Disclaimer: Please read in full before proceeding.
[Disclaimer dated: August 22 2021]
These are true stories as retold by me, recounting the events that transpired both before I moved to Barrie in March 2021, through my time living there, and why it was so important for me to leave when I did.
These stories all contain real people & I do not in any way condone you reach out to any of the people depicted in this blog or any of the ones that follow.
If you yourself have been named in these texts as a supplementary character in some way, feel free to reach out about it. It’s near impossible for me to tell these stories with true accuracy if I omit the people within them, but I recognize that speaking out on these events and including real names has consequences, both for me telling them and for the way the public may view you & your character.
I have said from the outset that I do not know all the rules and regulations regarding how to handle these situations and I’m very much still learning; it is not my intent in any way to sway the public’s opinion of anybody, these are simply my personal experiences. To avoid naming some of these people in these stories would be like pretending they never happened, or would be downplaying the severity of some of the content here and it is my gut instinct that that would be the wrong approach given the nature of what has transpired over the last several months. Which is to say, these are my own perceptions of people and these events, and no one else’s, so take everything with a grain of salt from my personal saltbox.
At times the subject matter I discuss in these stories is at minimum unsettling and may be uncomfortable and triggering for some readers.
These stories are retold for awareness; Awareness of mental health initiatives and how necessary they are to our society, potential dangers and support resources for those that need them.
I discuss issues like: suspected child abuse, sexual assault, animal abuse, verbal & mental abuse, alcohol addiction and recovery, drug abuse and recovery, and so on; And within these stories I describe to you how I handled each situation as it happened – I do not recommend this as general advice; At the end of the day, they’re just stories.
All that said:
If you are currently in danger to yourself or others please dial 9-1-1 or the emergency line in your area.
If you are not in immediate danger but still require emergency assistance in some way, your local police department should have a non-emergency line. I’m personally based in York Region, so feel free to click this link for more info if you require it.
If you just want more information on some of these topics I mentioned above and how to handle them, you can try my Resources page.
I am not a medical professional or law enforcement or lawyer in any way; I’m a musician and a writer and this is a small part of my life story.
The following text has been published prior to the addition of this disclaimer. If you have any questions at any time, feel free to send me an email at your convenience.
I’m going to preface this post by saying, this blog series is a bit of a mouthful. There’s going to be a lot of information in the pages that follow and I’ll do my best to keep it concise, but if you’re been reading my blogs for a minute you’ll know that’s a bit of a challenge for someone like me. Besides, a lot of this stuff might not seem relevant as a stand-alone issue, but when you read it all in context, hopefully you’ll understand why I felt the need to write it this way.
For some better context, before beginning the story I’m going to reiterate a little bit about myself that I’ve said in previous blogs.
Prior to moving to Barrie, I had just recently moved back to my childhood home in Vaughan, Ontario to live with my parents and sister. I had to do this as I had separated from my husband and could not afford my own place on the salary I was making at OsgoodePD – York University.
For a bit of context on my marriage-woes, read my recent blogs titled:
These blogs are not to get you to listen to my music, but because they help show you the types of things I was dealing with before any of this even happened, which is to say, I’ve been on high alert now for some time.
I’m going to add a video introduction here which will serve to verify my identity and show you, yes I am a real person, yes these are real stories, yes this is very much how my life has shaped out to this point.
And finally, before I get underway, I want to let you know a bit about the key players I’ll be mentioning in this story. Some names have been omitted or altered in order to protect their identity where I felt it important to do so.
- The City of Barrie Police Department
- The City of Barrie Emergency Ambulance Team
- The City of Barrie Hospital Staff at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH)
- My upstairs neighbours at my former Barrie address; Rhonda and James, and their children who I will not name in order to protect their identity due to their age, but I will be talking about, because they’re largely the reason for this entire series.
- My former landlord/former York Regional Police Officer/former friend Mark a.k.a Skippy
- My assorted “friends” and family.
I recognize by sharing some of the following material, many people who I once considered good friends will no longer be interested in maintaining those friendships, and as much as that genuinely sucks, the other reason I am sharing all of this is because I almost wouldn’t have believed a word of it if it hadn’t happened to myself directly, and if it can happen to me, it can happen to you. Again, I don’t think there is any way for me to reasonably share my life story without including these people, these places, and these events, and to omit any of them would be to act as though they never happened, and they did.
I am not writing this out of spite or anger, but out of concern and frustration. I’m open to talking about any and all of this further assuming the conversation doesn’t take too negative a turn and we’re able to remain civil about it (this goes for me, too. I know I can be a little quick to get riled up these days… I’m working on it).
If you are in an abusive relationship in any way, it is completely okay to step away from those people and take care of yourself first, which is exactly what I do now. It’s not about you, it’s about taking care of me and the people I care about the best way I can.
This story will take place in several parts which due to the level of content I have to split up. For Part 1, continue reading on. At the bottom of this page, I’ll include a link to Part 2 through Whatever, and for those of you who are returning and might want to do some jumping around, here’s the complete Table of Contents.
Table of Contents
- Barrieland: The Complete Story (Part 1); You Are Here.
- Barrieland: Moving In (Part 2)
- Barrieland: Meet the Neighbours (Part 3)
- Barrieland: Ghosts, Ghouls & Other Things (Part 4)
- Barrieland: Home Alone (Part 5)
- Barrieland: Am I Losing It? (Part 6)
- Barrieland: Hello, I’d Like to Speak to a Medical Professional? (Part 7)
- Barrieland: Well Now That Doesn’t Look Right (Part 8)
- Barrieland: The Lost Files (Part 9)
- Barrieland: I Think It’s Time To Leave (Part 10)
- Let’s Talk About OsgoodePD – York University (A critical story; Part 11)
- Barrieland: Moving Out (Part 12)
In mid-October 2020 I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable in my King City home that I shared with my husband. We had already agreed to separate and had signed the appropriate paperwork, which I wrote myself after using a template I found on the internet. It is a legally binding contract, dated and signed by both parties with a witness.
I took care of this because we could not afford lawyers for our divorce and had chosen to handle it ourselves and work through the Ontario court system, which, has been a bit of a nightmare. I’ll probably at some point do a whole write-up on filing for divorce in Ontario without the aid of a lawyer, because I’ve learned a lot about it and it’s just a right mess; Hopefully, what I’ve learned can help you get through yours with less headaches. (As of writing this, I am still trying to just get the right paperwork in and it’s only 3-4 forms; Yes, seriously.)
