The Early Years
“It is easier to build up a child
than it is to repair
Growing up there was no talk or stories about the past. I recall often waking up on a weekend morning and hearing my brother and dad talking in the dining room. I'd be lying in bed feeling sad and I never understood what they were talking about. Perhaps the sadness was the realization that my mom still hadn't returned home; I never felt like getting up to join them.
It was like there was a constant underlying feeling of sadness like an underground river that was mostly covered over by the busy ness of life but during those times when I had more time on my hands like on a weekend morning, it would rise to the surface. It was as though my life became a series of activities to suppress those deeper feelings.
When I wasn't at school, or with my friends, I would be in the back room of the house watching TV. The TV guide was the only 'booklet' I recall reading at home – when the Saturday paper arrived, I would study the times of my favouite shows and look for whatever else looked interesting. I would spend 4 to 5 hours in that back room on a typical day, having all sorts of virtual adventures like on...
Giligan's Island where I'd be hanging out on some tropical island and going on adventures
The Love Boat where I'd glimpse into what love looked like
Fantasy Island where I imagined living that dream life
The Swiss Family Robinson, peering into what a warm, loving family was like
The Six Million Dollar Man revealed that you could overcome challenges and re-build yourself
Hogan's Hero's revealed that life is like a game where you have to somehow escape from your captors.
Dallas showed me that all the wealth in the world can never buy happiness
Mork and Mindy revealed the power of humor and seeing the beauty within everyone.
Happy Days was like a window into true friendship and family connection.
I was always intrigued by James Bond which perhaps reminded me that I could have
an adventurous life filled with exciting adventures.
While flipping around checking out different programs, I would sometimes come across Christian preachers ~ I would watch for a few minutes, never really understanding what they were talking about.
One summer when I didn't go to camp, I recall being so bored during the day, I began watching soap operas which were like a descent into the dysfunctionality of life where love, humour and adventure cease to exist.
My dad would always watch the news on his own. I never had an interest in the news ~ it was as though there was only one news story that was at the center of my existence.
It was lonely at home, even though I wasn't consciously aware of just how lonely it was.
I always did well in school having the safety of the classroom and the teacher's presence but left to my own, concentrating or learning a hobby was always a challenge. I attempted learning various musical instruments over the years but never followed through on any.
Up until the age of 13, I would attend after school classes at a synagogue twice a week and on Saturdays. I never found it very interesting and my final year seemed to be mainly geared to practicing for my Bar Mitzvah – traditionally known as the Jewish 'right of passage'. I would attend the synagogue for certain holiday services which I always found to be quite boring as everything was in Hebrew. After my Bar Mitzvah, Judaism became less and less a part of my life.
In middle school days I became good friends with someone whose family had a beautiful 11 bedroom Estate on the shores of Lake Ontario in the town of Cobourg. I would often spend weeks out there in the summers getting a taste of life through someone else's family, which I always thoroughly enjoyed. His father would come out on weekend and I remember sensing that he was doing something special on the Saturday ~ he would read some speical book and he seemed to really be 'taking it easy'. Years later it dawned on me that he was observing the Sabbath, one of the few people that I knew in life who actually seemed to actually observe the Sabbath and take a true rest day.
One day, I went with my dad and a friend a fishing trip, and while driving down a quiet country road, we came across an accident. A woman was lying on the ground. My dad went over and lay beside her as my friend and I watched from a distance. Recalling this memory, I thought perhaps that was what my Dad had done when my mom was slowly fading out of this world in some hospital room in the South of Mexico. My heart truly shudders when I contemplate how awful an experience that must have been for my Dad and Uncle who had to witness my mom going from her happy, joyful self to passing away within such a short time in a foreign land.
Summers were spent at a lovely camp in the Haliburton Highlands ~ Northland B'nai Brith. I loved being at camp even thought I was unaware of deep insecurities within me. I learned to sail there and I became a good slalom skier, winning an award for one of the best in the camp. I felt safe and protected, being in a cabin with 13 or so other boys, and two or three counselors sleeping at the front beside the door. The cabins were truly rustic, but so cozy, tucked in amongst the stunning forest.
I can't say I enjoyed visitor days ~ it was almost as though every time I saw my dad without my mom I was reminded that she still wasn't back and so there was always this uncomfortable feeling being around him. I'd see other families together who seemed so happy and sensed that something was truly missing.
The most uncomfortable part of camp were the dance nights. I'd stand in the dim light with others who weren't dancing as I'd watch boys and girls dancing together. They always played 'Stairway to Heaven' as the last song which was the part that I didn't like the most. Little did I realize the inner wounds I was walking around with.
After camp my brother and I would often go and spend time with my Dad at the camp he was directing – a camp for Senior citizens. I'll never forget the camp nurse – young, blonde and beautiful. I remember feeling as though I had fallen in love with her -- I was probably only five years old. It was as though I would meet certain people who likely reminded me of my mom's warmth but it would always be so fleeting like catching glimpses of her spirit flowing through someone else. My dad didn't continue on as director for too many years – he mentioned once that it was a bit lonely without his lovely wife.
