Bike Around

Speak­ing as some­one who watched his father slide into demen­tia, this is very inter­est­ing.

To com­bat [mem­o­ry loss, researcher Anne-Chris­tine Hertz] built a pro­to­type called BikeAround, which pairs a sta­tion­ary bike with Google Street View to take demen­tia patients on a vir­tu­al ride down mem­o­ry lane. Patients input a street address of a place that means some­thing to them—a child­hood home[,] for instance—and then use the ped­als and han­dle­bars to “bike around” their old neigh­bor­hoods.

Meet the researcher using Google Street View to help demen­tia patients with mem­o­ry loss—via Google.

Let’s Talk

Hey. Just a warn­ing: This isn’t an easy read. It wasn’t easy to write, either.

Today is Jan­u­ary 25th, when Bell, inspired by a spir­it of bound­less com­pas­sion*, will give a pile of mon­ey to men­tal health ini­tia­tives, so long as you tag your dis­cus­sion cor­rect­ly. So… here’s my 5¢ worth, I guess.

As some of you know, my dad recent­ly died. He was in a nurs­ing home for years before he left us, a vic­tim of pret­ty severe demen­tia. So in a way, he died twice: once in the mind, slow­ly falling away over years, and then in body, lat­er, more quick­ly.

Even before the demen­tia became appar­ent, there were hints of depres­sion. Maybe things could have been dif­fer­ent if he’d spo­ken up, or if we’d asked the right ques­tions. (Let’s talk, Dad.) Hind­sight is, of course, always 20/20, but Dad just wasn’t the type to talk about these things. (Nei­ther am I, real­ly. Not usu­al­ly.)

I’m like Dad in a lot of ways. I look like him, I sound like him, and many of his man­ner­isms and turns of phrase are deeply ingrained in me too. We both love sci­ence fic­tion. We both lack a spleen, thanks to a genet­ic con­di­tion whose name I nev­er learned.

But I’m also unlike him in a lot of ways. I do my best to go to the gym, which I think he might find a for­eign con­cept. I don’t like canned peas (grey salty sad­ness pel­lets), I enjoy kiwifruit and yogurt, I read the occa­sion­al fan­ta­sy nov­el.

Sometimes—not very often, but sometimes—I won­der if his fate is my fate. Peo­ple tell me that it’s not, and I do my best to lis­ten.


* I imag­ine there are tax ben­e­fits, too.

Memories of JJ, 7 — Sartorial splendour


If you knew Dad, you knew he had his own sense of style. He wore moc­casins as much as he pos­si­bly could*. In the sum­mer­time, if he wasn’t wear­ing moc­casins, then he was bare­foot. (Well, maybe san­dals.)

At work and at play, he’d wear blue jeans and a but­ton-up short-sleeve shirt. Lat­er, after I’d left home, he dis­cov­ered den­im shirts. There was always a pen or a mechan­i­cal pen­cil in the shirt pock­et, and usu­al­ly a tube of Certs. (Remem­ber Certs?)

The only time you’d see his legs was at the beach, in a bathing suit**. Oth­er­wise, like I said: jeans.

* I wore jeans and moc­casins at his funer­al. It just seemed right.

** Which reminds me of anoth­er fun time. We were camp­ing up at Blue Lakes. My sis­ters and I were swim­ming, and the water was cold. Like, my thumb­nails turned blue cold. Dad, from the shore, asked how the water was. “Fine,” we said, and he ran in. And then com­plained all the rest of the weekend—and for years lat­er, let me tell you—about his damn kids lying to him.

My dad passed away recent­ly. I hope you’ve enjoyed my lit­tle memo­ri­als to him. This is the last one in the series, but rest assured, I’ll prob­a­bly men­tion him again. Thanks for read­ing.

Posted in JJ.

Memories of JJ, 6 — Tar Fumes

(This one’s Susie’s, but I’m steal­ing it.)

Dad was, shall we say, not a fan of The Simp­sons. (Nei­ther is Mom, for that mat­ter.)