Despite our paperwork stating that our separation happened on November 1st, 2020, I actually moved out mid-October. But our official end-date of our house rental was November 1st, 2020, so we stuck with that date to make things easier for us with the divorce. Shuffling around for dates in itself is a huge hassle and it’s way too easy to make mistakes.
I first moved out of my parents house at 23 years old in April 2013. It was never my intention or plan in any way to return.
Suffice to say, I was uncomfortable enough with just moving back in, especially being 30 years old and going through a divorce, but it got worse quickly for me in ways I both should have and just couldn’t have expected.
My mother is not a “bad” person by any means, but she is very particular.
She has what we call a “Double-A” personality; Where an “A-Type” personality is one who is strong with their convictions and hard to budge on issues (they make great business-people, CEO’s and the like), my mother is like that and then some. She can be outright scary when she’s upset about the way a person is speaking to her or handling an issue of hers. Of course, women have to be more like this in the business world if they want to succeed, or else men push them around and they get stuck in lower-ladder positions. And in most cases, people will push you around even more if you’re like this (because they’re usually threatened by you or jealous of your success in some way), so it changes you & the way you speak and deal with people.
This “personality type” is also a clever one, because she used to work for Pure Energy and Rayovac Canada; Battery companies. Get it? Double-A personality? Like… like, the batteries?
She is also very particular about how she keeps her household and what she expects of her children, and what she expects of her children differs from child to child. For example the boys are not made to do non-boy tasks, like cooking or cleaning; that’s just for my sis and I, but anyways… we’ll talk about that a bit more later.
Within the first day or two of me moving back into her house, she was already giving me a hard time, whether she realizes or acknowledges it or not.
“You need to move these boxes.”
“You need to organize your things in the cellar.”
“You need to put the gates up in the kitchen; Dakota can’t be walking around the house.” (Dakota is also the only dog we’ve had in many years in which this has been made into an issue, previously all of our dogs have always been able to walk around the house; See also: our family golden retriever Leia in the upstairs hallway with all my things circa 2013. I suspect this other treatment is solely because he is my dog and because he’s a little bigger and furrier, which is reasonable but it also contributes to mine and his alienation in this house).
“You need to eat this (whatever item) because I made dinner, and you’re too thin.”
“You need to tell me when you’re leaving the house and where you’re going.”
I’m, at the time of these conversations, 30 years old.
And at the same time, instead of showing concern for me and my well-being and asking how I’m doing, if I need to take it easy (because divorce sucks, dudes), she was asking me about, well… him.
“How’s Matt doing?”
“How are Matt’s friends, (Friends Names) how are they doing? How are their kids?”
“How’s work going for Matt?”
“That good looking boy that was at your wedding (friend of Matt’s), how’s he doing? Do you still talk to him?”
Never asking how I’m doing. Never asking how my work is going. Never asking me if I want a coffee brought out as she heads out to the store for the 4th time that week. Never asking me what I’d like to eat.
Not that I need someone to be doing this for me, I’m entirely self-sufficient and pride myself on my independence, but to not receive this type of care/concern or whatever you want to call it, while at the same time fielding questions about people you no longer speak to and are frankly trying not to think about, it starts to grate on you, and on some level, it makes you feel like the people that are “supposed to” care about you, just don’t.
And if they don’t, why would anyone else?
Every once in a while she’d throw weird unnecessary lowballs my way, too.
“We’re going to pick up some cupcakes from that place we ordered from for your wedding“
Cool. Thanks? I don’t even like cupcakes. Why are we still talking about my wedding? Why now?
A Word on Rent
Her: “Rent is $400 a month now. Your siblings pay it, you need to, too. And you’re in charge of cleaning the upstairs bathroom and other things as required.”
This whole siblings paying the rent this is a newer practice around here. It was in no way a stipulation when I first moved out, and my eldest brother has never had to pay it, only my other brother and my only sister; They’re the only two who up til this stage had never moved out, whereas my eldest brother and I had at different points in our lives.
Not to brag, but despite being the youngest Jakobczak, I also moved out at the youngest age.
My eldest brother moved out in his later twenty’s the first time he did. We all went to schools closer to home so we never did the whole University-experience living on campus thing that most kids do (for better or for worse).
In July of 2020, a couple days before my birthday, I had taken out what remained of my personal TFSA to pay my mom back what was owed for the wedding.
Every cash gift my ex and I received that day made its way back to my mother’s wallet. Which, I don’t really care necessarily, except that we also didn’t get enough cash gifts from our guests to actually cover what my mom believes she deserved, so the rest, which was a significant chunk of change, came from me personally; None from my husband who had taken a back seat on all and every financial matter throughout our entire relationship. Those first few dates I talked about in my previous blogs? It ended there.
And now I was being told I owed her even more, while going through one of the most emotionally challenging experiences of my life.
For the record, I have never in my life been comfortable borrowing money from people, and with regards to the wedding specifically had made every effort to ensure we didn’t “go broke from it” – and well, we didn’t, but I did, because of my mothers complete disregard for the conversations I tried to have with her about it. But that’s a whole other conversation.
I’ve been working legally in Canada since the ripe age of 14 year old to take care of myself and my own finances; I was actually hired at 13 years old (what up Taco Bell – Vaughan Mills!).
Of course, I complied with her order. $400 is a hell of a lot cheaper than anything else you can find in the GTA, and I needed to make sure Dakota and I were taken care of.
But it was clear to me very quickly I needed to find a new place to live as soon as possible.
Within the first couple months (literally, 2 months) of moving home, I gained 25 pounds. I was that stressed, and she kept forcing me to eat food that frankly doesn’t work well with my body. But it didn’t matter what I wanted, what I liked; everything is about my mother here. Always has been.
A Little Bit of High School History
Sometime around December I was speaking to my old friend Mark. Mark and I go back quite a ways, we met in 9th grade Geography class at Emily Carr Secondary School; our teacher was Mrs. Pummel.
Mark is one of those kids that’s always been pretty well taken care of by his parents, which isn’t a slight but it is to say there are several key differences to our upbringings.
