Being Kittitian had its advantages.

My dad was a very funny man who loved to tell stories.  He repeatedly told us how he swam from Anguilla to St Kitts back in the 30’s, on his back no doubt. He swam with the sharks that were afraid to attack him because he was COC, that’s how he referred to himself. We knew the stories where not true but we enjoyed them nonetheless. I made up similar bed time stories for my kids about swimming to Canada, I navigated past Jamaica, Cuba, up the Florida Coast , the Eastern seaboard to the St Lawrence and then Lake Ontario; of course I swam using breast strokes, as I can’t float.

Dad told us a story about his dad and grandfather, one of them owned a boat and was in the transportation business during the rum running days. The story goes that the authorities caught up to them and they burnt the boat in the harbour in Anguilla. Not sure if I believed the story completely, like I said my dad told a lot of stories. That was one of the ways he communicated with us, through humour.

My dad went to St Kitts at a very early age; I think in his mid teens carrying a bag of clothes, he said just an extra pair of pants. If you know anything about Anguilla, the early part on the 20th century was not good times for the island. He would have to go to Santo Domingo to find work, later he settled in St Kitts. Within a few short years he accumulated quite a portfolio of assets and all dept free. His story is not unique, but it’s his story so ill tell it my way. He did quite well, great achievements in any era.

So why am I bragging about my dad?

He set quite a high bar for his kids. He would preach to us about being self employed, he told us never to work for anyone. He built a great foundation and expected us to continue to build. I could not see myself in the retail business. He never told me I had to be in retail but I am sure that is what he wanted. He was quite a man.

In life everyone is different and has to follow his or her own path.

My dad had prepared me well for business. I knew all about purchasing, stocking, mark-ups and discounts and how to treat the customer right, skill that I was able to call upon later in life. He made sure I had a good education foundation. He paid for the best education money could buy in St Kitts.

 But first I had to find my own way.

When I landed in Canada, one of my dreams was to build something bigger than my dad ever did. I was just 19 years old and full of energy; my ambitions included going to school and furthering my education and playing professional soccer. I didn’t realize that Canada was so poor at soccer. I should have gone to England.

But first I had to find a job.

Looking for work was the biggest job of all and was quite frustrating. I kept hearing:

‘You don’t have Canadian Experience.’

As the months went by I kept lowering my expectations.

Luckily looking for a job was not my only preoccupation. In my last post I wrote about being lost the first day I was alone in Toronto. Seemed overwhelming at first but when I had time to think about it, wow, the potential for quite intriguing. As a kid you probably played hide and seek. Here was a great opportunity for me to play ‘ride the bus and try to get lost’. I would leave home, get on the bus, get off at random places and try to get lost. Also I would sometimes ride the train for hours, the subway system in Toronto covers a lot of miles, oops KM. I would go to the library and look at maps and make plans to get lost. Within a few months I got to know the city really well. I had spent just about all my money on transportation.

This seemed like child’s play at the time, but knowing where businesses were located and what kind proved to be important knowledge later on in my travels.

It was winter time when I arrived in Toronto and it took a while to find other Kittitians. I lived with my sister and her two roommates. One of them had a TV but she kept it in her room. She was dating my cousin and I was not allowed in her room. In those days, televisions were really expensive.

I wanted to relax and look at TV so badly.

One day I discovered Yorkdale Shopping Center. Every afternoon after getting lost; of course I told my sister I was job hunting, I would go there and hang out. I would just walk around and look at the people, especially the females. I didn’t have any money so I would not go into the stores, I don’t like shopping anyway.

One evening I was sitting on a bench outside the Sears store when I saw the most beautiful girl working the perfume counter. She looked like the models on the posters put out by Jamaica Tourism. I would go every afternoon and just sit there and look at her for a while. That would always brighten a cold winter day. Today I would probably get arrested for stalking. After a while I notice that she only worked every other night so that was when I would go there. I was able to save quite a bit of bus fare.

