Tag Archives: family

Al Would Have Been 70

Great picture of my brother, who died in 2012. He would have been 70 today. I would love to talk to him again, and especially would love his take on Trump, populism and such. Easily the smartest person in our family, though he always was humble and said that title — along with “the funniest” — belonged to our mother. This picture is from Christmas 2005.
alan2005christmas

“Villanelle” for Vera Brittain

Beautiful poem written by Roland Leighton for Vera Brittain. It was April 1915 and he was serving in France. He was killed by a sniper eight months later. (I dearly wish I had some of my uncle’s poems to his fiancee, Christine, but any letters she received, of course, stayed with her. If she kept them, perhaps her children have them – I have a hope one of her kids will see my other site and contact me, but it is possible she may never have told them about Norman.)

Violets from Plug Street Wood,
Sweet, I send you oversea.
(It is strange they should be blue,
Blue, when his soaked blood was red,
For they grew around his head:
It is strange they should be blue.)

Think what they have meant to me –
Life and hope and Love and You
(and you did not see them grow
Where his mangled body lay
Hiding horrors from the day;
Sweetest, it was better so.)

Violets from oversea,
To your dear, far, forgetting land
These I send in memory
Knowing you will understand.

Six Years

My brother died six years ago today. I never have sufficient — or original — words for this anniversary, so I’ll leave it to John Ford. Alan was a big fan of Ford’s films (as am I), and Ford was fond of one hymn in particular. Enjoy these scenes from Tobacco Road, My Darling Clemetine, Wagon Master, Seven Women, Stagecoach, The Searchers and Three Godfathers.

Alan adored The Searchers, in particular.

The Importance of the “Block” Option

Large families are sometimes romanticized, but I am here to tell you that they are also often highly over-rated. Paul Gosar could tell you the same. I was thinking about this, when I stumbled upon a months-old column about Israel and the Mavi Marmara, in which an anti-Israel “activist” who was aboard the boat admits that the Israelis did not initiate the violence. No kidding. Was there ever any doubt?

What is the connection between these two topics? Well, I have a relative who is a bullying anti-Semite (cough, “anti-Zionist”, cough), who spent the better part of the first 18 years of my life putting me through unmitigated hell. Now, when the Mavi Marmara news hit the headlines, I wrote a story in the National Post about it. Aforementioned bullying relative (“BR,” for purposes of expediency) then sent me an email comparing the incident to the Achille Lauro (and comparing the Israelis to the terrorists). He also went on to accuse me of having written (on my previous blog) that I don’t believe in fact-checking. A lie and absurd, of course. I am a journalist and a historian (albeit, an amateur historian) and facts are what interest me the most. BR further asserted that he believed in “rigorous fact-checking.” Another lie.

So I wrote back to BR saying, “Put the words ‘fact’ and ‘check’ into the search box on my blog and anything I have written containing those words will come up. I guarantee I have never written that I don’t believe in fact-checking.” So BR writes back saying he is not good at technology and can’t put words in a search box and click. Yet another lie.

We went back and forth a couple of more times, with him trying to weasel out of his lies and me finally saying, “Follow your own advice and fact-check.” When I sent that message it bounced back with the message that I had been blocked. Bullies hate it when you get the better of them.

I forwarded the message chain to my oldest brother, Alan (far and away the smartest person in our family, and now deceased, sadly), who couldn’t stop laughing at BR’s assertions. Few things, said Alan, were more ridiculous than the notion that BR believed in checking facts in any capacity, least of all rigorously. Alan also gave me this advice: eventually BR will start messaging you again. Before that even begins, block his email address. So I did. It was great advice.

I also forwarded the message chain from BR to a non-family member to see if they thought I was making too much of it. Nope, they replied, this person is obsessed with you, and with hurting you, and is clearly deeply jealous of you. This person is nasty. He gave the same advice as Alan – block BR.

The moral of this story? Make sure your email program has a “block” option, something I’m assuming Gosar has already done. (A side note: if I had to wager a guess, I’d say the Gosar family divisions go far deeper than politics.)