About Donald Wilson

Businessman, real estate developer, photographer, graphic artist, social media writer, blogger, marketer.

To Kingdom Come

Suburban Richmond, British Columbia, in 1960 is just a few steps from the great marsh separating a community of newly built split level houses, and row upon row of almost identical buildings, built all at once, in a great big hurry, from the roaring Gulf of Georgia.

In the spring of that year, the harbour seals, giving birth to their pups,  awakened my neighbourhood every night with barking, giving way only to the Canada Geese when they flew in from points far south in the United States a little later in the season.

The tidal marsh was both endlessly attractive and terrifying, luring young children into danger, trapping a child ever so often and drowning them in a tidal surge. It was home to the muskrat, ducks, rats, frogs and many other denizens of the marsh.  In was only occasionally tidal, only the biggest tides of the spring would flood the marsh right up to the dyke.  The rest of the year the marshes were mostly drier, kept damp by the water table, only inches below the surface.

Picture me, very small, grinning widely.

Five or six years old, wearing shorts and a checkered t-shirt, slightly muddy.  Short buzzsaw haircut, in the style of the times, the late 1950’s.

No sensible fears nor optimistic hopes, living in the ever-present now of childhood.  Smiling so widely for no particular reason except that I was unbelievably happy, just to be alive, and in front of a camera.  Caught in a moment of stillness, between running around like mad on the back lawn, riding my bicycle up and down the street in front of the house, teasing my sister and making her laugh or cry, or fighting the desire to go down the street and play in the marshes beyond the dyke.

This is a snapshot of a brief moment in time, that seems to stretch out endlessly in front of me.  The distance I could travel was between the front porch and the little ditch under the driveway bridge, the little ditch that in my imagination stretched to Kingdom Come, without end, Amen.  An endless little ditch where fleets of dinky toy trucks had sunk beneath the waves and paper ships had sailed into the endless time after lunch.

Crossing the ditch was a mighty step, for beyond it was the forbidden land, where giant cars raced up and down the street, just excited by the possibility that a small happy lad would step out in front of them, and be gobbled up in an instant.  Don’t cross the ditch, boy,  I was promised, it would be awful and bad things would happen, for sure.

Despite the wide grin on my face, and being as happy as I have ever been in my life, what that picture from my early childhood reminds me most of all was to be happy within a circle, outside of which I was to be afraid, very afraid.  And, as things turned out in the end, with good reason.

I was the middle kid, between two older sisters, one and two years older, and a younger sister and brother.  We were all born within a ten-year span, basically one every two years, like a biological assembly line punching out kids, all basically the same, except in two flavours, boys and girls.  Our mother, a blousy blond, was the fifties pretty, not like the sticks they call girls later in the 1960’s, in the days of Twiggy and the mod bodies of the Twist generation.  My dad, a salesman, worked almost every night selling mysterious stuff to janitors.  Bottles of cleaners and giant floor polishing machines were his products, but to me, they seemed magical.

Sometimes he would take me along with him on an appointment where he would show off one of the floor machines, giant polishing machines.  And once in a while, he’d let me sit on one of the polishers, as he used it to polish a floor. What a ride it was, and I’d feel pretty special, just for being there. Once in a while, my dad was a great guy and really knew how to make me feel pretty special.

This is me, and this was my home growing up until I was much older, fourteen.  Idyllic in appearance, and placid on the surface, childhood was anything but placid underneath that skin.  But there were many good days, and good times, to throw away all of the memories just because most of the time that I lived there I lived in fear, would be wrong, although that’s what my mind tried to do.  Make me forget.

In trying to make sense of my life after growing up, it’s helpful to understand who I started out to be, and what influences changed me into the man I eventually became.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonderland?

Sometimes I feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole into an alternate universe, one in which I’m no longer a person.  The world has also changed, seemingly irretrievably, into a place without any kind of safety, security, and surety.

Mum used to complain to me, from time to time, when she was retired from teaching, that she felt invisible, of no consequence, and therefore, of no value to anyone, including to herself.  I remember telling her that, of course, she had meaning and value, at least to her children, and that we value her for her wisdom and accumulated life experience.  I believe now that my comments were, at best, well-meaning but false.

Feelings are not facts, although they weigh us down as if they are real.  I am going to be celebrating my sixty-fifth birthday in less than a month.  Supposedly this means that I should be enjoying the opportunity to retire from active working life, and into a pleasant meander down the road of a new journey, not so bound up in ambition or goals.

Instead, I head into retirement with serious complications of diabetes and COPD, chronically exhausted, in constant arthritic and neuropathic pain.  My professional life is in disgrace, and my finances are completely destroyed.  My marriage is a shambles, a mere shadow of meaning and purpose I believed it to be. Whatever self-esteem I once enjoyed has been systematically eroded to the point where I have become self-effacing and ashamed.

Accomplishments once achieved with pride, are now rued as pointless, as they were not sustained, nor followed up with long-term success.  Professional competence and pride in my knowledge and skills are now the pathetic memories of a fallen champion.

I have crashed and burned before, and arose from the ashes to take on new challenges and build a life again. I’m told by professionals that I need to let go of the past, forget my shortcomings, and learn to live with my current life and health circumstances.  In short, I need to refocus on a new future.  Build again a life worth living,  a life into which joy and laughter can once again be a part.

There is still much of value in my life, and turning to those people who continue to befriend me and support me is a part of that future.  Gratitude for what I have now will be a good start.

Still, it is difficult to look around me and see a landscape filled with characters I don’t recognize and don’t think I really want to get to know.  What would be even more helpful would be if I could find a mirror that shows me the man I once thought I was.  The mirrors in Wonderland show me a person I scarcely recognize, and who I really don’t want to be.

 

 

 

Business is Business

Aside

I’ve had a lot of time to think about my business life over the past couple of years, while I’ve tried to stay positive in the face of severe business reversals.  It is natural to doubt myself after several major problems occurred put a wrench into my ability to function.  Needless to say, I’m not happy to lose my investor’s money in projects that didn’t work out the way I’d planned.  And I sure didn’t expect the fallout that has come my way.

Truth.  I missed the boat on some important things.  Like the collapse of the oil markets and Alberta’s economy, with them. Like the fact depending on other people only works if they aren’t subject to the same negative market conditions as me.