Drove to Nova Scotia

I spent this past weekend helping move my mom from St. Thomas, Ontario back to HalifaxNova Scotia. The major task was to drive her car down; she had hired a moving company to move the rest of her belongings.

We agreed that the easiest way to do this was for her to drive to Ottawa, then we would continue together to finish the trip. She made it through the traffic on Highway 401 in Toronto to arrive in Ottawa Friday afternoon. We left early Saturday morning. I did most of the driving to Nova Scotia, but she took over for a few hours through New Brunswick.

It gave us an second opportunity to talk. Although we have always tried to be close, we did not always understand each other. So these opportunities for uninterrupted discussions have really helped. Now, I better understand how to show her that I appreciate who she is as a person and as my mother.

Once we arrived in Dartmouth, we checked into the Ramada. My sister Michelle had made reservations of us and her family for the night.

Burke, Kayli and Portia
Burke, Kayli and Portia

On Sunday, we had the day to spend together with nearly all of the family. Only my sister Sue and my nephew Liam were absent (my parents are divorced – sort of). It was the first time in years I met Michelle, Portia, Burke, and Ali, and the first time in a decade to see Kayli. I was so happy to see them all again. I especially enjoyed the long talk I had with Ali and her fiancé Sean.

Very early Monday morning, my mom dropped me off at the airport for my flight back to Ottawa. The visit was short, especially after such a long driving day on Saturday, but I was so glad to spend time with everyone in Nova Scotia.

St. Thomas

I visited St. Thomas this weekend. It was to be a visit with my mom, my youngest sister and one of my nieces. However my sister was called away to Nova Scotia at the last moment and my niece went with her. So I had an extended weekend to spend time with my mom and see part of southern Ontario.

My mom had not traveled extensively around Southern Ontario, so this was a good opportunity for us to drive around sightseeing.

Our first stop on Saturday was Stratford. This small town of 31,000 has been the site of the annual Stratford Shakespeare Festival since 1953. We stopped at the Festival Theatre, which echoes the circular shape of the original Globe Theatre. It seats 1,826 attendees and opened in 1957. As the theatre was not open, we could not see the inside, but photos online look very interesting. I should like to attend a performance in the future. The monumental red-brick City Hall was completed in 1899; it is now designated a national historic site of Canada.

After lunch at Bentley’s Bar Inn (pulled-pork poutine), we continued to London. London is a good sized metro of just under 500,000 people. We saw the hospital where my sister sometimes works, the train station, stadium, and so forth. The highlight building for me was the wonderful Art Deco Dominion Public building, finished in 1936.

That evening we went to see the new movie “Lincoln”. We both enjoyed the movie.

The next day mom suggested we visit Port Stanley, which is a beach that she often goes to with my sister and niece. Although it was winter we still went to see frozen Lake Erie. I’m sure it’s a great place in the summer; in the winter the wind pushes the lake ice onto the shore.

_MG_1616We drove along the shore of Lake Erie, where there were many wind farms. We ended up in Port Burwell. Port Burwell has a very unique attraction. The Oberon-class submarine HMCS Ojibwa (S72) was brought ashore to become part of the planned Museum of Naval History. Seeing a Cold War submarine sitting on solid ground was mind bending.

Although the trip was short, just three days, it gave us time to talk about life, the family, and the future. It is sometimes difficult to have really good discussions over the phone, which has been our main method of communicating.

15 Years

The more I reflect on 15 years of working at Nortel/Ericsson, the more it seems incredible.

I moved to Ottawa during the last week of January 1997. I drove up in my dad’s Chevy Tahoe filled with all my stuff. There was a snow storm in Quebec, so it took two days to reach Ottawa.

For the first few days, I slept on my friends couch until DJ left to move in with his girlfriend. I took over his portion of the apartment and rent. It was good times. We ran our internet connection on an AMD486DX40 in the basement, played Duke Nukem 3D until 4am, watched Jackie Chan-o-thons at the Mayfair Theatre and listened to The Cardigans and KMFDM.

Has it really been 15 years? A decade-and-a-half?

I think of how much time that is by comparing to my childhood up until I was a teenager. That’s a long time. I think back to Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, where I lived until I was 7. My best friend was Steven, who lived next door, and then just down the road when both of our families moved.

