Friday, October 24, 2008

More Stories from the Past

It's always nice to hear from my friends.

Many of you have emailed, spoken or passed along word that you think I should write go ahead and write a book. Not just for public consumption but also one for prosperity in which Trent, and perhaps Trent's children can someday read and gather insight into who and where their grandfather BARRY LAROCK was and what he accomplished. Boy, is that ever a deep thought... Trent as a father and me as a grandfather... WOW!

But honestly, your words and inspiration hold true. In fact, everyone should put together their memoirs for their children and future grandchildren, why not? That's the way our ancestors did it. They kept what is called a journal in which they wrote family recipes, stories and reenactments of the history in their family lineage. We can learn a great amount about our past families from old photographs, old verbal accounts but nothing tells a historical tale better than the written word.

So, I did it. I went to Chapters and purchased a journal. I haven't started yet, but I'm going to write thoughts, past stories and my personal opinions on events so to keep and give to my family for their enjoyment and for my historical significance on earth from start to finish.

For now, however, I want to pass along another event in my life to those reading this blog that almost ended my life at age 14. It wasn't a surgery, a battle against cancer or even a first date gone bad. No it was none of those but rather a trip to Florida with my parents and my cousin Kent Ferguson. As the youngest of four children and a six year difference to my next eldest brother Blair, a majority of my life was spent as really an only child.

So with a trip to Florida planned and of course at the age of rebellion, I asked if cousin Kent could join us on the trip that year. Being the kind parents they are, Pat and Lorraine took on the responsibility of parenting Kent and I for the two-week adventure. En route to Orlando, we travelled down the Gulf coast and one day found a small little beach along the side of the road.

Out of the car faster than a greyhound after a rabbit, Kent and I made our way onto the beach and into the ocean for a dip. I am not a very good swimmer and I tend to be overly cautious when entering strange water so I vowed not to go in too deep and never over my head.

Meanwhile, Pat and Lorraine set up residence on the beach to relax in the sun and allow Kent and I to splash against the waves under the warm Florida sun. Life couldn't get much better.

As the time passed, however, Kent and I started to move in parallel line with the beach but further and further away from an ever-watching eye of Lorraine. She waited, and waited and of course couldn't control herself when she had seen enough and bellowed, like any good mother would, for the two of us to come closer.

The problem was, and of course we did not realize until later when those locals on the beach explained, that the rushing waves hid an small inlet pool of water that was well over my head. It wasn't massive but large enough to swallow small Barry.

When Lorraine called, Kent and I immediately listened and started to walk in a diagonal fashion towards Pat and Lorraine in order to get there a little sooner than later. Suddenly, my feet went out from under me. My breath was taken away by the rush of water and waves crashing against the back of my head. Kent, who was a good swimmer and without a heart condition, laughed as the waves hit and he began to easily swim to shore.

I, on the other hand, struggled. I tried to swim but couldn't move. My feet were kicking and my arms swinging but I was constantly being hit by waves forcing my head and arms under the water. I was drowning. I was taking in big breaths of air whenever I could but I wasn't moving and I certainly couldn't feel the earth beneath me. I can still remember to this day the thought I had after Kent tried to grab my arm and I saw it slip away. I knew I was drowning. Could this be the end of my life, I thought. I was just about to let go and allow my body to sink and take in as much water as I could when finally a total stranger reached for my arm and pulled me up and onto a bright yellow inflatable water bed raft. He quitely told me to me hold on and breath deeply, everything was going to be OK.

Afterwards as I laid on the beach with my scared chest and lungs gasping for air, I looked over a saw my Mom in tears and Dad holding her closely. I remember thanking God that day for the stranger, the yellow raft, and for not taking me. I knew then that it obviously wasn't time for me to die.

What I haven't told you yet was that in early May of that same year I had a what the doctors called was a complete correction of my heart condition, Tetralogy of Fallot. There was no way, as I look back, that a little water and a inlet lake was going to take me when I had just survived open heart surgery. There is a reason, however, why I believe that I was dealt that very close call. It was because I was put on this earth to do much more. I was given a second chance that day to live longer, breath more and to experience things in life that will define my existence. Whether it be though my work, my sports or though the most important thing in life... my family.

Whenever I see Kent these days I always think of that story. I have never mentioned it to him but I always am reminded of it. And I what I remember the most is just how lucky I am to have had another opportunity to live, love and enjoy life a little longer. And that's exactly what I am doing everyday!


In two weeks I will be away on a holiday with my brother, Blaine.

Blaine and I are ten years apart but in spite of the age difference we are also a lot alike. We are the adventurous type. Beth and Blair, my other siblings, are more home bodies than Blaine and I. Hockey friends of Blair and Blaine like to refer to the three of us as the 'Let's Go' brothers because we are always saying... "Let's go"... leading the way into whatever is next on the agenda.
Blaine, his friend Jim and I are going south to relax, beach it and chill out as Trent likes to call it. Blaine told me, "this is your holiday Barry, I'm just going to be your bodyguard. We're there to do what you want to do." Blaine is funny. If you knew him, you'd know that when we step off the plane, he will have the agenda planned for the entire week and Jim nor I will get a word in edgewise. I'm OK with that. I love the fact that Blaine decided to go away with me on a trip using a week's holidays to spend it with me. I know we're going to have a great time.

