A day without WIFI and a few minutes on stage

I was going to write about WIFI today. Something along the lines of was there life before WIFI? because ours has been down for the past 24 hours and we’re rattling around all shiftless and lost, trying to remember how we used to spend our time.

We used to read more, not just during the blank patch on the ferry from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen and not just in bed or in the bath. We would read just because.

A few hours into our WIFI desert, Graham (Mr. When I’m 64) picked up a book and four words in – no lie, four words – asked “what’s solecism?”
I don’t know, I told him. And you can’t Google it.
So that’s how it’s been for us.

But then we heard the Shaw tech guy was on his way and I roar around my office in a frenzied tidy up, the kind once spurred when my parents would call from a pay phone down the road, saying “we’re in the neighbourhood. Be there in 10 minutes.”
I’m shoving papers and folders onto a closet shelf and this fell down to remind me why I’m not an actor.

My stage shot

My cast photo pretty much sums up how I felt about my stage debut.

Since I have the attention span of tse tse fly, I took it to mean I should write about it, although it has more to do with when I was 44 than 64. Sometimes I go off topic.

Anyway, I was at work 20ish years ago when a former colleague called to request my help. She’d written a play about Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli. She’d also be directing it and had cast every part except that of Judy’s mother, Ethel Gumm. Please, she begged. It’s a very small part and you’ll just be a voice from the wings. You won’t have to go on stage.

Acting, however small the role, was about number 86 on my list of aspirations and I reluctantly agreed to this one small part. A few minutes later the fax machine whirred and brought me the script with Ethel’s lines circled along with those of a reporter and a member of the public. The latter two were not voice-from-the-wings roles, but would be on stage.

There was also a note about the rehearsal schedule – twice a week. The play, a musical, would be on stage over three nights at the McPherson Playhouse in Victoria, a venue at which people actually pay good money to see real talent.

So here I was now with three bit parts and roped into rehearsals. There was some talent among the other cast members and no shortage of enthusiasm as they moved from Judy’s youth to the Wizard of Oz to Liza’s big voice. Lots of singing and dancing for them; happily none for me.

But then it came to the last scene. The play needed a big close and the director wanted it to feature the entire cast, not just the main players.

Opening night, the theatre was half filled. My family was in attendance, along with spirited representation from the LGBTQ community.

The performance was lumpy but lines were more or less delivered as intended. Then it came to the closing number.

(I came across another picture recently of my high school band on parade. I was the first clarinetist, which speaks more to the quality of the clarinet section than to my talent. We’re marching. Every single band member is marching with right foot forward and there I am, at the front, striking out with my left.)

Back to the play. I have a bit of amnesia here – probably PTSD – so I don’t recall whether we all linked arms to sing Meet Me in St. Louis or We’re Off to see the Wizard. I was between Auntie Em and the Tin Man. There was choreography involved and coordination required; some side stepping, high kicking and skipping.

I was Mr. Bean.

Performance over, I could see Graham waiting for me at the top of the long hall from the dressing rooms to the lobby. Arms crossed, a half smile.

“Was it awful?” I asked.
He nodded. “Awful.”

WIFI’s back.

Posted in Random stuff | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

A wee request. Or two.

Although it has the appearance of one, this isn’t actually a full blog post so don’t put the kettle on. (In my dreams, I press ‘publish’ and there’s a grid surge as readers get tea at the ready for a good 90-second read. Anyway. . . .)

This is a brief post to say I’ve done in five days what a 14-year old would accomplish in five minutes, and that’s add – I hope – an email notification thingy on this site. Most of those five days were spent poking around the innards of WordPress to find the right widget or gizmo to do this.

If you follow this blog already, you should see ‘Thanks for following When I’m 64’ to the right. If you don’t, you should see a ‘follow’ button and a sign-up option to receive new blog posts by email. Because I own and follow the blog, I can’t see the email sign-up option. Just the way it works, apparently.

