Tag Archive: father

Dec 14

Post-Funeral Thoughts

I’m riding the TTC back from the airport after dropping my wife off there. Thanks to the generosity of her family, she was at least able to attend the memorial gathering. (Technically, you could say that that was the funeral– a memorial gathering at the family farmstead was all my father wanted.)


I’m still mostly blase about the whole thing. Whether that’s because it hasn’t sunk in yet, or whether the physical distance separating me from my parents has made it easier, or that I just don’t get worked up about death any more, I don’t know. Maybe something will break in the coming weeks in Canada, and maybe it won’t. I don’t know.

Interesting side note here: did you know that it is illegal to bury human ashes in Ontario anywhere other than a registered graveyard? Spreading them is okay, and you can even do it on Crown land and waterways, but burying ashes is not. I think this is because the laws were written before cremation was common, and when they were changed to allow the spreading of the ashes, the burying part kind of just fell through a loophole. You can bury the decaying remains of your St. Bernard in your back yard, but not the biologically inert ashes of your father. Nice one, Ontario.

Dec 08

Thoughts on a Memorial

2012-12-05 09.07.23It’s the morning of my Father’s memorial gathering and I’m asking myself why I pushed to have an active part in it. Today needs to run like clockwork, and I’m involved in taking cues and doing something at least twice. Maybe three times.


I think the cold and wet will probably protect me from getting too emotional, but I’m certain that my mind is going to be wandering. When I’m working on shows, the hardest parts are when I’m not doing anything active; if I don’t struggle to stay engaged, I can easily wander off mentally and miss a cue.


*     *     *


We’re also all silently pretending that today is going to bring closure to everything, which is a bit foolish.


*     *     *


The memorial gathering is taking place, as my father requested, on the farm by the rock on which we have all the heritage plaques. There were problems finding a venue, but at the last minute, the nearby elementary school offered their gym. The kids had come out and my father and shown them around the farm earlier this year, so my family thought it was appropriate. Despite the fact that it’s a Catholic school and there are crosses and Jesuses and Pope John Paul IIs everywhere, I’m really happy they offered. The marquee outside the school has “Goodbye, Mr. Woolner” on it, and the kids made poster boards in tribute to him with photos from their trip to the farm.


The principal announced that she had “prayer cards” that she was going to put at every place setting, and I cringed inwardly (my father was an atheist), but then she brought them out, and I read them, and they were really sweet. No mention of God or “the Lord” or anything. Just a nice little poem on the back.


*     *     *


Okay, I need to get kitted (kilted) up now and prep some other stuff. Many more thoughts, but time is ticking, and the family is swirling around me now.

Nov 30

In the Air

I guess that one hour and forty-five minutes isn’t so late in the grand scheme of things, but it’s hard looking down at my watch and thinking if we were on time, we would be landing in 30 minutes.


I can’t believe they still have the same movies that they had when I flew over a month ago. I thought they changed them every month! I watched a couple, but then got bored, so I’ve switched on my laptop (hooray for in-seat power outlets) and caught up on my email.


I guess it would be a good idea, I supposed, to write something for the blog.


Don’t really have anything to write about.


I really have no idea what is in store for me for the next 60 days. Father’s memorial, sure, mother’s birthday, yes, Xmas and New Years, check. But no real idea of where I’m going to be or what I’m going to be doing. I brought along my TASCAM US-800 USB mixer and two microphones just in case I decide to record some songs or something. Forgot the AC cable for the US-800, though.


One thing is clear is that my father’s death changes everything and moves my life schedule ahead about 10 years… despite the fact that my career schedule is about five years behind where I’d like it to be. My remaining family needs me, and I am going to have to make more frequent and longer trips to Canada. This jaunt, thought, will be my longest one until at least next fall: if everything goes well, my spring and summer are spoken for (papoose on the way). But starting from 2014, I think I need to find a way to spend at least three months a year in Canada.


