I was listening to CBC (as I often do) last month and, on the 14th, there was recognition made of the huge power outage which occurred ten years ago (ie. 2003). The essential elements of the event were discussed and hosts and audience related their personal experiences over the several days of “powerlessness”. Beginning about 4:13 p.m. that day about 50 million found themselves without hydro.
In our case, we were being shuttled to the Toronto (Pearson) airport when our driver suddenly found himself without operating traffic lights to negotiate the busy streets. Both he and we believed that it must be a localized and temporary phenomenon until we were dropped off at the airport only to discover it in darkness. We managed to get checked in in spite of it all and settled down to wait for our flight amid reports that the outage was widespread and likely to delay our departure.
Which indeed it did. We eventually migrated to baggage area (where it was a bit cooler than the passenger lounge) and spent a sleepless night waiting for word on our flight. Although departures were not fully resumed for several days we did manage to leave about 7:30 the next morning on our particular flight. Destination? Halifax… and a visit to Jane’s aunt and uncle (Eve was celebrating her birthday on August 15th and we’d promised to be there to take her out for dinner. Promise kept!)
But then, that was the sort of year it was. Eventful. Unexpected. At the time several in our family remarked that an account of this year would make for a good short story, if not a full novel. Perhaps it was the myriad tales that made up our 2003… daunting to organize and enumerate… or the very busyness at the time which prevented some decent period of reflection. In any case, it’s ten years later and, although I still find it daunting to undertake, here’s an impressionistic (ie. disorganized) recollection of the year.
Family. Always evolving. July 1st of that year marked the passing of my father. My mother had died about six years earlier (the same year as Princess Diana and Mother Teresa) and while her death had, of course, affected me profoundly, my father had remained as symbol of that older generation… that buffer between a child and his own mortality. His death removed that barrier and suddenly I was now (at least in name) patriarch of our family. His final illness had been precipitated by a probable stroke several weeks earlier. He had recovered somewhat from that event only to develop a rather serious case of pneumonia. A visit to his doctor led to a recommendation of hospitalization. We dutifully took him to the emergency room, only to wait for the next twelve hours as the normally tedious process of admission was greatly exacerbated by the procedures in place to deal with the SARS crisis at the time. Part of those procedures included no admittance for family while the patient waited alone in one of the treatment rooms. Not surprisingly, after about ten hours of inactivity I was finally called into the room because my father had become (surprise, surprise) “unmanageable”. He finally was given a room by late evening and much of our next several weeks were spent there with him.
In an odd affirmation of the “circle of life”, as my father lay dying on one floor of the hospital, our daughter-in-law was being admitted to another to give birth to our second grandchild, Imogen Celeste. In one of those unexpected moments which characterized the year, Jane was invited to take a break from her vigil at my father’s bedside and attend the birth in the delivery room. Even more unusual, our newborn granddaughter was able to make a brief visit to my father’s room (although he was soundly asleep/unconscious at the time).
His illness also coincided with the arrival of a wedding invitation to attend the nuptials of our second son, Patrick to his longtime girlfriend, Pam (in August). And so, that summer (of 2003) came to include a death, a birth and a marriage (not counting the celebration in Nova Scotia!).
As an aside, I had the interesting task of providing the music (it was an outdoor wedding) as well as being father of the groom.
School. No less eventful in its own way. I had decided several years earlier to apply for a masters’ program (Master of Education) at Western. My motivation? Maybe simply to say I’d accomplished that feat? Maybe to achieve a salary increase a year or two before retiring? Maybe to distract myself from the unpleasant changes which had occurred in the education system at the political level? Probably all of those and more. In any case, the spring of 2003 meant putting the finishing touches on my thesis and defending it. It’s probably best that we usually don’t know how a year will unfold… had I known that I would be defending my thesis in late June as my father lay in hospital, I would never sought have such a convergence. I was exhausted that examination day and remember virtually nothing of my defense other than a question being put to me… how would you see your thesis being used by some future researcher? I do remember thinking at the time I haven’t got the foggiest idea. I don’t suppose I said that, however, because I did, in the end, obtain the degree.
Jane took up the torch that fall. Her post-secondary education (which, at that time, included a B.A. and Diploma in Art Therapy) had been achieved attending school on a part-time basis while holding down one or more (five at one point) part-time jobs. The fall of 2003 afforded her the opportunity to (for the first time) attend school full-time with an end to obtaining a Masters Degree… which she did in 2005.
House and Home. Back in the 80’s we purchased a lot just south of Tobermory with a view to (one day) building a house on the property.
It was probably always an impractical scenario… a remote location and rugged landscape (not even talking about bears, rattlesnakes and the winters!) But the place was also beautiful for its remoteness and ruggedness- a psychological support when the stresses of life threatened to overwhelm us.
But, by 2003, with retirement from teaching only two years ahead, the time had come to investigate the practicality of the dream. That year we met with a contractor and queried him about the cost of erecting a simple year-round home on the site. His estimate would require the funds realized from the sale of our current home in London and almost our entire savings. It gave us cause to reconsider. I had always had a fondness for the water (for Jane, it was especially the ocean) and this setback was discouraging. We followed our longtime remedy… look at real estate. We had visited Goderich several times in the past and Jane had recently begun to participate in the town’s annual Celtic Roots Festival. We decided to explore the town and see what properties were offered in our price range. Well… that’s a bit like checking out Border Collie puppies. You know what happens…
In this case, the “puppy” looked like this…
We first saw Eulalie (our nickname for the grand old lady) in the fall of 2003 and, after several visits, put in an offer which was accepted and took possession on Easter weekend in 2004.
It was a strange twist in our retirement plans… but we like to blame Eulalie for our move.
Now I would like to say that this represents the totality of the year’s events. In fact, it barely scratches the surface (the proverbial tip of the iceberg). Cars. Employment changes. The list goes on…
Suffice it to say that it remains one of the most eventful years in my life… with effects that flow through to the present.
And you say... we need a song inserted here (this is a music blog after all).
All right… let’s finish with a new song called NEW by our friend, Paul…