As an example, in high school Mark always boasted he was the first person in the school to have new technology; he was “the first” to have the brand new iPod device, “the first” to own a Motorola Razor cell-phone, “the first” to own an iPhone, “the first/only” to own a Mazda RX-8 (two of ’em, actually).
By comparison, the reason Mark introduced himself to me in that 9th grade Geography class? He walked over while we were supposed to be working independently on our coursework;
Mark: Hey, what’s that you’re listening to?
Me, pulling off my Sony headphones for my Sony Anti-Skip CD-Diskman: Some pop-punk band (I can’t remember which, it may have been the Atticus Dragging the Lake compilation or similar at the time).
Mark: Oh cool, I like that band to.
Bam, instant friendship.
Music brings everyone together, even the rich & the poor.
I’m the youngest of 4 and so almost all of my things at the time were hand-me-downs, including much of my clothing. I wore a lot of my older brothers’ Quiksilver shirts, for example, which helped solidify me into the “Total-Tomboy” category at high school. That CD-Diskman I’d been listening to I had for years, it was my main device. I didn’t get an iPod until… probably after leaving high school, actually, when I eventually got my first iPhone, meaning I never actually had a stand-alone iPod – weird, right?
When Mark needed new clothes, (which was often), his mother would simply hand him her credit card and let him go shopping. When Mark needed gas for his RX-8, his mom had given him an Esso gas-Fast-Pass fob. Everything on mom’s dime.
I’m 31 now and I’ve never owned my own vehicle. I’ve always paid for my own gas (and then some, thanks to my brothers constantly leaving the tanks empty, and to help keep it full for dad). Dad has always taken care of my Insurance though (thanks dad).
I don’t know Marks relationship with his mom terribly well, but I do know a couple things. Mark’s mom would pick him up from school before he got his own car, and often times she’d either give me a lift or I’d go with them to hang out at their place. She was really kind to me, and really liked me. She’d tell me sometimes that Mark didn’t listen to her, even when it came to small things; an example of this is when she asked me politely one day in her car to ask Mark to get a haircut. He was growing it out and beginning to use a flat iron on it, as scene/emo boys did in those days, and she said he wouldn’t listen to her, but she thought he’d for sure listen to me. I found this funny, and told him he should, but I was joking of course (said it in front of his mom), and it would be a while after that before he cut it.
When Mark’s parents were divorcing in high school, he was really mad at his dad throughout it. The divorce was hard on Mark and I couldn’t really be there for him during it, because the bulk of the messiness went down when I was living in Italy for a semester of high school in 11th grade. (See, I had “opportunity”, too!).
By ways of explaining why I was in Italy, it wasn’t because of my killer grades or fast-tracking myself through high school (although that would’ve been a rad story, right?); My best friend Daniel had taken part in the program offered through Centro Scuola the previous year, and his mom and mine have long-time been friends so they’d speak about it. He was taking part in it again (he did 3 times actually in 10th-12th grade). My parents were also going through a separation/strange divorce that never fully formulated (complicated) that had begun years prior, and my mom entered me into the program to get me out of the house for a few months while they dealt with it.
This is what dreams are made of folks, secrets from your children and divorce proceedings.
I’m not here to shit on Mark all day or to involve his family in this, but this stuff becomes more relevant in a little bit when he makes me a “great” offer, I’m just trying to explain the type of person he was then. To be clear, we were very much friends then, but there’s something to be said about being friends with people you’re so different from; If you’re anything like me, you tend to keep them at arms length. Our friendship has mostly been circumstantial.
October into November 2020
In addition to all the emotional and literal baggage I was dealing with in October when I moved home, there was another thing I now had to deal with every day.
Our family dog Leia was reaching her very final stages of life, and I knew she would die any day now.
My mom brought Leia home randomly one day, she hadn’t told the rest of us about her. This was sometime after our other dog Jesse had passed away, leaving us with a very depressed Cassie; Jesse and Cassie were uncle and niece (literally) and very close.
The reason my mom found Leia was that someone had brought her into our family vet and left her with them.
We were never wholly sure on her age although the vet estimated at the time she must be about 7 years old. The family that left her (read: abandoned or gave up) said that when they had their 3rd child, the child was allergic, and so Leia had to go.
It never really made sense to me that even with that story the vet didn’t know Leia’s age. Clearly there was more to it, but we never questioned it.
Depressing to think about.
But it meant we got a new dog; Awesome!
By the time I returned home that October, Leia’s health had deterioted to a point where she could barely walk and she was soiling herself frequently.
If it had been up to me, I would’ve put her down long before she passed.
My sister always considered Leia “her” dog, because she often got stuck with the vet bills and handled all of her appointments, ensured she had the right ear medication and so on. For all those reasons, I would never say otherwise; my mom may have brought Leia home but she was definitely cared for the most by Jodie.
Jodie was clearly exhausted during these final weeks from having to carry Leia outside and wash her down so frequently. I took care of this when I could, but even for me, and I’m a fair bit stronger than my sister, to carry a dead-weight dog like Leia in these moments is a challenge. And while you’re doing it, you’re trying to be extra careful to ensure they’re not in any more pain than they have to be. It’s hard.
I could never be a nurse or a vet; seeing anyone or any animal in this state genuinely affects me to my core.
It reached a point finally where my mom decided enough was enough and she called the vet to make an appointment to put her down. If I remember right, this call was made on Friday and the vet said they weren’t open on Saturday or Sunday, so it was pushed to Monday, or something similar.
I remember asking her if she had told Jodie about the appointment yet, and at that stage she hadn’t. Jodie was out showing houses (she works real estate like my brothers).
I remember thinking I wasn’t sure Leia would make it to the appointment.
I remember my sister explaining that she had to do a long drive that weekend up north for work. I remember talking about how there was going to be a lot of traffic.
At some point on that Saturday my mom called me out of my room; it was happening.
Leia was twitching on the floor in the kitchen and I came to the floor to be with her through her last few minutes.
I waited with my mom, telling her everything was okay, petting her head, and checking her stomach for when she stopped breathing.
I’m no stranger to this part of a dog’s life. Cassie passed away in our family room in a similar manner while the Grammy’s were on and we were all around her.
