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Tom Hill and a moment in time…..

My mother’s second husband, Tom Hill, died a few weeks ago. He was 90 years old.

My mother’s second husband, Tom Hill, died a few weeks ago. He was 90 years old.

He had been all but housebound for many years with a curious disease called Inclusion Body Myocitis (or IBM for short) which caused the muscles in his legs to all but disappear.

In addition he had diabetes and a variety of other ailments that his doctor tried to ameliorate with a cocktail of drugs many of which, in my opinion, had more negative side effects than positive healing or adaptive attributes, but he trusted his doctor even though he Googled everything and had lots of questions.

He refused to move out of his condo and managed to cook rather well from that motorized wheel chair, including making jam and marmalade around this time of year, right up until this year.

He had few expectations of the state and was grateful for the help that he did get over the years.

When someone is sick in hospital or, more to the point, dying in a hospital, everything changes.

There is the pressure of looking after all the detail of care which, in this case, fell to Tom’s son and daughter.

For me, it was a time of really being with Tom at this most intimate of times and being in awe of his calmness and humanity in a way I had not experienced before.

We had talked politics for 30 years and his last days were no different.

He was an old left winger (read communist) from the 1940s and 50s and remained so until the truth about Stalin came out in the mid-50s.

I have known a lot of these old fellows in my time as my father was one of them, although he died as a young man when I was four.

Tom never seemed to mind my deviation to capitalistic pursuits and always enquired, “How’s business?”

What impacted me most, beyond our mutual sense of loss, as we contemplated the inevitable was the quality of the discussion.

Tom lived through The Depression. He lived through the Second World War. A working man all his life, he had an extraordinary curiosity and intellect and was extremely well read.

In his last decade, he taught himself how to read and speak Spanish and started many mornings reading the Spanish papers, followed by Pravda and The Guardian.

He was a painter and photographer and his books were filled with notes and commentary.

To my delight, he read newspapers in the age of Twitter.

At the hospital, Tom shared a room with a man we never saw.

He was behind one of those curtains that provide limited privacy and is just a part of being sick in a public place.

What we did experience day after day was the sound of his television set which ran at high volume daily and most of the night.

It was tuned to one of those mult cultural channels with news from around the world.

What struck us both were the number of Government of Canada ads and Conservative Party ads.

There must have been eight an hour.

The first was a pat on the back to the federal government for all the programs they made available to new Canadians, and the other those disgusting Tory ads attacking Michael Ignatieff for living outside of the country.

Tom is no stranger to disgusting politics.

He was blacklisted for his political beliefs in the 1950s and as late as the l980s was stopped at the U.S. border and refused entry.

It was a badge of honour for Tom, but I think our descent into the mean spirited, mindless politics of today’s minority governments transcends, for him, even the McCarthy Era.

Why? Because the body politic has become so corrupt and banal as to be unrecognizable from his time.

And so we sat each night, engulfed by the rogue television, sipping scotch between hits of morphine, contemplating a life well spent and a country beginning to fall short of his expectations, and then he was gone.

I will miss him, and our country will miss his generation.