Found In Translation

I attended a birthday meal for a septuagenarian this evening. I wasn’t the cook so it was this side of better. It seemed a breeze was breathed on us continuously which was relief from the humidity I seemed to experience everywhere else I was present for the day. We were sitting talking before the meal which for me means listening to predominantly Chinese phrases. I am sometimes isolated by my vocabulary which consists of ‘xie xie’ or “thank you” and ‘dou bu qi’ which means “I’m sorry”. I have had a six year relationship with my Canadian Chinese fiancé knowing nothing more and needing not much else. There is some English when we visit her family which provides me the opportunity to put my foot in my mouth and say ‘dou bu qi’ and practice my Chinese.

Someone asked what time it was. My initial reaction was to suggest it was time to eat as BBQ almost everything was already on the table but something struck me. Someone reached into their pocket and siphoned the time from their cell phone while I turned my wrist and glanced at my watch. If I want to know the time I look at the microwave, the oven or my watch before I even think about the cell phone in my pocket. As far as I’m concerned cell phones are for music, EBay and confirming how few of you read this blog. I don’t even use mine to make calls as I have one of those old phones you have to travel half way across the house for. I would like to argue that I like the exercise but there are people I know who do read this blog and they could only laugh at such an argument.

Time means something different to each of us. To the 8 year old at the table it was an eternity until we cut the cake. The chef at the BBQ toiled for hours marinating and turning several forms of flesh and I ate most of it in a fraction of the time it took others. This slight failing falls squarely at the feet of my parents who birthed four hungry boys. Last one to the table scrapes the bowl. My swiftness to swallow was further fine tuned among inmates who would ask “are you going to eat that?” If it was on your tray you didn’t want it.

Like time, life experiences are subjective and subtle. Money for someone who experienced the Great Depression is something different from the 13 year old with the X-Box, IPod and Dr. Dre Headphones. Homelessness is a foreign concept to one and a reflection and reminder to the other. The 8 year old waiting for the cake will likely never fathom his grandmother passing her portion of rice to her children.

If you were to ask one about food, the stories, memories, impressions, meanings and experiences would be as far apart as the years themselves. I hope neither know hunger again or ever but there is nothing like it to add to appetite and to colour food with flavour and celebration. It becomes not something we do three times a day but something we are blessed with in the moment.

Birthday Beliefs

I wanted to thank my friends and family for the multitude of birthday wishes I received today mainly through Facebook. It was closer to a baker’s dozen but even the ostracised are prone to projecting popularity.

I received more wishes than on any of my other birthdays which is ironic considering that at 11:48 pm last night I became a Jehovah’s Witness. I was brushing my remaining teeth before bed and the mirror itself was a religious revelation I could not ignore. With hair poking far beyond my nose and much of my receding hairline coating the sink I saw a sudden flash. Possibly it was the bathroom light reflecting from my forehead or off the grey throughout my head and unkempt beard but I fell to my knees and converted. Like Lot’s wife I looked at the mirror and my age become a pillar of salt. I was and always will be 45.

God is good, God is great, thankfully I have a fiancé for I could never find a date.

It feels good to deny my life the opportunity to dip into another decade. I have found the fountain of youth in faith itself. For those who are alarmed at my new religion fear not. I did a little research and my “present” plan is to denounce my denomination on Christmas Eve. As devout as I am I am not stupid. Birthdays can be manipulated to manage my mortality but Christmas is a season of gifts more than Wi-Fi wishes and that I will endure.

All I wanted for my birthday was to sleep in but my “dumb”phone started dinging at 6:30 am to inform me I was 46. I smiled at the first few beeps but they soon conspired to penetrate my late night devotion of denial. “DING…you’re 46” is all I heard all morning. “No, I’m not damn it…I’m a Jehovah’s Witness. You heathens can age but I will not!”

Thanks for the birthday wishes and if any of you are more Jehovah than me I apologize for borrowing your beliefs and fashioning your faith into humour. I’ve already been to hell so save your breath.

210 days until Christmas

I had an acquaintance pass away. He was in his late 40’s and a fellow patient in a hospital he and I lived in. I don’t know his history but I was on a forensic unit 484 paces from him on an adult ward which did not involve justice.
At certain points in my treatment and rehabilitation I was able to access areas which met my ears with “How many days until Christmas?” I don’t clearly remember the first time I heard Frank (a pseudonym) ask and reply with the exact number of days until Christmas.
Frank stuck out in my experiences as only a few have. On days I wasn’t sure what all the pain was about he pointed me to Christmas. Who doesn’t have at least one great Christmas memory? I never knew it but when he shouted it at me, it was piercing me with hope. I don’t know where hope gets you but thinking back to being without hope I can hear Frank’s simple words.
I didn’t watch TV or read a sports page for a few years but after meeting Frank I often knew the scores. Frank demonstrated that interest in anything can excite the soul. I didn’t really have a passion or so it seemed but it always cheered me that he was a fan.
I didn’t see many different faces while in hospital but Frank’s life carried lessons for me. Frank struggled but usually with joy in his heart. I say usually because I saw him cry at losing in the hospital BINGO once. I did not see a sore loser, I saw a man who put his whole heart into things. If disappointment brings tears it points to desire, it points to enthusiasm, it points to passion. If you can understand an Olympian weeping at loss you can understand Frank’s tears. He was giving it his all.
When I think of Frank I will remember that a voice and words can be the hand that pulls us past our disappointment, our losses, and our pain. Some days one of the few to speak to me would be Frank. Sometimes when you hear something it doesn’t take sprout until much later. I was impacted I thought by the repetition but in fact it was the distance between whenever and Christmas. There was always a measurable space between what I was enduring and what I would enjoy.
210 days until Christmas Frank, thanks for the gift.