Ontario Place, in Toronto, was Ontario’s gift to Canada on the occasion of Canada’s 100th birthday back in 1967. It took several years to build, but when it was finished in the early 1970s, it was a marvel of engineering and a new space for the public to enjoy on Toronto’s Lake Ontario waterfront.
Parked in the middle of Ontario Place was the “forum,” a theater in the round, surrounded by a covered-seating section and open-air grass hills beyond. The circular stage rotated so that there was not a bad seat in the “house,” as the performers faced all directions over the course of a concert.
The 1970s was a grand time to hear great music at Ontario Place’s Forum. They had free concerts every Friday and Saturday night, and I saw some of the greatest jazz and other concerts I have ever heard, including Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Chuck Mangione, Ella Fitzgerald, and Pat Metheny, as well as popular musicians such as Kenny Loggins, Seals and Crofts, Percy Faith, and so many more. Saturday night rituals with my friends were engrained with great music experiences.
For the first three or four years, this weekend music experience always started in late May with a performance by Grammy Award- and Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter Dan Hill. I loved his music then and still love it today. His music has grown and changed over the years, a rare feat for a musician still writing and performing over a 40-year time span.
A couple of weeks back, my wife, Tina, and I were major sponsors of a fundraising event for the Jewish Family Service Calgary organization that was honoring Rosslyn Steinberg for her 50-plus years of volunteer work there, at the children’s hospital, and more. Headlining the event for entertainment was Dan Hill. I was thrilled.
In recent years, Dan was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The treatment was invasive and difficult to endure. His life “flashed before his eyes,” and mortality was being faced head-on. What does a songwriter do? He wrote a song about it and titled it “The Slightest Difference.” It was featured on an album titled “Amazing,” which is about music from all genres coming together in the fight against prostate cancer. But on this evening honoring Rosslyn, he also was asking the same questions we all pose when we look back over our lives:
Did I make the slightest difference
Did I give more than I took back
Was the love I made equal to the love I gave
When they lay me down to rest,
All I ask is did I make a difference.”
(Lyrics used with permission.)
This chorus and the lyrics in between were significantly moving and made me think about my own mortality, as a husband, father, brother, dentist, and more. Have I made a difference? I am giving back more than I take? Have I gone into dentistry, and do I practice our profession, for the “right” reasons?
Enter Nancy. Nancy is in her late 80s, and it had been about two years since we saw her last. She had been having a difficult time. She lost her husband after more than 65 years of marriage. Her son, born with cerebral palsy, had become a successful lawyer, husband, and father and had moved to British Columbia. And now she is here in Calgary with fewer of her loved ones nearby.
But she came to our office, and when I sat down to say hello prior to her recall examination, she said, teary-eyed, “I feel like I have come home.” We have had the honor of caring for Nancy and her family for more than 23 years, and another 20-plus years by Dr. Rasmussen, whom I purchased my practice from in the early 1990s.
Nancy affirmed, in one small way, that I am making the slightest difference. It was a moving experience for me and my team — and still moves me today.
It makes our day less of a grind. May we always continue to make the slightest difference.
Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD, FPFA