Women’s Voices

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Originally published on May 25, 2014 on https://wordpress.com/post/dstluke.wordpress.com/422

I read a blog today by Leigh Patrick called “What a Straight White Man Knows About Strong Women”. In the blog Patrick talks about the strong women of his family. It is this interaction with a few emotionally and psychologically strong women that Patrick assumes he understands feminism. In a Twitter battle where he first accuses me of saying that all men are potential rapists and later calls me an idiot and a psycho, I get the full brunt of his “understanding”. But someone somewhere is missing the point.

I’ve heard the same refrain over and over from other people. It goes like this; person A has met or lived with a woman who is strong and intelligent. This leads person A into the false sense that this experience leads them to have an understanding of what women are like/go through in their lives. The idea being that because the woman or women in their lives were strong that means that all women are strong or have a well of strength to draw upon. After all, this one or few women did it, why can’t we all be like that?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if women and girls around the world were able to draw upon such a well of strength on command? Shouldn’t we all be able to share in this strength? It’s been proven that it can be done. Why not?

Let’s start with circumstances. I’m privileged to live in Canada, a country that embraces diversity and supports those who cannot support themselves. As a Metis woman, I draw upon a culture that has a rich heritage from my Metis side and embody that stubborn Scots blood that runs so thickly through my veins. Yet I realize my privilege and I still struggle with anxiety daily. I see the problems women around me have that are not of their own doing.

I can honestly say I don’t know what it’s like to be a young girl who gets shot for posting a video on YouTube explaining why she wants to go to school. Yet, Malala Yousafzai is one of my heroes. I don’t know what it’s like to be a young girl in Nigeria, ripped away from her home and family simply because she had the audacity to go to school. My heart bleeds for them. I have never been a five year old girl enduring a genital mutilation without anesthetic where my labia is ripped away all in the belief that it will ensure my virginity will remain intact. I have never miscarried five times as a result of beatings administered by a man who kidnapped me and held me as a slave in his basement. Nor have I been a woman who has survived giving birth to a child in that basement amid terror and pain. I am lucky.

The person who has known the strong woman doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a curvy woman and to feel the fear she feels just going outside. He doesn’t hear the whispers or see the stares as she walks down the street. They don’t know what it is to be a young woman dressed in a short skirt on a spring day to get leered at and have guys assume she’s a slut simply because of what she wears. Those strong women don’t look in a mirror and hate what they see because the media says they aren’t perfect. They don’t spent three to four hours on makeup trying to hide the flaws that only they see. Flaws that are beautiful like the brush strokes on a painting.

I’ve heard people rip apart female celebrities because of what they were wearing to an event. Call into question their very existence because of a few snips of fabric. I’m tempted to tell the celebrities to start going naked and see how that fixes the critics’ little red wagon. If a woman like Angelina Jolie is torn down because of a dress, how much better can I fare when wearing shorts from Walmart?

I see women endure abuse, abuse themselves, hurt themselves, hate themselves, injure and kill themselves all because of the pain they hold inside. A woman who is a saint, a mother, a nanny, a caregiver, a grandmother is held in esteem and may be forgiven those mistakes and flaws they have made of themselves. A slut, a whore, a cunt, a bitch, a vixen, a succubus can never be forgiven. She must be ridiculed and beaten down for the error of believing her sexuality, her being is her own. She must be transformed into the Virgin Mary so society can feel safe around her. She must have a husband, although a wife is allowable in some circumstances, to keep her from straying away from her path and becoming a danger to all around her. She must never alter her gender, her genetic code defines her. We do not talk about those who have an XY gene but live as females.

So many women have lost their voices and do not wish to or cannot speak out. They hide in terror at being less than perfect and mutilate their every flaw or imperfection. If I could say one thing to those women it would be this; please show those flaws. They are beautiful. Those scars, those pains, those small things that make you who you are. Please paint them so I can see them. Please be proud of them. They are your flowers. They are your voice. They are you and they are beautiful.

I understand, Mr. Patrick, that you’ve had a few strong women in your life and I applaud them. Most of us, though, aren’t that strong. We’re scared and afraid of the ridicule and scorn we face daily. So we’d appreciate it if, until you’ve experienced some of that, if you’d kindly keep your opinions to yourself. We’ve had enough opinions of who we should be in our lives. We really don’t need another.