It took me about 3 weeks, but I finally went and talk to her on her break. Yes she was Jamaican, although back then all blacks in Toronto were Jamaicans and she was engaged to be married.  Bummer. I asked her if she had any sisters, no she didn’t. She asked me where in Jamaica was St Kitts. I said she was pretty.

Kirk my friend who reads my blog will get pissed off at that statement. Don’t care.

In hindsight it was a great relief, I was able to go on with my life, although that was very close. I would have married her if she had a TV and had asked me to. I quit going to the mall.

Still no job, I need Canadian experience, I began to wonder if I would ever find one.

Spring came so I did not have to spend so much time indoors. By accident I had found out from a newspaper story that the only professional soccer team in Canada, the Toronto Metros was starting their spring training at the Lamport Stadium. They played in the North American Soccer League. I made plans to be there.

I had brought my well worn soccer boots with me from St Kitts so I was set. On day one of training I made my way all excited to the stadium. I believed that if I was given a chance I would be able to wow them with my left foot. I introduced myself to this guy who seems to be part of the team. He went over and talked to this other guy then he disappeared. I waited, no one seemed interested.

I attended the training for a week. Every day I would show up and do wind sprints, I was fit, I would run around the track, showing off, I sometimes imagine this was probably what it would be like for a prostitute, showing her booty and no one was interested. Whenever a stray ball came my way, I would kick it back as hard as I could, showing off the strength of both feet.  Yet nothing.

At the end of the week I mustered up the courage to approach the coach. I introduced myself and asked for an opportunity. He did not waste any time, he said I was too small. I stood there for a while totally dumbfounded. I looked around, the players were huge, didn’t notice before.  I could not argue with him, I was probably 110lbs by now and vertically challenged. Still I was crushed. I sat on the bleachers for a while, thinking that my soccer career was over. It was a bit of wishful thinking; even if he showed interest in me I was damaged. The last year in St Kitts was quite painful, my ankles were shot. I remember going to Antigua with the National Team and lasting 15 minutes on the field.

I decided to take a year off and try to get healthy then return the following year.

Something else happened that day, on the way home on the bus, I saw a help wanted sign on the Bad Boy furniture store window on Dufferin Street.  I got off the bus and walked into the store to inquire about the job. You may recall from an earlier blog that I stutter when I get nervous and resort to my Trafalgar lingo. Before going on job interviews I would always practise the first 20 seconds of the meet and greet. I remember someone once told me that people judge you in the first 20 seconds of meeting you. I forgot the rule that day.

Me to Person in Store:

 Blah blah blah blah  (I assumed that is what he heard based on the look on his face)

What I may have said was:

 ‘ah com to see bout the job in de glass window’ or something like that, it’s been a while.

What I should have said was ‘I would like to apply for the position advertised for in the window’

Person in Store. `Do you have any Canadian experience?’

My accent must have given me away.

I didn’t even answer, just turned and walk away. As I was leaving I was thinking that it would have been a great place to work, lots to TVs everywhere. I really wanted to relax and look at TV.

 Damn, I had to use another bus ticket to get home. Not a good day.

Soon after that I connected with the Esdailles from the Village, the preacher kids. Get this, David had a car, he could cook, chicken soup mostly and he had a TV. On Saturdays we would look at wrestling. In those days wrestling was real, today they are a bunch of fakers. For the rest of the year I would hang out at their place as often as I could.

The summer was nice, met a lot of new people, explored the city, at one point I looked at joining the reserves, they actually paid money but it turned out that they were too far to travel to daily.  

The summer came to end and I must tell you I was not looking forward to the winter. I thought of contacting my dad and asking for help, but he probably would have seen it as failure.  When it seemed totally hopeless my resume found its way to a company not far from where I was living, it was the end of September, 9 months after arriving in Toronto. The guy who hired me told me that although I had no Canadian experience, he would hire me because I was Kittitian, go figure. As luck would have it another Kittitian worked there, he said she was an exemplary employee so it follows I would be also. Humans. I will always be grateful.  

I was hired to pack school text books in boxes. I was not sure how Canadian experience was an asset for that job, maybe it had nothing to do with work. If my dad could have seen me then I think he would have been heartbroken.

