Mrs. Montreuil’s Little Boy – The Life of Peter

Well, President Pinocchio managed to keep my last column off CBC/CNN via yet another erratic outburst, this time, once again, with racist overtones. There were people at that meeting who didn’t hear anything, then a couple of days later maintained that they didn’t hear anything, but he definitely didn’t say THAT! (You see, if one seeks to replace Frederick Douglass as an ambassador, some toeing of the party line is required.) After all the kerfluffle, people are now saying that he didn’t say “sh**hole”, he said “sh**house”. Gee, thanks for clearing that up for the world! That makes it all better. It’s like “the Blue Meanies” have won. Now I could have written my own diatribe in response but decided to write the following, instead.

This week’s column is about……luck, mine in particular. I turned 63 during the Christmas break. Some stocktaking is in order.  I am in reasonably good health and have a wonderful woman in my Life. Although my attempts to teach my cat Reg to play the trumpet have not yet borne fruit, (goodbye TV and busking appearances 😉), he remains my loyal little buddy. I have a couple of really close friends, and so many great friends in the indie music scene, I can’t tell you how happy I am to go to a venue and be enthusiastically greeted by so many people. Yes, I’m very lucky. My luck starts a lot earlier, however, so bear with me while I fire up the “wayback machine”.

I was born December 27th, 1954, one of eight children. Growing up I never went to bed hungry. I had access to potable water with a flick of my wrist. I had warm clothes to wear in the winter. While I had measles and chicken pox and the mumps, I was vaccinated and had access to quality medical care, so I didn’t go blind or lame. I was free to play with whomever I wanted to.

Baseball gloves and hockey sticks were provided to me by my parents, so I could get some exercise and “fit in” with my friends. My friends and I were able to explore the world around us, or at least in our immediate vicinity. As we became older and wiser and more trustworthy, we were given more leeway in our leisure pursuits so that we could, and did, expand our boundaries, our world. At home, reading and leisure were encouraged. During the summer and on weekends, our house was always busy, as kids from the neighbourhood ran to and fro. Because of circumstances, they had the most frequent contact with my Mum. The 14th of this month marked the 18th anniversary of her passing, and there were a number of nice posts about her, as there are any time I post in reference to her. While they are all pleasant to read, the most heartwarming of them came from the old gang from Franklin Street. My dad is also fondly remembered, but they had more contact with Mum. I do remember Dad drying my tears when I came home crying because I had been teased at school for stuttering, calming me and explaining to me that King George the Vth had stuttered, and “..he’d done alright, son!” (One reason why “The King’s Speech” is one of my favourite movies, as an aside.) Lucky.

When it was time for me to start school, I had good clothes to wear and all of my material  needs were met. Mum walked me to school (and back!) the first little while, but then I was given the “go ahead” to go by myself, once she had convinced herself that I could navigate my way safely in both directions. She taught me my home phone number, and I remember proudly telling my teacher that it was “326-6-7946”. (<Author’s note; This phone number is not possible.) She taught me self reliance.

The memory of walking home at lunch to be met by Mum with a hot bowl of soup and a sandwich, and more importantly, care for our well-being is frankly making my eyes well somewhat right now, 57 years down the road. The same thing in the afternoon, home from school, Mum was there, have a PBJ and a glass of milk, watch TV until Dad came home, then dinnertime. Again, all luck. In the 8 years when I attended separate school, I honestly don’t recall coming home to an empty house more than 5 times, if that many. Lucky.

My parents provided us with access to adequate medical, dental and optical care. I have no idea of how much they sacrificed, but as an active boy wearing glasses, I’m pretty sure that it was a pretty penny. They supported us all in our various endeavours, let us make our own mistakes and bailed us out when we really needed it and had honestly tried our best to resolve a situation.

My parents ensured that we lived a worry free childhood, that we never had a reason to fear anything, that we knew that we could achieve whatever we wanted to do if we applied ourselves. I never heard either of them viciously criticize or belittle any of us although believe me, there were times when we did stupid things! Home was our refuge, our rock in a sea of uncertainty. How lucky I was, and how little I appreciated it. The callowness of youth.

I have had so many opportunities, and so many supportive people in my Life. I remember the kindly librarian who let me check books about aircraft out of the Adult section because I had read all the aircraft books in the children’s section of the Orillia Public Library. At high school, I had great teachers and coaches, Mr Holloway, Mr Hennessy, Mrs Masterson, and so many others, who stepped back and let me develop in my own gawky way, always ready with a word of encouragement or a gentle correction.

I formally entered the world of work 42 years ago last Friday. I was lucky enough to have it develop into a very rewarding, albeit frustrating at times, career. I was lucky enough to place on several competition boards and slowly inch my way up the ladder.

I was lucky enough to receive good training, excellent technical support and the opportunity to better myself. While not all of my interactions with supervisors and co workers were supportive, the few that weren’t were at least character building (“insert rueful smile”).

In 2003 I was hit by a car and very seriously injured. While this event will be the subject of a future column, here are the basic facts. I was rushed to St Michael’s Hospital and was lucky enough to be brought back from THE brink in Emergency. I spent 5 1/2 weeks in a coma on morphine, and was hospitalized or in rehab from May 05, 2003 until July 16, 2003. Total cost out of my pocket? $9.00 for the ambulance that my medical benefits didn’t cover. (They took a cheque.) Lucky.

I was off work for just over 2 years. My employer held my job for me and due to the admin people going above and beyond expediting my Long Term Disability benefit processing, I was able to have an uninterrupted flow of income during that financially perilous period. They also provided clear answers to any and all of my questions. Lucky. I also had home visits from therapists and a Personal Support Worker during the early part of my recovery at no direct cost to me.

I went back to work on a part time basis, I was not rushed, there was no impatience shown by management. Lucky. Eventually I was able to return to my old routine, gratified by the confidence that my employer and my co workers showed in me. As a result, I had the opportunity to continue working in a productive manner until I chose to retire, which I did in 2016.

Now I sit with my cat, and I count my blessings. I receive both Canada Pension and my superannuation. I have the opportunity to enjoy my retirement with some dignity. Never enough money, but “dum spiro, spero” (“While I breathe, I hope”.)

I am where I am now partly because of my ability, but also because of luck.

I have never been persecuted for my political beliefs or my sexual orientation or my religion or the colour of my skin. I know and have heard of many who have. Acknowledging my luck, I stand beside them.

If we stand united, we will make the world a better place.

See you soon


8 Responses to “Mrs. Montreuil’s Little Boy – The Life of Peter”

  1. Michael Tomasek Says:

    You ARE a lucky guy.

  2. a lucky man indeed, Peter. But the knowing of it .. that is what makes you a good man. 😉

  3. Lucky indeed! I feel the same…..and to have met and known some wonderful people over the years, especially you and the entire group at DBAWIS. Thank you Bob for giving us all a vehicle in which we can share our lives. We are indeed all very lucky.

  4. Bettie Whipple Says:

    yes, a lucky guy to survive that terrible blow of being hit by a car! I, too, had wonderful supportive parents and a happy childhood. I Naively thought that everyone did and didn’t appreciate it enough at the time, Life has taught me so much and that upbringing has been my rock through some extremely “rocky” times! I’m sure you can relate-enjoyed reading this well-expressed history of Peter! Bettie

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