Why Getting Fired From Alberta Education is the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

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NOTE: This piece was originally published on my other blog, The Blaed on July 13, 2011

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree, am in Grant MacEwan’s Applied Communications in Professional Writing Certificate program (going into my second year). In my past I have guest lectured at the University of Alberta (for 10 years running), ran a local theatre company, produced plays, written as a regular contributer for local magazines and been the primary caregiver for my parents. I tell you this so you’ll have an idea about me.

So I was excited to be able to work for the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Education (the specific department shall remain nameless). Here was a chance to step up my career. I had blocked out the trauma of working for the Government of Alberta three years ago and decided this was my chance to shine.

I pride myself in my ability to produce quality work quickly. This blog, for example, will go through one edit before it hits the line. Normally I’d do a couple of them, but I feel this is important. So, I can produce quality work quickly. Let me qualify that; I can produce quality work quickly if I know what it is I’m writing about and the style I’m writing in. I’m fairly adaptable, so I’m comfortable working in a number of styles but this easy, laid-back manner you see here is the one I like best.

So I was hired in June by the Ministry of Education to “tell Education’s story”. Specifically, I was hired in June to use my own laid-back writing style to “tell Education’s story”. “We want *you* to tell Education’s story,” I was told by the man who hired me. All right. I can do that. A week before I was hired I went online and tried to get a sense of what I was getting into. What I saw didn’t comfort me.

Go to the Ministry of Education’s website sometime. It’s chaotic, drowning in government-ese and dry as hell. It says little and what it does say is pretty useless…. in my opinion. However, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. I needed this job and I needed to shine. I could do this.

Problems arose in the first week of my employment. I raised the possibility of doing a story on Mr. Bob Maskell, an incredible educator who’s made an impact on so many lives. That was shot down. Good try, I was told, but we couldn’t feature just one educator (who is retired), it’d look like favoritism. No, I thought, it’d look like we appreciate those teachers and educators who dedicated their lives to being the best they could. Never mind, they had another idea.

My boss plopped a document on the table; the “Framework for Action“. This was what they wanted me to write on. This document has been in the making for years and is extremely intricate. There are subtleties and nuances that would take years to decipher. Okay. In my own style, huh? I could do this.

To give you an idea of the task at hand, open the document and read it. I had two days, tops, to learn each section, its history and where it was going then write a 250 word piece on it. Factor in to that I’m not getting to talk to the managers who’s responsible for each section. No. I get documents in legalese and whatever I could find on the Internet. Still, I managed. I thought. First meeting with the boss I found out I didn’t have a clue. Back to the drawing board.

When you work as a journalist, you need to have a feel for your topic. It isn’t necessary to read every document written on it so long as you get an idea of what it’s about. It needs to be accurate, but you don’t have to know every aspect of it. For example, you don’t need to get a pilot’s licence to write about flying for a big airline . Not so with the Ministry of Education. I had to know these things inside and out and they are complicated. So, off to round two.

Between round one and two my mentor decided he was too busy for me so he passed me off to someone else in the office. Was I okay with that? Perspective time; I’m a summer student. I don’t have a lot of room for opinion. Keep your mouth shut and your head down. That’s the summer student’s motto. Even if it means being passed off like a bad date to a co-worker who’s first language is not English. Yes, she had a doctorate in research, but I’m a writer doing writing in English. I’m not a researcher translating my writing. That’s like a penguin trying to teach a duck to swim.

At this point I felt confirmation of my role was needed. My writing was too bland and needed more colour and excitement. I needed anecdotes and examples, my original mentor (still my boss) said. Okay. I can do that. So I let myself go and brought out my writing crayons, so to speak. Time for colour.

The second time around wasn’t as nice as the first time. What on earth was I thinking using anecdotes and examples? That’s not government style of writing. Also, I still had some tense issues (due to actions in the past affecting the future) but that’s easily dealt with. For example, I might write “the report he wrote yesterday will be discussed in tomorrow’s meeting.” Perfectly sound sentence, but not strictly grammatically correct. Also, I didn’t have enough examples and the writing was bland.

By this time I got the help of my new mentor and a co-worker to edit the pieces. I wasn’t seeing something, perhaps they’d see it. We’d edit two or three times before I was comfortable and then I headed for round number three. Oh good lord.