So here’s my ask:
If the email sign-in or follow options are visible to you, please drop me a line, either as a blog comment or on Facebook. If something needs fixing I’ll engage the WordPress wizards or a 14-year old to help me out. Although I don’t actually know a 14-year old.

Seems there is a sweet spot in terms of blog followership, and if I can reach that, I can go bigger, diversify and have more fun with this site. I sure look forward to that.

To the 359 people now following, thank you!

The next post will be the real deal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

On mothers before they were mothers

Mom 1937

Irene Bateman 1937

The family story of my parents’ beginnings goes like this:

Family: So, Mom, how did you meet Dad?

Mom: Through his cousin. She was my friend and introduced me to your dad.

Family: Where did you go on your first date?

Mom: Camping.

Family: Camping?!

Mom (patiently): Yes.

Family (hesitantly): Did you share a tent?

Mom (thinking): I can’t remember.

Family: (silence)

Why is it that we have such a hard time imagining our mothers before they were mothers?

We’re censorial in what we want to know about their lives before they had us.

Stories about their childhood exploits, adventures with best friends, family holidays, mean teachers . . . those are all okay.

We want to hear about her romance with our dad but not with anyone else. And it was one thing for her to be beautiful, but did we really want to know she was a babe?

And lust? Hands over ears. Can’t hear you, can’t hear you.

When Mom was in her early 80s, she and I visited a cousin in England whom she’d only met once before.

For nearly 65 years he’d held on to a picture of my teenage mother leaning against a log on a Vancouver beach, wearing white shorts, bobby socks and sneakers.

“I’ve always thought of your mother as my pinup girl,” he told me. I was in my 40s and even then, the notion of my mom as somebody’s dream girl felt vaguely uncomfortable.

My own girls know far more than they want about my pre-them years. Those times when I would empathize with their current teen or young adult plight by sharing my own tales . . . turns out they didn’t want my details. A hug would’ve sufficed.

I came across this photograph today of one of my most squirm-making moments with my mom, taken at the old Cedar Inn in Youbou.

Mom and Gery at Cedar Inn

Perhaps Mom was bonding and relating, but I was pretty sure she was trying to catch me out and there would be consequences.

“Gery, do you smoke?” This from nowhere. No lead-up, just four words she couldn’t contain a moment longer.

“I have, Mom.” This was true. I had. She hadn’t yet asked if I still did.

“Do you still?” Crap.

“Once in a while, I might.”

“Ernie,” she said turning to my dad. “Give us both a cigarette.”

I’d never seen my mother smoke. As far as I knew, a cigarette had never passed her lips.

Dad lit two cigarettes and there we sat, my mother and I on either side of the table, each of us awkwardly drawing on a cigarette. I was dying. And I think it was apparent that my cigarette familiarity was greater than hers.

In my mom’s final years, as her memories faded, some of them hardly there at all, I was in a desperate hurry to collect her stories. I wanted to capture any snippet of a time before she was a mother; to hear what shaped her; about her teen years in Vancouver, her friends, and what mattered to her. Did she go on dates, did she have boyfriends, did she fall in love? Her memories vanished like popped bubbles, and I knew I was asking too late.

We’ll all be thinking about our mothers this weekend. To the daughters of some readers of this blog, because Facebook has helped reconnect old friendships, I can vouch that your mothers were not always mothers. They were a lot like you; fun, smart, feisty, daring, and, in some cases, naughty. Most were babes and some are surprised to be reminded that 45 years ago, they were the ones pulling the guys.

I understand you want to know no more about that.

I guess it’s ever been thus.

Posted in Notes to my daughters, Points of view, Random stuff | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

On Don, Donna and Democracy

Twenty years ago, I briefly worked with Donna who was in the process of transitioning from Don.

That she was in progress was evident. She was tall, about 6’2”, and her hands were large. She had a strong masculine face framed by long, carefully styled hair. She wore a skirt to the office, a pretty blouse and shoes with kitten heels.

Word was she still lived with her wife; the woman she’d married 20 years before as Don. They had two kids and were striving as a couple to keep their home life intact, although I’m pretty sure Donna’s journey was disruptive to everything they’d known and expected.