I waited a few moments after Leia stopped breathing (to be sure) and then told my mom she was gone.
My mom closed her eyes.
I took only a couple minutes before I noted that my mom was on her phone texting my dad who was at work to tell him what happened.
I wasn’t sure where she should be moved but I knew I wanted to move Leia out of the kitchen, because Dakota was there and had seen the entire thing.
It can’t be easy for a dog to see their dog-friend die, either.
My mom made a comment then that implied she had texted my brothers, too.
So I asked: Have you messaged Jodie yet?
And I said: You should really text Jodie right now.
I waited a few minutes before asking again: Are you not going to message Jodie? You really need to message or call her right now.
She said she wouldn’t. She didn’t want to bother Jodie while she was at work.
I texted my sister myself right then in front of her.
My sister got home late that day, around 9PM. This all happened in the afternoon around 2 or 3PM.
I had moved Leia into the hallway on her bed.
My mom told my brothers to come over the following day if they wanted to see her and say bye.
I didn’t talk to Jodie that night; I went to bed early, frankly not wanting to deal with the situation any further than I already had. I knew we were about to have another problem in the house.
The next day when I saw my sister in the morning she told me something else I didn’t like.
She explained to me that when she got home, and she knew of course already because I had told her, she didn’t stop to see Leia, instead she went straight to her room. She was heartbroken.
My mom went up to her room shortly after, and, trying to play off the day like nothing had occurred at all, said something to the effect of: How were your showings today?
My sister wasn’t in the mood to talk but she was rightfully pissed. My mom tried to carry on a normal conversation about her work, and my sister stopped her, admitting, “I know what happened today.”
My sister told her she wasn’t happy that she never reached out. My mom got defensive, as she does, saying she didn’t want Jodie to be in such a bad mood while driving that she could get into an accident.
Sure, I guess. Weird way to handle a family death, but okay, let’s run with this.
Their conversation was short, Jodie wasn’t in the mood.
I asked my sister if my mom apologized to her and she told me no.
Now I was pissed.
Jodie went downstairs because she was already handling the cremation process and she needed information from my parents about what they had arranged from the vet already.
Because of COVID, the process for this was basically “curb-side-dead-dog-drop-off”. Another blow.
When my sister came back upstairs she was crying. My parents can both be incredible cold at the worst of times.
I was now extra pissed and I marched myself downstairs and into the backroom.
Me: You need to apologize to Jodie right now for what you’ve done.
My mom, defensive: Don’t talk to me like that.
She turned her head away from me.
Me: No, this is absolutely unacceptable and you are in the wrong here.
My father, defensively, trying to help: We had to do this.
Me, not impressed: This is pathetic the way you’ve handled this, both of you.
My mother: Don’t you dare talk to me like this.
Me: You screwed up the second you decided not to text her when it happened. You need to apologize.
They ignored me. I left the room. I told my sister a while later what I did, knowing it could come back at her even though it was my decision.
To this day my parents have not apologized for this.
When the day came to bring Leia in for cremation I helped carry her to the car.
I didn’t go with them; my dad and sister, thinking this might be an opportunity for my dad to speak to her about what happened. They didn’t, my sister said it was a quiet ride.
I helped my sister decide if she was going to get an urn or something memorable to remember Leia by. We talked about how with all of our previous dogs, our family had never offered this to us.
We settled on a paw print, which I think was a great choice. I’d definitely do this for other pets moving forward, it’s a small thing, but it helps, especially when you already feel guilty for not being there when they passed.
Dealing with the death of a family dog is a tough one for any dog lover, but there are worse things.
In December our family got some more bad news. My aunt Betty-Ann had developed pancreatic cancer and was fading quickly.
Due to Covid, we wouldn’t see her before she passed, and we wouldn’t be attending any sort of funeral.
My aunt Betty-Ann is my uncle John’s wife; John is my mother’s brother (1 of 3 brothers).
My mom was apparently asked to reach out to her brothers while John dealt with the final stages of this, meaning the hospital care, whether or not to move her into a hospice, or if that would even be possible due to Covid.
I reached out to my aunt when we heard things were quickly getting worse.
The thing about stage 4 pancreatic cancer is it moved incredibly fast, and still not enough is known about the disease to really help those who have it, so I knew again, it was only a matter of time before she passed.
I hadn’t seen my aunt much in recent years, the last time being her and John attending my wedding in 2018.
So I wasn’t really sure what to say.
I said I was sorry for not trying to keep in better contact and visit more. And that I hoped she wasn’t in pain.
She messaged me back almost instantly expressing something to the tune of, “you were the only one who ever really did try to keep in contact,” which I took with a grain of salt because she was passing and probably trying to be polite. She told me she was in the hospital that day and doing as well as she could be while trying to take care of her affairs as best she could. What a trooper.
My aunt Betty-Ann and John have 4 kids together, my cousins. The same week that she died, my cousin Katie who is a year older than me was celebrating a birthday and also had to go to the hospital for something unrelated. And the same week that Betty-Ann died, my cousin Becca gave birth to her second baby girl.
An emotional roller coaster for that family if I ever heard of one.
I had a bit of difficulty reaching my other cousins, James and Nick, but eventually did. They were doing as well as they could’ve been, too. And my uncle as well, was keeping his head on as well as he could.
I understand the reasoning behind not holding funerals during Covid, but I really think there is probably some way to handle them a little better than that has been set out by the Ontario government. I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to see my uncle or cousins, they don’t live far per say, but, far enough.
I spent a lot of these months thinking about these issues and the way families communicate. And boy oh boy, did I ever need my own personal space back after dealing with all of that in what felt like one swift motion.
More on Mark
In December 2020 Mark was in school again, for seemingly the millionth time he had changed his career choice.
When I graduated early from high school, I decided to go to school for music production at Metalworks Institute of Sound; an expensive private college, but I knew with certainty its what I wanted to do with my life and I went all in on that dream – I didn’t even apply to University, I only applied to Metalworks.
When Mark graduated high-school he had his choice of all the top universities in Canada. Mark is one of the most studious people I know, which is to say he’s very book-smart and it’s one thing that really sets us apart; I could never study like he could, I don’t have it in me to learn that way.
He decided to go to McGil University, because who wouldn’t want to live in Montreal for 4 years? I can’t remember what he was set to major in then, but he took a lot of Science courses.