One of the pieces I’d worked on was particularly delicate so I went to the person who’s project it was and asked them to make sure everything was correct. When it was returned to me, this person had thrown out one section completely, two others were deleted (this person and the boss decided they weren’t needed. Was I asked? Nope. I was informed by e-mail) and another was so heavily edited it didn’t resemble anything I’d written. Okay, I thought, I had it wrong. I can do this.

I reworked the pieces and showed the boss who promptly got angry because they were unusuable.  They had no factual information and said little about the actual program. So, digging through my garbage, I got the original I’d written, retyped it and prepared to hand that in.

Now we get to round four. Understand that by this time I’m going home shaking, in tears and becoming dangerously depressed. If it wasn’t for the amazing support of instructors, friends, family and fellow writers, I would have either wound up in the hospital from a suicide attempt or from severe trauma. I could no longer look at my co-workers, let alone talk to them. I thought about giving up writing completely. It was my support network who held me up during this time and told me I could get through it and keep going. Several said I was too good a writer to quit. Even as I write this I’m crying. I can’t help it. I think of that time and can’t function.

By this time I was going to work not with the idea of producing anything quality, I felt like a hostage to a sociopath. All I wanted to do was give them what they wanted so they’d let me go. From 7 am to 4 pm, working through lunches and breaks, all I kept thinking was, “they said I could leave at the end of August.”

So, now I was given the instructions to “write in Government Voice.” Let me back this truck up a minute. There are classes dedicated to learning this style. There are writers who specialize in this style and take years to perfect it. Government writing style is very precise and there is an art to it. I have never written in this style in my life. This style is not interesting to me, it’s very bland and like chewing on drywall. However, those who can do it well have my utmost respect.

Let’s toss in here a round of computer problems that took three days to fix because the IT guys forgot to hook me up to the right network. Oh, now let’s add the fact that none of the people in charge of the projects are allowing me to talk to them. Instead, I’m handed documents in legalese that outline the project. I’m supposed to decipher these and make them understandable in government style. I leap over tall buildings in a single bound and dress in leather as a bat and stop crimes in my spare time, too.

So, back to round four. My boss walks into my office and informs me I’m texting too much on my phone. I text to keep me in touch with people who keep me sane, by the way.  He then spends the next hour and half to two hours asking me if I’m “supported” (I felt like we were talking about me needing a jock strap). Talk about turning up the pressure. Yes, on the surface he was asking me if he could help me. Yet, in the same breath he’d say things like, “I need results” and “I expected more.” This “chat” let me know I was on my last legs and yet I still had no clue what they wanted.

I called up my doctor, a wonderful man who knows me and knows I don’t ask to see him often, asking to see about medicating me for stress. I may not do well with most psychiatric drugs (learned that while trying to deal with my sleeping disorder), but maybe there was an herbal remedy he could recommend.

Yesterday I gave it one more try. I gave my boss work I wasn’t proud of, work I’d never admit to doing, work so sterilized of any life I didn’t recognize it. He hated it. No, not the sterilization. He liked that. What he pointed out was places I’d missed a comma (I got 15 minutes on that) or places he felt were unclear (three other people had read them several times. He was the only one that thought those places were a problem). In other words, he was looking for trouble and found it. By the time it was over, he looked at me and said, “if you can’t give me what I ask for, you’ll never make it as a writer in any corporation.”

He crossed a line. I reached past all the crap I’d been handed in the past month and stopped listening to him. The corrections he wanted took only a half hour to make but I drew it out all afternoon. I was going to quit at the end of the month. I kept hearing his words in my head over and over and got angrier and angrier. Over and over again I’d produced quality work that he’d told me he wanted. Over and over it wasn’t good enough. I had to spend three and half hours listening to Ministry of Education employees pat themselves on the back and being paraded around instead doing the job I was being paid to do. I had to listen to my bosses “are you being supported” speeches over and over instead of getting clear instructions. Now I was being told I was a mediocre writer and never going to be a professional. Yes, I was angry.

By the time I was fired this morning I didn’t care. I cried tears of relief as I packed up my things and left. Here’s what the boss who was so concerned if I was being supported did; he read my termination from a letter then walked out. He didn’t have the decency to ask me if I had anything to say or even say to me “don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.” He left and went on his way.

