Burning buildings

Some thoughts on my dad and his career as a firefighter

My father used to run into burning buildings for a living.

He was not a lot older than I am now when he retired.

By the end of his career?

His nerves where completely shot and he couldn’t look up.

When he worked?

His crew was always first on scene.

Not because he was fast.

But because if something was on fire or people were trapped in a car, the fire would have to be put out or, the car would have to be cut open before anyone else could work.

My father saved lives. He saved lives of children.

When the local Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals caught fire?

My dad saved cats.

(he wasn’t a dog person, he let Bernie take care of that)

My dad even made the newspaper when he was just 28!

Someone growing weed in their flat caught fire

This was in the 70’s

People were then, as we are now, remarkably strange.

This call?

My father saved giant boa constrictor.

I was proud to be the son of a firefighter.

Every now and then though?

The shadow of that job emerged.

Over the last few years he has softened.

Over the last few years more of the details have come out.

The skeleton of the woman on her mattress

People used to smoke in bed Jimmy. We didn’t have fire retandant materials then. It didn’t go well

Or the constant kitchen fires.

People used to drink more Jimmy. They’d put a vat of oil on the stove and pass out drunk. Next thing? Body bag. Don’t drink and cook kid.

There were times that coming home was not safe for me.

That was around the time of the car accident he arrived at.

Playing with matches?

That really brought out a large, violent reaction.

The stories have kept coming.

This is where I found the arm of one guy. A couple of the heads were over here

The story of the king cab truck carrying a welding rig.

Unfortunately the welding rig wasn’t bolted down

What’s worse?

They hit a tree.

The rig kept going and cut the four of them in half.

At the rink with my son, I love hearing him talk to his old cronies.

I don’t care what anyone tells ya, there’s always one that gets ya. For me it was a little boy. He looked just like you Jimmy…

His voice trailed off. His eyes glassed over.

His friends nodded in agreement, sharing their own stories.

But none of us had PTSD. It hadn’t been invented yet.

The most important part of civil engineering has a lot to do with inter-generational trauma: Shit flows down hill.

I was at the bottom.


I like to think I led my dad out of it.

When he retired - just days before his 50th birthday - he started clowning in dinner theatre plays at his church.

He slowly became less grave, more alive.

He knows in his bones that there’s not a shred of evidence to suggest that life be taken seriously.

Thank you Dad.

One Derful Thing

We’ve been working on juggling the last few weeks.

We’ve been working on dropping balls.


So much of the time we over do the number of balls we throw.

We take on too much.

Balls start falling.


We’re going to start with something simple

Throw a ball up and catch it with the other hand.

Repeat the process going the other way.

What ball do you refuse to drop?

Do this thirty times with your left hand and thirty times with you right hand.

Let me know how it goes.