Would you like to know what I purchased with my first cheque?  A 14 inch Sylvania Back and White, rent to own, $100 deposit, $21 per month, ‘we will pick up when you die’, TV.  I now had credit.

I was on my way!!!!!

The only Kittitian couch potato in Calgary.

P.S. I have a great cartoon but my artist says he does not have time, something about school coming first.

Hey, the trees are bare naked

I still remember the day I left St Kitts, it was a sweet and sour day, leaving the nest at 19 was quite scary, although I looked forward to going away.  I left the first week of January right after the Carnival season. That December was extra special as my soccer team, Santos had a big celebration after winning the Football championship again.  Of course that season included the game of the century.  I remember that party was held in the MIS building, just behind the government building, I think.  So I am on a bit of a high as the big day approached.

When I received the immigrant documents for Canada, at first I was really excited; the thought of leaving for the big world, new people, new things, a whole new and exciting life.  I had been to a few of the Islands around the region and as you know each island although different is pretty much the same. Green, lots of sun, trusting people.  I had no concept of Toronto; remember in those days there was no television in Trafalgar.  I had seen a couple of Elvis movies which was shot in North American cities and had read some Archie comics but I must admit I was not prepared for Toronto.

During the last weeks in St Kitts I tried to freeze frame everything.  I spent a lot of time sitting by the waterfront just staring off in the distance.  I am not sure why, I just did.  I started distancing myself from the people I grew up with, didn’t want to say good bye, that way they probably won’t miss me too much.  I would walk around the area that I spent so many hours as a child trying to ‘photograph’ the area in my mind.  I wanted to embed my past into my brain.

I memorized what the trees looked like.  I did this by touching them and talking to them.  No, I am not crazy, just freeze framing, I didn’t have a digital camera.  I should have invented that.  I loved that part of my life; the nature, being free, I loved the smell of St Kitts and I had great friends.  

At night I would lay in bed and try to capture the sounds of the village.  I wanted to take the sounds with me.  I slept very little close to the end, didn’t want the days to finish.  I could probably write a book about my last few weeks in St Kitts.  It would  be boring though, would be a book about being afraid to let go, or about a boy who put up a brave face titled, ’man I can’t wait to get out of here’.  10 pages easily.

You can’t freeze time; you have to go when you have to go.

I was recently looking at a show on TV about immigrating to Canada.  This Russian guy came to Canada, had a son who became a multi millionaire.  He remembered the day he set foot in Canada.  He recalled the immigration officer welcoming him to Canada and thanking him for coming to Canada.  Well that was not my experience.

When I got to Immigrations at the Toronto Airport, I recalled being asked a whole bunch of questions.  At that time I thought the Immigrations officer was being unfriendly.  I had a really heavy accent and a little stutter and he kept saying ‘speak up son’.  In hindsight, I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for him.

At one point he shouted, ‘has anyone ever heard of St Kitts?’  I wanted to hide under the table.  He was messing with my head; he told me that he and his wife had recently made a trip there.  It is funny how many people have told me that when I needed a friend.

Toronto was quite a surprise.  My Uncle picked me up at the airport and we drove across the 401 highway at close to 70 mph.  In those days the speed limit was 60 m[h. Wow, I had never been in a vehicle travelling at more than 30 miles per hour.  What an experience and so many lanes in both directions.  I wondered how the cars were able to stay in their lanes and not run into each other.  Don’t laugh; it was like stepping into the future.

In a few short hours I had become a little fish in a very big pond.

I am not sure what I was expecting.  Some of you know me from St Kitts.  We lived in a fairly ‘big’ house. When I stepped outside my play area was a 68sq mile island.  The apartment building three of us lived in was so tiny.  When you step outside, there was a hallway and strangers.  It was very cold, the middle of January.  God what did I do?

If you live in Toronto you may know the area where I lived.  Half way between Dufferin and Keele off Wilson, close to the Yorkdale shopping center.  In time, the shopping center became my oasis from the long grey, dreary, cold winter days.

I arrived on a Sunday; I think back then the plane only flew on Sundays.