I feel better now being without a job than I have in the past month. I’m free and I can go back to doing what I love; writing. I don’t know what will come of this blog, probably nothing. I do know this; I wrote this on the fly and it’s not bad and it feels so good to just write again.

Playing the Victim

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I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I was raped. More than once. I’m sorry that the memory of it sticks with me to this day as a kind of awful background noise that colors everything I say and do. I’m sorry that makes you uncomfortable. I’m sorry that in this era of #MeToo, I am starting to feel like I can finally talk about it. I’m sorry that you want me to shut up. I’m sorry it still hurts and makes me stop during my day to wonder what I did wrong.

I’m sorry I was abused. I’m sorry that my mother was so messed up about my sister suffering severe bullying that she thought handing me over to her was a good idea. I’m sorry that my sister took such pleasure in finding new ways to torment me all in the name of “discipline”. I’m sorry talking about it helps me to put it into perspective. I’m sorry I’ve tried to connect with others like me on the internet to share our stories.

I’m sorry I have Nonverbal Learning Disorder. I’m sorry I haven’t said the right thing or done the right thing or made you feel better or praised you enough or stood in the right spot. I’m sorry I got distracted again. I’m sorry I melted down again. I’m sorry I don’t understand when you’re joking. I’m sorry I don’t know how to organize my clutter.

I’m sorry I’m a woman. I’m sorry that I have to struggle harder than you do just to achieve the same things you do. I’m sorry that I have to point out when you’re being a douche. I’m sorry that I have to go to the bathroom in packs because I’m afraid a man will follow me in and attack me. Again. I’m sorry I carry my keys in my fist. I’m sorry I don’t walk outside at night. I’m sorry that these things make me angry and I want to change them. I’m sorry that I want to make things better for the women coming behind me just as others made it better for me.

I’m sorry I’m fat. I know how that offends you. I’m sorry I have an eating disorder. I’m sorry I have diabetes. I’m sorry I don’t exercise four or five hours a day. I’m sorry I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I’m sorry my anxiety makes me seek out certain foods. I’m sorry I’m not strong enough to be thin. I’m sorry I’m not wise enough to be the person you want me to be.

I’m sorry I’m playing the victim just by existing. I’ll try to do better in the future.

The Best a Woman Can Get

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Recently Gillette came out with an ad. It talked about toxic masculinity. A topic many men (and a few women) want to deny even exists despite evidence to the contrary. This ad, at the time of this writing, got 697,977 dislikes and only 300,822 likes. Apparently men are angry at being portrayed like this.

Let’s look at the “man shaming” going on;

  • Men featured as bullies
  • Men featured as excusers
  • Boys “roughhousing”
  • Boys bullying
  • Men as harassers
  • Black men stepping up to intercede (not white men in the real life clips)

Hmm… well, looks pretty damning, doesn’t it? I mean, there are good and decent men in the world who do manly things with fish and dead animals. Right? Gillette doesn’t have the best history in corporate culture. Right? How dare they moralize to good and decent men.

Let’s look at some of the “woman shaming” that typically goes on in commercials;

  • Women who are too masculine
  • Women featured as gold diggers/shallow
  • Women featured as stupid
  • Women featured as sex toys
  • Women featured as incapable of balancing work and home
  • Women are too fat/thin/tall/short
  • Black women as too black (let’s not talk about Aunt Jemima)
  • Angry men become old women (remember Snickers?)
  • Angry women are hormonal/crazy
  • Women are nags
  • Women are sluts

There are more but I think we get the idea. These ads go back decades to when advertising was in its infancy in the early 1900s when a woman was expected to be the perfect wife, bed partner and mother. The virgin slut, as I like to call it. Now, one ad comes out calling men out on behaviour that women have been complaining about for at least a century and suddenly the world is going to come to a screeching halt.

My twitter feed has been flooded for TWO DAYS with men on the “what about women” train. This train has all the baggage you can imagine;

  • Women rape
  • Women abuse
  • Women bully
  • Women do <fill in the blank>

All this because I dared to say publicly that I supported the Gillette ad. I was even raked over the coals for an hour on another social media because I spelled a word wrong. Apparently bad spelling before you’ve had your coffee throws your entire argument out the window.

