For better and for worse, I am the man that I am today because of my mother.
I don’t say that lightly, for my father played no small part in my upbringing and I’d like to hope that I’ve been somewhat responsible for what/who I am too.
But it’s quite simple – there is a single, defining event in my life and it has had a hand in shaping everything that’s come since (I guess that’s why they call it a defining event, no?).
On July 22, 1975, my mother lost her fight with breast cancer. She was just 35 years old. I was 6.
Growing up without my mother is why I know how to cook, and clean, and do laundry – my older sister and I pitched in on the chores at a very early age, to help take some of the load off my dad. From everything I’ve been told, my mother is the root of my musical talent – she won awards in local music competitions. As a child, I learned to be polite, quiet, respectful of my elders; really, I learned to be a mini-adult, because it made everything just that much easier.
On the other hand, growing up without my mother is also probably why I got married the day after I turned 22. It’s certainly why it took me two failed marriages and until my mid-thirties (and my current fiancée) to finally get it right with a relationship. It’s why I’ve never said “I love you” to the important people in my life nearly often enough, and why I’ve never said it at all to some of them. A psychoanalyst would probably tell me that growing up without my mother is why I don’t have any interest in having children of my own, although I’d argue I have plenty other good reasons for that.
Anyway, not having a mother and never really getting to know her, Mother’s Day has never held any real meaning for me. However, about 6 1/2 years ago, I came across something that did have some meaning – a roundabout way I could connect with my mother. In September 2004, I took part in the second annual Weekend to End Breast Cancer. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this event, it was a two day, 60 kilometre walk throughout the streets of Toronto, with a minimum fundraising requirement of $2,000. It was, to say the least, a life-changing experience. The weekend itself was a flood of emotions – the people I met, the stories I heard, exhaustion and exhilaration all mixed up together in one package. I raised a boatload of money for a great cause and met some people who’ll be in my life for a long, long time.
It was such a great experience that I came back in 2005 and did it all over again. And then once more in 2007, although circumstances (also known as a blister covering the entire pad of my foot) stopped me from getting the job done after the first day.
I haven’t been back to walk since, for a lot of reasons. The event’s now known as The Weekend to End Women’s Cancers (one of the reasons, in fact) and this year’s edition wrapped up a couple of hours ago. But even if I’ve soured on taking part myself, it doesn’t stop me from being in awe of everyone who does and wanting to get out and support them in the effort. Yesterday morning, I found a nice quiet side street in the Avenue and Lawrence area not too far from home, parked the car, and stationed myself on the sidewalk at about the 19 km mark in front of a row of townhouses. From 10:30 until just after 3:00, I stood there and clapped my hands red for every single one of the 4,623 walkers on the route (okay, I maybe missed the first half-dozen or so while I was getting parked). Young and old, women and men, large groups or lone walkers, pregnant, knees braced, walking poles – they all came by.
Yesterday was my chance to say thanks to a large group of people – today, there are a few in particular who I’d like to make sure know how much I appreciate their sacrifice:
- Thanks to Deneen Cole-Ashbury – a friend from my first year, and an absolute road-warrior for this cause. This was her 7th year doing the Toronto event, and her 16th event overall – yes, she’s travelled to other cities to walk long distances, and each one of those had the same $2,000 fundraising minimum. Do the math…
- Thanks to Erin Truax – fellow CIBCer back for her second year
- Thanks to Jai Cole – friend from what seems like a lifetime ago, queen of the sweeper vehicles – and her daughter Stephanie
- Thanks to Greg Barry – motorcycle crew man extraordinaire
- Thanks to Ngaio Potts – castmate from this spring’s production of The Producers
- Thanks to Meri Rawling-Taylor – one-time boss, now co-worker and friend
- Thanks to Ana Mae Soquena – our intrepid, ball-of-energy assistant at work
- Thanks to everyone else from Team CIBC – the ones I know/have met (Sonia, Victor, Leslie, Maureen, Colette, and Martha) and all of the dozens others I don’t/haven’t
- Thanks to Dee Brun and Lisa – two ladies with long-familiar Twitter handles who I was just twintroduced to last night
To everyone who walked or crewed – but to all of you above especially – thanks for registering, for training, for walking/crewing… thanks for the sore muscles and the blisters… thanks for taking the weekend away from your partners, your children, your pets… thanks for raising almost 11 million dollars this weekend.
Mostly, thanks for doing everything you can to try to create a world where little boys become men because they have their mothers around, not because they don’t.