Monthly Archives: May 2013

Hump Day: Expect long emotional recovery after loss of loved one

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

June 2 marks the one-year anniversary of the summer I’ve since dubbed “The Summer of the Hospital.”

One year ago on that date, I picked up my father at his special care home – as I did most Saturdays – and we went for coffee. That morning, though, things were not to go as planned. He used a walker and was moving dramatically slower than usual. So slowly, in fact, that I made a mental note to myself that this was likely the last time I would take him for coffee. His downhill acceleration had really picked up in the past few months. My “mental note” ended up being prophetic. It was the last time we’d be going.

He managed to get himself into my vehicle and we made it to the coffee shop. He was lucid and talking about various road construction projects going on. He knew where he was and his memory seemed fine. Physically, though, he was not doing well.

Within seconds of arriving at the coffee shop, he had a seizure. I thought he was dead. I’d never seen anything like it. His head just flopped back in his chair, his eyes were wide open, his mouth dropped open and there was nothing. I waved my hands in front of his eyes. I called his name. Nothing. Nobody was home in Bernie Town.

Eventually, staff came to help and someone detected a pulse. Firefighters and paramedics arrived. By now, he’d awakened and was wondering what the heck was going on. I told him that he’d had another stroke. (He’d had a few already.) Although this ended up not being the case, it was my amateur diagnosis in the frenzy. First responders performed their stroke test on him. They made him smile (checking for facial paralysis), squeeze hands, move his feet, etc. All seemed to be OK. Meanwhile, I still maintained that it was a stroke.

At the hospital, it didn’t take long to get him into a regular room after spending a few hours in the Emergency Department. Finally, after a number of tests, I was told they’d found lesions on his brain. He had a brain tumour in an area that affected both appetite and motor ability.

Well, now, that explained everything. In the past six months, his slow walk had turned into pretty much a crawl. Walking with him was painfully slow, yet he was determined to keep moving. He wasn’t in pain. He was just slow. His desire to get outside to smoke was also a driving force to keep moving. He smoked for 72 years.

As for appetite, in the past six months he’d also turned into the fussiest eater I’d ever seen. Now, this was a man who ate pretty much everything. He was brought up on meat and potatoes. He grew up in the Depression and learned to eat whatever was put in front him. If the hamburger in the refrigerator was green, he just pinched off the green stuff and used the rest. He’d go hunting with a bag of sandwiches and didn’t really care if they were a week old and stale by the time he got to the bottom.

But in those past six months, he’d grown to hate chicken and pretty much everything else the home served him. He ate very little. He even stopped eating sweets. I knew it was really bad when he barely touched some homemade chicken fricot (Acadian chicken soup) that my lovely cousin brought him. And when I made his favourite birthday treat — strawberry shortcake — and he barely ate two bites before putting it aside, let’s just say that the writing was on the wall.

He came out of brain surgery fine. He sneaked cigarettes in the hospital bathroom and was too shaky and messy to hide it. The ashes and burnt match on the floor were the evidence that did him in despite his desperate denials. The cigarettes were taken away. He was not happy, but there was no option.

Eventually, they found lung cancer, too. He was in denial about it, despite my having reminded him a few times. And then, at a follow-up meeting with the oncologist, he heard the words “lung cancer” come out of the doctor’s mouth and Dad seemed to decide right then and there that it was the end. His body was deteriorating. The radiation to his brain to treat the successfully removed brain tumour was not doing much for his recovery either. The symptoms from the radiation (extreme fatigue, loss of appetite) went on much longer than anticipated until we all came to the conclusion that his body was starting to shut down and that he would not be recovering.

Eventually, he would turn away from me in bed when I’d visit. He’d never done that before. Then I had to feed him what little he’d manage to ingest before we’d get into an argument. Dementia had been present for years, but it kicked into high gear.

And then, one day, I was having coffee with friends when his doctor called and told me we should consider putting him in palliative care. I wasn’t surprised, but still didn’t think he was that bad. He entered palliative care later that day.

He lasted about two weeks in palliative and died on August 26. Nearly three months of hospital visits came to an end. When I got the call, I made my calls and headed over with my mother, uncle, aunt and son to see him before the funeral home came to get him. The arrangements had all been made. The day we’d been expecting, dreading and — in some ways — even hoping for, had arrived. It was over. Dad was no longer suffering.

As the one-year anniversary of his passing nears, it still seems like yesterday, yet it also seems like a million years ago. I often wonder if that feeling will ever go away.

Viral Video Alert: Coca-Cola’s brilliant feel-good marketing move will leave you smiling

Virtual toast of Coke between Indian and Pakistani residents
Virtual toast of Coke between Indian and Pakistani residents.

Coca-Cola has a long history of feel-good ads. Who can forget their iconic “I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing” commercials? Their Christmas season ads always seem to leave people smiling, too. They know how to tug at our heartstrings!