Then in November 1977, my family moved to New Minas, where my parents opened a McDonald’s restaurant. Three more schools – New Minas Elementary, Port Williams Elementary, and finally the move to Horton District High School.

All those friends I met and with whom I have fallen out of touch. All the adventures. All the class mates and teachers. From my birth until I could get my beginners drivers license – 15 years.

And that’s how long I’ve been here in Ottawa.

So much has changed here too: 4 apartments, 2 houses, a marriage, and a racing career. When I moved to Ottawa, it was just sparking with excitement. Corel, Rebel NetWinder, Linux Chix, and Microserfs. It was the tech bubble. I knew more people in Ottawa than I did in Wolfville, where I had graduated and worked at Acadia University. It seemed like everyone from the Acadia Computer Science program went to Ottawa after graduation.

Now, I hardly know anyone from that era. The bubble burst at the turn of the millennium. Everyone I knew closely has moved away. Nadine (moved to Nova Scotia), Dana (moved to San Diego), Christine and Kevin (Nova Scotia), Nick and Bev (Nova Scotia and changed career), Rob and Deb (New Brunswich), Peter (New York); Julie is still still in Ottawa married with kids.

Of the 15 years in Ottawa, I’ve been with Rosa for seven. For all that has changed, for all that might have been lost to time, I have gained so much that is valuable to me: my relationship with Rosa, my most precious treasure.

Hey Jude

Yesterday my mother-in-law Lemin handed me a small hand-written note saying “Beatles Hey Jude“. I was so surprised, as I didn’t think she even knew about The Beatles. I was also curious why she was asking about that song in particular.

I asked (through Rosa) what format she wanted and where she wanted to listen to the song. I wasn’t sure if she just wanted the CD to play or an MP3 for her computer. She wanted something to play on her computer. So I pulled out Past Masters Volume 2 and ripped a copy of that one song for her. I put it on a USB stick and moved it onto her computer and showed her how to play it in Windows Media Player.

At first, it was nice to hear The Beatles playing from her computer. I sang along as I worked around the house. She is loosing her hearing so she was playing it loud enough that I could make it out even in the basement.

She played it all throughout the day. Over and over.

This morning she started playing it again. Over and over. And again when I got home. Over and over. “Hey Jude, don’t make it bad“. Over and over.

It just got stranger and stranger. Why, I wondered, did she want to hear it over and over?

This evening, after her shower, Rosa came down to start working on her computer too. We were both doing work on our computers and not paying attention.

Then Rosa stopped and said that she had had a very strange exchange with Lemin that had left her in a weird state. She told me why Lemin wanted to listen to “Hey Jude”, over and over.

Yesterday, Lemin went to a Chinese New Years celebration at the Chinese (Catholic) Church. Lemin is a very devout Roman Catholic. We were both glad she went, as she has not been very social since her husband passed away 14 months ago.

The reason, Rosa explained, was that someone at the church told her that it was a song about one of the Apostles of Jesus.

I fell out of my chair.

I could not imagine the confusion of ideas that would have led anyone to that conclusion. Lemin was treating it as a hymn about Jude the Apostle, without knowing the real story. “Hey Jude” was written by Paul McCartney not about one of the Disciples but about bandmate John Lennon, who was (in)famously quoted in 1966 as saying:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first—rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.

I was so surprised at what Lemin had been told. She stopped listening to the song once she learned that it was not about Jude the Apostle.

Webcam with the Inlaws

A friend of Rosa’s parents (my in-laws, Lemin and Jinduo) gave them a Logitech webcam. I set the webcam up a week ago, but their friends were not using the Logitech software, so we could not contact them.

Papa, Rosa and Mama
Papa, Rosa and Mama

This evening, we installed Windows Live Messenger, and with a little bit of configuration and negotiation (in two languages), we got it working.

Lemin called her sister in Beijing. It was the first time I have seen any of my extended Chinese family. There is a family resemblance between Lemin and her sister.

We agreed that in the 2011 Spring Festival, we will use the webcam so that I can meet more of the family in Beijing. I’m really looking forward to it!