I had a tough day

Op-ed

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by Kevin Laing

I had a tough day today. Part of it relates to the extra duties I’ve experienced because my bride is in the hospital for a few days, and will likely be staying there for a few more as she battles some infectious bug.

As a result, I’ve been rushing about doing garbage/recycling duties, taking the dog off to ‘camp’ while we’ve hired folks to do the yard work I can no longer do, and then retrieving our hound, and then doing the care and feeding of her and our cats, and then making meals for myself.

Not only has my dearest been Dr. Mom in our household for 48+ years, but she was also “Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet” for my 35+ years in Canada’s Navy. Navy Wife… toughest job in the Navy! She raised our two kids to be positive contributors to Canada during all of my deployments.

I’m….bushed! I don’t know how she managed to do it during my long absences in service to her Majesty. Tonight, I thanked her for her fortitude and support to me and our kids in all of our careers (hers too!).

But that’s not why I’ve had a tough day.

On my way out of the hospital, I passed a room two doors down from my bride and heard a somewhat feeble, but recognizable voice, “Hey buddy, how are yuh?” I stopped, turned, and saw the eyes, then the face that I recognized. To shield the individual, I’ll just call him ”J”. I had last seen him 3 or 4 years ago in the parking lot of our local Giant Tiger. We’d lost touch. Today, I was looking at someone who resembled an inmate from Nazi death camps like Auschwitz or Buchenwald.

I met “J” maybe 20 years ago when he was working for the township at the local transfer station for garbage, yard waste, and recyclables. I came to know him and several of his colleagues and they always were so ‘chipper’ and helpful when I’d bring in my truck and trailer loaded down with refuse from my home remodelling efforts for the house we purchased in NG in 2001, and/or the underbrush and downed trees and broken branches remaining on our property from the ’98 Ice Storm. Invariably, they all seemed to be a happy bunch. 

I’m guessing that it was about 10-12 years ago that the County let him go. I don’t know why, but he was a tad bitter that he didn’t get offered a “package”, nor a pension. He was a mechanically oriented fellow. And he was a hard worker with a heart of gold. He was always ready and willing to help. I know, because I hired him to help me out in our new place in town as we planted gardens, doing some landscaping and, most of all, keeping my gas-powered yard implements in working order (I’m not mechanically minded)!

From all of the engagements that we’ve had over the past 20 years, he always impressed me as being a solid, positive, and contributing member of our community. From that meeting at the GT ‘boutique’ parking lot I learned that he had fallen on hard times. I knew that his partner had passed away a few years previously. Now I learned that he had been evicted from the modest riverfront property that they shared and he had been maintaining as a long-term tenant. I think that he mentioned to me that our Mayor was behind him in line at GT and they had a very good exchange about the shortage of housing in our area for folks of modest means. He greatly respects our Mayor and her efforts to help him.

Well, that’s all in the past now. He’s spent weeks in hospital in Ottawa already this year and has talked with numerous specialists. His future is numbered in days one way or t’other. We had a brief but good chat this afternoon, and he’s made all of his arrangements. I certainly can’t fault him for the path he’s chosen. By this time next week, when you’re reading this, he will have cashed in his chips and taken the “Freedom Bird.” Tomorrow, and maybe over the next several days, I’ll pop in and see him… and bring him an Ice Cap. His eyes lit up when I mentioned that today. “It will be very soothing going down my throat,” he said.

That’s why I’ve had a tough day.

Thanks “J”. You’re a good man. May you rest in Peace.

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