Monday morning my sister took me to go get a winter coat.  It’s the middle of winter and I had to go out to get a coat.  I had a sweater that I had brought from St Kitts.  My sister offered me one of her coats to go to the store.  No Comment.

I bundled up; two pairs of cotton underwear, two pairs of pants, two shirts, my sweater and running shoes.  Probably looked like the Pillsbury doughboy. We went to a store at Wilson and Keele.  The temperature was below zero, we missed the bus so we decided to walk. Nothing could have prepared me for this.  I recalled that in St Kitts when the temperature dropped to 75F, we stayed indoors.

I purchase a $48 coat, the best coat I ever had, lasted 10 years.

Now I am all ready to get my life started.  I needed money; I had to go find work.  One of the first things you notice is that every time you leave your house it costs money.  On the way to Toronto I sat next to a couple who was on a cruise ship that had run into trouble so they had to fly home.  We got talking, he told me he loved Caribbean music and he was hoping to buy some records.  I had some 45 rpm records which I purchased as gifts.  I gave him a couple.  He told me that he owned a company and if I ever needed a job to look him up and wrote down his name and number of a napkin for me.  What a miracle you say.

 I lost the napkin.

 My cousin came over that first Monday night and suggested that I go and apply at the post office downtown on Front Street.  I can get a job sorting mail. What the hell, I was expecting a job like……. damn I don’t know what I was expecting.  My thoughts, I ‘wanna’ go home.

I wrote down the directions that he gave me.  Take the ‘X’ bus, get off at ‘Y’, don’t cross the street, take the ‘XX’ bus to the subway, take the south bound train to Front street station get off, you will be at the post office.  If you catch all the busses on time it’s an hour journey.  What an adventure.

Ok so I got off at the first stop.  I am from da Village; my world until 2 days ago was quite small.  I didn’t want to get lost.  I am thinking what would I have done in St Kitts?  When I first started FaceBooking I met this lady online from Haynes Smith Village.  I could not remember her, she had a last name.  When I was growing up folks only had one name or a nickname.  Then she said, I lived by the big Genip tree, well that I remember of course.  So that’s what I’ll do, mark my spot by the trees.  Didn’t take me long to notice.

The trees are bare naked, no leaves, all of them.  All look alike.

 Across the street was a strip mall, I saw a big Kentucky Fried Chicken sign, that’s it, ill stay on the bus on the way back until I see that sign.  I know I will be hungry so it would be a great place to get my first Canadian food.  I found out later that day there was more than one Kentucky Fried Chicken store; it took me 4 hours to get back home.

When you are travelling someplace for the first time getting there takes forever.  In any case I arrived at Front Street train station and exited the subway on the wrong side of the street.  If you know Front Street in Toronto, it is really wide, like two blocks in St Kitts.  Well not quite, but it seemed that way.  

I never learned to walk fast.  That drives Jo nuts when we go for a walk; she takes her cell phone just in case I get lost.  In St Kitts if I wanted to get somewhere in a hurry, I ran.  Two days away from that, I am on Front Street at my first street light.  I looked up, the light was Green.  The street is very wide, my heart raced and I started to cross, slowly of course.  I got halfway across and the light turned to red.  I didn’t run, no need, I had time, after all the cars will stop, that’s what happens in St Kitts.

To this day I have never heard of another person who was ever ticketed for jay walking.  $18, there goes my first KFC meal, I was on a budget.

I did not get to the post office, I was too shaken up and to be honest, I had never looked for a job and I was intimidated.  I had a few jobs in St Kitts but they were always through references.  I started thinking of some stories to tell my sister, she was going to ask.

I had purchased a one way ticket to Toronto, so I had to work if I needed to get back home.

And then my nightmare started.  I could not find my way back.  I should have invented the cell phone. First I got on the wrong train, didn’t realize it until the train started going in the opposite direction.  Later I got off the bus at the first Kentucky Fried Chicken I saw, crossed the street to take the bus home. I found out that the buses did not go past Morningside in Scarborough.  I had to pay again or get off.  The bus driver also took a break.