This time, the world’s biggest soft drink manufacturer got a bit political by bringing together two countries with a traditionally strained relationship: India and Pakistan. And you wouldn’t believe how they did it… through vending machines! Through an interactive vending machine set up in India and one set up in Pakistan, residents of each country could see each other and communicate — all while enjoying a Coke. I love this!

From the YouTube video description: “In March 2013, Coca-Cola set out to break down barriers and create a simple moment of connection between two nations — India and Pakistan. The initiative “Small World Machines” provided a live communications portal between people in India and Pakistan and showed that what unites us is stronger than what sets us apart. The key to engaging with each other through the machines was simple: people in India and Pakistan could complete a task, like touching hands, drawing peace, love, and happiness symbols — together.”

Uploaded only a week ago, the video already has nearly 1.2 million views.

Hump Day: In spring, a man’s fancy to turns to thoughts of cars

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Saturday began like any other. Got up. Went to the farmers’ market. Brought my dog Milane to visit my aunt. Milane reveled in getting held and petted during the entire visit. We stayed for a few minutes and then went home.

After I dropped Milane off, I went grocery shopping here, there and everywhere to stock up because I knew the stores would be closed on Victoria Day Monday. On my way home, I drove by the car dealership where I bought my vehicle and noticed the parking lot was empty. “That’s strange,” I thought. There was no way they had gone out of business. Maybe they were painting new lines in the parking lot?

But then, like the Grinch does in How the Grinch Stole Christmas when he comes up with his diabolical plan to steal all the Whos’ gifts so they’ll wake up with nothing on Christmas morning, my face turned into an evil grin. “Maybe,” I thought. “Just maybe,” I thought again. “Perhaps they’re having a big off-site sale.”

Oh oh; this could be dangerous. I’d been thinking of trading in my 2009 vehicle for quite some time. I keep my vehicles for three or four years maximum. This one was at 3-1/2 years, so its days were numbered. Besides, an impetuous decision a few years ago to upgrade meant that I was spending a lot more money on gas than I needed to. And with gas prices through the roof since I purchased it in 2009, better gas mileage was at the top of my list for features. I still wanted a similar SUV-style crossover vehicle, but not one that required me to fill up before I even got 300 kilometres from a tank.

I checked online and the dealership did indeed have a huge off-site sale going on. The little angel dressed in white on one shoulder was telling me to simply pay off my vehicle, while the other little angel dressed in red and carrying a pitchfork told me to just go take a look. What could it hurt, eh?

Now, I desperately needed to rest, so the lure of going to a big car sale wasn’t really on my Top 10 list that day. I’d gone through several busy weeks of working long hours, and with my son away for the weekend, having the house all to myself for gloriously long naps in peace and quiet was something I’d been looking forward to all week.

But, I’m a man. And when that little evil angel sits on a man’s shoulder and whispers into his ear that getting a new vehicle would feel s-o-o-o-o-o good, well, you can pretty well figure out the rest. I decided I’d just go for half-an-hour to check out the sale and see what was there. I wouldn’t get anything. I’d do some research. I knew I wanted to upgrade to the same kind of vehicle, but a model with much better gas mileage, and reading a few online reviews certainly couldn’t hurt.

“I’ll do my research afterwards,” I told myself. Then I heard the little red angel with the pitchfork laugh out loud, catching himself in mid-cackle of his masterful manipulation of an addict of that new car smell — me!

So, I decided to forego that long peaceful nap to which I was so looking forward all week. I’d just drop by the sale for a minute. Just to look. There was no way I’d buy anything today. The little red angel cackled again.

Upon arrival, the place was a beehive of activity with an announcer excitedly letting everyone know whenever there was sale. Everyone would clap. “You deserve the applause, too, Brian. You’ve been working so hard. You need a new vehicle. Oh yeah! Can you smell that new upholstery?” That little red angel was getting inside my head.

I found a salesperson from the dealership and asked to speak to my regular sales guy, only to find out that he’d abruptly (and very happily) retired just a few weeks ago. He’s been thinking about it for a while and then just announced at a staff meeting one morning that he was done.

I was very surprised, but that’s life. Someone else would get the benefit of showing me around to the vehicles I wasn’t going to buy that day. I adopted the salesperson who greeted me as my new “sales guy” right on the spot and asked to see some versions of the model I wanted. After walking around and looking at several, one colour kept popping out at me — platinum silver. It looked so rich. It looked like a colour that would look great in my driveway, too. But wait, I wasn’t buying anything — at least not today.

We went from vehicle to vehicle. They looked so sleek and modern since the model had been redesigned with a new look and technology since I purchased mine back in 2009. Those three ensuing years has been very kind to the model and the redesign was getting rave reviews.

Anyway, let’s just cut to the chase here, shall we? Would it surprise you that I managed to resist temptation and went home empty handed? Oh, you silly reader. You don’t know me very well, do you? In fact, I bought that vehicle like it was the last vehicle on Earth. The next thing I knew, I was signing my life away to the bank and transferring an impossible amount of junk from the old vehicle to the new vehicle.

