In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Category: relationships Page 2 of 6


My father died in the early hours of Monday, December 3rd. As you might guess, I’m sad and miss him terribly.

Three days before his passing, he started displaying signs of a flu or bad cold. He even took his bicycle to pick up the mail that day. The symptoms got worse, and when they became bad enough, and he also became occasionally delirious because of his fever, my Mom called an ambulance. The doctors soon learned the bad news that he had pneumonia and his condition looked dire. Despite this, he told my mom that he wanted his reading glasses and his newspaper.

That day my sister called me with the news. In the evening, my mom and my sister called, telling me that I’d better get down there. Given that I was unlikely to sleep that night, I packed the car and was on the road at 12:15 am. I pulled into the hospital parking lot at 6:00 am and my phone rang. It was my mother calling with the news that my father had passed. I was upset because I’d missed seeing him. She told me to come home anyway. I said I’d be there in ten minutes. Her reaction reminded me that I hadn’t told her I’d driven through the night. Instead of leaving, I went into the hospital to see my father.

As I made my way to him, my sister called. She told my that she was bringing my mom, and they’d be there in 15 – 20 minutes. I found my father’s ‘room’ in the observation section of the emergency department. I grabbed the curtain with both hands and paused. I tried to control my breathing. I’ve never lost anyone close to me. I’ve never seen a dead person. I didn’t know what to expect on the other side of the curtain. I didn’t know what to expect from this moment forward, now that my dad was gone.

I opened the curtain. Although his colour was wrong, he looked like he was sleeping. He was not suffering, and for that I am very grateful. I sat and cried. I also talked to him and told him that I loved him. I am so glad that I had that time alone with him. Of course I would have preferred to have seen him before he died, but I’m still very pleased to have had that time with him.

My dad was a very difficult man to get to know. He was far from perfect but he was my dad, and I love him. I missed seeing him alive one last time by just 45 minutes, and I’ll continue to miss him and love him for the rest of my days.

Family, redux.

20111201_60thI was away this past weekend visiting my family for a very special occasion, as you can see by the newspaper announcement reproduced here.

We arranged for a fancy dinner at the Hilton and had a wonderful time. I don’t even know what it’s like to live for that length of time, much less married, but it’s certainly a remarkable achievement. I can’t always be easy, but I’m very grateful for everything my parents have done for their family. As I sat there and looked around at my family, I realized that few of the guests would be alive if my parents hadn’t wed, and the rest certainly would not have been there at that time because their spouses would not exist!

It’s a sobering thought and a testament to what family is.

Congratulations Mom and Dad. We all love you dearly.

Cog or team member?

The story in this post has few details. It’s partly because I don’t believe it’s wise to slag a former employer explicitly. It’s mostly because I do not remember the details!

I was given a task by a former boss. It was straightforward but I didn’t do it because I thought it was a mistake. A doorway connected the room in which I worked to an adjacent room. Not a door, but an arched doorway. The instructions directed me to create a permanent distraction for myself. It involved setting something up in the adjacent room that would draw other employees throughout the day. They’d talk amongst themselves while they were there and distract me from my own work.

Normally, I’m careful about changing the rules. I check in advance to make sure. In this case however, the idea was fundamentally flawed. It was so flawed, that I didn’t check in advance before I started work on something else that would achieve the same result without sabotaging my own work.

Sabotage is a good word to bring up, because it reminds me that there are two types of bosses. One tells you what to do and expects you to do it. Period. The other type of boss tells you what he wants achieved, and lets you figure out how to do it, providing the resources you need.

The first type of boss sees you as an appliance. You’re a mere cog in the machine. Questions other than those required to follow the directions will annoy this boss. “I don’t pay you to think!” is something this boss might say. Ultimately, if your task has flawed instructions, you’re doomed. If you follow the directions faithfully, you’re going to get yelled at because you should have realized the directions were flawed. If you realize the directions are flawed and find another way to the same end, you’re going to get yelled at if the result isn’t perfect, because you didn’t follow the directions. If your attempt improve on the directions fails utterly, you’re really going to get an ear-full.

