Part 14: Last Christmas

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

My friend from college, Jason Leighfield, moved to Toronto with his girlfriend. Neither of us can recall exactly when.

After he arrived he needed work. I’d heard they were hiring at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. He didn’t know his way around so I went with him. While there I decided to apply as well. We were both hired as ushers. The first show we saw was, Margaret Atwood‘s, The Edible Woman, adapted for the stage by playwright Dave Carley. According to the Canstage website that was in 2001. So, before my previous entry.

St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts was a great place to work. We got to watch and study the shows, a lot of the people working there were in the arts and we made a lot of lasting friendships. It was a tremendous support network. They even arranged a day where staff came and shared their work in the upper lobby. Jason performed a monologue, A Beautiful Thing, which I had written.

We also both enrolled in acting classes at the New School of Drama. Jason to improve his acting and me because I thought it would be beneficial for both writing and filmmaking. And it was.

It was great having Jason in Toronto, and wonderful to be around so many people struggling to make a living in creative pursuits. Jason and I pushed and encouraged each other. When he got his headshots done, I did, too. We both put our information in at LIFT (Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto).

With the extra encouragement and support, after months working at both the St.Lawrence Centre and Volo, I decided to leave Volo, again, and focused back on getting more work in film, while continuing to write. Even though I wasn’t pursuing acting as a profession I did act in two shorts. One was, Maybe Tuesday, with producer/writer/director/star Stella Palikarova, and cinematographer, Ioana Vasile.  I played a bit of a creep in that one, but it was an enjoyable shoot. In 2009 I got to go to the films premier in Toronto. I’m still facebook friends with Stella. You can read more on Maybe Tuesday on my old blog.

The other film was called Silent Soldier, directed by, M. Shane Aube, and written by M. Shane Aube and Ryan Reaney. I was the lead in it. It was shot in a day in the Niagara Region: in a vineyard, peach orchard, forest, under a waterfall and in a river. A beautiful part of the world, to be sure. I didn’t hear anything afterward and only recently contacted Ryan and he let me know that it had played at some festivals and won an award. He sent me a link, you can watch the film by clicking here. Both those jobs came to me through LIFT.

I did a day as an extra on Cinderella Man. I didn’t make the final cut. I’m not even sure how I got on that shoot.

My first job on a crew in Toronto was on a Bravofact video, Breaking Out.  Karitsa Tye was the producer. She needed someone to work on set and to drive an equipment truck. She saw my resume at LIFT and gave me a call. I reckoned if I, and my passengers, lived through my driving in Northern Ireland, while I was working on Divorcing Jack, I could handle this. And I’d driven my dad’s school bus (when it was empty) and tractor, so I had some experience with larger vehicles. Not on the streets of Toronto, mind, but, it was a good time to learn.

No one was killed or injured and nothing got broken. I ended up working with Krista on another shoot after that, though I can’t recall the name of that production. She also recommended me to Kimberly Bradley who gave me a job on Odyssey 5, which lead to me working for a while on Street Time.

Lavender was finding its way into different hands at the time for consideration.

In December, my Aunt Bea died. I went down to the funeral, on my own I think. Things, again, get blurry. Death must cast a merciful spell of confusion upon me.

Jordy came down after for an early Christmas.

Dad and Mom were going to BC for Christmas, to be with their grand daughter, Alison, two grandsons, Mitchell and Ryan, as well as my brother, Mike, his wife, Charlette, and my sister, Trish, who was coming over from England. I decided not to go.

Dad was very ill by this point and I didn’t know if he would be able to make the trip. If anything were to happen, and he couldn’t board the plane, I thought it best if we were there. There were other reasons I decided not to go, but non that need to be explored, currently. I don’t regret the decision to stay behind.

Mom and Dad, Jord and I, had our own little Christmas, down at the family farm, in the house my Dad was born in. We exchanged gifts. I gave Dad a framed quote, “Father’s hold their children’s hand for a little while, but their hearts forever.” It was written in Gaelic Script, and looked like a page from the Book of Kells. I had bought it, months before, in a little shop in Stratford.

At Pearson International Airport they brought Dad a little golf court sort of thing to take him to the gate. Then they moved him to a wheelchair.

We kissed and hugged Mom and Dad good-bye, and waved at them as they went through the first check point.

I wished I had stayed longer because I later found out that Mom had to come back out to find a place to mail Dad’s Swiss Army card back to him. I had gotten him that, too. Security wouldn’t let him take on the plane. An 80 year-old cancer riddle man in wheelchair could do all sorts with an inch and a half nail file, apparently. The skies were safer that day because of security’s due diligence.

With Mom and Dad safe in British Columbia, Jord and I ended up riding down to Florida with her family, in their mini-van, and stopping at Disney World along the way. I got Dad a ball cap for his collection. I still have that cap, and often wear it.

Jordy’s little sister had a friend with her at the condo. They hung around Jord and a lot. We were on the ocean so I rented them Jaws. Apparently, teenage girls don’t have the same love of horror films that boys do. Did I ever end up looking like an ass. We stayed at the pool after that. The beach was off the schedule.

Teenage girls have a distinct way of talking. They don’t really have filters yet or care enough about what people think to feel the need to have them installed. It kind of got into my head.

When I returned to Toronto I wrote a short story, in first person, in the voice of a teen girl. The story was called, Rain. In the story the girl was on her way to a funeral. Her mother’s. I didn’t get into any details. Just that she had lost her parent. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I was, in a strange way, trying to prepare myself. Choosing the voice of a teenage girl gave me a safe emotional distance, and it would later allow me to vent and say things I couldn’t otherwise.

This decision to grieve in this way, to explore the loss of a loved one through the eyes of a teenager, and all the added intensity and confusion that brings, or allows, wasn’t a conscience one. It wouldn’t be until much later that I realized what I was doing. That was after Dad was gone, when I turned the short story Rain, into my first YA novel, Just J.

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