2 min read
14 Apr

Final farewells, consisting of happy hours, dinners, people dropping by my villa for a last hug and to send me off with best wishes for a bon voyage, viaje segura, filled my last 3 days in Villa Eureka.  My gardener outdid himself with a gorgeous bouquet not just the single stem he brought me most days.

Thursday morning, Vern, Monique and I climbed into the taxi, for the drive to Puerto Vallarta. 

Vern and Monique's flight was Friday.  My Westjet flight was Saturday and, just the way anyone would want it – uneventful.  Another couple from Villas Eureka were on the same flight as me.  It’s not much fun travelling alone, and I was feeling somewhat anxious about Pearson Airport.  They were a comfort to me.

My daughter, Dianne, was waiting for me at Arrivals.  What a delight to see her smiling face and get an enormous ‘welcome home’ hug from her.   She, son-in-law, Colin, and I headed to their home in Creemore where I’ll stay with them until Friday.  A great beginning to the six months I’ll be in Canada.   

Today, April 14th, has two sides - one side happy and the other side sad.   Today is the 40th anniversary of the death of my son, Michael.  He was killed in Montreal by a drunk driver. The driver got off on a technicality.  Our family, and everyone who loved Mike were not so fortunate - we are punished every day with his loss.  He was talented, intelligent, wise, funny, handsome - everyone who met him loved him.  He is missed every day.

The happy side of the 14th has a name - Amanda!  She is my beautiful granddaughter, born on the third anniversary of Mike's death.  Ever since her birth, April 14th can never again be a sad day because it is Amanda's birthday.  

"Happy birthday, darling Amanda.  Your birth was a blessing to our family and continues to be ever since.  Enjoy your day with your beautiful family - Brent, Cayden and Carter.  See you this summer.  Tons of love, Nana."

Last week I introduced you to my Probus presentation entitled "LEARNING IS A LIFELONG EXPERIENCE". This week I'll continue with Part 2:

"Like all students in Grade 8, I had to decide what high school to attend for grade 9.

Girls had few career options in those days.  They could become secretaries, teachers or nurses.  My strongest subject was math and I loved numbers.  I told my blue-collar dad I wanted to be a mechanical engineer.  He responded, "I wish you were a boy because you have the brains but you are a girl - you are going to get married young and have babies."

OK - back to the choices open to me - neither teaching or nursing held any interest, so I went to Central Commerce in Toronto to learn typing, shorthand and bookkeeping.

At the beginning of my 3rd year of high school, I had learned the basics of those skills and knew the next two years of school would be little more than practice.  I figured I might as well get paid while I practiced, so, on my 16th birthday, October 30, 1950, I quit school - never to go back!

I got a job as a stenographer earning the magnificent sum of $17 a week.  Today you can't get a burger for that!

By age 21, I had been married for 4 years (yes, we started early back then) and we had a year-old son, Michael, when an opportunity came up for a secretary to the president of Walter Thornton's Modelling Agency.  I applied and got the job.

After a few months, the president told me that I needed some grooming (which I did - I didn't even shave my legs for heaven's sake).  He gave me a free six-month modelling course in the evenings.

The course transformed me!

I resigned as the president's secretary but continued to work at the Agency, selling modelling and self-improvement courses, teaching those courses and working as a model.  The latter didn't pay very well unless you were in the top 10%, which I wasn't.

It was 1955 and TV commercials were just beginning to be filmed in Toronto.  I auditioned for a part in one of the first, but was turned down because I wasn’t a blonde.  

I said, "Give me 4 hours and I'll be back."  I raced to my hairdresser, told him I had 4 hours to become a blonde and then rushed back to the audition.  I got the part and I swore then that I would be a blonde till I died.  

At Walter Thornton's I got an education in cosmetics and skincare.  I had no idea then that this learning would become the base of a corporate career.

While working at Thornton's my marriage failed and I needed a more secure income than that of a model, so I returned to secretarial work.

Two years later, I remarried, had two daughters, Dianne and Denyse, and was a stay at home mom, living in the country on ten acres near Stouffville.  After several years, things weren't going too well in this marriage either.  My husband was unemployed and our debts were piling up.  We were heading towards bankruptcy.

(To be continued...)

My portrait of Michael with his beloved guitar, painted from the last photo taken of him before his death.

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