In this post, and likely a number of future posts, I’d like to share pieces of the project I’m currently working on, my autobiography – ‘My Story, Mostly’. The project was intended originally to be a private memoir for Family Members who might like to know more of what happened in my life, especially as how it might explain a few things that may have affected their own lives, like genetic flaws. But because I am an author and hope that I write well enough to ‘entertain, possibly to educate’, I’ve found that others have shown interest in my story, partly to know me a bit better, and partly to enjoy more of my writing, or perhaps merely voyeurism. And since I’m not that famous people may only want to read it for entertainment value, not for history.
My autobiography is not written in the traditional chronological format – though a certain amount of logic requires ultimately there is some linearity to it – but more thematic: What were the top songs of my formative years (I chose 1962/63 as the reference point rather than the year I was born (1947), which, as far as I can tell, had very little effect on me, though it may have had a large effect on my parents)? what were medical events in my life? What are my favourite things (these are a few of my favourite things???). This means the memoir/autobiography is trivial(!) in that it is loaded with information and observations of a life in the second half of the 20th century. That would allow you to pick it up almost at random, open it anywhere, and be informed, hopefully entertained.
But any book has to have a beginning and so we may as well start at my beginning:
I was born on August 27, 1947; at 5:00 pm, I was told, just in time for dinner. My Baby Book records that I was 22 inches long and weighed in at 7 lbs, 11 oz. (Amazing how humans feel compelled to keep worthless statistics.) The source, of course, was my mom – I’m not sure my dad ever told me anything about my birthday, nor much else about my life, as we shall soon see.
I was born at The Nichols, a purpose-built (1890) medical centre, two-story brick building on a hillside overlooking the Otonabee River in the ‘North End’ of Peterborough (Ontario, Canada). (It was converted to a seminary when the new Civic Hospital was built in Peterborough’s ‘West End’ in 1950, and subsequently demolished and replaced in 1981.) It would have been a bit of a drive for my parents as they lived in the ‘South End’ at the time; and maybe they didn’t even have a car and my Grandfather Holden did the driving. (I capitalized these locational words because that’s what they do in Peterborough: There was an ‘east end’ too but it wasn’t called that (hence no capitalization), rather it was ‘East City’. There’s probably a reason for this but I never asked, and I’m not motivated enough to research it.)
August 27 in 1947 was a Wednesday (hence my life was destined to be ‘full of woe’) and in the midst of a heat wave – ‘hottest day of the year’ Mom would often say. (But in this she must have been mistaken; according to Environment Canada the temperature for August 27 was 77o Fahrenheit (25o Celsius); it was 90 (32.2) on August 24, and 82 on August 30; (on August 12 it was 92 (33.3)the hottest day of the year); so it was a hot summer that year but, not August 27.) Mom never was fond of the heat and she must have suffered from it, especially as a young woman in labour in that non-air-conditioned medical hotel. I’m not sure how many hours she was in labour; I have the impression it was many. Sorry Mom.
But I was truly wanted. And yet she must have been extremely fearful, though not from the heat, or the labour.
I was not the first born of Bill and Queenie Jordan. Mom had had a previous pregnancy in 1945 (I think) but the baby was still-born or died at birth, and Mom herself had a near-death experience in the labour. Mom never provided details of this traumatic event except to tell of her sense of traveling a tunnel towards a bright light, and believing she was going to meet her Maker. She never spoke of the poor dead infant – I suppose they had a name for her but I don’t know what it was; she may have had severe birth defects, and certainly Dad never spoke of this terrible time. I’m pretty sure there is no grave.
But I survived, evidently with few defects.
My parents were married in 1942, August 2; Mom was only 17 (born 1925 March 2), Dad was a lad of barely 20 himself (born 1922 June 25). We wonder today at how young they were to be getting married. The first and most obvious question is, who in hell let them get married when they were mere children? Mom finished high school at age 14 (she jumped a lot of grades during grade school) and then worked in the A&P grocery store; later with her dad in the Britton Carpet. Mom, being a minor, had to get permission from her father to marry. (Dad would have been a minor too but I doubt he had to get permission.) She may have been only 17 in 1942, but by the standards of the day, she was pretty much all grown up. I’m not at all sure what Dad did: he left high school after Grade X, but I don’t know whether he lived in Peterborough then or somewhere else. Toronto? Assuming he left school at age 15, what did he do in the intervening five years? In any event, how and when did they meet? How long was the chase? It was ‘Wartime’, following 10 years of ‘The Great Depression’, and the drive to get on with life must have been compelling for everyone. It’s easy enough to see what the motivation was: they were good looking kids: Dad was maybe 5’8” and 135 pounds, soaking wet, and likely horny; Mom was built for comfort but the daughter of an austere United Church Orangeman. Probably marriage was the only way around this.
By default I was the eldest child. I had two younger brothers, Steve and Jim. Still do. I’m sure Mom wanted them as much as she wanted me but I’m sure ‘I was the favourite’, which carried its own burdens. Steve and Jim were also relatively defect-free, though Jim did have a problem at birth, hypospadias, and went through three surgeries for it to be corrected. Must have worked out okay as he went on to have four kids of his own, but I often wondered, later in life, how much that early surgery and separation from parents (in those days parents were not allowed to stay with their children in hospital) affected him. Brother Steve had no obvious defects, but he had (likely still has) dyslexia and I remember the poor bugger having to spend the entire summer (1958), every morning at the kitchen table in Sudbury, learning to read under patient Mom’s ruler. I don’t remember if I tortured him with hidden smirks.
‘My Story, Mostly’ will continue in future posts, though in no particular order. Some of it isn’t even written yet. It’s hard dredging up one’s story from the recesses of one’s mind, some of which might not even have happened.
Doug Jordan, reporting to you from Kanata, Canada
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