Out Of The Ashes

On Remembrance Day I have two fathers to thank for their sacrifices in World War II. The man who raised me and the one I called Dad, fought in the Canadian Army. He was wounded twice, once on the last day of the war. Gordon, my birth father, was in the RCAF and piloted a Lancaster Bomber on numerous missions. This is the story of how I found Gordon after 35 years of separation and how his memories of the war surfaced in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on New York City in 2001.

“This is Gordon and, yes, I am your father,” the voice on the other end of the line said in response to my letter in 1988. In one of the many amazing instances of synchronicity in my life, I had, after many years, finally found my birth father.

When I mailed the letter I had no idea what the outcome would be, nor even if it was the right man. Would he even want to meet me? I accepted that he might not want to do so.

Talking to him that day on the phone had seemed so natural and easy. It was as though we had just said goodbye the day before. In reality, I had not seen or spoken to him for 35 years. I had few conscious memories left of the man I last saw when I was four-years-old and, yet, I knew finding him was vital to my future. We talked and laughed for 45 minutes. I remember how excited he was and that I could actually feel the adrenalin running through the phone. A short two weeks later, I was driving down to New York State to meet my birth father.

When Gordon walked towards me in their kitchen and hugged me I knew I had finally come home. Not to a father or the siblings I was soon to meet, but to myself. I felt out of place my whole life because in my soul I had no tether. But I saw myself in Gordon and knew in that moment I had healed a large hole inside. Even if I never saw him again after the visit, I felt at peace, felt complete. Like me, he was supportive, caring, emotionally intuitive, interested in many facets of life and he had a slightly dark sense of humour. On the negative side, we both suffered from depression and had been through medical battles.

The next couple of years were good. We communicated often and he supported me as I finished writing a book that had taken six out of 11 years of my life to write, The Opening Act, Canadian Theatre History 1945-1953. The day I finished it he sent me a card and flowers.

We talked about healing the wounds of the past. He recognized my feelings of abandonment and understood he was responsible for those feelings. Mostly he nurtured me and I tried to help him heal some of his own pain.

I made the decision to move to the other end of Canada, ironically to the province of his birth. He encouraged the move even though he knew it meant we might never see each other again. We never did. Gordon’s withdrawn personality returned and he found his way back into his shell but for a space in time I gave him renewed energy and hope, “gave him back his life” he told me.

It was frustrating, though, to watch Gordon retreat emotionally. I was in Canada and he was in New York and it was hard to hold on to him.

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Talk At Dunbar Public Library

I am excited to tell you about an upcoming talk I am giving on my book The Opening Act, Canadian Theatre History 1945-1953. It will be at the Dunbar Public Library, 4515 Dunbar Street, Vancouver on October 18, 2017 at 6:15. I would really love to see you there and meet you afterwards.

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Wheels of Love Chapter One, Part Two

Chapter One, Part Two

After bidding farewell to their young Moroccan friend, the three travellers discovered the train to Narbonne had left. They had an hour to kill in the station until the next one and they were also going to have to go to Nice via Marseilles after all because the delayed connection did not allow them to go directly from Narbonne.

Their attention was quickly diverted to a commotion further down the platform on which they were standing. At the centre was a man flailing his arms about and screaming at anyone who approached him. A train station employee trying to talk to him was becoming increasingly agitated.Then he noticed the Canadian flags on the women’s knapsacks and walked over to them. He asked the three in French if they could  translate for him, to help find out what was bothering the man and making him crazy.

The bilingual Deb agreed, thinking the man might be from Canada. He wasn’t. Like a crazed animal, he was lashing out at everyone around him, almost foaming at the corners of his mouth. Instantly deciding he was unbalanced they, nevertheless, reluctantly moved towards him.

“Stay away no one come near me,” he spat out in a strong Scottish accent.

Other than long, bushy sideburns, he was clean-cut and on the younger side of thirty. Sitting on a bench for a split second and then up and pacing again, he was obviously terrified to stay still. Sue began talking to him very gently as she moved closer and closer and finally convinced him they were on his side, wherever that was! His name was Geordie. As he started telling them his strange tale, the three of them looked at each other wishing they were some¬where else, anywhere but on that platform in Cerbere. The story he told seemed impossible and yet Sue had this nagging suspicion in her head that he was telling the truth.

Travelling much as Sue and Deb were doing, Geordie and his friend had been staying in youth hostels and experiencing Europe.

“We saw something we shouldn’t have and they started chasing us”, he said swallowing more air than he was sending to his lungs. He was still darting around but in a shorter circumference.

“What did you see?” Sue said, asking the obvious question.

“It’s crazy, just plain crazy, don’t you understand. I don’t know what we saw. They caught us and we asked why and they said we knew what we’d seen. We didn’t, I swear. We were scared but were able to get away but they found us again and now they’ve killed my friend and they’re going to get me too”.

Geordie said all this without taking a breath but frequently wiping his sweating forehead with his shirtsleeve. He leaned over and tried to get some air into his lungs.

“Who’s after you?” Sue said, grabbing his arm in an effort to calm him down.

“The Mafia, the Mafia, now do you understand”.

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Wheels of Love Chapter One

 Chapter One

It was scorching hot that late September day in 1972. Sue and Deb had been travelling for six weeks and having a blast. They’d both worked hard for a year, saving to backpack for four months through England and Europe. Sue, although only 23, had so much responsibility back at home that she was really enjoying the freedom she was experiencing. That freedom was all she wanted from this adventure. Never in a million years was love in the picture.

Arriving at the train station in Barcelona early that morning, the platform was overrun with men. Given what happened in France a couple of weeks before, seeing few other women left Sue a little apprehensive about the day ahead but she quickly put her fears aside. They grabbed an empty carriage but it did not stay that way long as they were soon joined by a young Moroccan boy and a woman from England. The latter was so frail and nervous Sue wondered why she was travelling alone. The 16-year-old boy with the black curly hair and animated gestures made them all smile. In spite of his exuberance, he had an appealing shyness about him. It only took five minutes of sitting in the station before the heat got to them.

“Geez it’s hot. This is September, isn’t it?” Deb asked as she made sure all the windows and the carriage door were wide open.

“Apparently” Sue replied while helping fight one of the creaky old train windows into submission.

However, the open windows brought them little relief. Sue was reaching into her knapsack for a bottle of juice when a young man appeared in the doorway of the carriage. She saw his feet first and then her eyes slowly moved up the rest of his body to a face that made her solar plexus tighten and piercing blue eyes that led her down into the most open soul she had ever encountered. She knew at that instant her life would never be the same again.

“Is seats taken?” the man said.

“No,” Sue said quickly.

The young man must have thought he was asking were the seats empty because with Sue’s response he started to walk away. She sprang to her feet and grabbed his arm.

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