In high school Mark always said his real dream was to become a police officer, something I encouraged him on every single time, “if it’s your passion, go for it,” but because his father and brother are both lawyers, I think he may have thought the police force might be a little too low-brow for the family name and it took a while before he’d commit to it.
You can become a police officer with just 1 year of police foundations at Humber College or relevant experience. That doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as becoming a lawyer or majoring in biology or whatever it was at McGill U. I’m not saying Mark thought this, it’s just something I wonder about the way he went about his school choices during this time.
When Mark went to McGill he proved himself a hard worker and earned his keep. To get a better residence room, you can apply to become a Floor Fellow, helping take care of new students in your building; Mark was one of these.
He also volunteered for the Universities crisis centre (I’m not sure if that’s the right word but, it’s how I’ll refer to it in this post), handling phone calls from other students who were severely depressed even to the point of suicide. I was impressed by all of this; it’s hard enough to handle McGill coursework, never mind do all of this other stuff, too.
And of course, we had both lost our friend during this time. Robert Nason committed suicide while he attended Queens University for Engineering. He was 21.
I’ve talked a bit about Robert and our friendship, but the part of that I haven’t told you all yet is that Robert was Mark’s best friend. They attended Country Day School together prior to Mark coming to Emily Carr S.S. They knew each other a really long time; travelled to Europe together, too, and annual trips to Algonquin Park to go portage-camping. Mark’s the reason I met Robert who attended another high school entirely.
Robert’s suicide affected Mark most of all, and our mutual friend who I’ll just call M. It was hard for all of us, but for them, I can’t even imagine.
So I wasn’t surprised when Mark took on that volunteer job at the crisis centre; he was still muling over if he wanted to become a cop and sometime through this also started volunteering for the Toronto auxiliary police (after returning home from McGill). Again, very studious, very hard working. Most people wouldn’t change careers the way Mark did, but then again, most people can’t afford to go to so many schools.
After McGill, Mark completed his Masters with the University of Toronto with his biology and criminology background. He had taken the plunge and was going to become a cop. After all these years of talking about it, he was doing it. I was happy for him.
For all the things that Mark did “right” though, there was something about him that always bothered me on a fundamental level, and it’s something that our mutual friends and I would discuss frequently, as friends do.
Mark was a “Double-A” type personality like my mom. When he wanted his way, he knew how to get it. Every time.
There’s something to be said about understanding due-process and how to use it to your advantage, and there’s something to be said about, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.
Some more examples:
- When Mark was unhappy with his cellphone plan cost, he understood that all you have to do is call up the company and speak to customer service and threaten to leave. He was able to negotiate me a better cellphone contract for myself one year this way.
- While Mark attended school in Quebec he learned and understood that insurance rates are cheaper in that province; he encouraged people to do the same, register their vehicles in Quebec.
- When Mark would return to Ontario with those same registered vehicles, he knew that the Province of Ontario has no jurisdiction as it pertains to ticketing people from out of province.
One time I opened up the glove box in Mark’s care and I kid you not something like 50 parking tickets flooded out.
Me: Wow, dude?
Mark: It’s okay, they can’t come after me for those because of my plates.
Me, fanning them out beautifully for a photo op: Can I take a picture of these?
Mark, almost proudly: Yeah.
This picture still exists somewhere. It’s quite a sight.
Sometimes I wonder how many of those were in particularly unsafe zones, like fire-hydrant zones or areas for emergency vehicles. He’s boast that he’d park wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
Not exactly Ontario-Cop material if you ask me, but in the grand scheme of things, a pretty minor offence.
When Mark was going through the “Become-A-Policeman” procedure via the Ontario police department, which by the way is a pretty gruelling process, they vet you repeatedly and repeatedly with multiple interviews and applications, he mentioned that he was worried he might not make it all the way through, which I didn’t quite understand given his extensive schooling and volunteer work.
At one point he came to me with a personal question, if I thought he should approach the rest of his application in this way:
Mark: There’s a possibility that I’ll have a greater chance of being accepted in the police force if I speak to a specific sergeant and disclose the fact that I’m gay.
Affirmative action is a very real thing. There’s a reason why on new employment applications there is now a section where you list if you identify for example as a woman, as Indigenous, as Black, or otherwise. It’s supposed to help diversify applicants and bring forward more members of minority groups into what has otherwise been entirely systemically white fields. Sometimes this is utilized appropriately by companies, but sometimes it’s used to do exactly the opposite: for example, most Asian-restaurants request you send a photo in with your application regardless of what position you’re applying for but particularly if you’re a server. This is because many Asian-establishments want specific-Asian persons (for example, they might only hire a Korean at a Korean BBQ place, and a Chinese person at a Mandarin) in their front-facing roles. You can argue amongst yourself if this seems “fair” or “good practice”.
Now, I understand this and have for some time, and I know that LGBTQ+ rights are “decently progressive” in Canada, but they still fall quite short. So this could have gone either way for Mark, it was a gamble.
On the one hand, as Mark was told, it could help him make it through to the next stage, by on the other hand, disclosing you’re gay to the police force could pose problems down to the line with other police officers who perhaps are not as “progressive.”
Nonetheless, I asked him: Well, you’re sure this is what you want to do? Become a cop? And they say this might help you?
Mark: Yeah. Other people have done this before.
Me: Then I say go speak with the Sargent. At bare minimum, you’ll get some more information on how to proceed.
And so he did. And he got the job. Whether it had anything to do with that conversation I’ll never know, but this is just one of those issues LGBTQ+ folks have to think about every single day: do I tell the world who I really am as a person and risk being reprimanded or assaulted as a result? Or do I pretend I’m “normal.”
I sympathize with this struggle a lot, not that I am LGBTQ+, but I am highly in support of them. Women face many similar barriers and restrictions, but I hesitate saying that because the first thing a woman gets when she says this is backlash from “more vulnerable” communities, a la, “You think YOU have it bad?”.
Mark As A Cop
When Mark graduated and was officially hired he invited some of his friends and family to the ceremony. I can’t recall how many people he was allowed to admit, but I’m pretty sure he invited me; I didn’t attend.
