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Happy Birthday

In our family, birthdays come at a pretty fast clip between December and March. My daughter turned 21 yesterday. I spoke with her last night. She had a wonderful day. I am so proud of her.

We did a family dinner last week-end to mark her 21st and my 50th. I asked her what she treasured most in her time on the planet. She wasn’t sure. I then asked her if she knew what I treasured most over the past 50 years. She looked at me and smiled. She knew the answer instantly. She lifted up four fingers and pointed at my wife and my three children.

Regardless of the pedestrian issues that creep into my daily existence, I have been blessed with a truly wonderful family.

The Father I Did Not Know

I was talking to my wife yesterday about the time I lived in England. But I could not recall why we moved there. I knew that my father was born in England but I did not know where. Nor, for that matter, did I know when.

My father died in 1973 just a few weeks after my 16th birthday.

My father had served in the first world war. And the Canadian government maintains a list of records on soldiers of the first world war. I found my father’s information on that database.

He was born on March 27, 1893 in Manchester, England to Elizabeth Cleaver. I never knew his date of birth nor his place of birth until today almost 50 years after my own birth. He was 21 years of age when he entered the war. I cannot imagine what that experience must have been like.

Here is the record of his attestation.

Thanks to this blog for helping me answer a few questions about the father I did not know.

Walter Cleaver Face

The Children of Men

I started reading The Children of Men by P.D. James.

Here is an excerpt:

My parents tried to spare me the worst of knowledge. “We try to keep things from the boy” was another frequently overheard phrase. But keeping things from the boy meant telling me nothing except that my father was ill, would have to see a specialist, would go into the hospital for an operation, would soon be home again, would have to go back into hospital. Sometimes I wasn’t even told that; I would return from school to find him no longer there and my mother feverishly cleaning the house, with a face set like stone. Keeping things from the boy meant that I lived… in an atmosphere of uncomprehended menace… moving inexorably forward to some unimagined disaster which, when it came, would be my fault. Children are always ready to believe that adult catastrophes are their fault. My mother never spoke the word “cancer” to me, never referred to his illness except incidentally…

I wish that my remembrance of my father was happier, that I had a clear view, or at least some view, of the essential man which I could take hold of, make part of me; I wish that I could name even three qualities which characterized him. Thinking about him now for the first time in years, there are no adjectives which I can honestly conjure up, not even that he was gentle, kind, intelligent, loving. He may have been all of these things, I just don’t know. All I know about him is that he was dying. His cancer wasn’t quick or merciful — when is it merciful? — and he took nearly three years to die. It seems that most of my childhood was subsumed in those years by the look and the sound and the smell of his death. He was his cancer. I could see nothing else then and I can see nothing else now.

My father became terminally ill with cancer when I was 12 years old. He died a few weeks after my 16th birthday. I read the above passage on the train back home yesterday and I am still reflecting on those haunting words.

A difficult childhood endures for a long, long time.

CARP

This website has become really, really important to my wife.

Happy Birthday!

Fifty

Family and Finances

My oldest son was home for the week-end. We spent time watching Battlestar Galactica 2.5, taking in Stranger Than Fiction, playing Gears of War and we both played as part of a worship team for a church on Sunday.

I spent the remainder of the time working through the finances. I had to call time on my Mac for my personal financial management. I could not get Quicken for Mac to do what I wanted it to do. I loaded up Quicken 2007 XG on my Vista PC, exported the Quicken data file from the Mac, imported into the PC version and made the requisite updates.

I love the Mac platform. It is what a computing environment should be: well designed and easy to use. However, there is no comparison between the Quicken software on the two platforms. Quicken for the Mac is a dog’s breakfast. The worst software experience I have endured in a long time.

I really wanted it to work. And I gave it my best shot.

Issues? First off, the Mac version is not Canadianized. You have to use the U.S. product and set the country preference to Canada. Which is okay except that not one Canadian financial institution is online with this version. Instead of downloading transactions directly to Quicken, you have to launch a browser, login, download an export file, import the export file, and go through transaction by transaction. Yuk.

Getting the investment portfolio updated is just as bad.

By comparison the Windows version is a delight to use. I have no idea why the software is not the same from a functionality perspective on the two platforms. It is quite staggering the difference in capabilities.

Quicken on the PC is just a far better experience. Much more usable and more capable.

Wisdom for Fathers With Sons

When you wrestle with your teenage son, make sure you win because subconsciously, he’s testing you to make sure you’re still king of the house. If you can’t beat him by brute strength, fight dirty — bite, scratch, take a well-placed shot — anything it takes to win.

And avoid video games. No sense in starting something you can never win.

Bronchitis

Consider the following condition:

Hyperemia of the mucous membranes is the earliest change, followed by desquamation, edema, leukocytic infiltration of the submucosa, and production of sticky or mucopurulent exudate. The protective functions of bronchial cilia, phagocytes, and lymphatics are disturbed, and bacteria may invade the normally sterile bronchi, with consequent accumulation of cellular debris and mucopurulent exudate. Cough is essential to eliminate bronchial secretions. Airway obstruction may result from edema of the bronchial walls, retained secretions, and, in some cases, spasm of bronchial muscles.

Does not sound like fun, does it?

The pathology describes acute bronchitis. Acute bronchitis can last 5 to 10 days. It is contagious. For some people, the cough may last as long as a few months.

The best way to avoid acute bronchitis is to wash your hands frequently, get lots of rest, and drink lots of fluids. Acute bronchitis is most commonly caused by viruses or bacteria.

Sadly my wife has been experiencing bronchitis. She has had a tough few weeks. I hope she gets better soon.

On The Road

In another hour I will be on the road with my family taking my two oldest children to university. We rented a minivan for the move. It will be a pretty packed vehicle going down.

I took my daughter out to Chapters last night and we talked about the transition. For my kids, this is a very exciting time. Away from home. A new environment. New friends. New adventures.

For me, this is a significant change. Children away from home. Separation. Concern.

My daughter asked me if I was excited for her. And of course I am. I told her that I was so very proud of her. I am a fortunate father. But, I told her, it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sad about the transition. It is only natural to miss your children.

The time has passed so quickly.

What about my youngest son? What does he think about the change? Well, he quite likes the minivan we rented for the move. It has a DVD player. And that is really cool. Will he miss his older brother and sister?

“Uh huh. But, I am going to have to teach you how to play some computer games on the XBOX Dad. Because Josh and Tara are away.”

The perspective of children. So refreshing.