Susie was home for the week­end, or maybe for the sum­mer. She was down­stairs watch­ing The Simp­sons. It was the episode where Ralph falls in love with Lisa, and makes the mis­take of telling Homer that he’d do any­thing for Lisa.

Any­thing?” says Homer. Aaaaand smash cut to the scene above.

Just at that moment, Dad walked into the room. He laughed. And as I’ve men­tioned before, Dad didn’t gen­er­al­ly laugh aloud unless some­thing real­ly tick­led him.

Susie gave him a Bust­ed! look.

He still refused to watch The Simp­sons, though.

My dad passed away recent­ly. I’m going to be post­ing lit­tle mem­o­ries of him for the next lit­tle while. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Memories of JJ, 5 — Dietary quirks


Everyone’s got things they like to eat and things they’d rather not share a plan­et with. For instance, I love lasagna*/** and loathe turnips.


How do you eat your French toast? But­ter and syrup, right? Maybe some whipped cream and berries, yeah? Not Dad. No, he’d but­ter it, add salt and pep­per, and then slice it up and dip the pieces in straw­ber­ry jam.

I asked him once why he ate it that way. “When I was up North,” he told me, “I’d nev­er had French toast before. Some­one told me it was like scram­bled eggs mixed into toast. So I rea­soned that you put but­ter and jam on toast, and salt and pep­per on eggs.”

Try it. It’s deli­cious. (Rasp­ber­ry jam is also a great choice.)


Dad hat­ed yogurt. Hat­ed it. For years I wouldn’t eat it, because I assumed he was right. (He told me once that it looked, and I quote, “like the end prod­uct of a sick horse.” But he enjoyed cot­tage cheese. Go fig­ure.)

Also he refused to eat kiwis. “I’m not putting some­thing in my mouth that’s that shade of green.” I used to real­ly enjoy eat­ing them right beside him. I’d even exag­ger­ate the smack­ing sounds that are pret­ty much de rigeur when you eat kiwi.

(Hmmm. Read­ing this back, it appears I might be a ter­ri­ble son. Oh well. Je ne regrette rien.)

* I don’t much care for Mon­days, either. Maybe I’m Garfield.

** Also, Dad taught me how to make lasagna Flo­ren­tine, which is the best. Maybe I’ll make some this week.

My dad passed away recent­ly. I’m going to be post­ing lit­tle mem­o­ries of him for the next lit­tle while. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Memories of JJ, 4 — Resemblance

I look a lot like my dad. Every­one tells me that. (At the care home, on the day before he died, one of the admin­is­tra­tors, meet­ing me for the first time, said, “Yeah, you look like him.” With the gal­lows humour I also inher­it­ed from dad, I thought (but didn’t say) Hope­ful­ly you mean before, because I scarce­ly rec­og­nized him any­more.)

I sound like him, too, and have pret­ty much since my voice quit crack­ing after puber­ty. More than once, when I lived at home (or, lat­er, was vis­it­ing), I’d answer the phone and have some­one call me JJ and ask me if I’d like to go for cof­fee, or if I could grant an exten­sion on a com­put­er sci­ence assign­ment*, or some­thing like that. It always seemed to throw the caller for a loop when I’d say “Uh, hang on,” and give Dad the receiv­er.

The oth­er day, I was wash­ing my hands in the bath­room sink, and I hap­pened to look up at my reflec­tion. Some­thing about the set of my mouth—a lit­tle wry smirk—and the stub­ble of a week’s worth of not shav­ing, com­bined with my eyes under, let’s face it, shag­gy old-man eye­brows, real­ly looked a lot like he used to. Back when he was my dad, not a lost stranger liv­ing in the care home.

I look like him. I sound like him. I car­ry on.

* That only hap­pened once, I think. As tempt­ed as I was to mess with the caller, I hand­ed the phone over to Dad.

My dad passed away recent­ly. I’m going to be post­ing lit­tle mem­o­ries of him for the next lit­tle while. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Posted in JJ.

Memories of JJ, 3 — Keys


Let’s not talk about how he’d clean his ears with his keys, OK? Let’s just not.

