We are here for the end of one stage of Pat’s journey and the beginning of her journey in heaven. I thought it appropriate to explain how our marriage journey began. Pat knew this was my favourite story and would kick me under the table when she sensed I was about to begin it yet again
Both Pat and I went to the Faculty of Library Science in 1968/69. On Fridays, some of us went pub crawling as soon as they opened at noon. We called it POETS Corner. Yes, you guessed it: it’s an acronym for Piss On Everything, Tomorrow’s Saturday. On Friday, November 15, 1968, Pat was a fellow student’s date at the Red Lion. I was attracted to her and sat beside her. When Steven Horne left her alone to talk to some of his buddies, I was there and since it was by now late afternoon, I asked her to supper. She said yes. She went home to Rochdale to change and I picked her up there. Rochdale had just opened and there were a lot of graduate students there, so you can’t assume that Pat was a hippy. (But we were kind of hippies – long hair and all.) We went to Hungarian Village on Bay Street.
We had the Transylvanian platter for two. That is, three salads, rice, fried potatoes, beef tenderloin, Hungarian sausage, bacon, grilled pork chop, Wienerschnitzel, cabbage rolls, and pickled beets, all accompanied by a full bottle of the Hungarian wine known as “Bull’s Blood”. Between us (though mostly Pat), we polished it all off. Then we had apple strudel and two each apricot brandies (remember, we started the date drinking beer all afternoon!). After Hungarian Village, we went to hear Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry at the Riverboat in Yorkville where we also had pastries and coffees. The date was not over yet, though it was past midnight. We went to Plaka, a Greek nightclub on Queen Street where we listened to Basuki players from Athens and threw dishes. There, we had two Zombies and a sharing tray of Greek cheese. I was thinking, boy, can this small girl ever eat and drink. I’m a foodie and was truly impressed. Got her back to Rochdale early Saturday morning and, after getting to know each other Hippie style, I proposed to her. She said “no.” Didn’t get much sleep before having to head off to my Saturday job at the undergraduate library at U of T. After work, I dropped by her place to ask her to Church on Sunday morning.
Pat accepted, and came to the Church of the Redeemer with me on Sunday; this confirmed that Pat was the girl for me. I used to pray nightly that the first girl that attended Church with me would be the girl I married. It took two more askings but on February 9th (4 days after my birthday), she said she loved me and would marry me. On Valentine’s Day, we went together to buy her engagement ring. Her finger was so slim the jeweller had to cut down a size 4. We were married at St. Stephen’s-in-the-Fields on June 21, 1969.
Oh, I should explain why she was able to eat so much on that first date. The National Library paid Pat a small monthly salary to go to Library School on the first of each month. Pat had used it to buy herself a new coat and had been living on rice for 15 days. She never ate like that again. However, for 47 years, every November 15, we made it a point to go to a Slavic restaurant to celebrate our first date. This past anniversary was the day we got the shock. Pat, who had been dealing with a strange blood clot in her legs, had accidentally taken a double dose of her anti-clotting medication and so went to emergency. The nurses and doctors were good natured, saying she was worrying about nothing. However, she then asked them to check out the pain under her sternum she’d been having. The Nurse Practitioner felt it, and didn’t like what she felt and ordered a CAT scan. Instead of celebrating the 48th anniversary of our first date, we sat in Emergency waiting for the results. Then came the news that Pat had pancreatic cancer, stage four. Huge shock! November 15, forever for me is now going to be mixed with the joy of our first date and the sorrow of that diagnosis.
Sorry, James and Erin, but Pat is my favourite writer. Always has been. She wrote books for kids. By kids, she meant children, tweens, young adults and anyone of any age who enjoyed a good story. She wrote what she loved to read: stories of adventure, mystery, suspense, and fantasy. Stories about ordinary people mixed up in extraordinary trouble. Stories, magical and haunting and sometimes bizarre, stories that creep into your imagination and your dreams — like mail delivered by the Goblin Postman. You have only to come to our house to see how much she loved reading and books. Every room in our house is full of books. For the over 48 years of our life together, she couldn’t get to sleep without a read. I am eternally grateful to my son who read every night to her at 7:30 during her far too brief palliative care at home.
Now I want to read to you Pat’s 1955 Christmas poem. She wrote it when she was seven. It shows she was destined to be a writer.
by Patricia Anne Smith
1955 age 7
Christmas is coming and everything’s jolly.
The doors and the windows are all decked with holly.
Christmas tree lights are seen from afar
And at the tip-top there’s always a star.
The stores and the houses, they all have a tree.
And Happy children all dance round with glee.
Mothers and fathers are going Christmas shopping.
And dozens of snowflakes are silently dropping.
The children are hanging their stockings up high
While old Santa’s visit is fast drawing nigh.
They climb into bed with a sigh and a yawn,
Eagerly waiting for morning to dawn.
Then they leap out of bed and down the stairs run,
And every small child is up with the sun.
And they open their presents. Says father, “Ahem!”
While they look to see what old Santa’s brought them.
There’s tin soldiers and balls and golden haired doll’s
And popcorn and candy. Everything’s dandy.
And tied on the tree are cute little things.
There are horns and balloons and little tin rings.
For Christmas dinner there’s a turkey fine,
And watermelon without the rind.
For dessert there’s pie and chocolate cake.
Come on, let’s eat, for goodness sake!
Stars and angels are our Christmas stories and poems. Father Neil, in The Church of the Holy Saviour Advent Newsletter, pointed out that Jesus promised his followers that they too would become morning stars. Pat died on Epiphany. On that day, the end of Christmas, Pat rose as the morning star in my heart. Her message to me is “be not afraid , I am still with you though now in Heaven.” She is preparing that place Christ promised for us in Heaven, as she prepared our journey here on earth for happiness. Thank you Fr Neil, I receive and share that message; its assurance indeed brings me peace, now and throughout the days that lie ahead. Pat, I’ll love you forever!