At the time I was working for various recording studios for free and very committed to becoming as good of an Audio Engineer as I could become. This is something that used to make me think about myself as a person back then; while many of my friends were off becoming “upstanding members of society” like cops, lawyers, doctors, I was chasing my music industry dream of playing, performing and making music both as an individual and for other artists. Seemed silly at times, almost like I wasn’t trying enough to do something that mattered.
Nonetheless I was excited for him. He was living out his dream that he had told me about so many times before. Hearing stories like this would give me hope for my own goals.
But sometimes he’d tell me stories about being a cop that bothered me and I wasn’t always sure how to respond.
He’d tell me about how their shifts work. Basically, 4-days on, 4 days off, and the hours were weird; 12 hour shifts, sometimes with what seemed to be an inappropriate amount of hours in between those shifts. Like, for two days you’d be on nights basically, and then 2 days after you’d be on days, or similar. That type of thing really messes with your brain and your ability to just function as a human being, so I know it must have been hard.
When he had time off, he mostly slept, in between spending time with his family. I imagine many cops do this.
He’d tell me about how long it takes to put on all the equipment. That even though your shift started at 8AM for example, you had to get there about an hour earlier to park, put on your gear, and get to your (I assume assigned) cruiser. I feel like not enough employers consider this added workload when they create shifts, even non-police work, like simply being a server at a restaurant for example; it takes a toll over time.
He’d tell me that often times in the case of Domestic emergency calls, cops hands are tied. If they don’t physically see the assault, they can’t do much about it other than recommend the person/persons leave the residence. But with so many people in poverty situations, or otherwise dangerous situations like this, this advice doesn’t do a whole lot to help the vulnerable.
Mark hated getting domestic calls for this reason. “I can’t even help, so what’s the point.”
At the same time though, Mark would abuse his own power. He did this by pulling over my friends and family, “for fun.”
I hated hearing about this.
One day I came home and my mom told me that Mark had pulled her over just down the street and he had given her a ticket. She had picked up her phone briefly to connect to Bluetooth for a call, and he spotted her. He said his hands were tied about the ticket because he was with his Supervisor that day. Of course, I couldn’t help with any of this, but it didn’t stop my mom from asking me to reach out to him about it.
For the record, my mom was an early adopter of cell-phones given her high position with her previous employers, and she really does always use Bluetooth for her calls, so I understand why she was annoyed about this one. But, the law’s the law, right?
There was one random day in Toronto when Mark and I were going to hang out after his shift ended and he picked me up in his cruiser, putting me in the back seat. He said this was fine; I don’t know if it is, but I wasn’t cuffed or anything obviously so I didn’t care. Plus, I’d never been in a cruiser before and I liked taking a look around.
While we were driving back to the station to return the cruiser, Mark noticed someone on his cell-phone. This was right around the time that cell-phone laws were becoming really prevalent, with Ontario introducing all the news laws and fines that people were so upset about at the time (but distracted driving affects us all and is increasingly far more common in society than even drunk driving, so people should take this very seriously).
He pulled up beside the driver and got his attention, and then when he had it said something to the effect of, “Hey buddy, I’m right here, you might want to put that away.”
A little different treatment than my mom got, but I digress.
Mark would pull over our friends, too, as I mentioned. He’d pull up behind them and throw on the cruiser lights, and then after friends of ours pulled over thinking they’d done something terribly wrong, he’d tell them at the window it was just him and not to worry.
Super funny prank, I guess, if you don’t consider the fact that for even the most law-abiding citizens, seeing cruiser-lights behind your car are enough to give you a literal heart-attack on the wrong day.
He’d pull up to friends who weren’t even in their cars, too. Pull up while they were in a plaza going to buy cigarettes or coffee.
This is your tax dollars at work, Ontario.
Somewhere along the way he would tell me at times he was having issues within his platoon. People didn’t like him, in particular, his Staff Sargent.
At some point, it became bad enough for him that he had to switch platoons, but that one wasn’t quite working out either.
I’d listen to his stories but he’d never fully explain anything more than simply, “they just don’t like me.”
Honestly, after knowing Mark for a couple years, it’s not hard to understand why some people don’t like him. I had my own struggles with him often over the years.
He told me one day about a big issue he had with his Staff Sergeant, the one who really disliked him the most. He had gotten written up or in some way reprimanded for his performance at work. The situation was that after some sort of off-the-side-of-the-road stop, where Mark had been using the speed-radar-guns to track cars as they drove by, he got a call that required him to get in his cruiser and leave in a hurry. I don’t know if this was literally just a car ripping down the road that he then had to chase, or a different call entirely. Regardless, Mark had left the speed-radar-gun on the roof of his vehicle as he sped away, and when the Staff Sargent noticed it was missing he sent Mark to go find it, but it was gone.
I can appreciate why this might piss off a superior officer.
Mark seemed to think it was unfair that the officer spoke to him in whatever way he did about it. I had no comment.
Mark would do some other things that I found questionable, like regularly send me photos of his in-cruiser computer which displays very real reports and files about very real people who have called the very real police.
Some of these screenshots/photos were absolutely hilarious. I wish I still had them all, but I really probably shouldn’t have been sent any of them. One of them told a story that was basically to the effect of, “A man exchanged a bag of diamonds for a store deed, but when the exchange was finalized, the previous store owner realized he was given rocks, not diamonds.”
Yes, it was THAT ridiculous.
At one point I even asked him if he was allowed to do this, send me these photos, and he said basically that the file had been closed or the case sorted out, so it was fine.
I’m not sure that’s accurate, but I trusted him.
He’d also do things like look up people like me, his friend, in the system and take a look at our records. One day he casually texted me about this saying, “been in a car accident, have we?”. I find this really disturbing in retrospect, I had done nothing wrong to deserve him looking me up, and I certainly didn’t appreciate being taunted over something I had already dealt with (I wasn’t even at fault in the accident).
One time he sent me dash cam footage from his cruiser. Which, in retrospect I think it’s sort of weird that he was even able to export it himself. That should probably not be a thing, you know, for cop-accountability reasons.
The dash cam footage was crazy. It was short, but basically Mark explained the circumstance to me as, “there was a call in about a car that had been stolen (grand theft auto for real), and we had to chase him down, a real pursuit in progress”. So like, literally that TV show Cops, except I was witnessing my 9th grade friend step out of his cruiser, several other cruisers approach a residential house, and all of them with their guns in hand and raised approaching the driver of the vehicle.