Instead here’s a sto­ry from my days as a high-school stu­dent.

I was one of the nerds* that worked on the year­book. One day, at home, I real­ized I’d for­got­ten some­thing in the year­book office. It wasn’t any­thing of seri­ous consequence—I hadn’t left my French home­work or any­thing like that—but Dad had to go get some­thing from the wood shop, and so I went with him.

Dad had a mas­ter key to the school, because he was the type of per­son that had a mas­ter key to the place where he works. (I asked him one time why that was; he shrugged and told me “Peo­ple trust me” with a lit­tle lop­sided smile.) Once he’d retrieved what he need­ed from the shop, we stopped in next door at the year­book office… where his mas­ter key refused to work.

After a cou­ple min­utes of jig­gling the key and jig­gling the door­knob, he pulled out the key, exam­ined it up close (rais­ing his glass­es up his fore­head to do so), and said, “Huh.”

Then we went back into the shop, where he fired up the met­al grinder nor­mal­ly used to sharp­en chis­els. He filed off a lit­tle bit of his mas­ter key. Sparks flew, briefly.

The new­ly-reshaped key worked, and I was able to retrieve my for­got­ten item.

I spent the next few weeks try­ing to decide if Dad was a lock­smith man­qué or a wiz­ard. (Even­tu­al­ly I real­ized that a wiz­ard prob­a­bly wouldn’t clean his ear with a key.)

* Dweebs? Geeks? What­ev­er, we had fun. Name me anoth­er group that got high** on rub­ber-cement fumes on their lunch break.

** Well, gid­dy, at any rate.

My dad passed away recent­ly. I’m going to be post­ing lit­tle mem­o­ries of him for the next lit­tle while. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Memories of JJ, 2 — Solicitors

I was about twelve. Dad was watch­ing the news on CBC. There was a report about pros­ti­tu­tion, and the reporter made the point that, in Cana­da, pros­ti­tu­tion was legal, but solic­it­ing a pros­ti­tute wasn’t. I was old enough that I had a han­dle on what pros­ti­tu­tion was but I was con­fused about solic­i­ta­tion. So I asked Dad.

He explained that solici­ti­a­tion meant, in essence, a pros­ti­tute offer­ing sex for mon­ey.

Oh,” I said. After a moment I asked, “So why do they call him the Solic­i­tor Gen­er­al?”

Dad laughed hard­er than I think I’d ever seen him laugh in his life*. He nev­er did answer my ques­tion.

* One thing I inher­it­ed from Dad is the way he laughed. He would find a lot of things mild­ly fun­ny, enough for a smirk or a smile, but you knew he’d real­ly been tick­led by some­thing if he guf­fawed, loud and usu­al­ly with lit­tle warn­ing.

My dad passed away recent­ly. I’m going to be post­ing lit­tle mem­o­ries of him for the next lit­tle while. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Posted in JJ.

Memories of JJ, 1 — Ketchup

We went to McDonald’s every time we were in the city. Dad didn’t like the food, but we kids all did. So he would sigh and pull in to the park­ing lot and we’d all cheer from the back seat.

The ketchup pack­ets had just about enough in them for an order of fries. If you real­ly squeezed it out, you could make do with a sin­gle pack­et. Two pack­ets had way too much. Waste not, want not. So I got pret­ty good at squeez­ing every last mol­e­cule of ketchup onto my fries.

On one vis­it to the Gold­en Arch­es, I rolled the ketchup pack­et, start­ing care­ful­ly from one end, mak­ing sure every last drop went onto a fry. Fin­ished, I dis­card­ed the tight­ly-wound tube on the side of the tray. Dad, who had been watch­ing me with­out my real­ly notic­ing, sighed and said, “And yet you can’t do that with the tooth­paste.”

I’m in my for­ties now and I still think of this every time I’m get­ting to the end of a tooth­paste tube. (Or a ketchup pack­et.)

My dad passed away recent­ly. I’m going to be post­ing lit­tle mem­o­ries of him for the next lit­tle while. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.