The second type of boss sees you as part of a team. This boss is more likely to facilitate than issue orders. Being part of a team means that you can contribute ideas and use your experience and specialized knowledge. Further, everyone else on the team does the same thing, creating a pool of expertise and experience that a single person isn’t likely to have.

I was going to say that most bosses in the real world are a fusion with varying proportions of each type. In thinking about it though, my experience is that most bosses tend strongly toward one type or the other, with few in the middle.

The boss in my story had no interest in telling me the ‘why.’ As a result, I thought my solution was better, but even after I explained my reasoning, he said, “When I tell you to do something, I want you to do what I told you to do.” I still don’t know if my understanding of the goal was correct, but I do know his directions would have negatively affected my work.

Maybe it boils down to how willing a boss is to trust employees. A micro-manager doesn’t want your ideas. If they ask you how you’re going to do something, it’s because they don’t trust you to do it without knowing your plan first. A team leader knows that trusting for his people means fewer conceptual and planning errors and often results in better ways of doing things because of a larger pool of talent and ideas to draw upon. Trust does involve risk, but it opens the door to new opportunities and lots of learning. I’d rather be trusted to use my abilities to solve problems than to blindly follow directions.

Do you want to be part of a team, or an assembly line robot? The latter is safer, but the former is more rewarding.

You’re dumped

I received a card in the mail yesterday. It was sent to my address, but the addressee was simply ‘Resident.’ How warm and personal. I was curious so I opened it.

The photo on the front of the card shows a young boy sitting on a park bench, absolutely forlorn. The text reads, “Something’s still missing. You.” I opened it and was amused to find that it was from Rogers. They want me back as a cable customer. Both Bell and Rogers are acting like needy dumped girlfriends, for goodness sakes. I wrote Bell yesterday asking them to stop sending me stuff. I may do the same with Rogers. We broke up for a reason!

It’s very difficult to get an ad right. I like the idea of the card and the photo is well suited for it. The problem is with the copy inside. The first paragraph makes me feel a bit uncomfortable:

The longer we spend away from each other, the more we’d like to have you back. To show you that we miss you more than ever, here’s an exclusive bonus just for you.

One can take an amusing analogy too far. With this paragraph, they’ve gone from an ex who wants me back, to an unstable ex who wants me back. And the exclusive bonus is just for me? Sorry honey, you say that to all the guys. When a relationship falters, fixing it requires communication and compromise. All I’m getting is a present, and I’ll surely be ignored again afterwards. No thanks.

At this point they drop the ‘relationship’ joke, but the ad copy is problematic if you think in a certain way … which I seem to. It says:

Get 25% OFF select Rogers Digital TV packages for the first 6 months! That’s a total value of up to $234.54!

They want you to believe you’ll save a fortune so they apply a dollar value to the savings if you choose the most expensive applicable package. My first thought was, “Hmmm, that’s a big saving!”

My second thought was, “Wait a second. If $235 is a savings of 25%, I’ll still be paying 75%. That’s three times as much, so three times $235 is $705 for the first six months! And after the first six months, the discount expires, so I’ll be paying four times as much. Four times $235 is $940 for the second six month! For the first year it’s $1645 and $1880 for subsequent years, ignoring any increases, which will certainly be hard to ignore.” I’m far better off with my current savings: 100%.

No wonder they want me back.


My parents and me. I’m somewhere in the 1½-2½ year-old range.

Photos like this one feel like they’re from some alternate reality. I clearly recognize my folks, but I don’t ever remember them looking this way. They’re not the same people I know. In the photo, my father is also perhaps two years older than I am now, which also is weird for me to imagine.

We think we know everything, but there’s far more to who our parents are than we’ll ever realize.

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