In Toronto, UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) held there for the first time dominated news and overshadowed the federal election slated a couple of days later.
Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to sport news but I happened to be in Toronto on the Saturday of the event and the number of people sporting UFC bandanas and t-shirts was pretty impressive. 55,000 people attended, many of them partying in the streets.
My interest was first piqued during the flight by an intimidating man with elongated facial piercing who came to engage the guy across the aisle from where I sat. Curious, I made inquiries and discovered the man with metal hanging from his chin was a friendly firefighter from Fort Mac and the person he was speaking with was seven times UFC winner, mixed martial artist Jason MacDonald.
Jason is married, a father of four, and runs his own gym in Red Deer while managing other fighters. I watched his televised match when he won in Toronto using a very impressive Jiu-Jitsu hold on his opponent who “tapped” out. This is a sport of courage but there are different types of courage that are just as inspiring.
Take Faustino Benitez, a young computer scientist who travelled world wide to attend conferences as part of his job with the Cuban government. On a visit here he applied for refugee status so that he could offer his wife and children a better life. Canada is a wonderful country he said quietly, adding that we have no idea of how poor they are in Cuba. People wait for hours to receive a bag of rice every two weeks. Faustino spoke of Cuba, telling me how beautiful it is and how he will never see his mother again because he doesn’t feel comfortable returning, even for a visit. Another man that impressed me was my son, Peter. In Mt. Sinai Hospital to have a rare tumoral calcinosis removed from inside and outside his hip socket, Peter was up using a walker the first evening. The next day he walked with crutches and by the third evening insisted that he be released much to the consternation of staff, girlfriend, mother and sister who felt it was too early.
His doctor, Oleg Safir, said this condition is so rare it was documented and photographed. The benign mass of calcium deposits had jagged edges that cut into surrounding tissues, causing Peter great pain for the past year. Removal gave him instant relief. My wonderful Toronto cousins made the trip memorable by surprising me with a birthday dinner and cake and also took Pina and I to a service at St. Catherine of Sienna church. The congregation was celebrating a special mass dedicated to St. Catherine by having numerous flags carried by people dressed in colourful native costumes. Afterwards a procession was held with the bishop, clergy and men in special dress carrying the statue of St. Catherine. An Italian band dressed in period finery followed and right behind were hundreds of people spilling onto the street. This was reminiscent of my childhood and something I hadn’t experienced since leaving Italy. It’s astonishing to witness a scene and hear music that transports one back in time. All of this and the people I met made the trip truly special.