When a child is born, it arrives into a predetermined environment.
Hopefully that environment contains two parents that are willing to love, nurture and care for their child as long as they possibly can.
With any luck, this environment will also contain a cast of engaged characters, such grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings, all of whom have an interest in the child’s well being.
It turned out that when I made my appearance into our cozy little family, my characters were small in numbers but large in love.
As the first child born to Myrtle and Ralph, I had no siblings. They would rectify that situation over the next twelve years, adding two brothers and a sister to the mix.
I am extremely grateful that they did.
Sadly, my Dad’s parents had passed just months before I arrived, six months apart, so I never had pleasure of knowing them.
My mum’s parents came from diverse backgrounds. When Vincenzo Franceschini married Lydia Anne Pinkham in 1917, it caused quite a scandal in conservative, very English Toronto.
But love conquers all, and in 1921 my mother was born. She was to be their only child.
My grandfather Vincenzo had changed his given name to ‘James’ shortly after arriving in the new world from Italy in 1905. Having been named after him, there is a good chance I could have been ‘Vinnie,’ if he hadn’t made the switch.
James was an industrious, hard working man that over many years and after several ups and downs, established a group of companies, some of which are still in existence today.
Next to my parents, my grandmother Annie was the center of my universe. Gran had a lady friend, also named Annie, that was a young spinster and full of energy. Because my grandfather travelled extensively, the two ladies were inseparable. Basically, both of them were my grandmothers.
My dad, Ralph, was an amazing guy. A talented athlete in high school, his hockey coach told him that the only way he could stop opposing players from slowing him down was to jump over them.
Well, he jumped, and he jumped, and he ended up being the North American men’s figure skating champion in 1941.
He also won medals in pairs, ice dance and ‘fours,’ which was two couples skating together.
Ralph went on to be a major in the Canadian army during World War Two, and after returning home safely, acquired his law degree and started a career that spanned five decades.
He also judged seven winter Olympics as Canada’s figure skating judge, and was made a member of our figure skating Hall of fame.
A man of great character and charisma, he was a warm, wonderful father.
My mother Myrtle was a lady of real beauty, both in appearance and loving kindness.
It could be said that she lead a privileged life, but having an Italian surname during the 1930’s and 40’s in Toronto was often difficult, especially after Canada and Italy ended up on opposing sides during the war in Europe.
Her family mattered above all, and it was for them that she fulfilled an obligation to take on her father’s business interests during the last portion of her life.
Her sudden, tragic death at age forty-six left a void in our family that would never be filled.
My siblings, Martin, Paul, and Michelle, experienced the good times as well as the bad, and we have a familial bond that remains strong to this day.
My business concerns focused mainly on commercial real estate, although there were several educational and entertaining sidelines along the way.
I was married for the first time in 1976. My wife Carol gave me two beautiful daughters, and life was good.
Until… she began to suffer from anxiety/depression, and finally succumbed shortly after her fortieth birthday.
These were very sad times for everyone that had known and loved Carol, but with the help of family and friends we persevered and carried on.
My girls and I were lucky to find an angel, a longtime family friend, Annie, who had gone through a disruptive time in her own home life as well.
Along with her son and daughter, our blended family has been together for over twenty years now.
The moral of my story is that life has many ups and downs. Cherish the good times, and cope the best you can with the bad times. Life does go on.
I think my children and grandchildren would say that they had a loving, nurturing, caring cast of characters around them when they arrived into this world, just as I did.
Watching them grow up has been, and still is, the greatest joy in my life.