That’s actually a hard mental shift for me. My identity is wrapped up quite tightly in Yokohama. I also have a sense of pride about being part of my community there. My long-range plan has always included spending a portion of my time in Canada, but my prior visions had all related to my professional life: touring a show, maybe. Just going there seems weird.


So everything’s up in the air right now. YTG ensemble rehearsals have been suspended while I’m gone; the winter semester of classes don’t have a venue yet (except for the voice class); my Canadian family is seriously changed, and the pieces haven’t stopped falling yet… probably more stuff I can’t think of at the moment.


Hmm. Lights are going from blue to pink. Food service probably starting soon. Better put away the laptop and get ready.

Nov 24

The Family Strong-Man

I just spoke to my father for what will probably be the last time. My Father


He didn’t answer; there was just the sound of the respirator. Or something.


My mother held the phone to his ear and I held my phone to mine. I didn’t realize at first that he couldn’t talk back.



When my father was born, talking to a dying relative from 10,000+ miles away would have been an impossibility. Now it’s so simple.




But that didn’t make it any easier.




My family keeps vigil over him in a Toronto hospital. I drink hot cocoa and have three empty cookie wrappers on my desk. I will soon go to sleep.


Will they wake me when he dies? I don’t sleep yet. I don’t cry. I don’t do the heavy-lifting of being there.


But I am now the family strong-man.

Nov 11

The Big “C” and the Big “D”

My parents have recently announced it to friends and family, and some of my own friends will know already the purpose behind my trip to Canada last month.


My father had been diagnosed with cancer.LINEcamera_share_2012-11-11-22-00-43


When I went to Canada in October, it was clear that his condition was serious, but it was still unclear how serious. The doctors were taking (what appeared to us, anyway) their own sweet time in figuring out what was wrong with him. Now they are quite clear about what’s wrong, and the prognosis is quite grim. Grim enough that I’ve dropped everything for the months of December and January and, thanks to the generosity of my Japanese family, am heading back to Toronto. (All with the knowledge that I may have to push that trip up even earlier if things take a turn for the worse, of course.)


I’ll be spending my first winter holiday season in Canada since 2004, and I’m not too happy about the circumstances.


I’m actually hesitating to book the tickets, and I can’t even put my finger on why. Is something telling me I’m going to have to go sooner? I’ve budgeted for that, so what is stopping me from pulling the trigger on that booking?


We went to get my father’s watch fixed today. He bought it here a couple of years ago and it’s never worked properly outside of Japan. This year, it stopped running together (we hadn’t realized that it was a solar watch—nothing in the 100% Japanese instructions made that clear, I guess), and so he asked me to bring it back with me to get it repaired. Apparently, the shop in Canada was reluctant to work on it.


K and I took it in to the watch counter at Yodobashi Camera today, and they told us the repairs would be 12,500円—almost half the cost of the watch new! The guy at the shop recommended that we give it one more chance to recharge and leave it in the sun for a few days. After some quick research online, I found a blog that suggested leaving under a fluorescent lamp would be the most effective way to try to jumpstart it—with results in 12-24 hours rather than a week sitting in the sun filtered through glass. If it doesn’t charge, I’ll take it back again on Tuesday and bite the bullet. I don’t want to wait too long, because they said the repairs could take 3-4 weeks, and four weeks is all I have before I fly to Toronto again.


If you are, by chance, expecting some piecing insight into cancer, or into having a family member on borrowed time, you’re not going to get it here. I just wrote about a watch, for fuck’s sake.


I regret nothing, but I can no longer live my life at such a distance from the people I care about. I don’t mean physically: I’ve made Yokohama my home. But I’m going to need to reorganize my life so that I can play a more active role in the life of my Canadian family. I thought I had time, but I don’t.


So the closest thing to a useful thought comes through my head when I look over and see the button I made on tour in 2010 with my acting motto on it:


2012-11-11 22.21.45

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