Sometimes it’s hard to be humble, but it helps to have help.
I am married to a wonderful strong and beautiful Anishinaabe woman. We’ve been together for 31 years. For Katherine – Animikiquay – public outings with me always present a challenge to our romantic balance. I am not only distracted and forgetful, but I meet an incredibly large number of people who know me, but whose identities constantly elude me. I’ll be speaking to someone who has stopped to talk to me, and all the while my brain is running through a very large rolodex trying to find the card with the information on just who this person is. I never find it on my own, often relying on a sneak peek at a name tag or a clue in a word or phrase, or I may ask a probing question. It often means that I fail to introduce them to Katherine – and her to them – as I try to avoid the awkwardness of admitting I just don’t know who this invariably friendly person is. Katherine is tolerant enough of me to accept that that is how things are, and has developed her own coping skills. “How do you know my husband?” she sometimes will ask, and that’s often enough. On occasion however, someone has said “Oh, he sent me to jail in 1993” which sort of creates its own awkwardness.
Our relationship is strengthened by our belief in our traditions, but sometimes Katherine will add her own twist to those. I am of the Fish Clan and she is of the Bear Clan and there are long and complex teachings among our people as to what the roles of the clans are and how they relate to each other. However, Katherine reminds me from time to time of the natural laws that define the relationship that truly exists between the fish and the bear. It boils down to this: fish exist to feed the bear.
I don’t know how many recall a Winnipeg Free Press article written in 1998 by Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair – no relation I might add but that fact seems to do neither of us any good – naming the one hundred most influential Manitobans at that time. Gordon named me one of them – seventh as I recall.
I read the article about 5:30 a.m. just after I had made my coffee, which I usually enjoy in the company of our two dogs Wheezy and Mac the Bratdog. I was amazed at what I saw – and truth be known – immensely full of myself. I immediately wanted to share that moment and I did – at least with the dogs, who were the only ones nearby at the time. However the best I could get out of them was a slight lifting of one eye and a waggle of a tail. That was not enough….but it should have been.
Still filled with the need to share the moment, I decided to wake Katherine to share the news.
Katherine’s not a morning person.
It took a couple of minutes to rouse her from what I was sure was an unsatisfying sleep, and to explain why I was there – and who I was.
Reluctantly she roused herself and asked for a cup of coffee. I gave her the paper and pointed out the article, and went to fetch the coffee while she glanced at it. When I returned, she was curling up under the covers again, apparently preparing to go back to sleep.
“Well whaddya think” I asked, still quite full of myself.
“I’m not mentioned” she said
“Whaddya mean” I unintelligently asked.
“Well”, she mumbled, “I’m not sure how you can be the seventh most influential person in Manitoba when you aren’t even the seventh most influential in this house”.
Katherine gives me perspective. Next time though, I think I’ll wait until she wakes up on her own. It’s not a good idea to wake a sleeping bear. That’s another natural law.