In the late winter of 1979 I was baptized.
A very cold day. I walked to my home across two spans of the Disraeli
Bridge. Down into the core of the city. Up a flight of stairs to my small
apartment. Straight to bed. With a small black bible in both hands, pressed to my heart. Deep inside of me a prayer, that the truth of the book
become a part of my lived experience. Likely delirious from my long walk in
the bitter cold, I slipped into another state of mind. I could see little
flames coming down through the ceiling. Then up again. As though the answer
to my prayer was being downloaded. New software for a new future.
I began attending services with a small circle
of friends. Held in their homes. This circle grew to be an intentional
community. We occupied four houses on Bertrand street, in Saint Boniface. I
learned much from this experience. Not theologically. In that regard I was
already ahead of the others. Practically. Watching three men who served
as elders, I learned how to mend fences, paint walls, repair leaking pipes,
and all such things related to being a husband and a father. This learning
would serve me well in the time to come.
I was employed as a Home Care Attendant. Every
day I would visit elderly gentlemen needing practical supports. This included
bathing. Maintaining the living space. Feeding.
Getting persons out of and into bed. Also engaging visiting family and
friends as they sought ways of giving dad supports and encouragements.
Outcomes were consistently positive. There was Gus. His left side was
rendered useless by a strong stoke. He lamented his loss. I pressed him to
exercise what remained. When he wanted me to get him out of bed, I did only
enough to support his own effort. Always exhorting increased effort. A big
change from being wholly dependent. After a fair measure of time the old
fellow gave me a nick name. "You are nothing but an old mid-wife. With you
its always push, push, push." I took this as high praise.
During this time, every evening I walked a regular circuit.
Summer and winter. The former testing my resolve in the face of heat. The
later pressing me to endurance of frigid conditions. Along the way I met
various persons. Somebody with their car stuck in the snow. Offering a push.
A young person requesting a little money. Stopping to chat. Sometime leaving
the money. Sometimes not. Always oriented to positive regard and honest
respect. Midway in the walk I stopped in at a donut store.
nearly invisible I heard conversations of all kind. A portal on the
diversity of human being in any context. A taxi driver with a tracheotomy
sitting with a coffee and a smoke. Blowing the smoke out through the air
channel in his throat. Now and then I found my way into conversations.
Looking back I see Socrates in the streets of the city. Sounds lofty. Still,
I was a person who roused curiosity in many, by my manner and my language.
People talked about me.