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Christmas Time at Pete’s Blog&Grille

The day after it happened, I asked my 22-year-old daughter if she’d heard about that wonderful rescue in Kingston where the chopper crew saved the crane operator.

She hadn’t.

But her first reaction?

“What a country. Where else would the government go to all that trouble just to save one life?”

I agree; we do live in a wonderful country. And time.

I love the Christmas season because it gives people like me a chance to go all sentimental about things like how darn well off we all are.

Here’s another for-instance.

When we were talking, Ewa and I were returning home from visiting her grandmother (and my mother-in-law) Marie in the Toronto nursing home called Castleview-Wychwood Towers.

It’s City-owned and houses more than 600 residents.

Marie moved in last summer and as far as I can tell, C-W’s stock in trade is compassionate professional care, delivered with as many smiles as possible, under the circumstances. (Life is not always pretty in a place like that. Or anywhere else for that matter.)

But since Marie moved in, I’ve gotten to know a handful of the residents and look forward to visiting.

It’s not only people in their ninth or 10th decades, with grand stories of the olden days.

Many of the residents are younger—victims of some debilitating horror like MS or, in the case of one man, a physical deterioration worsened by alcoholism that got so severe they had to cut both his legs off.  “I had no idea alcohol had so much sugar in it,” he told me.

Robert strikes me as extremely bright and he’s one of the reasons I enjoy visiting the home.

Actually, reminds me of my late brother Patrick—extremely articulate, funny and a very good listener. Sure he had issues but who doesn’t?

Robert, in his mid-60s, told me when he was growing up in Scotland, his father read him poems at bedtime. Not kid poems, but serious English poetry that his father liked. (Besides I agree with the late comedian Mitch Hedburg: “Every book is a kid’s book if a kid can read.”)

But when Robert told me about his dad back in Glasgow sitting beside the bed reading poetry to put the lad to sleep, I thought, “No wonder this guy is so eloquent.”

His father was an engineer, at first on steam trains and later diesel.

I asked: “Have you ever heard the poem about the British mail train?”  He hadn’t.

So I recited…

“This is the night mail crossing the border,

“Carrying the cheque and the postal order.

“Letters from uncles; letters from aunts,

“Letters from your cousin in the south of France. 

“Or,” I said to Robert, “something like that.”

Don't be too impressed.

It might well be the only poem I can recall at all.

As I told Robert, you would remember it, too if you saw the 1930s documentary film it comes from. I saw it back in university and it’s just plain memorable.  

I had an idea. I hauled out my smartphone, Googled something like “train-poem-movie-England-black-and-white,” and right then and there, in the dining room of Castleview-Wychwood, surrounded by 100 or so residents, Robert and I watched this breathlessly dramatic clip.  

The smartphone is a godsend.

Lots of the residents are immigrants. Marie, for example, sits with three others at mealtime and none speak English. Two are Korean, a third Portuguese. 

And—pay attention here—Google Translate lets me converse with these women.

I told the very infirm Portuguese woman that she has very pretty blue eyes and probably had a lot of boyfriends back in The Azores. She said she had.

One of the Korean women is always dressed very carefully; her outfits always match and I could tell her, via Google Translate, that we notice.

She told me about her mysterious shoulder pain and we agreed, me typing and her reading, that very often, the things that happen to people don’t make sense. Not even church can explain this stuff.

Does this not border on the miraculous?

Google Translate, which also has AUDIO, will translate my words into Esparanto for Pete’s sakes.

To me, this communication bridge is the kind of thing that saves lives. Plus it’s fun.

As for Robert, he told me that before he moved into this nursing home, he was living in rather squalid conditions; he’d drank too much and his life was pretty screwed up. And he was broke.

He’s not the only person in C-W who was dispossessed before they entered the place.  And if it weren’t for places like C-W, they’d be back out on the streets, probably selling pencils. Or maybe—as is the case of at least one 40-something woman I know in C-W—herself.

But instead, they’re in Castleview-Wychwood, getting far more than three squares and shelter from their storms.

One of the first things Robert said to me when we met was “compared to where I used to live, this is DisneyLand.”

I’m glad he and Ewa got to meet when she was home for Christmas.

Hearing them talk about how much they appreciate the good things in life is one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received.


Not taking things for granted.


They’re huge, and they’re free.

I hope as we continue to create stories and magazines for the Canadian trucking industry next year, you remember that we appreciate your attention; we never take your time or attention for granted and I swear we try to acknowledge your support as much as we can, on a regular basis.

(I personally love answering the calls and emails from people who phone in their guesses for our Can’t Get There From Here Contest!)

Without you readers we would not have the opportunity to publish Today’s Trucking; and publishing that magazine is something we love doing.

So in addition to wishing everyone a joyful Christmas and happy new year, on behalf of everybody I work with, I just want to say, thanks.

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Robert Gracie

Beautifully written and a feel good story. Happy Hogmany Peter, all my very best wishe to you and the family.

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