A very expensive first day on my own and my thoughts ‘will I ever like being here?’

The only Kittitian Couch potato in Calgary.

something about the apple and the tree

Two posts ago, I wrote about my son leaving for school and how miserable I was, well slowly things are changing. I am not looking out the window every time a car pulls up but I still find myself looking into his old room as I walk by expecting to see him. I wonder if that will ever change, don’t know if it matters.

The last post I was blabbing about my cooking skills and how I love chicken and rice, still do, cooked that yesterday, can’t wait for Jo to retire.

Well I am happy to say the apple did not fall too far from the tree. My son D and I text everyday and one of the questions I always ask is what are you eating.

On Monday he has chicken strips and rice.

On Tuesday he had chicken strip, but he cooked to many pieces so he wanted to know if he can freeze the leftovers.

On Wednesday he cooked chicken breast, the meal is in the picture below. Yes that is BBQ chicken and rice with some cucumber. He said it was too salty.

When I asked him why he does not cook something else he said he likes chicken and rice. Go D Go.


I once cooked a great meal

I am not a good cook.  I try, and sometimes I get it right but mostly I do not. I honestly don’t put too much effort into it, after all its just food.  I eat to live except when I eat junk.  Sometimes I would eat not so healthy food and gain weight, then change my diet, lose the weight and start over again.  It’s a constant struggle, but this is not about weight.  It’s about my cooking and how I got here.

I pretty much got my cooking style from my dad.  He would always start with a pot of boiling water then find things to throw in until it thickens, then presto, a meal. He was a big fan of corn meal and fish. He said it was an Anguillan thing.  If you ever cook cornmeal you know one of the main ingredients is Ochre. I hate the texture of Ochre.

My dad had a weird sense of humour, he would say things and it would take you a long time to realize he was joking. He was also a good poker player.  I was chatting with my oldest sister recently and she told me how my dad met my mom.  The story I grew up with, my dad’s version of course, was one day he was passing by my mom’s house up St Johnston Ave and she was cooking. She was kneading dough and when she saw him she got so excited that she dropped the dough out the window.  His story goes that he retrieved the dough and returned it to her. She gave him some of the cooked food and he loved it so much he asked her to be his wife.  That’s not what my sister told me, but that’s for another day.

To this day I still remember what my mom’s cooking smelled like. As a result my style of cooking by comparison is to start with a pot of boiling water and throw things in until it SMELLS right.  As you can well imagine I run into a lot of trouble, sometimes just can’t get the right smell so I keep adding. Ask my kids about their experiences.

I started cooking seriously when I worked at home in Toronto.  I am a chicken and rice man, would cook that 7 days a week but my kids won’t eat it, so I mix in spaghetti sauce (nasty,) sometimes I cook rice and vegetables and left over chicken.  The next day I would cook a whole chicken and rice, then chicken breast in BBQ sauce and rice, then shake and bake chicken and rice, then spaghetti again with sauce.  You get the picture, lots of chicken and some interruption meals. J1, daughter number two says the worst was the rice drenched in tomato sauce with peas.  I thought that was my specialty.  She also told me that I would often forget to season the overcooked chicken. 

I didn’t forget, my mom didn’t cook this way so I had no smell reference.

My kids didn’t ask “what’s for supper”; they asked “what kind of chicken for supper.”  The spaghetti was to keep them on their toes.  I remember once my brother Hugh was visiting from Germany and they were complaining to him about my cooking. He decided to cook them a meal of his special Spaghetti, just Spaghetti, and a whole plate full; they kept waiting for the sauce.  They did not complain again until he left. He is a great cook.

If you are wondering how come they grew up healthy?  They ate a lot of vegetables, still do, I can’t take credit for that, I was not a big vegetable fan.  My dad called it goat food.  Jo would make sure she complimented my meals when she got home.

Jo would eat cereal quite often.

