A Father to His Son

For what is a poem but a hazardous attempt at self-understanding; it is the deepest part of autobiography. -Robert Penn Warren

fathers and sonsI gave this selection of poetry to my son on the occasion of his birthday two years ago.

Words and thoughts which are so often inaccessible are made accessible through the clarity and insights of Carl Sandburg. The reader is welcomed to be part of an intimate place and time that is bridged by a father’s love for his son. It is difficult not to be honored by the invitation.

It is with great pleasure that I share this poem with you.

A Father To His Son by Carl Sandburg

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
‘Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.’
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
‘Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.’
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.


Life’s Like That

Ripples in the sand

A story based on fact and reflection by B. B. Wright

I’ve heard that bad things come in groups of three. To me that was nothing more than a bunch of malarkey. Sure, I accepted the adage that life is ‘what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’ But, neatly packed up and delivered in threes? Now, that’s stretching the imagination. At least, that’s what I thought until the week of my wedding.

It all started on a Tuesday morning about five years ago. I was trimming my beard and moustache and rehearsing my replies to an imaginary interview that would play out for real later that morning at the executive office of the Sun newspaper in Toronto when the phone rang. It was my bud, Peter, who was applying for the other editorial position. He informed me that he had arranged another day for his interview because he was too sick with the flu.  After a few consoling words, suggested remedies and his repeated assuredness that he would be okay for my ‘big day’—after-all he was going to be my best man Saturday—I hung up and headed out into the blustery and rainy March day with a fairly large degree of trepidation; a fear that was less about the interview than the drive in. You see, since Peter wasn’t driving, it meant that I had to drive my less than in great shape 10 year old Isuzu.

On my way to the interview, I stopped at the closest self-service gas station to fill up and get some oil. The fill up went fine but while I was pouring the oil a gust of wind came out of nowhere and slapped the oil over my best shirt, tie and dress jacket.

Actually, it was my only dress shirt, tie and jacket.

Already running late, I had no choice except to show up at the interview looking like a mechanic who had forgotten to change. Feeling already overly self conscious about my appearance, I stumbled through the hour long interview, shook their hesitant hands and left, thoroughly convinced that I had blown it.

Thursday evening I picked up my bride-to-be, Jeanne, and headed to the Fairmont Hotel to meet my future sister and brother-in-law and their four year old son for the first time. They had flown in the day before from the East Coast for the wedding on the Saturday. Their son Tom was the ring bearer.

As we drove to the hotel, my mouth was sawdust dry with nervousness since it was my first time meeting them. And, like any future brother-in-law, I wanted to make a really good first impression.  So, fearful of bad breath and wanting to relieve the dryness, I popped in a stick of Bazooka bubblegum and relished its wonderful ooey, gooey, satisfyingly juicy effect.

What can I say, I have a bubblegum fetish.

Fifteen minutes after arriving at the hotel, I found myself alone with the four year old Tom while Jeanne helped her sister and husband put together a tray of goodies and drinks in the kitchen of the adjoining suite.  In order to entertain the little tyke I decided to blow up the largest bumble I could. Wide-eyed, Tom giggled with delight as the bubble grew larger and larger. Then, for no apparent reason, the kid reached out and punctured it with his index finger.

That ooey, gooey, icky, sticky bubblegum slapped itself like a magnetic ghost slime across my beard and moustache and I spent the rest of that evening attempting to expunge that damn lousy bubblegum from my beard.

I thought: Who ever thought we needed a ring bearer? Well…I’ll leave it at that.

By my wedding day on Saturday morning, I had given up trying to remove that bubblegum excrement and shaved off my beard and moustache.

Later as I watched my bride walk down the aisle of the church, I took a cursory glance at my best man, Peter, who was wavering to and fro in position. Giving me the thumbs up to reassure me that he was okay, I turned to meet my bride who was giving me one of her askance looks as she saddled up beside me.

Damn! I had forgotten that she had never seen me without my facial hair.

“It’s really me,” I whispered.

“I figured that,” she replied. “I just wish you had waited.”

“What’s the problem?”

“My teeth marks are on your chin from last night.”

I had obviously forgotten that amorous moment. I was sure that the bruising hadn’t been there when I shaved earlier.

Beads of sweat poured down Peter’s face as Jeanne and I completed the ‘I dos’ and the ring exchange. Then, just as I was about to kiss her, Jeanne’s head snapped back and she ended up on her back on top of Peter. Peter had fainted straightaway and had fallen on her train.

Later, we learned that he had been still in the throes of the flu with a feverish temperature of 105.

Though our Jamaican honeymoon was hampered somewhat by Jeanne’s neck brace and dislocated back, the three of us made the best of it. The three of us, you ask?  Yes, the three of us—Jeanne, her wheelchair and me. I pushed that damn chair—whether she was in it or not—from one end of the island to the other in the worst possible weather to hit the Caribbean in a century. But, that’s another story.

