My first encounter with this word was when I was perhaps ten.  Mom and dad had sent me to a summer camp on the eastern shore of Lake Simcoe, north of my home in Toronto.  It was my first time away from them … and I was terrified.  I was basically scared of life and everyone in it.  That included adult leaders and other campers.  I didn’t know how to swim, I wasn’t any good at baseball and even a hike through the woods seemed dangerous.

There I was at night in a cabin, not at all snug in my bunk bed, surrounded by breathing boys.  They all seemed to be asleep, but I sure wasn’t.  I wanted my mom.  So I decided to go find her.  I whipped on my clothes, tiptoed across the floor and out of the cabin.  I walked to the beach.  I knew if I turned left at the shore, I’d end up in Toronto with my parents.

I don’t how many miles of Lake Simcoe shoreline I walked, but eventually adults with flashlights found me.  I was a mess, and I don’t remember what happened after that.


Many years later in Grade 12, I sat in the guidance counsellor’s office.  Grade 13 was next and it was expected that I’d go to university.  “You’re so good in Math, Bruce.  You should be an accountant.  The University of Toronto has an excellent Commerce and Finance program that will lead you to a fine career.”  As a teenager, my future penchant for independent thinking was in embryo: “Yes sir,” I replied.

So there was the academic year of 1967-1968, with me sitting amidst a bevy of eager commercial hopefuls.  While others no doubt dreamed of financial independence and a bungalow in the suburbs, I was a further mess.   Principles of economics, balance sheets and actuarial science.  I could become an actuary, living in luxury within a respected insurance company, using Math to assess various risks of insuring someone.  I remember something called “A double dot N” (two letters of the alphabet) but right now I have no idea what that means.

Sitting in lectures, or having lunch with my upwardly mobile classmates, I sensed the same sadness that I felt in that cabin.  “What am I doing here?  Can’t I just go home?”


Today I feel at home.  I have many friends who meet me in the eyes.  Together we discover the beauty of connection.  But there are no doubt millions of humans who feel solitary in a strange land:

Nobody really sees me … really sees who I am
I don’t make a difference to anyone
My best years are behind me
I’m in a party, surrounded by people talking, and I feel so alone
Nobody talks about their hopes and dreams, about what is truly important to them
My friends are full of opinions – about politics, sports teams, social problems
There’s all the stuff I need to do every day, and no time left for me
There’s all the people in my life that I need to be with, and no time left for me
Where are my true companions, those who will share the journey?
Where is a purpose that I can hang my hat on, and pursue with joy?
Where’s the juice?


We all need home

Actually It Doesn’t Suck

Jody and I bought a vacuum about twenty years ago and it’s served us well.  A couple of weeks ago, however, I didn’t serve it well.  There was lots of construction dust in the house and some tiny wood chips.  Not so tiny as it turned out – I plugged the machine really well.  Finally, with the help of a broom handle and my industrious neighbor Borot, the obstruction was destructed.  “Clear at last, clear at last” (with a nod to Martin Luther King).

Unfortunately subsequent vacuuming sessions were fraught with disappointment, and tiny objects remaining scattered on the carpet.  Virtually no suction.  So off to McHardy Vacuum I trundled.

A helpful young gentleman replaced an interior filter and I was good to go.  Almost.  I mentioned to the fellow that I had another problem.  I couldn’t detach the long wand from the beater bar so I could use the hardwood floor attachment.

“Here, I’ll show you how.  You press this button, turn the wand and wiggle it past the little knob inside.”  Which he proceeded to demonstrate.  “You try it.”  I did.  The wand didn’t.  His turn again … easy as pie.  My turn … depress that button for all I’m worth, grunt a lot, twist like hell – nothing.

The rhythm of watch and learn repeated itself several more times.  The wand wasn’t feeling detached in my hands and neither was I.  I was thoroughly absorbed and obliterated emotionally.  “Breathe, Bruce.  Think nice Buddhist thoughts.”

Finally, in a pause that refreshes, I thought this stuff:

1. I have arthritis in my hand.  I can’t press like I used to.

2. He’s 21.  I’m 67.  Easy for him.  Impossible for me.

3. Let the vacuum go.  Donate it to Bibles For Missions.  Buy a new one.

So … I’m now the proud owner of a Panasonic jobbie.  Lime green and black.  Goes with my bathroom, although I’m likely to use it elsewhere as well.

Gosh, I am what I am.  My body is what is.  And I like the whole thing.


Just a few days ago, I threw an ice cream cone into the air.  And now I am overwhelmingly sad.  I ache for my Jodiette.

Last night, I watched a movie called “Unfinished Song”.  It’s the story of a vibrant woman named Marion who dies of cancer.  So close to home.  I saw her husband Arthur cradling her, bringing her food, caring deeply for his beloved … and it was Jody and me.

For supper, I ate some fetuccini alfredo that was past due, and nausea crept up on me.  As Arthur sang a song to his dear one near the end of the film, I cried and cried.  And felt like I was going to throw up.  Sorrow and nausea showered down upon me and I was deeply depressed.  Later, sleep wouldn’t come.  Thinking that I was going to vomit on the bed, I put my housecoat on, a coat and toque, and walked down the driveway.  I hoped that the cool air would lift the physical pain, and it did help a bit.  I was able to sleep some.

I had made arrangements to go for a walk with my neighbours Linda and Tony this morning.  I went over but they were busy preparing a holiday meal.  Time had dribbled away for them and now they were in deadline mode.  I talked, I cried, I ached.  No joy in Mudville.  And little ability to talk to Jody and to hear her love.  Such desolation.  Feeling so alone.

Tony and Linda didn’t know what to say and neither did I.  I wept for Jody.  I told them about Cuba.  We talked about going for a walk tonight after they return from their dinner.  I don’t want my grief and sickness to intrude upon their evening.  But I don’t want to be alone.  Oh, how I wish I could talk to Jody right now, but it’s so hard.  My stomach is overwhelming my soul.

These are the moments when I need to be kind to whomever comes my way.  It’s easy to be kind when the world is rolling along tickety boo.  But now?  How amazing it would be.  I need to reach out to my fellow man, no matter how I feel.  I need to do it now.

And so I write a few e-mails to friends.  They deserve my best.