I liked her. She was good at what she did. Her writing was tight and her editing meticulous. She was gentle and warm and a person I could comfortably have befriended. Except I didn’t. Shame on me.

Although I’ve thought of her over the past decades, I didn’t follow up and I don’t know if Donna completed her transformation, whether her marriage held or whether she’s living a completely different life.

I do know she was brave. While Donna was far from the first person to be transitioning, for me she was the first of my acquaintance to boldly strike out in the work force; to say ‘this is who I am.’

It’s because of that kind of courage, I believe, that there are four transgender candidates in our provincial election. One has been subjected to blatant hate literature, but for the most part people don’t care and are casting votes based on platforms, issues and parties, not on gender identification.

Democracy can be a beautiful thing.

In explaining why she doesn’t vote in advance polls, my pal Nell teared up the other day.

For her there’s something almost ceremonial about voting on election day: deciding what to wear, stepping on to the street for the walk to the polls and greeting neighbours and fellow citizens doing the same all along the route.

She appreciates the lineups at the polling stations. The longer the better. Democracy in action. When she marks her ballot and gives it a little shove into the box, she invariably wells up.

I kicked myself for voting in the advance poll and denying myself that experience.

When I worked in government, a provincial election often meant the onset of a fresh new hell. Heads rolling, boxes packed, offices emptied, new ministries formed, old ones axed, new bosses arriving, old ones leaving. Nothing boring.

From my Jane Citizen viewpoint now, there’s nothing boring about this election, either. Election talk enters every conversation. There’s a nervousness. People are anxious to do what feels right for themselves, for their children, for their grandchildren.

And brave people are stepping up to make a difference.

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Hair spotting

(Note to my Daughters #1)

Okay, who among we women hasn’t done this?

Saturday morning, you’re sitting with your coffee checking Facebook and email, hand on chin, and you feel it.

You flip your Ipad or smart phone to camera selfie mode to locate that rogue hair beneath your chin.

Hair spotting is tricky with these devices.  There are two selfie views: down your face and – turn it around – up your nostrils. The first view is useless, unless the hair you’re trying to vanquish is on the bridge of your nose. In the other view, the hair is lost in those new neck rolls.

People don’t talk about this, but I swear it’s in the top three life-altering complaints of women my age. Right next to those other two, which I won’t yet mention.

That woman in the next lane stroking her chin at the stoplight? I promise you, she’s not pondering Sartre and the meaning of life. She’s trying to recall which room she’ll find her tweezers in when she gets home.

I know people are more likely to follow blogs that provide useful information, so in that vane, I Googled the subject of chin hair. 24.9 million entries. Apparently it’s something people want to know about. A site aimed at women in their 60s had this advice, which was as useful as any:

  1. Don’t shave. Apparently some women do this. Ewww. Stop it. It will come back in spades. Think Movember.
  2. Invest in good tweezers. Good, not cheap.
  3. Buy a super magnifying magnifying mirror. Don’t rely on your Ipad.
  4. Laser it and
  5. Have good friends (this one inspired by my rowing pal, Linda, who one day said, “stay still, let me get that.”)

You’re welcome.

Nothing we didn’t know, except the comfort that we’re not alone.

In my mom’s later years, she made me promise that if there came a time that grooming wasn’t top-of-mind, I would honour her dignity and have tweezers at the ready.

I did that.

So . . .

Note #1 to my daughters

When I lose the plot, be vigilant with tweezers. This matters to me at 64 and I’m betting it will matter when I’m 94.

God, I miss estrogen.


Posted in A certain age, Notes to my daughters, Random stuff, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

The squatter in my life

Ever since he declared his candidacy to seek the Republican nomination two years ago, Donald Trump has been like an unwelcome, nonpaying guest in my life.

Now, since that disbelieving evening back in November, he has become the squatter from hell.

He is everywhere.

