Sunday, August 9, 2009

Eavesdropping, conversations and recollections

On Wednesday of last week, Anne and I had lunch at a restuarant in the ByWard Market area of Ottawa. We were entertained by the conversation from a group of four business men at an adjacent table. Their conversation centered around "greening" in the construction industry, particularly with respect to gypsum board (wall board). Apparently, in normal construction there is between five and ten percent wastage of this product. And this all goes directly to landfill sites. In Montreal, a pilot project has diverted this waste board to a comany that reprocesses the waste so it can be re-used. Transportation costs makes this Montreal site too costly as a destination for Ottawa's gypsum board, but a similar plant could be developed here.
This overheard conversation brought to mind another overheard conversation from the 1980s. This remembered was not entertaining.
At that time Anne and I were members of an Ontario Task Force on Services to People with Autism in Northern Ontario. One evening, after the day's sessions were over, we went out for supper on Toronto's Yonge Street. We chose a Chinese restuarant. As we sat down, another couple sat at a table behind us. This couple was composed of an elderly man and a young women in her twenties.
Their conversation was revealing, aweful and distressing. The elderly man, the young woman's uncle, was a survivor from one of the concentration camps of the Nazis during World War 11. His story was not about his surviaval but was about all his relatives, relatives of his niece, that had not survived these camps. The list went on and on. Ours was a very quiet meal that night.
It brought to mind another encounter I had with people who lived through such atrocities.
The attached photograph is of St. Edward's Mental Hospital, Cheddleton, Near Leek, Staffordshire in England. It was on the two-farm estate of this hospital that I was raised for my father worked as a baker there. During soccer season, one of the patients at the hospital arranged the hire of a bus to take patients, staff and staffer's children to see English League Soccer at the nearby city of Stoke-on-Trent. ( Stoke City and Port Vale were the league members). This patient also arranged dances for the patients and other activities.
I asked my father why this man was a patient at an insane asylum. The answer: "He was an inmate at one of the concentration camps during the war. It was his job to unload the gas ovens and bury or burn the bodies. The hospital was a safe place for him to live and hide from society."
After Anne and I left the Byward Market restuarant, we visited friends where the Down Syndrome son of the husband married the Down Syndrome sister of the wife. The son, Mark, was diagnosed with leukemia about 14 months ago. After a period of remission, the leukemia has returned and Mark has little time left to live.
During the remission period, our friends and the Down Syndrome couple went to Hungary, the country of origin of one side of the family. It was not a good visit, not because of the illness. The family found that fascism was rampant and growing there. "Others", people who were different, were not welcome. Remember that those murdered in the concentration camps, while primarily Jews, included people with developmental disabilities, gypsies and homosexuals.
History seems to be repeating itself once more.

1 comment:

  1. How terrifying! I know that the "Hitler's Youth" is growing again and I simply can't understand it. Perhaps that is why it is growing. It saddens me that after all this time, we are still kating each other for no real reason. I hope we can overcome it soon :)