I grew up in St Kitts with lots of siblings, a nephew or niece or two, cousins, two parents, my mom’s helpers and quite often family from Nevis or Anguilla.  Cooking at my house was quite a production.  My mom was a great cook.  I was chatting with my sister ML last week who is also a great cook and she told me that mom taught her how to cook.  As a young kid she would stand on a chair and assist.  The older siblings and my youngest sister all know how to cook really well.  The kids In between, well if you come to my house ill cook and you can be the judge.   Just give me a heads up so I can prepare.

My theory is that when my mom was a new mom, first 5 kids, she had time to teach the kids how to cook.  As the next 5 came along, managing all the kids and the shop, she needed help.  She had no time to teach us how to cook.  If you read my earlier blogs you would know that I was never home so I would not have learned to cook anyway.  I was not allowed in the kitchen when it was cooking time, something about ‘too many cooks…’

As a kid, my diet was simple.  In the morning I ate fresh bread and cheese mostly.  If you are from the Caribbean or any where a lot of West Indians live, you may know the cheese, I can’t remember the name, it came in a big can with a giant opener.  My dad would go to the bakery early in the morning and pick up the bread.  Sometimes an on the weekend I would have fresh eggs from the chickens we raised in the backyard.

I had lots of soup for lunch, I can still remember making the long walk from High School in the mid day sun wondering what kind of soup we would be having; dumplings, dasheen (did I spell it right?) yams, potato, well you know the drill, really healthy food.  I would remove most of the vegetables and only eat the dumplings and sweet potato.  I imagine my dislike for veggies started a long time ago.

Supper time in St Kitts.  Again soup, but this time we also had other foods like fish, chicken, rabbit, goat, lamb, I can go on for a long time.  Supper time was my favourite time, although that’s when everyone was home.  A good thing you would say, after all a family that eats together stays together.  Well not in my house, they represented competition for leftovers.  Remember I am 11 of 13, way down the totem pole. When we were little I had to sit on a piano bench with the two kids below me in age. We would fight with our feet under the table. Good times.

There was a local fisherman named Norris and we had a standing order with him.  He would go out fishing at night and return with his catch in the morning.  My sister ML told me that in the older days (before my old days,) my mom would exchange fish for pig snout and pig feet with him.  Great trade I think.

I just remembered something.

I like all kinds of fish; boiled fish, steam fish, BBQ fish and fried fish which was generally how we would prepare it for supper growing up.  I love fish almost as much as chicken which is second to mango.  If we did not eat all the fish at supper my mom would save if for the next day.  I was known as the “midnight walker’, for I would get up in the middle of the night and eat any leftover fish.

Well one day my mom fried up come Cavalli fish. You may remember the ‘myth’ that if the fish was caught in shallow waters it was safe to eat.  If it was caught in deep waters, watch out, because it was poisonous.  Well that night there were leftovers and like a good soldier I got up and ate a whole fish.  It’s not a myth.  I was poisoned.  The rest of the family were also but I was seriously ill for a few days.

For me that was just a minor setback, I continued to do my midnight runs.

Growing up I was well fed, well taken care of and that was how I went off to find my life in Canada.

I was not very well equipped to fend for myself, cooking wise.

My first attempt at cooking happened was my first day alone in Toronto.  I was living with my sister and her roomies.  I remember calling my sister at work and telling her I was hungry.  She told me to cook some rice.  Have you ever tried the minute rice where you put a cup of rice and a cup of water in a pot, let it boil and then shut off the stove?  It is exactly what I did.  I placed the rice in some water, turned on the stove, and timed it for 20 minutes.  It was not minute rice.  Needless to say it was uncooked.  It is amazing what you will eat when you are hungry.

So here I am lots of years later and I still cook the same way, to smell.  I sometimes cook salted fish and sometimes with ackee which I learned to do from a friend of mine, I cook it in to ways: one for breakfast, where I add lots of vegetables and tomato paste to the fish, and the other where I add lots of vegetables and ackee to the fish.  I never cook it the same way twice, sometimes I actually forget how to do it, sometimes it does not smell right but the family likes it, so it’s all good.