After two days of being hounded by the #NotAllMen set, I’ve got to say I’m out of fucks to give about their feelings. Here’s how it’s going to be; I’m going to support Gillette and I’m going to speak out against toxic masculinity. You can either beat your breast over that or go away. I don’t care.

The reality is that toxic masculinity poisons all of us. It prevents men from speaking out about their own experiences. It makes rape culture acceptable. It prevents men from seeking help with mental health issues and it doesn’t have to be this way.

So I’m going to say this one last time loud and clear; I support the Gillette ad and think it’s about damn time. Is there more work to be done? Sure. The next windmill I tilt at will be the Pink Tax. For now, this is a step in the right direction and we need more.

Don’t come at me with your #NotAllMen or but what aboutism. I am seriously out of fucks to give.

A Toast to the Fallen

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Here it is, New Year’s Eve day and my last blog of the year. It’s been a strange year and I thought I’d share some of the highlights, lessons learned and heartaches.

Feminism

In the past I thought that feminism was merely trying to balance the scales. In this past year I’ve learned that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We can’t begin to navigate that iceberg until we start chipping away at the elephant in the room; abuse.

Abuse comes in many forms; domestic, parental, sibling, person in power; but it all boils down to the same thing. One person exercising control over another. Whether that control is physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or a combination thereof doesn’t matter. What matters is the disproportionate amount of women who are at the receiving end. I think 2019 will see me addressing this matter more and more.

Poverty

I’ve been an avid advocate of those who live in poverty. Mainly because I experience it first hand. However, in 2018 I saw how much racism affects poverty and the damage they can do together. There is still a genocidal race going on but it’s been pushed beneath the blankets and has become more insidious.

One note of optimism, though, is the idea of Basic Income. I see this as a brand new hope for those living in poverty and will keep advocating for it wherever I can. I think 2019 will see me continuing to support such efforts as End Poverty Edmonton and Basic Income. I’m a writer and words are cheap. If my words can help then I will spill them freely.

Health

I’m fat and along with that is an awareness of my health that others don’t have. In 2018 I learned that everyone and their god has an opinion about my size, my body, my lifestyle, my health, my eating habits, my exercise routine, my attitude, my ego (or lack), my self respect….. well, you get the idea. Apparently being overweight means that anyone with an internet connection can tell you how to live your life.

So my message in 2019 will be this; not your body, not your rules/business. Okay, that’s been my message all along but I think it’s time to get louder about it. All these well-meaning “health” gurus need to shut up. To sell their crap they bombard us fatties with these shaming messages over and over. They claim concern over our health or our lifestyle. They claim they understand and empathize. The truth is that I’m a dollar sign to them and nothing more and that needs to stop. I don’t care what color bow they put on that package, all that passive-aggressive shit is just a hard sales tactic and that’s it. This year is about loving the body you have and taking care of it which is a conversation between you and your doctor.

Creativity

2018 I began expanding my creative self into the world of art. Okay. So far it looks like it was painted by a drunken 5 year old most of the time. However, I’ll get there. After all, I mastered writing, didn’t I? Okay. Stop giggling.

Lastly, I leave you with this as 2018 comes to a close; it’s been a rough year and we’ve survived. Live, love, laugh, cry and remember to always keep going forward.

Alone at Christmas

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It’s Christmas Eve day and, for me, it’s a time to put my thoughts in order. So I’m afraid this post won’t be very Christmassy. Instead I’m going to talk about something that’s a reality for a lot of abuse survivors; being alone.

Christmas is that time of year when you’re with friends and family in a house with a fireplace and a tree and lots of presents and food. Christmas for me involves a pizza and Freddy Krueger. I chose this and, while I don’t regret it, it’s hard.

See, everything on the internet, television, media, songs, every damn place you go screams family and tradition. I would love to be with a family someplace with all those things just not with my family.

Anyone who’s read this blog knows that I survived a lifetime of abuse at the hands of my sister and I managed to get free of that. Many people cheer me on when they find out, like I’m some Wonder Woman who managed the impossible. For me it was simple; get out or die.

There is an aftermath, though, of abuse. Getting free isn’t always enough. Everyone knows that post-abuse involves therapy and rebuilding your life but what people don’t know is what life is like in the free zone.

