He had a beautiful smile…

In my wife’s words, he had a beautiful smile.

I first met José Enrique in February of 2006. I could only guess his age although I would have said he was in his mid to late 20’s. He was tall, muscular, and displayed an element of bravado that belied many tattoos: suggesting another life.

Our surroundings were new and unfamiliar but this did not stop our hosts from warmly welcoming us. As our visit frequency increased in the ensuing years to this warm get-away, we seamlessly became family.

The 22nd parallel in this part of the world is truly an oasis, where the desert and the Pacific Ocean intermingle to present a fine, rich and lush band of colour, warmth, and sensory beauty. Much of this beauty exists in quiet and less commercial islands in this oasis, and we were fortunate to have found ourselves in a commercial yet set-back, small, and somewhat personalized lodging and community. The very small family run restaurant connected to the hotel had a limited menu but each bite of food and each refreshing drink was served with a rich connection to those whose daily lives depended upon our time and continued enjoyment of sumptuous simple food served in a spartan environment. We loved it, it was home, and it was as comforting and enveloping as any extended family could offer.

Mom and dad made the restaurant work with the help of a number of long-time staff. Mom spent her day in the tiny closet referred to as her kitchen and dad appeared to enjoy glad-handing, keeping a tight watch on the cash, and ever so subtly overseeing the public face of the business. I do not know how many years they had been associated with this establishment but everyone appeared at home and appeared to share a common, greater world.

Son, José Enrique would appear to help out now and again. He was affable and gregarious but appeared to have a life beyond helping mom and dad. In retrospect, I believe, at the time, he was unsure of himself and unfamiliar with his role in this family community. He spoke about having just moved to town, having left behind a life in Los Angeles. I believe he was born in the US and at some point, mom and dad left the US and returned home. Somehow in all of these fragmented, shared moments I came to believe that returning to mom and dad was a chance to step away from a life that potentially offered a short and unpleasant end. José loved to talk and although much of what he alluded to was rather vague, it did help to offer a glimpse through a foreigner’s lens that over the years further added to a broader set of lives that a Hemingway, a Greene, or perhaps Le Carré would have enjoyed parsing and eventually evince the nature of this young man and his disjointed life.

Our association with this culturally diverse and richly extended family allowed us to share babies becoming grownup teenagers, marriages and honeymoons, loves lost and loves found, corporate dismissals, the physical reinventing of the lodgings and the reshaping of the community through a meandering set of jobs-for-life. There continues to be those wonderful stalwarts that have helped to keep the community together, allow us to remain part of the family and remain connected close or from a distance.

In 2015, dad, José senior, the anchor, the dreamer, and in many ways the restaurant itself was taken down by an aneurism during one of his daily bookkeeping sessions at a table in the restaurant. As can be imagined from any family’s perspective, this was a devastating blow for the family and the community. Mom, whom I believe is well past any reasonable sense of retirement age was left to keep together a fragile social and financial arrangement and trust that others, especially young José Enrique would step up and help.

I had the great pleasure of once more sharing several wonderful weeks with our extended, away family in 2016 and enjoyed sharing stories with different members of the larger community and got to hear of and observe the changing dynamic that one must expect with time. To sit and chat about everything and nothing with like-minded souls is a wonderful treat and somehow, I knew I needed as much of this sharing as time would permit. I got to participate in a number of fabulous, and at times, raucous social events and see the exchanges and interchanges of family and friends alike. I was able to extend my friend connections and I watch the not-so-young José Enrique enjoy his children, I watched mom/grandma Norma enjoy all this from a distance, and I was ever so blessed to be part of such a tiny slice of this rich and engaging community.

Well I am not sure that this expression is the best under the circumstances, however it appears that all along there was an elephant in room and that elephant finally reared its unfortunate head just after New Year, 2018. I was contacted and informed that young José Enrique had been murdered the night before. Sadly, it seems that this young man’s previous life remained connected to him in some way and the unfortunate tentacles of the drug world reached out and touched and fractured another family and another set of communities.