And I know I'm going to be extra, extra careful around the water!

Thanks for Reading and Sharing... next blog... November 11, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Interesting Life

Someone once told me... "To be honest, would your life really be interesting enough?"

The comment was in reference to an idea I had several years ago to write a book on my heart condition so others who have the same condition could recognize they are not alone and secondly to highlight the many medical advancements over the past 40 years that have kept me and thousands of others alive.

Not many of you know, but prior to the 1960s, children born with heart defects had little chance of survival. Those born with congenital defects in the 1960s are true pioneers in heart surgery and very, very lucky to be alive, thanks to doctors such as mine, Dr. William Thorton Mustard, a worldwide pioneer in open-heart surgery.

The comment, by the way, came from a administrative lead with the Adult Congenital Heart Clinic at Toronto General Hospital who with that statement basically shattered my dream of passing along the message to congenital heart conditions patients about the life I chose to lead. Many of them may still wallow in self pity and have led sheltered and extremely fragile lives. I was never like that. I never asked for pity but rather all I ever wanted and often did was to be normal and do exactly what others could do.

When in a challenge like the one before me now, perhaps I should rethink my idea. Hell, I've survived 5 open heart surgeries, one bout of cancer in the parotid gland and I'm currently battling the return of the big 'C' in both my lungs. For the past two years now, and from what I've been through, I could have said 'fuck it', and laid down and died. But, again, I've never been like that. I've always put up a fight. I have never really considered myself any different than anyone else. I set goals in life, I achieved them and I have lived what I am very proud of, and that is what I would call a 'Larock and Roll' lifestyle.

I say Larock and Roll because, of course, my last name is Larock and I've always had a "This is the Way I Roll' attitude about life. I was never a follower and always picked my friends. 'Friends' that to this day I have stayed in touch. 'Friends' that have come over to help us with random acts of kindness, and 'Friends' who would be there if I needed them for anything.

My mother, who was completely overprotective, I now realize, also did a wonderful job with my growth into adolescence and eventually adulthood because no matter what new adventures I wanted to do she never really said no but tried to persuade me to find an better, safer alternative. I tried to simply roll with the flow and made decisions based on what was best for my life and my body, respectively. Sometimes the choices I made for my life were not so good for my body, it would appear now.. but then I wouldn't be the person I am today if I stayed sheltered and protected.

Now I know that writing a book is difficult and I profess that perhaps it might not ever come to fruition. But over the next few weeks, I'm going to write here on my blog some of my life's stories, including regrets and accomplishments. I would like you the reader to be the judge as to warrant my future endeavour. Should I or should I not pursue my autobiography?

I want you to be honest as well. I don't want any pity cast upon me because of my current situation.

And so as a taste of one life experience I found very interesting, I want to recount my life crossing with Mr. Harold Ballard, the former owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

You see, Mr. Ballard was considered a mean tyrant who everyone hated because he didn't spend that much on the beloved Maple Leafs. But there is another side to Mr. Ballard. At times, Mr. Ballard would take a moment to be thankful for his life and success and share it with others. In 1974, when I was recovering from surgery at Toronto's Sick Children Hospital a crisp new $5.00 bill was beside my bed when I awoke after an afternoon nap. My mother wondered where the money came from as all six of us in the hospital's ward room discovered crisp new $5.00 bills. The hospital confirmed that it might have been Mr. Ballard as he would often come in and randomly give young patients money. A sort of pick me up for those less fortunate. Years later after reading Pal Hal by Dick Beddoes and working with at the Peterborough Memorial Centre with Mr. Peter Bourgeois, a personal driver of Mr. Ballard in the 1970s did I realize and honestly believe that I was a recipient of a Mr. Ballard $5.00 bill.

Sick Kids Hospital has always had sports figures come to spread hope in the eyes of young patients. Mr. Ballard, however, did it unanimously because of course he had a reputation to upkeep. Nobody would want to recognize that a man so evil could have a good side too.


I want to touch on the loss of a friend recently. The City of Peterborough lost a good employee and a great man recently in the passing of solicitor John Hart. John passed away in his sleep while at a conference in Ottawa. When he left home before the conference he had no idea he would never return. Is that the way we should all go. Quietly in our sleep? My sister said that the way she wants to go.

But I beg to differ. I like my situation currently in that I can assess, prepare and take part in my potentially, a long-time from now soul's departure. I feel so sorry for John's family. He did not have a chance to say goodbye. He didn't suffer either. The only leason from his loss is that we should not take life for granted. Go and hug someone close today because they may not be here tomorrow. There is no garantee that I will be around next year. And there is certainly no garantee you will be either. My condolences to John's family and our family at City Hall for enduring such a sudden death. John Hart was a good man and I was proud to call him a friend of mine.


My cousin Grant Holohan has dedicated his 2009 Ride To Conquer Cancer to me. Grant is my wife's first cousin. I don't get to see much of Grant and his wife Liz because they live in Toronto but I am so happy and honoured that he has thought of me for his ride. I am also thankful that they, as well as Grant's brother Greg, have decided to do something about a cure for Cancer. If you wish to check out his personal website, please feel free to do so through the link on the right side of my page under 'MY BLOG LIST'. Thank you again Grant and Liz. Good Luck, earn lots of money and train hard!

Thanks for Reading and Sharing... next blog... October 21, 2008