Gifts of Love

I never expected to receive a Christmas gift this year but I did.  In fact, I got two gifts and both came as a complete surprise.  They were the first gifts that I’ve received at Christmas, in a very long time and at first, I hesitated about opening them.  But I’ll get back to the gifts of love in a moment because I need to tell you, dear reader, another story from my childhood.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had mixed feelings about receiving gifts but I’m not sure why.  It’s not that I’m fussy or difficult to please – I’m not.  It’s just that I feel awkward and unworthy – but I can’t explain it better than that.  But I love giving gifts – so I’ll never be accused of being a Scrooge.

As one, of six children, we always had a gift to open on our birthday or at Christmas but they were seldom toys or other neat things that you’d see advertised on TV.  One Christmas, we got an oversized toboggan – but who wants to share that with two older sisters?   But we always had a great Christmas feast and always lots of company to share the excitement.  And my Ma would always bake a birthday cake on our birthdays – so I’m not complaining or ungrateful. 

But there was always a little part of me that was jealous of my friends at school when they described all of the stuff they got.  The gift I got most often, was something that my Ma knitted for me – such as a pair of mitts, a toque (knitted cap) or socks.  My Grandma Puffer used to also knit things for my sisters, brothers and me.  It wasn’t until later years that I realized how much time and love were spent by Ma and Grandma knitting things for us.  And Ma used to make my sister’s blouses, dresses, and skirts.  She was very talented and I always received compliments when wearing a sweater that Ma had knitted me.  I still have the sweaters and I treasure them, although they no longer fit.

A few weeks before Christmas, one of the walking groups that I belong to was having a party and everyone brought a gift.  I didn’t stay at the party once the meal was served, so I wasn’t there when the gifts were distributed.  Everyone brought something inexpensive that would be suitable for either a man or woman.  A week or so later, one of my walking buddies mentioned that he had saved my gift from the party and it was in his car.  He gave it to me last week, after Christmas but I never opened it until yesterday.  It was a generous gift certificate.  Again I felt a pang of guilt for receiving a gift.  

The other gift that I received was really unexpected – and it too warms my heart just thinking about it. 

My friend Sannie had started a new job in Vancouver, so our get-togethers were becoming less frequent.  But she is like a daughter to me and I was hoping we could see each other before the holidays.  We made arrangements to meet for lunch on the 23rd.  I had gathered a bunch of goodies from Trader Joe’s for her as an unwrapped Christmas gift because I didn’t want her to feel bad for not getting me anything.  But she told me that she had a gift from me, so after we had lunch and got back in the car, we exchanged our Christmas card and gift.

Sannie’s gift to me was neatly wrapped with two ribbons on each end of the gift.  I read the card – and then with my hands trembling with the excitement of a ten-year-old, I opened the present.  It was an awesome toque that she had knitted for me!  And although I never asked her – I imagined that she probably thought about me, as she knitted it.  I held back the tears until we had said our goodbyes and had started the drive home.  Her boyfriend Kuba, is a very lucky boy!

This was the best Christmas I’ve had in many years!  

Sannie and Kuba (Jacob)





Route 66


The 12 clowns had just climbed out of the tiny VW Beetle and the crowd of screaming kids yelled out for more.  I looked at the time – it was exactly 4:58 AM and Holly was curled up at the foot of the bed.  I turned off the television and excitedly took my first step on Route 66 – as a sixty-sixer.  But I almost fell in the hallway as Holly raced past me to get to the patio door – a fiercely competitive race that I endure several times a day.

Yes, January 8th was my birthday but as usual, I had nothing planned for the day.  I had left a couple of messages with Norm to see if he wanted to meet for coffee at the Whitby Coffee Shop at the beach in White Rock but hadn’t heard back from him yet.

I was having my coffee and suddenly remembered that January 8th was also David Bowie’s birthday and that he was releasing a new album today (which I had pre-ordered from iTunes last Summer).  The album was called ‘Black Star’ – which sounded kind of ‘mystical’, but it was probably just a sign that David was re-inventing himself – yet again!

