A mother of an anniversary

Cuz I know the kids are well
Yes, you’re the mother to the world.

Genesis – Please Don’t Ask

Twenty-three years ago, I wasn’t thinking about Mother’s Day. I wasn’t thinking about mothers. I wasn’t thinking about the woman I was going to marry that day as a mother.

I remember thinking that I couldn’t imagine being married even five years. It wasn’t that didn’t want to be, I simply couldn’t wrap my head around it.

And yet, here we are, twenty-three years later, and I’m still married to that same woman. And now, a lot of what defines us is our roles as parents.

And Karen, my wife, is an amazing mother that doesn’t get enough recognition for what she does. Let me give you four examples.

The first example is about twenty-five years old. Yes, before we were married. Karen and I were dating, and we were engaged to be married, but it was a while off.

However, my nephew was being systematically abused by his mother and ignored by my brother, his father. The boy wasn’t even three yet, and he’d already experienced his mother stubbing a cigarette into his leg to punish him, he’d seen her stab her boyfriend, and she’d locked him him his room most Friday nights so she could go out to bars. Yeah, not a candidate for the winner of Mother’s Day.

And we were doing what we could to get him out of the situation. Karen was the one that suggested we move up the date of the wedding and adopt him. A child that she’d only met about three weeks before. Because that’s who she is. She had the mothering instinct long before she was a mother.

It’s along story as to why that didn’t come to pass, but I blame that on the misnamed Childrens’ Aid Society. But that’s another story for another day.

The rest of the examples all come from the past year.

The second example comes from last July, when I participated once again in the Muskoka Novel Marathon (quick note, I’m still looking for donations for this year’s marathon, if you’re so inclined. End of quick note).

Anyway, at the MNM, Karen decided to come up with me and, because she was there, offered her services to help out wherever she could. It was with some trepidation (we found out later) that they paired Karen up with the Den Mother, the much-beloved Mieke Byl, who was a one-woman kitchen machine.

I found this funny, initially because, if you know Karen, you know how she is in a kitchen. If you don’t…well, the jokes started with, could Karen even find the kitchen? Yeah, she’s that good.

And Mieke had been doing this for years, with little or no help. She had a routine and she knew it well. Then Karen, this interloper, came in.

And they got along famously. All day, as I sat and typed away, I could hear laughter coming from the kitchen. Whenever either of them came out, they were all smiles.

But more than that, Karen came to have the same love and caring attitude toward the marathoners they both supported. Though Karen didn’t have the Den Mother title, she truly became a mother toward the marathoners, even going so far as to help one with a piece of their story involving a wedding dress. Because that’s who she is. She’s willing to help out others and step into the mother role whenever needed.

The third example was last September, when our son brought home a friend. He was a kid we’d had stay over multiple times in the past couple of years. His mother kicked him out of the house with startling regularity for the smallest and the stupidest of infractions.

This time, he’d been out of the house for three days with no money and nothing but the clothes on his back. The same clothes he’d been in for three days. And he’d had to break into the garage of his mother’s house and climb into the rafters to sleep, pulling some boxes around him in case she happened to see him. This was mid-September. In our part of the world, it can get pretty damn cold at night.

We couldn’t see that happen. Without hesitation, Karen kicked into gear and moved him in with us. She got him clothes, a bed, and furniture for the bedroom. She fielded the ridiculous calls from his mother (“You better not have the school call you when he’s absent, because I need to know where he is at all times”…from the woman that didn’t know where he was for three days). She did it all. Because that’s who she is. She will not stand by while someone is mistreated.

By the way, tomorrow, that kid will have been with us exactly eight months.

And then there’s the last example, from last night. Karen had previously told all the kids, no friends sleeping over this weekend. This is our anniversary weekend and it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday. So, this weekend is for us.

Again, our son came to us. He mentioned that one of his friends had no place to sleep. His mother told him he couldn’t come home (I’m guessing she had a date or something). And his father, who was in Ottawa, refused to let him stay in his house.

Honest to God, I don’t know why we don’t force people to get some sort of licence to have children. There’s so many shitty parents out there.  Meanwhile, I’m sure this kid’s mother didn’t get the irony of not giving her own child a place to sleep on the eve of Mother’s Day.

So, when our son came to us, Karen didn’t hesitate. “Okay,” she said. “He can stay. I won’t send a kid out of my house with no place to sleep.”

Because that’s who she is. She’s always put everyone else’s needs above her own.

And yet, for all of that, she never gets the credit she deserves. I tend to get some attention because I’m the one that types out these stupid little blogs and messages. But it should be known that, if it wasn’t for the woman that I married twenty-three years ago today, if it wasn’t for who she is, the mother she is, the wife she is, the person she is, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

So, this is for my wife, the mother of my children, and the surrogate mother for many others.

Happy Mother’s Day, babe.

And Happy Anniversary.

I love you.

Me and the coolest woman in the world.

Me and the coolest woman in the world.

Books that changed my life: 06 – Cyborg

Note: This blog originally appeared on tobinelliott.com

This is the sixth in a series of blogs where I go back and examine the books that deeply affected me and became part of the foundation of the person I am now.

Click on the titles to read the others

01 – Chariots of the Gods?
02 – Rocket Ship Galileo / Space Cadet
03 – The Illustrated Man
04 – Childhood’s End
05 – Rendezvous With Rama

After digging into the lighter SF of Heinlein and Bradbury, then going through Arthur C. Clarke’s brand of SF, known more as Hard SF because the science was more accurate, I found I preferred it for the most part.

Of course, SF has been known to stand not just for Science Fiction, but also for Science Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction. The difference is, those last two seemed to downplay the science. I liked my science. The more the better. So, I found myself casting about for more hard stuff.

