In the early 1980s, for almost four years, I wrote and recorded a 5-day-a-week 90-second thought-for-the-day, sponsored by the United Church of Canada, for cross-Canada distribution on independent radio stations. I called them Happy Homilies but I realise now they were blogs from above. I used to write about 15 of them and go in and tape them all, trying not to fluff anything, forcing a repeat, so as not to get hoarse before I finished. In all I wrote about 1000 scripts. My agent, Nancy Colbert, insisted on gathering them into books when she and her husband, Stan, took over Harper Collins Canada. Under the umbrella, "Betty Jane's Diary", my squibs (an appropriate word?) were given categories and published as little chapbooks: "Passages", "Celebrations"; "Lessons Children Taught Me"- something like that, I forget the exact titles.I called them bathroom readers.
I tell you all this so that you can understand how it was that Russell Meade showed up. Russell was a boy I remembered from elementary school who was accident prone. When our class went on a field/discovery trip to a local creamery, he got pasteurised and scalded his legs. When we went on a similar excursion to a candy factory, he got coated in chocolate. Willie Wonka would have been very annoyed. And when we went on a picnic, Russell lost his lunch. Everybody took pity on him and shared some of theirs and he ate so much that then he really lost his lunch. I forget now what was the moral of the story. At the time I developed a real knack for telling parables. I called myself a parabolic thinker. Anyway, I ended my little thought for that day with a question: "Russell Meade, where are you now?"
His sister saw his name in a copy of "Betty Jane's Diary" in a Vancouver book store and phoned him to tell him about it. He lived in Minneapolis then and I lived in Toronto. But somehow he contacted me and we both happened to be in Winnipeg and arranged to meet after some 40 years. We had a day-long date of reminiscences, including a trip back to our old school where we introduced ourselves and our reason for coming and were given a tour - necessarily a short one. The school we attended had been a four-room schoolhouse. We had actually been in the same room the last year we attended. We were in Grade Nine along with two other boys, and Grade Eleven, also with four students. How different we were and how different our lives were!
It was 1943. I was twelve and he was fourteen. All my male relatives and one female were in the forces, most of them overseas. For five years my mother was a single mother coping with a mortgage on an army doctor's salary, considerably less than his civilian income. I prayed every night for the end of the war and the safe return of my family. Russell took clandestine flying lessons and couldn't wait to get into the action. It was over before he was old enough. Just as well; with his luck he might have been hurt.