It Will Be Okay

By Wendi Stewart

I love listening to CBC Radio. For as long as I can remember my radio has been tuned to Radio One and, without fail, I learn something. I have my favourites, but Tom Power and his version of “Q” tops the list. I admire Tom’s interview style. He is always kind, respectful, allowing his guests to share what is comfortable. He never pushes and is grateful to spend time with the wide range of individuals he invites on his program, and … it got me thinking.

Who would I like to have a chat with over a cup of tea or glass of lemonade? I thought I’d compile a list, just as they came to me as I sit here trying not to bother with the tooth’s filling from childhood that is crumbling away. Don’t tell anyone, but I think I might be disintegrating from the inside out.

1 – Ron Turcotte. He’s one of my heroes and I desperately wanted to be a jockey. Ron was born in New Brunswick in 1941. At age eighteen he made his way to Toronto for work which brought him to Woodbine Racetrack and eventually to mucking stalls, hot-walking horses, and then a jockey at E.P. Taylor’s Windfields Farm in 1959. He rode Northern Dancer to win his debut race at Fort Erie Track in 1963. Side note – Northern Dancer was the first Canadian bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby in 1964. Then Ron met Secretariat and rode the races of a lifetime. In 1973 Ron rode Secretariat to wins with records that still stand for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes, winning the Triple Crown, and not once used a whip on Secretariat. Ron’s career was cut short when in 1978 he fell from a horse as they broke from the starting gate, incurring injuries that left him a paraplegic, but his positive spirit prevailed. He rode more than 3000 winning horses over the eighteen years of his career. I want to hear every detail as he leaned over Secretariat’s neck, the chestnut mane in Ron’s face, urging Secretariat on with his voice, the big colt who loved to come from behind.

2 – Harper Lee. Our birthdays are only a day apart so we could start a chat raising a glass in honour of our almost coincidental birthdays. I would ask her if it was daunting to write To Kill A Mockingbird in the mid 1950s when she was surrounded by the madness and cruelty of racism, civil rights finding its voice, and I would thank her.

3 – Frederick Banting. He sold the patent rights to the University of Toronto for $1 because “insulin belongs to the world”, Banting said, wanting everyone in need of insulin to have access. I would ask him to speak out now about the cost of insulin and how many in the United States struggle to pay for the medication. A 2018 study revealed the unit cost of insulin in Canada was $12 as compared to $98.70 in the US. I’m certain Frederick would be outraged. He thought it unethical to profit from medication required to sustain life.

4 – Eleanor Roosevelt. Any of us would benefit from listening to her view of a society worthy of our intentions. Eleanor grew up with family values that included community service and something she most definitely lived up to. She was appointed to the United Nations General Assembly by President Truman, where she was the US delegate from 1945 to 1952, playing a significant role in designing the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was proclaimed in Paris in 1948. Eleanor wrote a daily syndicated newspaper column in which she drew attention to child welfare, housing reform, and equal rights for women and others marginalized by race.

5 – Richard Wagamese. I keep his book Embers close at hand so when I feel the need to right my ship his words are within reach. I would ask Richard how he would guide us closer to reconciliation and what work he had yet to do before his days were cut short. I would like to know more of his journey as he found his sense of self and inner peace and how he kept his gentle soul safe through all the difficulties he experienced.

6 – Winnie the Pooh. I’m a big fan of Winnie, partly because my dad called me Winnie Pooh. He left out “the” so as not to commit copyright infringement. The other reason is Winnie was guided by common sense principles with a foundation of kindness. Winnie was willing to share a pot of honey with a serving of wisdom in simple terms. “Sometimes the smallest things take the most room in your heart,” is one of my favourite Pooh sayings.

7 – Annie. If I could, were it possible to turn back time, this very minute, I would run all the way to Annie’s house and when she saw me come through the door, she would wipe her hands on her apron and gather me up in her arms and with a hand on my head would pull me in close and say, “It’s going to be okay,” and it would be.

wendistewart@live.ca