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Saturday, February 27, 2010


I have three pairs of sunglasses. They’re sort of like pocket knives and flashlights: you can never have too many. My last pair, and best pair to date, were free, compliments of a binocular distributor. But the other two were bought and paid for at one of my favorite sporting goods stores. A place where I have spent far too much time and money over the years (at least according to my last wife).

These first and second pairs are your typical gold wire framed amber glassed shooting type specs. They’re functional and practical protective eye wear, exactly the same as each other. They are by no means as “stylish” as the “free” pair. Because of this I at one time had refrained from wearing them: at least in the presence of my last wife.

So, why two pairs exactly alike? Well, it just so happens that the first pair went missing. I remember reaching for them on the drive home from the cottage one October a few years ago. They weren’t in their appropriate pocket, or any other for that matter. So, on a bright and crisp February morning the need arose to replace them. The need also arose to visit the previously mentioned sporting goods store. Maybe more an urge than a need.

Now this store is not a local establishment that one can simply drop into while grocery shopping. Weekly visits on one’s way home from work are also out of the question. But that’s OK because as a destination shopper I’ll go out of my way to browse its displays and fawn over the neat little trinkets that would be much better off housed in my tackle box/boat/hunting cabin.

Similar to most anglers and hunters I can be rather conservative in my actions, methods and deeds: some might call it miserly, both my first wife and second would agree with them on this. But if I can take care of two or three things at once, and be as little out of pocket as possible, then success is apparent. On this particular bright and crisp February morning I was given such an opportunity. My favorite destination shopping stop was only one or two minutes out of the way from my intended destination. My intended destination being a tiny, privately run summer camp. At that camp resided a long forgotten fiberglass canoe, much in need of a new home and paddler.

Not unlike the third pair of sunglasses, this is one of the best types of canoes. A free canoe. So, as you can imagine, this bright, crisp February morning was going to be quite the success! An outdoors-man's perfect day of destination shopping. A pair of sunglasses to replace those lost the weekend we closed the cottage and a free canoe to boot!

I bought my new pair of sunglasses. After of course checking the inventory levels and critiquing the store’s latest innovative equipment. I then continued upon my journey. By the end of the day I had a newly acquired canoe for the price of gas there and back, and a new pair of functional and practical sunglasses. Combine the two and you have the joy of paddling with no strain on the optic nerve.

Two months later my first pair of sunglasses were returned to me. David, angler and hunting partner through thick and thin passed them to me over a table of beer and wings. He’d found them the week before during the yearly ritual of opening the cottage. A ritual I was unable to attend that year.

The most arduous task in such a ritual is of course turning on the water. And it’s far more arduous for Dave than for me. Dave’s got sixty pounds on me and stands a few inches shorter. The crawl space beneath the cottage is dark, tight and all things scary. As I was unable to attend that spring, Dave did the tunnel rat task of cleaning out the pit and closing the valves.

Each year I promised myself “I’m not going in”. That past autumn gave me greater reason to never do it again. I’d crawled the eight feet that seems more like twenty-five to where the valve is. As I reached into the pit my hand passed through something I had not expected to be there. In my panic to finish the task at hand, convincing my gag-reflex it was working overtime, my thrashing about (don’t ask me how I thrashed in such a confined space) caused my sunglasses to work themselves from their appropriate pocket and find themselves in the possession of one very large, very dead, very decomposed raccoon!

Dave had very little trouble with the raccoon. It had been rendered mere bones by spring, and he knew it was there: at least that’s what I told myself. Well, Dave found my sunglasses right there in the pit. He removed them, as well as the remains of one long dead raccoon. I got my glasses back, the raccoon got disposed of.

The pit is now more accessible. It is no longer such a tight squeeze, and opening the valve in the autumn isn’t the perilous adventure it used to be. And I don’t think it is nearly as attractive to those creatures seeking out a place to expire!

I’ll no doubt purchase more sunglasses in the future, along with the odd flashlight; I my just need to light my way through other tight spots. But I don’t think I’ll be lending my sunglasses to any other forest creatures, especially raccoons, after all, they are supposed to be nocturnal!