I don’t really know how to describe what it feels like to see someone you know doing this, a very real gun, a very real grand theft auto pursuit, but even with all my years of TV-watching, movies, and playing GTA on my video game consoles, this was WILD.
Again, it was short, so I didn’t see much. But seeing the gun in his hands was enough.
It’s moments like that that make you remember how dangerous it is to be a cop.
Needless to say it never surprised me when Mark would say he was taking a few days off from work. Which, when you’re a cop, they make you take the whole block off, you don’t just take off a day “here and there” or at least that’s what he’d tell me.
Sometimes he’d take off several blocks at once. But then he’d do something weird.
He told me about these online Facebook and Whatsapp groups he’d use to connect with other cops. Some networks were specifically for LGBTQ+ cops, and there would be medics in those groups too, since the professions work so closely together at times, this made some sense to me.
He’d use these networks to pick up additional “Paid-Duty shifts”. And my understanding of these shifts are basically they are not supplementary shifts but rather “opportunities for overtime,” you know, if you had the stomach for it.
So what Mark would describe for me was that he’d often take blocks of his normal-Salary police job and then pick up additional “Paid-Duty” jobs in the forms of things like, watching over parades, being a human roadblock, directing traffic; the easy stuff.
This meant he was making a significant salary as a regional police officer, but then he was also making insane overtime hours on top of it, all without actually perform his basic salary-duties.
Like I said, Mark is a smart dude. Pretty manipulative, but definitely smart.
Some of these easy AF jobs pay as much as $100/hour! To sit in your cruiser at a parade! Insane.
I should’ve become a cop.
Just kidding, I would never game the system in this way. Also I hate guns for real, they’re scary as hell.
When Mark had saved up enough sweet, sweet, Ontario tax payer cash, he’d take elaborate vacations.
Rough life, indeed.
Somewhere along the way, the issues with his Staff Sargent led to him leaving the force. Whether he was forced out or quit voluntarily, I have no idea. He took on a job for a while working for Air Canada, getting paid now to travel instead.
Honestly I can’t remember the order of Mark’s many career choices, this may have been before being a cop, it became hard to keep track.
When I tell people about Mark I explain him as, “he’s like the guy from that movie Catch Me If You Can, except he actually goes to school for this stuff instead of just faking it like Leo”.
So after his stints as Residence Hall Monitor, Crisis Centre Volunteer, Toronto Auxiliary Cop, York Regional Police Officer and Air Canada Steward, he decided to go back to school. This time, medicine.
Mark: Well I majored in biology so…
Okay. Let’s see how this plays out.
Back To School
Once again Mark had the pick of the litter as far as fancy Canadian universities are concerned. He chose UBC; British Columbia is real nice.
When he started he said he wanted to become a cardiac surgeon.
Mark: Well, I want to work in preventative care.
I have always supported Mark in his many educational ventures. Hell, I’d tried to be a good friend to him every step of the way despite our many differences. So when he talks to me about these things, I do listen.
To become a cardiac surgeon it takes almost a decade.
Because of the way medicine education is structured in Canada at this level, you essentially know from the outset you are signing up for a long tenure of schooling.
First you need to do the standard Canadian-University 4-year program stint, learning the fundamentals. For Mark, in order to get accepted he also needed to do some additional courses, either because he was missing some pre-requisite courses or because his grades weren’t up to snuff for UBC. Either way, again, I give him credit for going through with any of this after having already completed so much schooling.
By comparison, I attended a 1-year course on music production and have vowed to never take formal education ever again.
During these initial 4 years, you also part of the way through begin working in real hospital settings. These are called residencies, if I’m getting the terminology correct.
And while you’re doing these residencies, the idea is that you’re supposed to decide which stream of medicine you really want to be in. Again, if you want to become a cardiac surgeon, you’re looking to sign up for like, another 5-6 years of schooling apparently on top of this to specialize in heart care, which I guess I can support since hearts are like, super important.
And in your residencies you’re made to work normal-nurse shifts, which means it was back to those 12-hour grinds for Mark.
For any of you reading this that don’t know, professions in health care, policing, fire emergency and so on, tend to have very short careers. This is because the emotional toll and stress the jobs take on people often lead to early retirement. In short, these are not easy professions no matter how much education you have.
So at school Mark learned more about surgery, about how to deliver babies, about drugs and their uses, and so on.
Let me tell you, the idea of Mark being anyone’s gynaecologist scares the hell out of me; it was disturbing to me when he expressed that he enjoyed that job.
I don’t want kids but God if I had a doctor like him while in labour I might literally die on the table, just by his sheer attitude about it. But that’s neither here nor there, it’s just to say, there are an alarming amount of male gynaecologists and it really strikes me as a bit of a peculiar choice for many of them; Let’s get more women in those rooms.
Last July (2020) Mark invited me to his house for Canada Day.
He wanted to hear about my divorce and “catch up.”
It says a lot about a friendship when the only time you’re hanging out or catching up is when something terrible happens, which reminds me of something my Uncle John said one year after a funeral when the family all came back to my parents house for snacks and drinks: “it’s too bad we only see each other at funerals.” Too true, Uncle John, too true.
I told him a little about what was going on but as usual he wasn’t really listening, instead carefully placing packaged meats and cheeses on a charcuterie board for our lunch.
I appreciated the effort but, it’s just funny when people invite you over to eat and then don’t actually cook for you. But also, I love charcuterie.
And it was clear from the outset what Mark really wanted to talk about was himself.
So again we spoke a little bit about his education at UBC. He told me again that he decided what he really wanted to do was work in “Preventative Care,” and as he explained it he used an example about his prior employment.
Mark: As a cop, what sucked about it was how many times you arrive to a call after something has already happened. So I want to work in preventative medicine.
I can appreciate that. But it reminded me quickly about something else Mark had told me when he was a cop.
Sometimes, when Mark would get a call through on the radio, he wouldn’t go to the call.
Even when he knew he was the closest person to the site.
I literally can’t forget that he told me this because it was so baffling to me at the time, thinking to myself, but you’re a cop.