Steve Austin - The Six Million Dollar ManThen in March, 1973, I watched a movie that knocked my socks off. It was The Six Million Dollar Man. For those old enough to remember the television series that ran for five years, no, this initial offering didn’t deliver the same amount of cheese the series eventually did. You saw no signs of Bigfoot here.

Jaime Sommers - The Bionic WomanInstead, Steve Austin was a little darker, somewhat James Bondish…at least in my four decades removed memory. I instantly fell in love with the character and the two subsequent movies. Then, in January of 1974, Steve Austin got his own series. Then Jaime Sommers got her own series with The Bionic Woman. Then Farrah Fawcett starred on the show. I was in frigging heaven.Farrah Fawcett as...ah, who cares, it was friggin' Farrah!

But I digress.

I was learning to be watchful of certain phrases, or key lines on my television screen. And I saw, with this series, something to the effect of “Based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin.

There was a book? Hot damn! I immediately sought it out and, of course, with the popularity of the series, it wasn’t hard to find.

And what I got was a technically more accurate bionic man. A cyborg, or cybernetic organism. I can’t tell you how much I loved that term.

CyborgThe first half of the book detailed Lt. Col. Steve Austin’s horrific crash in a test flight gone wrong, leaving him with just his right arm. And it detailed the operations that then provided him with a new arm, two legs, a camera hidden in his missing eye, a steel skull plate and a radio transmitter built into a rib. The camera did not help Austin see, so none of that boopboopboopboopboop zoom vision the show is famous for, but he could remove it and take pictures. And he also had a finger that he could twist to arm a poison dart to shoot at someone. How cool is all that?

What he didn’t have was the super-strength of the show. So, no lifting a car with that arm (because it would crush the still-only-bone vertebrae in his back), and no running at 60 mph (because, yeah, anyone that’s stuck their head out of a car moving that fast knows what a bitch it is to breathe…and to keep that perfect Lee Majors hairstyle).

So, he wasn’t necessarily the superman they portrayed on television. And I wasn’t disappointed at all. In fact, I preferred the literary Steve Austin. Not only was he more accurate, but he was a lot darker. He would kill without concern. And he got the women. In fact, when he’s teamed with an experienced female operative (who’s also hot) and she demands to know if he can still function sexually, then beds him to remind him he’s still human, well, my little twelve-year-old brain pretty much fried its circuits.

But really, that’s what the book was about. What makes us human? When much of a human is replaced by machinery, can they still be considered human? The title of the novel was Cyborg, not Human With Some Machine Parts. And the story is about how Steve Austin learns to first deal with, then finally accept the new limbs–and the new abilities–he has. He adapts to a new normal.

How did this book change my life?

Cyborg taught me that a lot of the stuff they threw at me on television was junk compared to the source material. Don’t get me wrong, I still watched every single episode of every bionic person on television through the Seventies. Even when they had Bigfoot. Even when they had William Shatner turn into the world’s smartest man. Even when they had Barney Miller, the Seven Million Dollar Man. Even when they brought in the bionic dog.

I watched it all and loved it all.

But not as much as the book.

And Caidin also eased me into stories involving covert ops.

But most of all, he was the first one to give me a story wrapped around the paradox of being a man in a mostly machine body. Something that would come to be explored again and again, through stories like Robocop (the original movie, not the crap sequels or remake), and even, to a point, Iron Man.

And while this was mostly an adventure novel with a science fiction heart, it was also very much an adult novel. Yes, so were the ones I read by Bradbury and Clarke, but I understood all of this one. I got it all. I caught the nuance. I understood the central who am I? question.

And not only did I understand it all and get the core premise…Caidin wrapped it up in a novel that I enjoyed the hell out of. So much so, I went on to read a ton of his other stuff, mostly enjoying it all as well.

So, this book changed my life because, for the first time, I felt I could read adult novels, and not just ones that were science fiction. I had enjoyed this book, even the second half where he was a spy in the Middle East. If I could enjoy that, what else was out there, just waiting to crawl into my mind?Martin Caidin

Though I’d previously had the universe opened to me, I realized now it was a universe with a very narrow science fiction path. This one opened a side door and let me see into an entirely different world. By taking the science fiction aspect and, instead of travel to a planet or distant star, Caidin instead looked inward to what it meant to be a man, to be human. He made it personal again.

Thank you, Martin.

Did you ever read something that changed your life?

Did you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you hadn’t been able to read those words? What if you couldn’t read? How different would your life be?

What if you couldn’t read Facebook status updates? What if you couldn’t read well enough to Google whatever you need to know? What if you couldn’t read to your kids? What if you couldn’t read a street sign? What if you couldn’t read the instructions on the pill bottle? What if you couldn’t fill out that job application?

What if you couldn’t read?

I’m the person I am now because I can read. I couldn’t imagine a life without a constant influx of words to entertain me, to irritate me, to make me laugh and make me cry.

But I know there’s many out there, and I’m trying to help them. Please, if you read and enjoyed this blog, or if it made you think back to a book that changed your life, please consider helping me help those who are trying to read.

I’m participating in the Muskoka Novel Marathon, a 72-hour event where 40 writers try and write as much as they can, while raising money to fund Literacy and Numeracy programs for adults in the Simcoe/Muskoka area. And the program works.

One of the lucky people who went through their literacy program has now joined our group as a writer. How often can you donate money and look at the walking, talking, reading and writing result?

Any amount is sincerely appreciated.

To find out more about the Muskoka Novel Marathon, click here.
To donate, click here.

Please. Help me change someone’s life through reading.

Muskoka Novel Marathon donation page - just click on the pic

Muskoka Novel Marathon donation page – just click on the pic