Friday, October 9, 2015

From The Vault

1966 was a big year for me.
My family had moved to another city, Dartmouth, 
which is across the harbour from Halifax.
I attended a private Catholic high school there for my grade 12
which was my last year before university.

My mother was in an almost fatal car accident in August of that year.
My sister Jo-Ann was driving the car
and my little sister Mim was in the front seat with my Mom.
My mother had the worse injuries of all.....her head and face were badly injured
and she remained in hospital for a few months.

The photo below was taken just before my high school graduation ceremony.
My mother was in the hospital so Nana, my grandmother, said she would go
along with my best friends Mike and John and my sister Jo-Ann.

I think I grew up that year.
I was attending a new school and didn't know a soul;
my mother was hanging on for her life;
I was about to embark on my university career;
lots to process for a 17 year old.

In the photo below I see the people with whom I was very close.....

left to right in back...Mike, we lived in same neighbourhood and street.

Nana, lived with my family for about 15 years till her death in 1972.
Nana was a quiet, kind and sweet-hearted woman whom we all loved very much.

Me on the right in the corner before I let my hair grow...and grow....

front left......John, in the same classes in elementary school and inseparable
till university. John died in 1995 of AIDS....he insisted that his obituary
included this fact. He was not ashamed of this and in his own small way
helped extinguish the terrible stigma that gay people had at that time.

front sister Jo-Ann. We are the closest in age in my family,
she was born in 1947 and I in 1948. 
We were inseparable and very close growing up.
She got married two years after this photo was taken.

Isn't it interesting what a photo will bring back.
1966 may have been a scary year in some ways
but it was also an exciting one for me.


  1. I hope the memories brought back are now sweet and the pain is gone. I love looking at old photos but sometimes am not thrilled with the thoughts they bring back. But pictures of my sister and me make me smile, too.

    1. Oh the pain is gone, Mitchell. Took some time but I do see it as a sweet time in my life.I know what you mean....after reading this post before it was published I shed a few tears for those people in my life and that time which played such an important role in shaping who I am.

  2. Loved this, Jim! I enjoy seeing the people who meant so much to you! Thanks for sharing! It's amazing all the things a family can experience before the kiddos grow up and disperse. Kudos to your friend John. I'm glad you had him as a friend, and I like to think that you helped each other through those early teenage years. It's people like him who began to open the eyes and hearts of the non-gay community.

    I lived in California in the 1970s, and many of my neighbors were gay, male and female. (I don't think the term "lesbian" was being used a lot then). I got a crash course in gay people and issues, let me tell you! I remember the men especially talking about the mysterious disease that was killing gay men. They called it "gay cancer." My cross-dressing next door neighbor who sometimes borrowed my iron and ironing board was suffering from the loss of his partner to this mysterious disease. He opened my eyes and heart in a lot of ways, and I'm grateful that we were friends.

    I took some flack from my straight neighbors about being friendly with my gay neighbors, but I didn't give a damn. No matter what "different" group of people you are exposed to, once you experience your common humanity, you can't go back, you can't bear the discrimination and the stereotypes. Eventually you'll hear my story about John, my half Ojibwa friend whom I will carry in my heart forever. He wasn't gay, but he certainly faced life-destroying discrimination and stigma for looking/being Indian.

    Have a wonderful weekend, my friend!

    1. Thanks so much, Louise. I know you appreciate and respect the people in your life.
      It is so true that we can't go back once we have 'seen' that common humanity.
      John and I were as 'thick as thieves'! We had no idea we were gay or going to be gay. We both had girlfriends and I guess pretended or fitted in the best we could. He 'came out' first. I was shocked! But I eventually accepted it and of course his coming out helped me come out a few years later. I will never forget when Ron and I went to visit him in Toronto...the BIG CITY! Ron and I had just met and I wanted John to meet him. He was so gracious in showing us around and telling us to be careful and not trust anybody!! We felt like 'country bumpkins'!! John and all his family, which was basically my second family, are all gone now. If they only knew how important they were to me at the time. Another story for another day.
      Have a more wonderful weekend!! lol

  3. i don't like photos. my whole family died at young ages and photos bring that all back to me. so no photos here.

    1. I do understand what you are saying, Joyce. It is difficult for sure. I try to not spend too much time delving into the past....good and not so good.
      Right now is what is important and thank you for taking the time to send me your thoughts. Much appreciated.

  4. I find that the older I get, the more bittersweet it is for me to look at old photos. Happiness and heartache, that's what they evoke. But still it's important to keep them and remember!

    1. As I just said to Joyce above, it's not good at all to spend lots of time doing this 'visiting the past' thing!
      It does or can help one appreciate how and why we got to where we are today. And then stay present and enjoy it all!!

  5. What a great post, Jim! I really enjoy whatever you take out of the vault :) What a terrible thing about your mother. Thank goodness she recovered. I find as I get older, I enjoy looking at old photos and thinking about days gone by. It's bittersweet since some of the people in them are no longer with us.

    1. Oh thanks Martha. My mother was a fighter all her life and this helped her get through this accident.
      Looking back does have its rewards.


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