I logged on to iTunes and there it was – the ‘Blackstar’ cd by David Bowie.  I  began listening to each of the songs, and it wasn’t long before realizing that this was an album about death.  I posted a few of the tunes here on my blog page – which seemed kind of fitting – Danny the birthday boy listening to David the birthday boy’s new album.  But I  was puzzled as to why he was writing about such a dark topic – on our birthday.

I quickly got dressed and drove to the beach.  I still hadn’t heard back from Norm but figured that I would have a coffee and check my emails on my laptop.  We usually met at 8:30 in the morning and it was already 8:45 when I arrived at the coffee shop.  I scanned the surroundings for him, but the place was almost empty.  I turned on my laptop and started to check messages, while listening to Blackstar.

At 9:30 I was just starting to pack up my laptop when I suddenly noticed Norm standing in front of my table.  We hugged and wished each other Happy New Year.  Norm and Dorean had been on Vancouver Island for both Christmas and Norm’s birthday (which was on Christmas Eve).  And as we hugged, I asked him if his that his birthday gift had also to be his Christmas gift – because the dates were so close.  But I never cared much about getting presents – it’s always been something I’ve felt uncomfortable with and would prefer to be the ‘giver.’  I don’t know why but it always feels better to give than it does to receive something.  And besides, my only birthday wish these days is to have another birthday next year.

Norm and I had our coffees, and he brought me up-to-date on the Cancer Centre.  He told me that a new volunteer had already replaced me and that many people missed seeing me.  We walked each other to the parking lot and said our goodbyes.  I told Norm that the day was special because it was Elvis Presley’s, David Bowie’s and my birthday.  The thought of being mentioned in the same sentence as those famous men made us both laugh.  But I did share something in common with both – a love of music.

So when I awoke two days later to the news that David Bowie had just passed away – after an 18 month battle with Cancer – I just couldn’t believe it.  He was just 69 years old!  I later learned that he had written all of the material on the album after he found out that he had Cancer and that he wanted the cd released on his birthday.

‘What a fitting way to leave this life’ I thought.  But the news of his passing saddened me.  Hopefully, he has joined Elvis and George Harrison on their heavenly tour – somewhere out there on the Astral Plane.

Today, I return to the Cancer Centre for an appointment with my radiation oncologist.  It will be the first stop on my journey along Route 66.  Destination: Route 67.

Maybe we’ll pass each other along the way.

Dedicated to Elvis Presley, David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, Captain Tom, and of course, cancer patients.



A Love Story

Originally published June 15, 2012

Valentine's DayOn Wednesday morning, during my shift as a volunteer at the Cancer Centre, we learned that it was Margaret’s 75th Birthday.  Margaret is a retired nurse who volunteers at the Cancer Centre on Wednesday afternoons.  Margaret and her very good friend Hilary, who is also a retired nurse, take the “Comfort Cart” (coffee, tea, hot chocolate and snacks) around to patients in the various clinics within the Centre. Both of these women are loved by patients and staff alike – they are always smiling and quick to comfort anyone in need of a hug.  Every week I look forward to seeing Margaret and Hilary arrive for their afternoon shifts – and race to exchange hugs with each of them.  I really love these girls – they are like family to me.  I also have the same feelings for Dianne and Vivian, also retired nurses, who volunteer on the Comfort Cart on Monday mornings – and I race to hug each of them too!

Hugs are special.  To me, they are a form of expression that acknowledges both a fondness and respect for the other person.  You’ll always know when giving a hug is appropriate – it’s usually when you extend your hand to give a handshake and it feels awkward.  Hugs only feel awkward when the person you are trying to hug just wants to shake your hand – or runs away from you screaming in terror!  The best hugs are accompanied by whispering in the other person’s ear – things like:  so great to see you again OR it’s been too long OR you look wonderful OR missed you OR can I borrow 5 bucks?

“But Danny, what’s this got to do with A Love Story?  Hugging is for sissies – men don’t hug – period.  And by the way, what qualifies you to write about Love?”

Patience Corky, patience!

Anyway, we decided to give Margaret a hastily-arranged birthday party – but we wanted it to be a surprise – which would be difficult because Margaret reads a lot of mystery novels and is always “on guard” against secretive and/or deviant behavior. Few people know that Agatha Christie fashioned her Miss Marple character after Margaret.

Fast forward:  We were able to surprise Margaret during the afternoon coffee break. After Margaret blew out the candles, she told us the following wonderful story:

She and her husband Cam decided to spend last Saturday doing some shopping in Vancouver.  Before leaving their home in White Rock, Cam suggested that they pack a few clothes in case they had a long day and became too tired for the return drive home.

Margaret then described their arriving in the city and Cam pulling up to the luxurious Wedgewood Hotel.

She remained in the car while Cam went into the hotel – she’s not sure why or what he was doing but she enjoyed talking with a couple of the hotel staff (George Clooney look-a-likes).   When Cam returned to the car he advised her that he was able to get a room and that they should check-in now.  Margaret laughed as she recounted that she was wearing jeans and had only packed a very few items in the very small bag.

Soon they were in their hotel room.  Within minutes, a knock at the door – it was the bellman with a bucket of ice, a bottle of champagne and glasses.  Margaret said they then stood on their room’s balcony and enjoyed the sights and sounds while drinking their champagne.

A few minutes passed, when suddenly another knock at their door.  Margaret wondered if Cam had ordered some room service – a romantic meal or maybe more champagne?  Cam asked her to answer the door – it was her turn, after all. And while she wondered what Cam had ordered – she opened the door.  She let out a scream and then the tears began to flow!

There standing in the hallway, were all of her children and grandchildren!  Her daughter and son-in-law from Toronto and their kids and her son from Kelowna and his daughter had made the surprise trip to Vancouver – to celebrate Margaret’s birthday.   Cam then informed that they were all going to the very posh Hawksworth Dining Room in the Rosewood Georgia Hotel for dinner.  A table for eight was reserved – and the evening was magical.  One of Margaret’s grandchildren said “Granny, your turning 75 Rocks!”  Margaret was relieved that she had packed a suitable dress – but then again, it would have been a great excuse to buy a new dress and shoes from one of Vancouver’s trendy boutiques……

The following morning, they all gathered for breakfast in the Bacchus Room.  Soon after, a stretch limo arrived at the Hotel to take her kids and grand kids to the Airport for their return home.  They had all journeyed that far – for just one night – to be with their Mother and Granny on her birthday!  And Cam had lovingly planned every single detail of this surprise celebration without Margaret having a clue!

And that to me is a wonderful Love Story.

And that’s why it is always so special to hug and be hugged by Margaret – one of my Best Friends Forever!  

And Margaret, you most definitely Rock!



Happy Birthday Alice

It’s Alice’s birthday today. 

Alice is my sister-in-law and I love her very much.  She saved my brother Randy’s life about a dozen years ago when they were both single.  It’s a long story but he was very sick and had been mis-diagnosed by the witch doctors in the city of Mr. and Mrs. Auga. (Mississauga, Ontario).

But Alice knew better and rushed him to the hospital where he had open-heart surgery to replace a heart valve.   I was in Toronto on business at the time and went to the hospital while he was in the operating room.  I met the surgeon who informed me that they had Randy’s heart and lungs on the table during the surgery and he wasn’t sure if Randy was going to make it – he said the next 24 hours would be crucial.  I stayed in the ICU room with Randy and spoke to him when he awoke – but he was having a difficult time staying awake.  I left his room when my sister Linda arrived and went back to my hotel in Toronto.  When I got inside my room I sat on the bed and cried. 

Randy recovered and the story had a wonderful ending – he and Alice got married.  Our family gained a new daughter – as my Ma would proudly say.  And I gained a wonderful sister.  They are celebrating their 10th Anniversary this month and going to Italy.

Happy Birthday my sweet Alice.

Hugs & Luv,


Randy & Alice (Vancouver 2013)

Randy & Alice (Vancouver 2013)