The Bottom

My high school teacher emailed me last Friday. The same teacher who handwrote a two-page, single-spaced letter, 30 years ago, to the Recruiting Centre in Montreal, recommending a then-fifteen-year-old for Military College. I still have a copy of that letter; the same letter that I was surprised to find in the microfiche portion of my military pers file. Interesting how little can bring so much happiness. She was elated that her senior residence in Montreal, in which 17 or more people are infected with the disease, are now allowing occupants out of their apartments for one hour each day on a pre-determined schedule. Small freedoms. Joy from something most of us take for granted.

The penmanship on that decades-old letter looked deliberate and flawless… like the same sort of attention a calligrapher expends on each work of art. There is a power in an authentic signature, or the personalization of writing the addressee’s name. Maybe it is like ice age cave art that indirectly says “the artist was here; the artist touched this medium.”

Perhaps that is why I like seeing the General’s short penned messages beside his signature on his two- or three- or four-page typed letters he usually posts every Friday on Twitter. Last week’s letter was depressing, as it should be. I think Halifax’s Michael de Adder’s art appropriately captured the sentiment. It is a different sort of devastating. While the massacre, just days before, was unbelievable and still leaves those who remain bewildered, this current tragedy falls under those types of situations that anyone in uniform knows can happen, while always hoping that it never does. It almost feels like abandonment not being able to bring heroes back for an appropriate burial. It feels like a November rain that sort of numbs to the bone, knowing that Spring will eventually come, but never soon enough.

Riding in my car on Friday, with my youngest in the passenger seat, reminded me of Hope and Laughter. She comes with me most mornings to get a FroCho while I get my whip cream with a bit of coffee.

I have usually assumed that men are generally competitive, comparing themselves to others. When I used to work out with training partners in the weight room at the military base or military college gym, my male spotters would often drift in focus, looking at how much weight other guys were pumping, maybe because they never felt insecure with females who often posed less of a “threat” because females usually benched less weight. And even if the weight was too much, if the other guy was pumping it, they would attempt it, too, and end up throwing their back. Or years ago, as a deputy squadron commander, I thought the seasoned soldiers were trying to be social at a Mess Dinner… no… they were approaching me to get a better look at my Husband’s Mess Kit to confirm what they feared: that he actually had more medals than they did.

But then I caught myself doing something similar. Every time I see a runner or a fellow obstacle course racer, I take a look at what shoes they wear, or what running jacket they are using in very windy weather… trying to figure out why they chose whatever set of weapons, or if they opted for whatever was cheapest. Like what is the technological edge of whatever piece of kit? Do their shoes have the grippies that help them climb the 12-foot, 14-foot or 18-foot warped wall? Is that the new carbide insole that conserves energy so that the loss of kinetic energy is minimized and transferred to increased potential energy?

As I am driving, my Youngest tests my knowledge of men’s fashion. “Mommy, why do men who are jogging wear tights underneath basketball shorts?”

“Maybe they are using the shorts as windbreakers for their private parts.”

“Why don’t they just wear rain pants? Or why do they wear big jackets and masks but then wear short shorts and long socks and expose their thighs, knees and calves? Are they only cold above the waist? Have they no fashion sense to figure out that they look retarded?”

“Well maybe they are wearing those shorts like people who wear oversized shirts… to hide the real size of whatever is underneath.”

Then we see this runner who has jogging pants underneath tighter shorts… and I am gobsmacked. I think of those pop-up Groupon email advertisements that talk about cinchers made of neoprene that go around the waist or maybe even gluteals, that depend on sweating to death (generating temperatures that cause sweating in targeted areas for “instant” weight loss). I own a pair of Roots jogging pants. My Hubby bought me a pair for my birthday as comfy house pants. Those pants are not made to wick or be wind resistant… so imagining the heat generated when smooshed underneath tighter shorts made me cringe… like doesn’t this cause sterility?

“But Papa doesn’t dress like that”

“Well Papa must be half-gay.”

“Why half-gay?”

“How many men do you know that know how to dress, are awesome cooks, can clean house, promote the aspirations of their wife, are married to a woman who can kick ass, are married to a woman who dresses like a man four to five times a week, who shaves her head?

“Are you gay?”

“Well, if being gay means being attracted to humans who look and act like intelligent, good-looking men, who know how to shower and dress themselves, then I must be really gay.”

“That is complicated. When I grow up, I think I want to live with three dogs and two cats.”

It is sometimes scary and simultaneously makes me laugh when I am caught in a moment when I am trying to remember if what was just said came out of my head, came out of my mouth, or came out of my kidlets’ mouths.

Friday, I was touched to see a genuine reaction of a seven-year old reacting to a compliment. He is the son of someone I used to work with. He blushed. He smiled. He hopped up and down and reminded me of why we wear the flag on our left shoulder of our uniforms; why those of the uniform risk their lives in the overall defence of those who stand behind us. Like my daughters, it feels like the bottom of Pandora’s Box when Hope appears after all the ugliness escapes to wreak pain and havoc on the planet.

Wishing you all a brighter and hopeful weekend with loved ones. Je me souviens.

Below, Michael de Adder’s tribute to six of our Heroes, including the bagpipes that we’re played the week before by one of the Fallen, in tribute to the victims of a recent national tragedy.

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