Hey you know how they say men don’t ask for directions?  Well I do! When I go to the store, the first thing I do is find a clerk, saves a lot of time, drives Jo nuts, she wants to ‘shop’.  When it comes to cooking however, you would think I would use a recipe, but it has no smell.

I think I cooked a great meal once, just can’t remember when.

Has to be a gene thing.

I am thinking I should change my life and learn to cook properly. Maybe once a week I will make a delicious dish and share the experience with you, we will see, that sounds like a good idea.  A contradiction however, my life is about not doing things in order.

The only Kittitian couch potato in Calgary.

My First Cooking Experience.

I forgot to say ‘Thank you dad’

Sept 1, 2010

When your youngest kid leaves home life is never the same. It is the closing of one of life’s big chapters.

A couple of weeks ago I was unable to write because my son started to pack,  preparing to leave home to go off to university in another province. I went into slow down mode, anything to delay the inevitable, I was missing him already. Well it happened on Sept 1st, he left at 7am to make a long 7hrs drive to Saskatoon. I am happy to report that he got there safely, only took 5.5 hours, although with a busted windshield, courtesy of good old Alberta rocks.

 If you follow my writing you may also recall that I sacrifice a lot of sleep by getting up at 5am to drive Jo to work.

This morning my plan was to speed off to downtown Calgary as I drove Jo to work, then back, wake D, make him a BIG breakfast, have a man to man talk, slip him a few bucks, give him a big hug, say something profound, god knows there are enough inspirational quotes on Facebook, and stand in the driveway with my camera snapping lots of pictures as he drove away. I once saw that scene in a movie and as you know life imitate art.              

As you know plans sometimes don’t go as you expect them to. For starters, Jo had her own plan, she love to hug and kiss. The night before she and D had a 15 minutes hugging session so I figure that is it for them. Jo is the opposite of me. She does the hands off approach with the kids; she lets them come to her when they need her, so I was sure they were finished.

I must tell you a secret about D. He has a three alarms wake up system. First his radio alarm goes off (beep beep beep), this can be up to 15 minutes before actual get up time, then his phone starts to play some annoying music, finally Jo or I go into him room, turn his lights on and make sure he sits up.

This morning Jo goes into his room and wakes him up, trying to mess up my plan, practically lifts him out of bed with a bear hug and slobbering all over the poor boy. He mumbled something to her and crashed back onto his bed. Just one alarm, no harm done I am thinking, my plans are still in place.

I rushed Jo off to work, sped back home, practically jumped out of the car while I was parking, phew. I walked into the house and D is dressed and is ready to leave. Damn, looks like he can’t wait to get out of here.

Me, ‘had breakfast?’

D, ‘yes’, I was only gone for 35 minutes.

Me, ‘what did you have?

D, ‘food’, I bet he didn’t eat, I looked in the sink, no dishes. Why was he so anxious?

This is not going really well; need to get the plan back on track. Keep in mind my goal is to slow down the inevitable. I had to think fast, he is ready to go.

Me, ‘want to do another walk through to make sure you didn’t miss anything?’

D, ‘No, if you find anything you can mail it’.

 I can tell he is getting annoyed, I am sure he too was anxious.

D, ‘Big hug’

 He does manual work in the summer so he is very strong, he grabs me and lay this hug on me, it hurt a little.

D, ‘I am going to miss you, although you are such a pain in the ass.’

Of course I can’t say anything; I am ready to bawl, so I resort to hand gestures.

He simply walks away, me in tow, jumps into his car and drove away. I stood here for a minute, watch the car disappear and walk back into the house staring at the ground. Felt like someone punched me in the stomach.

Silver lining…I saved myself some money.

My granddaughter in Toronto call her blanket, Blanky, K here in Calgary calls hers a Buc and I have ‘da couch’ so that’s where I went to reflect on D.

The boy was born not that long ago, where did the time go?

At an early age he showed signs of having a curious mind, we nicknamed him ‘Engineer’, wishful thinking at the time, seems like he was listening.

Jo and I went in Toronto last week and before we left Calgary we went shopping for groceries so he can practise cooking. Didn’t happen, he ate out; I hope he does not think that life will be like that, he has very limited resources.

