A regular daily fortification of glucosamine and ibuprofen was not sufficient to ease the pain and agony associated with each armful of leaves that I tossed into my truck a few hours ago. Over and over again, I wondered if I would be up to this annual fall task again next year. I thought, probably not; but stubbornness enabled me to see this particular job through to an uncomfortable and dubious end.
It had taken me the equivalent of four days to complete the chore this year, compared to the less than four hours that it had taken me in the past. "Why am I wearing out so fast?" I had to ask myself. After a lifetime of high energy multi-tasking, I had to concede: "I am now an old man." Like it or not, this is my destiny.
My mind lapsed into flashback mode, like a reel of film rolling back the years and pausing momentarily and frequently on the almost countless number of things that I have done in my life -- jobs, activities, special interests -- and what it took on occasion to simultaneously juggle three and four of these involvements. One job never seemed good enough for me. I always had to have "other irons in the fire", as I explained it. The endurance that was required amazes even me, especially now when any form of mental or physical stamina has gone bye-bye. I honestly do not know where I got the wherewithal to take on so much. I have never talked publicly about this over-riding compulsion for change and my need to continually try new, sometimes unorthodox things.
I really do not know if it was an unexplained need to experience as much as possible in one lifetime or an undiagnosed bi-polar disorder the caused me to jump from one challenge to another, but I began questioning very early in the game what it was that really made me tick. About 55 years ago I announced to my mother that I thought I should consult a psychiatrist and her spontaneous response was: "Oh sure, and the first thing that he will say is what a terrible mother you have had. He'll want to talk about your childhood and it will all end up being my fault...You had a happy, loving childhood, in case you forgot. So don't even go there."
"Okay, Grace. Thanks for reminding me!" I responded with customary tongue-in-cheek discretion.
I actually saw a psychiatrist in Toronto a year or two later and after the first appointment he sent me a letter explaining that he was retiring from his practise and would be unable to see me again. In that one and only appointment we talked about my childhood, but I never breathed a word of it to my overly reactionary mother. And I never again mustered up the courage to sit on another psychiatrist's couch.
But, back to that aforementioned flashback while raking up leaves this morning. Here is a retrospective list of jobs that my mind's film rolled out for me.
- My first after-school job in a men's clothing store, at 14 years of age..
- A short-lived stint in professional baseball in the U.S.A.
- My first full-time job with Jack Fraser Stores in St. Thomas, Chatham and Toronto.
- Completed two-year business management course by correspondence.
- Initiated a part-time janitorial business in St. Thomas.
- Cub reporter, sports editor and managing editor for four Canadian daily newspapers (St. Thomas, Simcoe, Prince Albert and Brampton) over a 20-year period.
- Set up of a second part-time janitorial business exclusively for a board of education headquarters.
- Accepted part-time free-lance writing assignments from several business publications.
- Took a year-long hiatus from newspapering to sell office furniture and equipment in the London area.
- Worked evenings and weekends at a major department store in London,
- Officiated in baseball and hockey for token reimbursement.
- Was paid secretary-statistician for the Niagara District Senior Hockey League.
- Joined Insurance Bureau of Canada as media relations manager, then public affairs director.
- Bought into a Kid's Toys distributorship in the Toronto area, operating out of my home in spare time.
- Worked evenings and weekends as a security officer in the Toronto area.
- Obtained another part-time distributorship selling Herbalife health food products.
- Joined the Ontario Trucking Association as director of public relations and human resources.
- Affiliated with a new Toronto area security company as a night shift supervisor, in addition to my full-time job with O.T.A.
- Became a free-lance public relations consultant, producing a syndicated monthly industrial newsletter.
- Managed a team of young people selling subscriptions to the Toronto Star.
- Joined several friends in a public relations agency catering to the junior mining industry in Canada.
- Worked in landscaping after premature semi-retirement due to the need to free up time and to be closer to home during late wife's struggle with cancer.
- At the same time, became a part-time car jockey for Avis Rent-A-Car at Pearson International Airport.
- Sold cemetery plots part-time, close to home in Brampton.
- Associated with the owner of Kipling Medical Laboratories in Toronto, first in charge of property security and finally as warehouse and delivery manager.
- Continued to take on free-lance writing assignments for several journals in the United States.
- Joined Naylor Publishing as a telemarketer, probably the most ill-advised undertaking of my life.
- Became a sub-contractor for Consumers Gas, reading meters in Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington and Brampton area. Also assigned to an on-going "gas leak" survey in the Region of Peel.
- Suited up as Santa Claus at a major shopping centre, also appeared at numerous company Christmas functions as a Santa for-hire.
- After the passing of wife Anne, eventually went to work with Brampton Chrysler as used car lot maintenance manager with responsibility for special customer transportation needs.
- Served as a lay preacher (Presbyterian Church) for a two-year period in the two-point charge of Port Elgin-Burgoyne.
- Most recently set up an ill-fated on-line marketing company, before deciding that I had been drained of what little entrepreneurial blood was left flowing through my veins.
All of that on top of belonging to a number of service clubs and business associations, organizing and coaching minor baseball and hockey in three communities, serving as president of a figure skating club and several minor baseball associations for both boys and girls; managing a Junior "C" hockey team in Simcoe and Junior and Intermediate baseball teams in St. Thomas, singing with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society in Toronto as well as a number of choirs and barbershop groups, attending university night classes as a mature student, obtaining accreditation (APR) from the Canadian Public Relations Society, belonging to a little theatre company, being a Big Brothers and Boy Scouts leader, taking on motivational speaking engagements, serving as a Sunday School teacher and church elder, sitting on numerous municipal boards and organizations, being the founding president of the Community Crime Prevention Network (Canada), founding president and organizer of a neighbor outreach program for seven churches in Brampton and writing three books, just to mention a few of the involvements over the years that instantly come to mind.
The jury is still out on how good a husband and father I was during the lion's share of those years, but it is not for me to speculate. I can honestly say, however, that I tried my best under some difficult, pre-occupied and self-inflicted circumstances to be a responsible and sensitive family provider.
Truthfully, I cannot say if it was worth spreading myself so thin and burning the candle at both ends for so much of my life. It all seems like the blurred obsession of another life, over which I had no control. What was I trying to prove, you ask? Dunno! Two things I do know, however, 1) I lost a lot of sleep over the years and 2) paid the government a lot in the form of income taxes; and, oh yes, a third thing -- I have nothing personally to show for any of this. Would I do anything differently, if I had it to do all over again? Let me count the ways! But that's life. Live and learn. We do what we think is right at the time. I just took on more than the healthy and normal average of things that one feels compelled to do in a life time.
After almost completing this post, I have also become aware of a fourth conclusion...I am feeling worn out in these twilight days because, quite frankly, I have worn myself out. Plain and simple. It was bound to happen sooner or later. It just never occurred to me until now.
Knowing me as I do, I'll no doubt keep on plugging as best I can, for as long as I can. Hell, I'll probably even tackle those damned leaves again next fall, and like it even less.
My mother would be very relieved to know too that she was in no way to be blamed for what transpired in my life. I have no one to "blame" but myself. In many ways, I guess you could say that I am a self-made man -- for better or worse.
I would still be interested in seeing a psychiatrist though, if for no other reasons than finally finding out what makes me tick. Only trouble is, there is a good chance he wouldn't believe me.