One summer when we were visiting my dad, my brother, who was about fourteen asked my dad if he could move down to the basement. I'm not sure why I have such a vivid memory of that moment ~ I'm sure I had some deep feelings about that, as though he was leaving too on some level. He did move down upon returning to the city and it was like he had moved out in some ways as I wouldn't see him too much afterwards as mostly he'd be down in his room. Prior to his moving downstairs, there had been a ping pong table down there – that was one of the few things that we seemed to do together as a family.
During summers, my brother and I would also spend time at our Maternal Grandmother's cottage on the shores of Lake Simcoe. Within my family she had the closest resemblance to my mom. I recall a game my brother and I would play every morning. It was like you won if you woke up first, tip toed into my grandmother's room and slipt into bed beside her having all of her attention. Since she slept in a single bed, when the second one arrived, she'd have to turn from one side to the other trying to give us equal attention. Love truly flowed through her meals, story telling and calm, peaceful presence.
I recall one summer being there after camp and my brother singing the Beatles song 'Help' over and over again – 'Help, I need somebody, help not just anybody.' At the time I couldn't understand why he kept singing that but reflecting back I realize that it was likely one of his ways to ask for more attention, love and support. One summer at the cottage, the beautiful nurse from my dad's camp and her boyfriend came to visit for an afternoon. All I remember was standing on the porch as they were going and wanting to go with them – it was like my life had become these precious moments of feeling a deep warmth and love in the presence of someone special.
During school days, I recall a common feeling when the bell rang at the end of the day ~ I'd be thinking, 'Where should I go now?' Deep down I knew returning home wasn't something I was ever very eager to do. It was like my brother, dad and myself had all gone into our own worlds as a way to deal with the major loss that had become part of our lives. I would spend time at friend's homes as often as I could.
I had gone on a rafting trip on the Ottawa river with my dad and a friend when I was 15. I recall the guide was very cool, having a wonderful presence. It's as though he was an image of how I hoped I could be one day – confident, talented, focused, present.
Some of my best memories were Christmas holidays when my brother and I would fly down to Miami to spend two weeks with our maternal grandmother, who had a condo on Miami Beach. I would often ask my grandmother if she could lose or burn the tickets. Little did I realize that she too had changed since the passing of my mom. Someone who knew who her well had said that she used to be much happier, and would often laugh a lot. Of course I knew how deeply she was impacted by the loss of her beautiful daughter. She cooked us the most amazing meals. Sometimes we would sit on the porch together watching the waves role in. I recall that she was one of the few people who I could sit in silence with and feel at peace.
One year while visiting my grandmother, when I was fifteen, we were invited to the lounge in the hotel next store by some of the older kids. One guy in his early twenties was ordering drinks for everyone. I drank four rum and cokes – it was the first time in my life that I had tried alcohol – I was definitely drunk. It was also the first night in my life that I kissed a girl, as we lay on the beach, stars sparkling above.
But the next day and for the rest of the holiday I avoided her as much as I could. I knew she really liked me and I was quite fond of her, I just couldn't understand why I was avoiding her. Drinking became a part of my life after that night – in a sense it brought me into a very happy state, perhaps overriding all the feelings I had repressed, providing me with a taste of how I was always supposed to feel.
In the summer of grade eleven, three high school friends and myself embarked on a 5000 km, 6 week bike trip from Vancouver to Toronto. We flew to Vancouver from where we began our journey, which started by crossing the stunning Rocky mountains. It was a wonderful way to see much of this remarkable country. Perhaps the hardest part of the trip was when we all rode into Toronto and one by one said goodbye as each of us headed to our respective homes. I arrived to an empty home as my dad was up at camp and my brother was out of town.
I didn't read too much but the books that I was drawn to the most were survival stories where people ended up in life or death situations that they had to somehow find a way to save themselves from. Those books must have reminded me of the struggle that I was in even though for much of my life I wasn't consciously aware of where I was on my journey to find a better experience of life.
During my first few months at University, I got involved with a Frat that was connected with the University of Toronto. I would spend time at the big old house that was their headquarters. On the night that we had to decide if we were going to join or not, all those who were going to make that decision were asked to hang out in the cool basement where Balero was playing loudly, making it impossible for us to talk with one another. We were called up, one at a time, for our final initiation into the frat. It was getting very late. Feeling that something was just not right about the situation, without telling anyone where I was going, I got up and walked out of that house and headed back home. I never went back. It was perhaps my first experience of people starting certain groups, and the ways they try to hook you in.
I simply was not aware just how much I needed a solid mentor to guide me.
I set off on the journey of life with lots of formal education
but without the inner resources
to make sense of a world
that so often made
For much of the journey I was not aware of what I was looking for. However, I was always aware that I was searching for something and I somehow intuitively knew that I couldn't really start really living until I found what I was looking for. Naturally, each time I discovered a new path I always had the same response thinking, 'Oh now I have really found what I was looking for,' and I believed that if I followed it long enough, I'd really start to thrive in my life.
Little did I realize that practically all the paths I had embarked on were misleading me from what I was really searching for ~ Love. It was like my entire journey was one mirage after another ~ drawn to people or places where I thought I could find that missing ingredient to life. This is the journey you are about to embark on ~ the trails I set off on in search of that rarest and most important oasis of love.