He populates and soils my Facebook and Twitter feed. He’s in my newspaper, on my TV, on my laptop, and has on occasion found his way to my dinner table. Look, he even got in my blog! Like an enormous Jabba the Hutt he flops himself into social discourse; impossible to ignore and such a wet blanket that the mention of his name steals the fun from a party.

I haven’t read science fiction since I was a kid. It seems to me the last book I read – I’ve no clue by whom– had a general theme that went like this: the hulking, bizarre leader of an unknown species and the equally bizarre leader of a different species had their laser gizmos pointed at one another and were threatening to blow each other out of the galaxy.

The cock posturing between America’s unpredictable and politically unschooled leader and North Korea’s crazy one has that sci-fi feeling. Grownups across the world – you, me, our kids – are freaking out over the power now in the hands of these two trigger-happy man boys.

You know that feeling when you’re flying over the Rockies or the Great Lakes and turbulence smacks your plane around? You feel utterly out of control. If this was a car, you’re thinking as you grab the nearest arm, I’d feel better if I was driving.

Many of us feel that powerlessness now, much as I imagine the generation before me felt during the Bay of Pigs.

There was a piece in today’s paper about the last moments of an Oregon man. His wife told him what he needed to hear so he could die in peace. “Donald Trump has been impeached. Everything will be all right.” He died content.

It’s a strange time here on Planet Earth.

Let sane heads prevail. Let wise people lead.


Posted in Points of view, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Oscar and Christie: the reluctant apologists

My missive on the nature and sincerity of apologies ran in the April 14 issue of the Times Colonist


When I was eight, I stuck a burr in Susan Rush’s hair.

If you’ve never met a burr, trust me when I say, you don’t want one near your hair. The only escape involves scissors or a razor.

The burr bush – that’s what we called them, although I imagine thistle is the more likely name – was in an empty lot next to my parent’s store in downtown Lake Cowichan.

I don’t know why I stuck the burr in her hair. She was my best friend, but at eight years old being a best friend didn’t inoculate you from petty jealousy and meanness. I think I knew I was being mean when I stuck the burr in Susan’s hair. I tried to remove it, but burrs are like quicksand and the harder you try the more they stick.

I immediately regretted my action, not because I hated that Susan had a burr in her hair, but because I knew there would be repercussions and I would have to apologize.

It would go like this:

Parent: “Say you’re sorry to Susan.”

Me, mumbling: “Sorry.”

Parent: “Say, ‘Susan, I’m sorry I put a burr in your hair.’”

Me, still mumbling: “Sorry I put a burr in your hair.”

Parent, exasperated: “Say it like you mean it!”


I thought of childhood apologies as I reflected on those we heard from adults this week, along these lines:

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz:

The public: “Apologize to the doctor that was dragged from his seat, Oscar.”

Oscar Munoz: “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

The public: “Not good enough, Oscar. Apologize like you mean it.”

Oscar Munoz: “I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right. It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

The public: “That’s better.”

Premier Christy Clark, April 6

Media: “Are you going to apologize for the firings that led to Roderick MacIsaac’s taking his life?”

Premier Clark: “Government has apologized, and it’s an absolutely sincere express of regret.”

Premier Christy Clark, April 11

Media: “Will you apologize to Roderick MacIsaac’s sister for his firing?”

Premier Clark: “If she’d like a personal apology, of course, I’d be happy to do that.” 

When does an apology count? When is it good enough, because to my adult ears both these apologies remind me of my apology to Susan.

The handling of the 1982 Tylenol scandal has been the PR 101 benchmark for how to handle a crisis. Apologize out of the gate. Be sincere in your apology, promise to fix things, then be seen to do it.

To my naïve thinking, a true apology shouldn’t have to be hard won. It should be the clear and right thing to do.

I’m not at all convinced that Oscar Munoz ‘s apology isn’t more about plunging stock values than his comprehension of the human affect of his airline’s actions.

And if someone I loved had been hurt in the health ministry firestorm, I’d be surprised that “sorry”, said sincerely, has been so hard to pronounce.



Posted in Points of view, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Comments