|TOM, AT MY AGE: He'd give you money but would never
tell you how much he had.
I once asked my father Tom if we were rich. He said this: "We're rich in family."
I have nine brothers and sisters, triple digits of cousins, and I grew up with a platoon of aunts and uncles who regularly shared cash and, if I asked, their car keys. It was pretty obvious to me that when it came to family, we were rollin' in it.
What I really wanted to know was, "Were we rich rich? Like with money."
Tom never said. It remained a sacred secret. My parents did not talk money.
But we must have been doing pretty well.
We never wanted for anything. My mom, Huena, always had a housekeeper, we grew up feeding on steak and whatever else we wanted, and my folks were huge party enthusiasts. And that's an expensive hobby.
For instance: Huena and Tom frequently hosted great groups of drinkers and eaters at a place called the Silver Beach Tavern, which sounds like a place guys visit on their way home from work but was actually a semi-elegant Italian restaurant that burned down a few years ago.
We dined there so often my parents' generosity probably put a couple of the Silver Beach staff's kids through university. Or maybe threw their bail.
We were at the Silver Beach when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. I remember watching it on one of the wall-mounted TVs. Among the reasons for celebrating that night was that my Irish-twin niece and nephew Patricia and Tom Jr. graduated from kindergarten. Irish twins, in case you didn't know, are non-twin siblings born within the same calendar year. Irish lace on the other hand is cobwebs.
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More evidence of our well-off-edness? My dad never let me leave the house without money.
And how about this? When I was in early high school, one of my sister Charlene's friends was in our kitchen; he opened our fridge door, gazed around and I heard him go "Look at all that food."
My father--knowing with 100 per cent certainty that I wouldn't follow through on the project because that's one of my strongest suits; i.e., not following through--once ponied up tuition for ground-school because for 10 minutes or so I wanted to be a pilot.
In grade 10 I decided to learn the flute, and my mom bought me one. I pursued it, eagerly too, until one day Heather Gardner asked why I didn't play a more manly instrument like the sax.
I should never have listened to her but I thought she was cute so I did.
My older sisters once bought me a plane ticket to Toronto just so I could go on an airplane.
When my sister Norma was a beginning nurse in Toronto I was visiting her and we entered a store near St. Joseph's hospital, which is within walking distance of my house in Toronto now, and we emerged with a new six-string acoustic guitar Norma bought for me, on a whim.
You might say I was spoiled rotten; I say I was spoiled wonderful.
So here's the downside to all this.
Today, after being raised by angels who catered to my every wish, I am, at the same age as my dad when I was at university, an optimistic glass- three-quarters-full trusting naif. And I've never used that word before.
You'd think being pampered the way I was might have taken the edge off gratitude but you'd be wrong. For some mysterious reason, I still look upon my life with sheer disbelief at the fact that we can buy kiwis any day of the year; that we can go to the dentist's on a moment's notice and he or she will fix us up painlessly.
Nobody I know has ever been called to go to war! Has that ever happened in any generation ever in the history of time?
I believe almost anything anybody tells me and I know the world is getting--in a three-steps- forward-one-step-back-sort-of-way--better every day.
I had lunch last week with a guy named Tim Gallagher who I've known since grade one. We agreed life is too short to hold grudges and life is meant to be savoured.
Every day, I wake up, look around and say "Holy cow am I like the most fortunate person in the world or what?"
And something occurred to me two Thursday ago. (I know because I work at home most days but can go into the office anytime I like and I prefer Thursdays.)
I was on the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto in my trusty 2011 Malibu, listening to Miles Davis' So What on CJRT Jazz radio.
And in downtown Toronto right now, there's a building boom. More than 100 cranes are reaching up to the clouds, some of them are ON TOP of the high buildings.
They all look like they could fall over at any minute.
And you now what keeps them towering and safe?
Counterweights. Millions of tons of counterweight. Strong invisible support that keeps those tall skinny cranes productive and safe. (I learned this when I was editor of Today's Trucking Magazine.)
I felt at one with those cranes. All that positive support I had growing up? Counterweight.
Despite everything, they're still standing, reaching higher every day, full of hope.
I should change my name to Ichabod.