Christmas is especially hard for those who have survived the narcissist. There is a sense of freedom that is especially intoxicating that you simply don’t want to share with anyone. It’s healing and invigorating. You get to eat pizza on Christmas Day while watching Freddy.

However, as hard as you might try, you can’t ignore those homily messages that talk about family and hearth and home. If you’ve left  your narcissist, you’ve probably left those things as well. This is where the clash happens.

On one hand you’re standing on the rocks of your freedom, shouting defiance to the universe. On the other is the voice of your narcissist alive and well in your head whispering what a loser you are for being alone on the one day when no one is alone.

It’s okay, though. That voice has no real power and you get better at ignoring it. I doubt that Christmas will ever be easy but it will get kinder. For survivors the Christmas miracle is simply being free. Maybe that’s enough. I don’t know. What I do know is pizza and Freddy await.

It Never Happened – A True Story of Sibling Abuse (Part 1)

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I am a survivor and victim.

Yes, I am both those things and what follows is the hardest thing I’ve ever written in my life. Even now there’s a fear that what I’m doing is wrong and that I’ll get punished for it. That never really goes away, you know. The sense that my abuser is watching and disapproves is always there, always in the background. I always feel a sense of impending punishment.

I still have problems speaking about it. I hear the same old justifications in my head; at least you weren’t hit (I was) or at least they weren’t addicts or there were others who had it worse than you. Yet another part of me wants to speak out. The writer in me needs to tell the story.

I was born the youngest of 6 and it’s here that the stage was set for my abuse. My mother lost her oldest two boys to her father’s cruelty and laziness and a system that was stacked against the poor. She met my father and three months later she was pregnant with my sister. A scandal at the time and one of the first secrets I was taught to keep. It was the first of many.

My mother worked as a waitress and got a job while in the early stages of her pregnancy. The job required her to get a test for tuberculosis. An x-ray. Why my mother got the x-ray when she knew she was pregnant is a mystery even to her. It would have been easy to opt out or to ensure precautions were taken but she didn’t.

My sister was born with Hallermann-Streiff Syndrome, a congenital condition that affects mostly the face and skull. In short, my sister looked different and that difference was the cause of some extreme bullying she suffered in her early years. Did this affect what was to come and who she became? Of course. Does it excuse it? Not at all.

In the first 12 years of her life my sister was tormented by her peers as a freak and it affected my mother deeply. She blamed herself for the loss of her two oldest boys, now adopted legally by her very good friend, and she knew that the x-ray was to blame for my sister’s condition. My mother swam in a sea of guilt and I have no doubt that there was an element of depression involved.

It’s here I need to touch on my parent’s relationship. My mother had been married to a man who had a habit of just walking away from the family for weeks or months at a time whenever the whim overcame him. He lived homeless and partied with friends most of the time. When my mother lost her sons, she walked away from the marriage and filed for divorce but was unable to locate him. That’s when she met my father.

My father was a good man who lived a wanderer’s life. He was much like Bilbo Baggins, content to roam the earth with nothing more than a backpack and a smile. Sometimes not even that. As a teen and young adult, he often “rode the rails” or what is now called being a hobo. He would jump on trains and ride them to the next stop. He even once told me it wasn’t uncommon for him to get himself arrested loitering or something small so he’d have a place to sleep and a good meal. Not a glorious life but my father had a good heart and he never caused harm to anyone. He later joined the Army because, as he put it, he wanted a job. After that was finished he joined the Air Force and then the Merchant Marines. He even went to Korea as a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Yes, he was a ground pounder.

My father and mother met when he was in the Merchant Marines. He’d missed his ship and met a waitress whose life had taken a bad turn instead. My mother had just lost her sons and left their father when she met my father. Although he would help her fight for their return, they were never successful. When she became pregnant, my father chose to stay at a time when, if he had chosen to leave, no one would have thought anything about it. After all, in the 50s, a pregnancy was the woman’s problem and her job to find a man to provide for her and the baby but it was a man’s choice to take on that role.

By the time my mother met my father, she was wrung out. Too much had happened and she’d had no help dealing with any of it. She often told me that she didn’t care if my father stayed or left. My father, being the man he was, chose to stay and be the best father he could be with nothing more than a grade 6 education and determination.

This, then, was the back story into which I was born. I didn’t stand a chance.

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