Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Lives of Others

As a faith-based celebration Thanksgiving means nothing to me. I have no God in my life, no need of one, nor a code of living associated to one. So any calendrical occasions attached to Christianity or any other religion bear no significance for me beyond the possibility of a day's rest from work. Even then I usually work the stats. In recent years, however, Thanksgiving has shown itself to me as a convenient pause in the year, a time when I have genuinely turned to taking stock of my life and feeling very grateful for where I find myself these days.

In April we moved into a beautiful house, a dream home fully intended to be our last move, the place where Susan and I will see out our days. We both have work paying enough to enable us to meet the mortgage and bills, clothe and feed ourselves and, whether it be a chocolate bar or occasional weekend away, enjoy treats of various kinds.  We are able to buy music, books and art. We have Reggie, a beautiful, crazy and richly entertaining feline companion. Our community of friends is wonderful and we feel loved by them. We live in a quiet neighbourhood with good neighbours. There is glorious scenery all around us and pretty much every day we see Hummingbirds. In Vancouver, Seattle and Victoria, we have access to a shot of big city life whenever we want or need it. As I have no blood relatives left alive my whole family, on Susan's side, is close by if we need them, or they need us. It's good to know we have that support network just up the highway.

I could continue, but there is no need. Persistent health issues and life's petty irritations aside, it will be evident from the facts presented here that life is good, that we've never been happier.

We have a friend who works the graveyard shift at a corporate convenience store in the roughest part of town, for $10.75 per hour. He works alone, has been refused a raise of even 25c per hour many times, and is hassled each and every night by hookers, junkies and psychos. He is constantly tired and stressed, has no money and usually looks like hell. His meagre income has been the sole bread coming in to pay the rent and feed his wife and 12-year-old daughter. They also care for the baby of the useless teenage daughter and lard-ass stoner boyfriend our friend utterly despairs of, a couple lacking even the most basic of parenting skills. They are happy to let our friend care for his granddaughter pretty much full-time, while they laze about getting stoned, playing with their fifty or so pet rats (yes, really) and playing computer games all day. The baby is an inconvenience to them. It's a miserable existence, but somehow our friend manages to keep smiling, shrugging off his woes as part of life for the majority.

On Thursday night, our friend's wife passed away, aged 43. She had a heart attack last week and, with subsequent swelling on the brain, when the doctors indicated there was nothing further they could do to keep her alive, the family decided that the best course of action was to take her off life support. My friend emailed me at 3:50am on Friday to break the news, writing with such grace and dignity in the face of such a nightmare scenario that I struggle to comprehend how he could even function. I picked up the email at something-past-six yesterday morning and the tears flowed. We are heartbroken for him and his lovely young daughter.

What will happen next in the life of this poor man? Since we've known him nothing has gone right in his life. He has had health issues to contend with, problems with his circulation, blood clots on his leg and dreadful dental trouble. He works so hard, gives so much love to his friends, and is simply a salt of the earth guy who is doing his utmost to keep his head above water. Just writing these words I am welling up with tears, reaching out to the universe for our friend to catch a break, something positive to give him hope. A friend of the store implied yesterday that he has a job for our friend when he's ready to return to work, so at least he can escape that dead-end hell. We so hope that comes to fruition; maybe it could be the first step towards a considerably better life, one he so deserves.

So, yes, in my own way I will be so very grateful and giving thanks accordingly this Thanksgiving weekend. I feel blessed and a millionaire in comparison to some, but will never take any of it for granted. Life is fragile and uncertain, but while I have it I will appreciate every moment.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Back to the Drawing Board, Boys

Since I formed any palpable appreciation of music at a very young age I've always held a fondness for silly band names. Imagine the hilarity the first time I encountered Splodgenessabounds, for example. This continues to this very day, my favourite this week being the Almighty Lumberjacks of Death (an old band, but their name is new to me).

Yesterday morning I heard the Portland, OR. band WAMPIRE for the first time and, really digging what I heard, thinking she would like Wampire equally, I informed Susan. My dear wife, however, is considerably less tolerant of stupid band names than I. "Wampire?" she snorted, screwing up her face. "More like Wankpire."