just go through that experience again.  Conversely, there are a few times in my life that I would love to relive to be able to change them.  I made a few decisions in this life of mine that I wish I could make again, drawing on experiences and lessons I’ve learned since then.

I have had the privilege of conversing about this with some Twitter friends.  I always value other people’s opinions whether I agree or not and I value their perspectives and experiences just as much.  I hope these folks don’t mind me sharing some of them…

@erikholmlund  I look at my 5 year old and the world through his eyes is the one I wished I lived in. Dinos, superheroes and everything is new.

@kiddogawluk  I’d go back to about Grade 11 (IF I could take what I know now with me)

@BrentWelch  11 or 12 would be my choice… had more girls chasing me than ever

@PoisonLolita  it was all downhill after 3 for me, so I want that back.

@TheBestSportMom  Think I’d go back to my first year of university

Also an interesting question from someone who, as far as I know, is younger than the others who were taking part in this conversation, which I found fascinating because she is looking forward instead of back:
@achromatica  What about being older did you wish for? I’m excited for the career part!!

And finally, I loved the response from @kiddogawluk to @achromatica: The 20s are the Building Blocks of all future decades (sounds corny & cliche). I think 20s shape who u become in future.

I’m going to ask these people, or frankly any other readers, for a favor – if you’re taking the time to read this, would you consider adding a comment below to tell us why you’d want to go back to these times, or experience them again?  I’d really appreciate that – I’d love to see where you’re coming from and how it’s affected where you’re going.  If you do, please accept my gratitude in advance.  And if you’re reading this, please come back to see some of their responses – I think they’ll be fascinating!  On a side note, if you’re not already following these folks on Twitter, you should be – they’re all great tweeple.

I found that others I’ve spoken to, tweeted with, etc. chose to want to return to parts of their childhood or youth based on, most of the time, what great things were going on for them at that particular time, and realized that no one will ever give the same answer for this question.  It might come across as an idiotic question and quite “Hot Tub Time Machine”-ish at first, but I found it fascinating to start examining the difference between others’ and my own responses and consider how these responses may be a reflection of who we’ve become.  These experiences we have went through likely have had an enormous impact on who we’ve now become.

As for me, I’d gladly share a few of the times in my past that I’d love to go back to – and why.

First off, I’d love to go back to September 1982. That was the day I spit at my Grade 3 teacher behind her back at recess, and my dad was driving by and saw it. Strangely, when I got home that afternoon, I saw his face and I knew instantly that somehow he knew.  And the disappointment in me and my actions that he expressed when he talked to me about it stayed with me for my entire life.  I wish I could take that enormous display of disrespect back.

Next, I’d like to relive the experience of going to Germany the first time. The wonderment that accompanied seeing where my people came from, the amazing things that our history has wrought out of earth and stone, and seeing what the good and bad of Germany’s history has written on our souls in one way or another – that was truly a formative summer of my life.  In visiting there 8 times, I always loved being there and always saw and learned new things and honestly, I always felt more at home in Germany than here – but nothing can compare to the pure magic of the first time I set foot there.

I would also like to go back to my university days. I could have avoided a relationship that didn’t do me much good and I would have hunted Aimie down and told her, “Babe, let’s do this NOW because we’re going to end up together and I don’t want to spend any more of my life without you”.  Hopefully she’d accept – wouldn’t THAT suck if she didn’t? 🙂

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly to me – if only I could return to any time in my life where my dad was still alive, I would give almost anything to do it.  I would give so much to just see my dad again, to hug him, to kiss him and to hear his voice.  I would have so many questions that I never got a chance to ask him, and would love to get his advice on things to come.  I’ve seen and experienced so many things since he left us, and I wish I could go back to that time to tell him one more time how much he was to me, and how much I wish he could have seen me as a husband and daddy and how much I would have loved to have seen him as an Opa, holding my babies and hugging my wife.

So in reviewing what people have told me about what time in their life they would like to go back to and the times that I’d like to go back to, I firmly believe we hang on to those memories, those times where life either went really well for us or horribly wrong – and we’d either love to relive them because they were so amazing, or relive them because we would do anything to take them back and go about matters in a different way.  All respectable perspectives, to be sure, but in the end, it turns out that only one thing matters…

It is that we have, in fact, already experienced these times and for better or worse, will never relive them.  We can never go back and experience them again, and we take with us the good and the bad – we love to reminisce because of the happy times and we love to hate the times we wish we could take back.  Yet we can’t do either – we can only move forward and make the best of those experiences, and couple them with our values, our beliefs, our passions and our souls – and be ourselves as it was always meant to be.

Posted in get to know me, one of my theories, where I came from | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments