Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Andy's Speech

Sorry for interrupting your desserts andconversations; I'll try not to speak for too long. I have some inadequate thanks to offer. Before I say too much I would like to tell you all that one of the lingering effects of my strokes, or perhaps a side-effect of the pills is that I have become untrustrworthy as regards my emotions: I regularly collapse into tears -- thought the provokation may seem slight; and as there is nothining slight sbout the emotion I feel tonight, I apologize in advance for what I will not be able to prevent. Given the circumstances of my health, many good people have reacted with concerrn when I start to cry -- which is somethng those people have not been accustomed to seeing. So far my unimaginative response has been "don't concern yourselves until you hear a thump" I offer the same to you.tonight, please excuse my tears.
As long as I am on my feet I am physically Okay, I have been told that tears are no bad thing: A little inappropriate at times but nothing more.Please excuse me and do not concern yoursleves unless you hear that thump.The truly embarrassing lingering affect of these strokes is the necessity of using my sleeve to mop up around the left side of my mouth. Miss Manners, one of the authorative voices in the Teahouse from the beginning, would find such behavior utterly inappropriate: Gentle Reader,would it be so difficult to plan to have hankerchief about your person.My apologies to you all. I did bring tissues tonight, but have used them all.

With excuses for my current frailties, let me me thank you all for coming tonight, thank you for all the kind words you have spoken, for your prayers, your gifts, for the hands you have offered and for the embraces you have wrapped me in. One of the many warm things that Karyn has wrirtten in her blog speakes of the value physically and spiritually of a hug.On the basis of hugs alone, what you you have given me tonight is beyond measure -- how can any word of thanks be sufficient when the gift cannot be measured, The many prayers that have been offered up for me, are a clear sign that you have received and have been humbled by a gift that cannot be measured You understand my trouble tonight as I struggle to thank you for what has been given by you and through you. I have been told tonight that I was spared on that Sunday morning in October because there is still some small part of God's plan that I am to fulfill, Please pray that I don't foul that up as I did the opportunity of coming among you in the embrace of Karyn's love to participate in the TeaHouse. I was offered an unmeasurable gift when I was brought here but being to rooted in dreams of my own and ignorance, I turned away, and never even thought to offer thanks.Some of the mistakes we make can be corrected and some remain with us to steal our peace as we continue to torment ourselves for what we did or failed to do. The worst I have suffered is the knowledge that desipite the greatest forgiveness, I cannot forgive myself, I do not dream of the possibility of undoing what I have done -- I hope that I gain the wisdom to understand what I am doing and never again do something thing I cannot forgive..

As a step in that direction, let me continue giving thanks. Though my thanks to all who have come here is inadequate, your kind words and the warmth of each embrace has told me that whatever thanks I am able to give has been received in the spirit in which it is offered. Though I would not in so doing slight the contributions of any one of you, I would offer my particular thanks to Morley and Donna Ramsey. It was the two of them who concieved this night and helped bring it into being. Morley compensated for my inabily to drive by briniging me out here, And he and Donna offered me food and a welcome in their home, The first thought that ran between my ears on crossing their threshold was: " If Karyn had seen this she would have wanted the Teahouse to be here..Morley's continuing friendship has done so much for me since I made my great mistake. I need not repeat that there is no meaure of thanks that we can offer to our firends for what they give, but our friends forgive our shorcomings. Morley, thank you.

And Now let me offeer my thanks to Karyn. No amount of thanks is measurable to what Karyn has given to me. Nor is any amount of apology measureable to the failure I have been to what she expected I would be. I hope that the harm I have done to her fades into the forgotten past and does not affict her for another day. What she has given me is so great -- I look to her gifts to guide me through all the days yet to come.

When Morley first suggested the possibility of tonight to me; My first response was no -- I thought of the burden it would put on Karyn -- She works so long and hard already, I know what it is to add a event like tonight to the daily effort of operating the Teahouse. It is to my great shame that I have to acknowledge that had circumstances been different and I was still here and operating the Teahouse with Karyn,and someone else had been knocked down by a stroke or two. I would have objrected to to tonigght-- some complaint would have fallen from my lips and I would have created enough of a fuss to spoil the evening for Karyn and the memory of it for both of us. The event would have taken placedespite my objections because Karyn wanfed to happen and it was the "right" thing to do-- the kind of thing we had in mind when we talked about what tbe Teahouse could be. It would have happened but not until I had ruined the memory we wouqld have had of it of it, and I had mae i something that I would be embarrassed o recall. Again, my thanks, inadequate as the are, to Karyn for taking on the burden of opening her doors and alowing me to feel the love that I have felt tonight.

Something more than adding to Karyn's burden crossed my mind when Moley suggested this night: an apparently needless concern cossed my mind: I am always worried about how I will be received in Three Hills. As I drive up highway 21 with the lights of town in sight, it strikes me that there may be people who have sat at home on weeknights and have had it cross their minds that:"if only that guy had not been so weak and stupid, the Teahouse would be open tonight." And what about people trying to organize birthday lunches? I apologize to everyone for causing the Teahouse hours to be restricted. I have been amazed by Karyn from the first time I chatted with her in the coffee room in the office where we both worked -- that amazement has done nothing but grow , particularly when she told me she was going to reopen -- She is something else isn't she! I am so sorry for not carrying on with her dream-- may the Teahouse carry on as the treasure it is for many years to come.

As I have not been able to chat with everyone tonight,I thohgh I would say a few words about the path that broughf me here. I have been fortunate enough to spend most of the summer at my sister's home on lake MacGregor. My sister, Alison, is brilliant woman who has had a long successful career in the mortgage business.She has done this on her wits alone, after finishing high school in Montreal, she did not get any post seconary education, my parents University savings having been wasted on me. Fifteen years ago, Alison and her husband Mike bought 8 acres of waterfront oatfield on the east side of Lake MacGregor. I have been a regular there ever since. The first few years we were all in tents and touques. After that we put together a couple prefab sheds -- one became a bunkhouse for them and the other served as an outhouse -- I stayed in a tent. After a couple more years they built a garage--..some garage:it had a fridge, stove, microwave, and a bedroom for them, I slept on a couch or in the boat. Ten years or so later they built a house. I got the bedroom in the basement. A year and half ago they built a huge shop with an office for Mike, my brother christened it 'the Garagmahal, Soon after that they sold their house in Calgary and moved out to the lake fulltime. This spring, with me no longer working as a tech for a software company,.they invited me to live out there and handle chores they didin't have time for. As the downstairs basement had becomd my sister's office, I moved into the bedroom in the little garage. It was a beautiful arrangement.I called it my version of Walden. I spent my monings drinkinng coffee and writting a novel. I emerged at some time between one and two and did chores until suppertime at seven or eight. I was in that bedroom in the garage on Oct 2 when I woke up with a terrible cramp in my left leg.I tried tl ease it by pointing my toes at my chin, but that didn't work so I got out of bed and fell on the floor.I could squirm around on the floor but as I couldn't move my left asm or leg I couldn't get up. After what I guesses was about a half hour I regained ccontrol over my leg -- that was probably the longest, lonliest half hour of my life. I got up an managed to fall back into bed.I just stayed there for the rest of the morning. In the early afternoon Mike came out to the garage looking for me-- yelling about how lazy I was, -- he had been out doing what he usually does, helping a neighbour, and had come out to collect me so that we could go down th highway to a tree auction in the town of Blackie. My legs and arms were fine so I got out of bed and got dressed -- . I went up to the house like nothing was wrong and poured coffee in a go-cup for the trip, Everything was fine until I tried to drink s ome of the coffee -- as soon as it hit the back of my throat it came right back out, I tried a couple times and the same thing kept happening. Mike did a u-turn and said we were going back to the house; on the way I explained what had happened earlier, then I convinced Mike that going strght to the hospital was a bad idea. back at the house, I opened the door to the truck and tried getting out, I fell flat on the driveway. Mike was really rattled by this -- probably thinking that somehow this was going to end up being his fault when Alison got back from the business trip she was on. Mike got me back on my feet --I said I was okay but immediately pitched over and my head put a dent in the truck's passenger door. Mike then told me to stay put and went off to get a chair. with some struggle he got me into the chair -- I pitched forward out of it as soon as his back was turned. Again he told me not to wander off and that he was going for help. When he started the truckI thought he was going to run over me -- he didn't miss by much. He took off, leaving me rolling on the wet gravel drveway. Pretty soon a neighbour, John, came flying into the yard in his big white Crown Victoria. I was certain he was going to run me over. He and his buddy Neil got out and began yelling at me. When Mike got there, the three of them picked me up and pitched me into John's car. I was going to the hospital whether I liked it or not. I recovered the use of my left arm and leg in John's car during the wild ride to Milo -- It might have been a product of fear as we slid sideways toward the ditch. The road was a little washed out. John drove me to the firehall in Milo. A nice EMTive named Darlene checked me out. After a cosultation and some radio chatter an ambulance was called from Vulcan, with the idea of getting me to the hospital in High River..Later in hospital I was pleased to tell various doctors that I walked to the ambulance on my own. I was not so pleased to report that I had another stroke in the ambulance. In the ambulance all I could think of was the number of movies that include a scene where the ambulance doors pop open and the gurney and patient zip out onto the highway. The EMTs, two very professional guys did not let that happen, After some disscussion and more radio chatter during which I objected to being called middle-aged. The EMT said" you've had a stroke, you can't call yourself young anymore. The decision was made to skip High River and go straight to Calgary. The first thing they did in Calgary was a C/T Scan and give me the bad news that I didn' have a brain at all. The next day was wonderful. The curtains around the bed parted and there was Karyn smiling at me -- my condition began to improve immediately.

I thing nothing dramatic planned for the next while. The doctors told me two things when they let me out of the hospital: try to get back to your normal routine, and use common sense about what you do -- I told them I could do one or the other but not both. My medical condition is such that I am subject to seizures, which are no fun at all, so I am leaning toward the common sense option, The cause of the strokes has not gone away: it seems that the corated artery is built of a number of layers of tissue, On my right side the inside layers peeled away and folded over. completely blocking thr flow of blood, It seems that a clot formed on the downstream side. The doctors said that this makes corrective surgery too dangerous. They also said that I should avoid doing anything that included the chance of a blow to the head-- no more hockey or skiing. No one could be sure but it may be that the whole thing , the inner layer of the artery separating and folding over, was the result of a blow to the head, and from the timing it may have been trying for just too much 'air' while water skiing. It may turn out that in the long run, my last words were muttering to myself : a liitle more speed and I can land it.

Now I have to be wiser -- which has never been one of my strengths.


  1. I would like to thank everyone for their gifts and for the warmth I felt that night. I hope that I am able to maintain my connection to Three Hills: I have not forgotten my surprize at all the smiles and hellos that came my way as I walked along Main, or any other, street immediately after getting to town. The people in Three Hill understand and value the meaning of 'community'. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for posting the speech. It meant a lot to read it and hear Andy's words. We couldn't be there for the evening, and as I read the speech I thought, this must have been a great night. Love and community shine through the words and photos, and Andy, it's clear that you are still a big part of it. Community comes from people truly giving themselves away. Karyn does that, without fail, and here, so do you. Thank you.


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