Looking back on it 5 years later as I sit in my office in the editing department of the Sun newspaper, I have come to accept that life’s like that and that it works in wonderfully unexpected ways.

Do bad things really come in groups of three? My tendency is to reply: “Not really.” Yet, two weeks ago, it took me three attempts to get the spelling correct in a article for the now defunct German word: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.

I’m still holding my breath on that one.

Presently, I’m suffering through the editing of a medical article and trying to get the spelling for a lung disease called pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis correct for the third time.

Oh, well! I can only do my best.

I have come to gratefully accept that those heralding moments in life (whether in groups of three or not), once plucked out at some future date from life’s treasure chest of quirky moments, take on a whole new perspective and energy of their own; often becoming a story told clothed in much laughter.  Moments like these are best described in the following quote:

“Do you know how there are moments when the world moves so slowly you can feel your bones shifting, your mind tumbling? When you think that no matter what happens to you for the rest of your life, you will remember every last detail of that one minute forever?”
Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes

Much ‘stuff’ which fills our daily existence often goes unnoticed for no other reason than it is so tightly integrated into life’s daily landscape that it is taken for granted; it is relegated to nothing more than a given in an often unthinking, daily routine that affords little tolerance for distractions. I’m not saying it’s not important, in fact, just the opposite. It is a necessary human attribute for daily existence; it keeps our focus on getting the ‘job’ done—whatever that may mean.

Most of the time life’s like watching the humdrum uniformity of a newscast—the same old same old—that barely registers on the psyche. Then, one day something occurs sending ripples through that daily human landscape; something that glues us to the moment and sends the “mind tumbling” along a range from tragedy to comedy. Wherever the event occurs along this continuum, it is never void of revelation. Whether it is revelation born in the blink of an eye or not doesn’t matter. What does matter is that a modicum of truth is learned about ourselves, the ‘community’ we are part of and the role we play in it.

Some Thoughts on Family and Retirement

The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them…And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. when the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.”

-Stephen King, “The Body”


Recently, I have come to reflect on a number of important threads in my life during the times I have waited for my radiation treatment at the cancer clinic. These are nothing more than thoughts which were barely rescued before they fluttered away to play hide and go seek within the deep recesses of my mind. Gathered on two separate occasions, this is my humble attempt to share in writing a partial snapshot of some of those fleeting moments in the hope that maybe my words will have meaningful impact on at least one person who reads them.

Some Thoughts on Family


B. B. Wright

To me family is a place where you can be your worst and the people around you remind you of your best. Family represents safety, respite and peace. In family lies positivity and positivity is forgiveness. Family recognizes that each of its members are tethered to his/her childhood and, from time to time it shows up unexpectedly in ways that may be either positive or negative in its impact. Family accepts both the broken and unbroken parts of its members unconditionally and seeks to either mend or rejoice in those parts. Family does not dote out punishment or shame when suffering accompanies the human spirit of one of its members but recognizes that forgiveness is the courageous witness to what s/he is and what s/he can become. Family recognizes, supports and protects all the tender, fragile pieces that form the fabric of each of its member’s life and, when necessary, helps in its healing process.

Some Thoughts on Retirement


B. B. Wright

Retirement brings its own set of rules. The number one rule is to ENJOY. Use your time wisely since time is your new currency. RE-examine dreams, both past and present, and pursue only the ones that still make sense for you. Rejoice in family and friends because they enrich your journey. Let go of negative thoughts and old grudges since they zap your energy and eat-away at your soul. Find something that is bigger than self to pursue in your life, you will never regret it. RE-examine boundaries you have set on yourself and, if any interfere with your new life choices, change them. Seek the wisdom you may have lost in knowledge and the knowledge you may have lost in information. You will find the questions you will need to ask and the wisdom to answer them correctly for you.

Ooey, Gooey, Icky, Sticky Bubblegum: A Write on Edge Prompt

I headed to the hotel with Jeanne to meet my future sister and brother-in-law and their four year old son, Tom. They had flown in from the East Coast for our wedding on the Saturday.

Since it was my first time meeting them, my mouth felt sawdust dry with nervousness. So, I popped in a stick of Bazooka bubblegum and relished its wonderful ooey, gooey, juicy, flavorful experience.

Shortly after arriving at the hotel, four year old Tom and I were left alone in the adjoining suite while Jeanne helped her sister and husband put together a tray of appetizers and drinks in the other room. It didn’t take much to realize this little tyke would be a challenge to entertain.

Bubblegum on BeardI decided to blow up the largest bumble I could. Giggling, he looked on with delight as the bubblegum expanded. Then, the little brat punctured it with his index finger. The icky, sticky bubblegum splattered like some ghost vomited pink slime on my well coiffed facial hair.

The rest of that evening was spent attempting to expunge that damn, lousy bubblegum from my beard.

Saturday morning, I gave up and sadly shaved off my beard and moustache.