I drove away more than a bit shell shocked. Immediately, I had second thoughts. But as I drove, I breathed in that new-car smell, got acquainted with all the bells and whistles and fell in love. Enjoy it while you can, car. You’re a sexy vixen to me now, but in three years you’ll likely just be tossed aside like an old rag. Enjoy it while it lasts

Viral Video Alert: Men going through labour pains

labour painsIt seems to be all the rage to record videos of men going through simulated labour pains. Here’s the latest one that’s making the rounds. It was filmed as a tribute to Mother’s Day.

Here’s one of the originals. This features Dutch television hosts Dennis Storm and Valerio Zeno who agreed to receive electric shocks to their abdomens to simulate labour pains for their show Proefkonijnen (“Guinea Pigs”). Scroll over the video and then click on “CC” for English subtitles.

Hump Day: How can all these grads look so ridiculously young?

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Last Thursday, I was honoured to receive an award from the alumni association of my university — the University of King’s College in Halifax. I shared the award with four other classmates for organizing 1980s class reunions in 2007 and 2012.

I was very surprised to receive the email advising me of the award, but pleasantly so, of course. And needless to say, I was more than thrilled to be sharing it with four great friends, three of whom now reside in the Moncton area. As much as it was a great night, it was also one of those “Oh God, I’m so old!” evenings, though.

I’ve been watching alumni receiving similar awards for years. They’re always distinguished in their communities and careers. I don’t know if I’m distinguished or not, but I do remember feeling pretty good at hearing the master of ceremonies at the alumni dinner last Thursday read my biography along with those of the others. Between us, we’d accomplished quite a bit.

We are often so humble that we don’t want to brag even a tad. Well, you know, I’m going to brag a little bit. We did a pretty darn good job at organizing those reunions and brought people back to King’s who hadn’t been there for decades. People flew in from across the country and even from overseas. I think that’s something of which to be proud.

Hearing our biographies being read from the stage was a proud moment, even though we all consider ourselves still young (and we are), we’ve all been working long enough in our careers to have accomplished a few things. It was great to be recognized by our peers and thanked by the university for our initiatives. Our group hug after the ceremony was the icing on the cake.

In the audience were students who would be graduating in the next week. They looked impossibly young. My favourite line of the night every time I was being introduced to a soon-to-be graduate was, “But you’re only 12!” I even said that to an exceptionally young looking female senior university staff member when I was formally introduced.

When I was in university, the individuals who held her position throughout the years were quite elderly – using canes and everything. She looked like she should be selling Girl Guide cookies door to door or packing groceries on a Saturday morning with her friends to raise funds for her ringette team to travel to a tournament. That must be a matter of aging on my part. I think that of a lot of people these days. “You’re a mere child! You can’t be a doctor or a lawyer or a dentist.”

We’ve all been taught throughout our lives not to be boastful, but there’s a difference between boasting and being proud of your accomplishments. As I continue to be exceptionally busy in my business, I find myself becoming more and more proud that all the hard work I’ve been putting into it is paying off. The networking, the late nights, the volunteer work, etc. It’s been difficult at times – especially when you’re so tired you can barely keep your eyes open – but you push through.

But when I start feeling sorry for myself during especially stressful times, I’ll think back to last Thursday night as they were reading my bio from the stage during the awards ceremony. At some point, a light goes off and you realize that it’s all been worth it. And I’m certainly not alone. My classmates who shared in the award have worked just has hard. Listening to their accomplishments was a boost for me, too. We’ve all worked hard! We didn’t sit around doing nothing for the last 25 years, that’s for sure.

I thought about those soon-to-be graduates watching us accept our awards. I’m sure they thought we are as old as we thought they are young. I also hope we gave them some assurance that hard work pays off. And no, they wouldn’t always be poor. I remember when I graduated, I was so poor that I couldn’t even afford to be late.

These fresh-faced graduates will one day be winning alumni awards of their own and standing up in front of a crowd having their own biographies read. They, too, shall wonder how they got so much done when it seems like it was just yesterday that they were still in university. My friends, it happens to all of us. You just blink and the next you know, it’s 25 years later and you have a family and career.

But you know, I’m happy where I’m at. I wouldn’t go back to just graduating from university. Sure, I may do a few things differently knowing what I know now, but hindsight is always 20/20. Like everyone, I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but I wouldn’t give up the journey that I took. Everything was a learning experience.

As well, as time passes and my business grows, I find myself reaching back for the lessons I’ve learned in a variety of situations and how they can benefit clients. I also find myself being able to call on friends and colleagues from my growing network for assistance — either for myself, colleagues or clients.

Today’s graduates will experience bumps along the road, but I can assure them of one thing: it will all work out. Keep on plugging away. And be brave.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”