None of us should have to imagine such events let alone experience them, as young José Enrique’s family is now doing. I cannot speak of the drug world, as this has fortunately remained nothing more to me than words on pages, virtual or otherwise. I can however, unfortunately speak of the pain of witnessing a family torn apart by this terrible societal greed and wonder from far away what my distant family will become.

The José family’s direct connection with the restaurant will cease and in time the greater community will heal. In the smaller world of the family, children will grow up without their father, while having some sense of a life lost and why, a mother will be comforted by her remaining family and yet forever believe she could have intervened in some way to have prevented this tragedy.

And yes, the community will move on with hurt in their hearts for different parts of this unfortunate loss of life and family. New families will arrive and be unaware of the before community yet bring new and fresh experiences and help bring life back to this little oasis, this little set-back, small, and rich community. We are ever so blessed to have known this family as part of our larger away family and community and we too will heal and continue to share in the lives of those who remain and keep the spirit alive.

Farewell young man. May your family heal and your beautiful smile be remembered.

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Remembrance Day – My Canadian Perspective

I am generationally defined as a baby-boomer. I was born at a time of relative global peace and unlike my father and my grandfather before me, I have never been compelled to join an armed force and go to war. I can complain about a lot of things but I belong to a very lucky generation, a generation of Canadians who truly benefitted from the sacrafices of those who went before.

My grandfather, at the age of 36 married my grandmother in Vancouver BC and then headed off to training and eventually found himself in early 1916 in and around Ypres digging trenches and tunnels.

Roger and Elizabeth - 1915

Roger and Elizabeth – 1915

Spend any time online looking at the history of the First World War and you will see that this part of the battlefield was a daily orgy of killing and destruction and then attempt to imagine what this must have been like for someone whose weapon was a pick and a shovel and whose theatre of operation was the daily rebuilding of the trenches and roads and related tunnel systems thick with the remains one’s comrades in arms. My grandfather was eventually buried in an attack while underground and in the fall of 1916 was send away from the front being declared unfit for active duty. He was sent home diagnosed with “shell shock”. He became an unemployable veteran who was shamed by his siblings and others and yet somehow he managed to maintain his dignity through the rest of his 90-year life. I remember him as a richly engaging man who smiled often and always had something joyful to say to his grandchildren.

Sadly, as with many of my grandfather’s generation who believed that they had fought the war to end all wars, 20 years later they were forced to witness another global war and to sadly watch their sons go off to face another enemy in another horrendous conflict.

Charles in Cairo 1943

Charles in Cairo 1943

My father joined the Canadian air force in 1940 at the age of 18 and although he found himself as a member of  a bomber crew over Europe and then in a similar capacity in the Mediterranean Sea off Malta in fall of 1941, he always felt that he had (in his words) “a good war” as he was moved to an Air Sea Rescue Squadron in Egypt at the end of 1941 and spent over 3 years in North Africa rescuing people from both land and sea. I gather it was not always as pleasant as he would portray it but after 4 years in Europe and Africa he came home with few apparent physical and/or emotional scars. His two brothers (one in the navy and the other in the army) did not fare as well. Their scars (not visible) haunted them for the rest of their lives.

My father made a career of the Air Force (RCAF) as he loved his military life. I was raised in this environment, moving from air base to air base and as I knew no different, I too loved the life. I was lucky to have parents who loved each other and worked well together and I was given the gift of their love and their love of life.

I was also given the gift of peace in my time, the peace that neither my father’s nor my grandfather’s generation knew. It is this peace that is so powerfully felt yet extends with a heavy weight. I hold on to this gift especially as we approach Remembrance Day – November 11. It is a symbolic date but it is one that I hope we can hold on to and one whose meaning and significance can remain part of the fibre and fabric of this country well beyond the lifetime of any who may have a shred of connection to the more challenging events of the twentieth century.