He told me it was near the end of his shift and he needed to finish some paperwork from earlier in the day. And, it was a domestic call, so he wouldn’t be able to do anything anyways, and someone else would go to the call instead.
Again, your tax dollars at work, people.
Again I appreciate that this is a difficult job and that everyone needs breaks, but when you sign up for a job like this, I feel like you don’t really get a choice in this type of thing. You got a call, you go to it.
While we grazed on his charcuterie spread, I had a toke from my weed-pipe, much, I’m certain, to Mark’s disappointment because he has always been weirdly against the use of recreational marijuana despite all his apparent knowledge of modern medicine.
Pro tip: marijuana helps SO many people, especially people with illnesses like MS, Parkinson’s, and of course Cancer, but also stress cadet’s like me who have trouble “winding down”.
He said it was okay that I did this on his backyard patio (I never smoke indoors really, and if I do, I always blow the smoke out, but I wouldn’t do this in someone else’s home regardless), so I did.
While we enjoyed the view and some tunes, he brought up someone from high school, and for her anonymity sake I’m going to change her name here.
Mark: Do you remember Julie*?
Me: I sure do.
Julie was a bit of a firecracker at ECSS, in that she had a really unique personality. When Mark got his first RX-8 (the blue one, super rad), suddenly this girl Julie wanted to hang out with him all the time.
Mark and Julie would leave school at the lunch hour often to go to Vaughan Mills mall for some better eats. A lot of us also wondered if he was low-key starting to date her (he didn’t come out to the rest of us until the end of or after high-school). And the rest of us weren’t really keen on Julie or her friend group, so we speculated often.
Mark: So this one time, after high school, Julie called me up and I brought her to an abortion clinic.
Me, confused, and not too interested in details but a little curious still: Oh?
He didn’t really explain anything about this or why he was suddenly telling me about it. It was pretty out of context with the rest of the conversations we’d been having, and the best way I can explain what it seemed like to me, was that Mark was bragging about the trust Julie had in him.
Mark: Yeah, so I took her.
I didn’t really know what to say but I played it safe, the way I knew how to with Mark at this point.
Me: Well, that’s really good of you to do that for her, to be there for her when she needed someone.
The conversation ended.
It made me think back to a somewhat similar situation I had dealt with while in high school, when a friend of mine was worried her boyfriend may have gotten her pregnant and we skipped school one day to go to a walk-in clinic so she could get a formal test taken.
She wasn’t pregnant, thank God.
I’ve never told anyone this story because these aren’t typically the type of stories I share. Especially, being a woman myself, I can appreciate how stressful that feeling is, and she just wanted a friend to be with her in that moment.
Mark then carried on about himself; he was now pretty sure what he wanted to specialize in for his new career path.
Mark: So I think I want to be an anesthesiologist.
He had brought this up before, a few times in fact over the last couple months.
He continued: What I like about this one is that you just have to administer the drugs. (He didn’t like the whole, actual surgery part of medicine that he initially sought after). And once you insert the drugs, the information shows up in real-time on the computer so you know exactly what you need to do to correct it (if you have to). Plus, with this stream of medicine, the only on-call late-night calls I’ll get are to administer epidural’s to pregnant women.
A safe choice…or something.
But an odd one particularly, I thought, considering he previously for months was talking about wanting to be in “Preventative Care”. This didn’t sound in any way preventative.
And then I considered again, what I would be like, as an in-labour pregnant woman, getting Mark as my epidural nurse at 3AM; someone who didn’t like being called out of bed to help people.
I wasn’t sure if this was the right career choice for Mark, but at this point dude just needed to pick something and stick with it.
Me: Sounds good, Mark.
I’ve got an offer you can’t refuse!
While talking to Mark one day in December, or perhaps it was late November, I really can’t recall for sure, he was telling me that he’d be back in town over the winter break from school.
This is usually when I’d see Mark, on very brief visits as he made his way back home and tried to cram in as much socializing as possible.
It never made me feel particularly cared about or in any way a priority. Mark for as long as I’ve known him has been a terrible judge of time. Typically, if Mark says he’ll meet you at 3PM, he really means maybe 6PM or 7PM, if he shows up at all. This is something I’ve called him out on repeatedly over the years, and he’s the reason why when I used to have friends up to my families cottage for my birthday, I would instate the “No Cell Phones” policy; where phones should be left in the cottage as much as possible.
Because there are few things as annoying to me as inviting over friends and having them stare at their devices the whole time. You’re either there to be there with us, or you shouldn’t be there at all.
I’m so demanding, I know.
Mark was the worst person for this, whether you met for coffee, for a meal, or literally any reason at all. He lives staring into his phone. I’m sure you all know at lease one person like this.
But this time he had an offer for me. He knew I was having some difficulty living with my parents again, but in no way did he have any idea what that really meant. By “he knew I was having some difficulty” I mean I said to him at some point, “living at home sucks again,” and nothing more.
Mark often says that he knows who I am, but the reality is he knows next to nothing about me; in fact even when it comes to music he often sends me messages like, “Remember listening to this band?” and it’s never a band or song we used to listen to at all. I often don’t respond, or if I do, I play it off and the conversation usually ends there.
It’s important for readers to understand how royally terrible this boy’s memory is because he seems to think I’m an idiot.
For example, despite me telling him regularly last year that I had quit drinking, every time we spoke Mark would say, “Come by and have some White Claw.”
No thanks, man, I’m running out of ways to explain to you that I don’t drink alcohol. Which is funny, because Mark was always random about alcohol, too, in that sometimes he was super against it and other times, he’d act like he was some frat-boy; Very inconsistent.
And then one day Mark explained to me that he was working on some renovations.
Mark: I have a house in Barrie that I rent out (this is his 4th property, he told me this anyways, 2 or 3 in Ontario and at least 1 in British Columbia), and we’re renovating the basement suite. It should be done in January, if you’re interested, I’ll offer it to you first for cheap.
Again, at this point I was paying $400/month to my mother, and I knew that even that was tight with my crappy salary ($3200 a month after taxes, what up OsgoodePD Union!) and personal debt I was still struggling to pay off (still am), but I thought I’d hear him out on it. This was no doubt going to be the best offer I would find for myself in the GTA.
So I agreed to meet him that winter when he returned for a visit.
Continue reading with Barrieland: Moving In.