Medals and Milestones


There were 11 of us in all.  Sitting four rows from the front, and through the sopping umbrellas, I catch a glimpse of the familiar American Legion cap on one of the veterans.  I stifle a sob in my throat.  It could have been our Dad.  It was our Dad last year.  His name is called and my Mom and I hustle over to join the line of those laying wreaths in memory of those who have fought for our freedom; so many making the ultimate sacrifice.  Major Robert P. Smith, WW2 veteran, U.S. 5th Army, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Reserve and founding member of the American Legion Post 19 lived a long life.  He was 87 and had been honoured many times for his post war service.  It's another milestone.
Since our Dad passed away five days before Christmas last year, we have soldiered on through all of those difficult milestones without him:  Easter, Fathers' Day, his birthday, Thanksgiving and now possibly the most poignant of all, Remembrance Day.

There is another milestone I'm observing this week.  Five years ago,  I said good-bye to colleagues and viewers who had followed my career, my various news reporting and anchoring positions and work in the community for more than 30 years . At the time it was devastating but the years and life itself  somehow put what we think will be the end of us into perspective.  Maybe it prepared me for what was to come, the tears but also the joys.

My long time friend Rosanne who also lost a job that day posted a beautiful message on Facebook marking our mutual milestone.
5 years ago this past week, a very important door closed on me. What I knew as work was no longer. As difficult as the following months and even a couple of years were with friendships lost, loss of my identity etc. many lessons were learned.
People come and go in life, with those that I no longer am in touch with, I have beautiful memories. For those of you that are still around, I am blessed
to call you my friends.
As the saying goes, one door closes another one opens..... I have met wonderful, inspiring people while on this path and chapter in my life.
5 years have now passed and if i can give a little piece of advice for those of you that feel stuck in a situation, move forward and grasp at any positive opportunity that comes along.
It's amazing what you can do, if you only step forward a little and try. It took me almost 30 years to figure that one out! 
Like Rosanne I have  embraced all kinds of new opportunities, am still involved in my community and have the best boss in the world:  I only work between rush hours and usually take Fridays, even Mondays off and she lets me say yes or no to new projects.  My pay cheque isn't as regular as I'd like but my schedule allows me to spend more time with my family, friends and one-year-old Millie.  My new boss is me.
I like my freedom and to be valued as "me".  I used to think if it didn't happen on TV, it didn't matter. I have since learned that most poignant and life-changing moments unfold far away from microphones and cameras and don't need media to be meaningful (although, granted, the media can certainly help by bringing communities together and sharing the stories of those in need with those in a position to give; a message I will always convey to my students and in my public addresses!) 
Like my Dad, I have been honoured over the years with awards and medals.  I felt guilty at the thought of wearing them for I have never been and will never ever reach the stature of our heroes who so deserve them.  But my Dad insisted I do.  He was there, cane in hand, when I was presented most recently with the Order of Ontario. He taught me how to wear those medals proudly, over the heart.  So I wore them, proudly, at his military funeral.  And I wore them this Remembrance Day, by my poppy.  
After the cenotaph service, my family visited the Queen's Head Tavern in Burlington where for the past 20 or so years, my Dad met with fellow warriors for a dram of whiskey and a beer, a Bud, in honour of his American birth.  And there at the table where he sat all those years, his dram and beer sat in memorial.  I  learned from one of his many, many soldier friends who greeted us that day that protocol allows immediate family members to wear the medals of a fallen veteran, on the right side.  Next year, we will polish up those medal.  Our Mom will wear them, proudly and I will wear mine proudly too.