The twenty-first century has exposed us to challenges that past generations may never have imagined. However, by attempting to keep the stories alive and to continue to help a new generation find ways to connect with their history and help them find their place within the richness of our lived experiences, we can hope that the message of remembrance might be one of understanding, peaceful and shared coexistence, and a belief that our future is tied to our willingness to work together.

In Flanders Fields the poppy grow beneath the crosses row on row...

In Flanders Fields the poppy grow beneath the crosses row on row… http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/get-involved/postcard-for-peace


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We the living…

I just don’t get it. “Jane Doe had a long and memorable career in ‘x’ and she will be sadly missed by those whose lives she touched…. As per her wishes there will be no memorial service

I see this over and over again and I don’t understand. Maybe this is because of my personal circumstance. My father passed away at the age of 64 and he “instructed” my mother that there was to be no service or memorial of any kind. My dear mother loved my father and executed his wishes as requested and spent the remaining 25 years of her life as a sad lady who repeatedly commented that she never got to properly mourn the loss of her beloved. Now I know many might suggest that this was of my mother’s making but I would respond by suggesting that it takes a particularly strong and different type of person to say “screw this – I’m doing my own thing” especially during a time when one’s life has been torn apart through such a loss.

My feeling is that this responsibility lies with all of us. What are people concerned about? First of all, you, the deceased are not going to be at this memorial, other than in spirit. No one makes anyone attend these things so only those who wish to gather and remember are present anyway. OK maybe there are limited funds to have such an event but come on folks, there are many places where such an event could be held where there would little to no cost: what about gathering in a park, a coffee shop or even a drinking establishment. After all, the human experience is one of continual growth and enlightenment (or at least I like to think so) and the death of a loved one or of a friend is part of our human experience.

Yes I will remember Jane Doe but it could have been a richer remembrance for all.

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I live in a world of words however sometimes they are not enough

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Yes – today is your birthday! (OK I couldn’t wait – a day early but…)

I have a million pictures and we could scroll through them all with awe and amazement but I have only put up a few. You have given us a wonderful gift and in turn we hope you will appreciate a few moments in no set order.

I have added this special link (song) to help you celebrate

Happy birthday you wonderful young lady – You are beautiful!

Gpa2 9yrs IMG_1274 Grandpaandariana-valentineday P1020063 P1040473 P1040532 cm2 copy Ari01 Ari2013 Grandpa and Me Calif2012GFriver-aug27photoIMG_2071IMG_3482

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A Canadian Thanksgiving Reflection

Our good friends at Wikipedia tell us that the Canadian Thanksgiving celebration has existed in various forms since the late 1500’s, it moved to being a fall harvest festival in the 1870’s, and finally in 1957 the Federal government passed legislation making the official date the second Monday in October. Not all Canadian jurisdictions recognize this time as an official statutory holiday however this date is deemed to be a national day of Thanksgiving.

So what’s the big deal in this 21st century, urban, globally interconnected world we live in? I would liken Thanksgiving to a purposeful reflection – not necessarily religious but possibly spiritual. Maybe for some this might seem forced (and maybe it is) however the whole idea of a purposeful reflection is that it should allow for a slowing down, it should allow for a time to enable us to look large beyond our daily lives and look small or close at those things which are at our feet and see who we are and where we are in relation to the world and to those around us. When else do we do this?

For example I am thankful that I can quietly sit here in my office on a sunny and warm Sunday and peacefully write this blog. I am also thankful that I am graced with the richness of a loving and supportive wife and family and I am also thankful that I live in a society that is not at war and I do not have to have bars on my windows or live in a guarded compound. I am thankful that my granddaughter can run around and happily play in our neighbourhood without great fear or concern for her well-being. And I am thankful that I have been able to become well educated and be employed in an industry that gives me great freedom of expression and thought.

The sheer fact that I have taken the time to write this and reflect as I am writing is truly a gift worth taking the time to be thankful for. What about you?

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