He is just not ready to leave home.

D was very young when he showed interest in soccer. He hates losing. During the competitive soccer years we moved around from club to club quite a bit, often times I would place him on ‘not so likely to win’ teams to teach him humility. I forgot to notify him of my intentions. He was the kind of player you did not want to play against, he is rough and mean on the field, taking on the tough players on the other teams and would be the player to get the goal when it was needed. He was fun to watch.

As is the case with his age group, he is technology savvy, has had a computer since he was 5 or 6. He can also fix his own car, worked at Wal-Mart auto center and Minit Lube after taking some mechanic courses in high school. He likes money and is prepared to work for it.  His first job was at the Hangar in Toronto operating the scoreboard for winter indoor soccer. I think he was 13 and making about $12/hr. He did that for a couple of winters and spent all his money on Nintendo games. It was also a job for me as I would spent 4 or 5 nights at the facility waiting for him, good thing I love soccer.

He has spent the last 3 years building and maintaining a golf course in Calgary.

Moving to Alberta has provided him with some experiences that he probably would not have been exposed to in Toronto, simply through association, like guns. He has become interested in guns. He will be going to Manitoba with his roommate for the long weekend to hunt. He claims he is hunting for his winter food. I think they are just going target practise. His friend lives on a farm.

Golf is probably the most played sport in Calgary so he plays 4 or 5 times a week. He has done sky diving, mountain biking, he skateboard very well. He only plays soccer casually with his friends, which is a little disappointing.

When we first moved to Calgary, he was not very happy. I thought I was going to lose my son. He would spend most of his days in his room sleeping; sometimes he would come out and skateboard for hours. That was his life. We came to Calgary at the end of June so he had no time to make school friends. Down the street from us there are two black families. Both have boys D’s age. It took a couple of weeks but he did connect with them. One of the boys got jealous that the other boy was spending too much time with D so he stopped talking to him and got his friend to do the same. So by the end of July he was back to being alone. It was pathetic.

At 20, D is quite the young man; handsome, well mannered, has lots of friends and loves life. We will miss having him around; I will be seeing him at Christmas and maybe thanksgiving.

I am so proud of him; I think maybe I should tell him.

Thinking about D reminds me of my good bye with my dad when I left St Kitts. I grew up quite privileged with lots of love, not unlike my kids. I had been working for a couple of years before leaving St Kitts, so I had saved some money. I applied to come to Canada without telling my dad although I am sure I told my mom. My dad was very protective, damn sounds like me, he would have tried to talk me out of it. It was only after I had received my visa that I informed him.

I recall my  ‘d day’ very well. I was having breakfast when my dad came by and ask me to come see him when I was finished.

I was expecting a lecture. The following may not be verbatim but close enough.

Dad: ‘how much did you pay for the plane ticket?’

Me: $999, (i don’t remember the amount, sounds like a good number for this purpose).

I am thinking great, he was going to refund me, more money to spend.

Dad: ‘how much money you have in your pocket?’

Me: $999, (not correct either, that number I remember very well but I won’t say, it was embarrassing).

Getting closer, I was getting excited, more money.

Dad: ‘so what do you plan to do when you get to Canada?’

Me: ‘Going to school’.

That is what he wanted to hear, here comes the money for sure, he had his hands in his pocket, a good sign.

Dad: ‘when you finish school you come home and i’ll give you all your money back’

Bummer, he went on to tell me what I great life I could have in St Kitts and how we could expand the business, he would get me started, provide me with everything I wanted. He was quite sincere. My life got in the way.

 We did the bear hug thing, shook shake and then said good bye. A friend drove me to the airport.

That was the last conversation I had with my dad in person, almost 40 years ago.

Thank you Dad for everything you have ever done for me, you would be proud to know that I raised my kids the way you raised me, except for the BELT part.

The only Kittitian couch potato in Calgary.

PS, So you know Dad, I kept some of my old bad selfish habits, I still hide mangoes from my family and eat some of the plantain as I fry them, that way I get the most, I think it is important to maintain some of your history.

Rewriting History