The Playground

The second week of January brought me to the end of a 22-year career. I’ve now embarked on a new adventure with many different opportunities ahead of me. Before settling into a new career I’ve decided to take a few months to explore and maybe even indulge myself a little. One thing is a new dog. It’s been almost two years since Duffy died and this temporary time of unemployment has given me the opportunity to train a new dog. Her name’s Lyndy, a perfect little Brittany.

We have a bit of a routine happening. Up early and around the block. Breakfast, a few TV shows and the newspaper. Then it’s the leash-free zone at the bottom of the street; right on the lake. As you can imagine, it’s a very popular spot. As far as the dog world goes it’s quite cosmopolitan, diverse. For those of you unfamiliar with the dog world it’s like visiting the playground with a bunch of preschool kids in a multicultural, multiracial community.

On yesterday’s visit our little Brittany took up with a little Cocker Spaniel. A lot of chasing, bouncing off each other and back to the chase. They were then joined by a Husky. First it chased the little Cocker Spaniel, biting as it caught the smaller dog which then emitted a high pitched yelp. The Husky then proceeded to chase Lyndy. When catching her, she also emitted a high pitched yelp, obviously in pain. When I confronted the owner of the Husky I was met with a bit of an obtuse attitude. His dog had not hurt mine or the previous dog, it was simply playing, being a dog. I replied to him that if his dog continued to play in such a manner and hurt another dog that his dog would get hurt. Maybe not the most responsible reaction, but never the less, someone in the park needed to tell him that.

Years ago, as a parent, I witnessed such behavior on many occasions in the playground. Many years ago, as a child, I also witnessed this type of behavior, sometimes being the one getting hurt.

On a June morning in 2000 the lead news story in the GTA was that of a murder-suicide. It was both shocking and depressing. What was most depressing about the story though was that in reality it was not that shocking at all.

On the morning of June 20th, 2000, Ralph Hadley dragged his estranged wife from her home. She was naked and clutching their infant son. Neighbors managed to secure the child before Ralph, wielding a pistol, dragged her back into the house. Moments later there were two shots fired. Ralph had murdered Gillian and then turned the gun on himself.

A number of great tragedies occurred that morning: two people lost their lives and a small child lost his parents. But maybe the greatest tragedy of all was that Ralph’s actions might never have come to be had more attention been paid to his behavior on the playground.

I met Ralph when we were both ten years old. My first recollection of him was tearing around the monkey bars. He was fast and not afraid of much, not much except the bigger kids. That was the summer after grade four. Later we were in grade five together. We talked with each other and we played on occasion as school boys do. He was always friendly to me and polite, and on one occasion I recall that he introduced his dad to mine at a Boy Scouts’ father-son banquette.

But Ralph Hadley had a very short and very bad temper. Ralph Hadley picked on the little kids too. Ralph was a bully.

Teachers, students and parents alike were all well aware of Ralph’s behavior and mean streak, his short fuse. The little kids were especially aware that if things didn’t go Ralph’s way someone might get hurt.

Was Ralph’s behavior ever addressed? Probably. Was Ralph ever reprimanded for his bullying? I know he was, I witnessed it. But Ralph continued his bullying throughout junior school. The root to Ralph’s bullying though was never addressed, and the bullying was never addressed seriously. Had it been Ralph would never have shot Gillian in the head.

Sometimes when one parent brings to the attention of another their child’s aberrant behavior, well, sometimes that parent should listen. The sooner the child’s behavior is addressed, corrected and maybe even the cause treated, the sooner that child will become socially accepted by its peers and eventually grow up to be a contributing and responsible member of society.

When I heard the news that fateful June morning I was shocked at the violence but not necessarily the actual event. Deep in my mind Ralph was fully capable of the act and in some way it was predictable.

We as a society failed Ralph as a child. Had he been properly reprimanded for his behavior, had that behavior been fully addressed and the cause for it sought out, these tragedies might very well have been avoided.

Pay attention to your children’s actions, to the unsocial behaviors they will sometimes display. Quite often their peers will correct them in the way they react with each other. Sometimes though we as parents need to uncover the reasons our kids act in a certain way.

Sometimes dogs aren’t just being dogs, and sometimes boys are not just being boys.