Imagine yourself in a small farmhouse in the town of Aberdeen, Manitoba in the early nineteen-sixties; you'd see the rather conventional family of Will and Carrie Patterson and their children; John, the oldest, Bev, the middle child and Bill, the youngest. Both parents were of a traditional-minded bent but were aware that things were changing in the world despite their personal opinions. After all, they weren't going to be around forever and, to put it bluntly, didn't expect to influence things from the Great Beyond. One of the traditional beliefs that they held was the physical discipline of children; not, mind you, that they had much cause to put that belief into practice. Sure, it would be a relief to do something other than smile and let John spout off about things he didn't know that much about (always ending his lectures with the sentiment that whatever thing he believed was an iron-clad rule) but he'd never done anything other than bloviate about things he didn't know about or get all sullen when someone questioned his beliefs. About the only time Will had had to take him aside and adjust his attitude was when he thought that someone had cheated in a mental game. One of the five times this had happened was when Bev had told them a riddle; it had involved a family of four people: a grandfather, a husband, a wife and a son. The thing was that one of them was a doctor who'd had to treat the other three. Now when Bev had said that it wasn't the granddad, Will and Carrie had both guessed right off that she was talking about a lady doctor. (He, like Red Green, wouldn't actually go to one because undressing in front of a lady who wasn't his wife creeped him out but he knew they existed.) John, on the other hand, did not get it; when Bev said it was the mother, he blew up, yelled that Bev had cheated and smacked her in the arm hard. Will took him aside, smacked him on the rear end while Carrie told him that it wasn't cheating just because he never thought of it. They'd thought that they'd nipped that in the bud but events had proven otherwise.
They'd pretty much forgotten that mess by the time John was in high school; that's because they had to pretty much prop up his ego. He was, as others have said, a rather awkward, angular figure who wasn't exactly what you'd call a social lion despite doing fairly well in school. His ranting about how he couldn't wait to get to the Big City because fate had more in store for him than pushing a plough alienated the people that his pompous smirking, annoying puns and pontificating about things he didn't know about hadn't already driven away. As for standing with the ladies, he'd only had one female contemporary you could call a love interest if you were being charitable: a Sylvia Makepeace. Like him, she had big dreams of a great life in the wider world; unlike him, though, she was possessed of an awareness of her surroundings. The both of them had been accepted at the University of Toronto in the spring of 1967; he was working towards becoming a dentist while she was working towards a degree in English Literature. (It should be noted at this point that his parents that they were a dangerous combination. They knew for a fact that John had distinct trouble with any form of literature that wasn't either an instruction manual or porn because he was uncomfortable with anything that made him think too hard about things. That meant that dating an English major was just asking for trouble.) They'd dated steadily with a view towards getting engaged and things seemed to have arranged themselves quite nicely up until the point that he'd needed to support himself as a post graduate; rather than take out a further student loan, he and Syliva (who were cohabiting at the time) had hit on a plan where she'd take work as a copy editor at an ad agency downtown and support the pair of them. When he got his DDS, he could support her while she pursued her Masters. He'd complained bitterly about the arrangement behind her back to a mutual acquaintance named McCaulay but was all smiles in her presence. Upon becoming a full-fledged dentist, he'd proposed. Said proposal was immediately rejected when he declared his intention not to live up to his end of the bargain; she was told to drop her academic ambitions and traveling hither and yon immediately because it wouldn't look right for her to work. The damning thing to him was that his parents weren't at all sympathetic to his plight; Will's response was to frown, shake his head and tell him that he had every last bit of the angry speech she'd made about his being a smug fraud coming 'cause he welched on a deal. Doctor Makepeace is currently the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at a university in the state of Colorado.
This left John at a crossroads; he had contemplated setting up a practice in his home town but was quietly discouraged. You see, another Aberdonian, an Arthur Waldschutz, had also attended the U of T on scholarship; he had learned that John wasn't that good a dentist. Not only was he rude and condescending to his assistants, he also tended to treat his patients like they were part of the furniture. Waldschutz's fiance Hannah had likened her experience with him to feeling like she was an engine block that needed its sparkplugs gapped. This led them to encourage him to make his way in the world, bring glory to the town and keep them from spending more money than they had fixing his mistakes. He was relieved on 23 July 1975 when his friend Ted had told him that a dentist who has a few years from retirement had his practice in the Spiggot Medical Arts Building (at the corner of Lynn Avenue and Johnston Street) in the suburb of Milborough where they both worked; the man was looking for a junior partner to transfer the practice to and didn't really care who he'd hired; after all, he could train him out of any eccentricities that bother him no problem. Ted had also tried to get John to socialize but had mixed results at best; while most women found Ted to be an annoyance that came on too strong, they were at least willing to date him more than once. They found John to be something of a pain. This lack of success horrified John because it seemed to him that he was too old to be single. It was thus with great relief that he'd started dating a young woman he thought of as "the girl at the front desk": Elly Watson. It didn't take him long to realize that the 'girl' was a divorcee with a son Michael. This wasn't the turn-off Elly had thought it might have been; you see, John had thought that Michael needed a male in his life so he grew up right and Elly needed a husband so that she wouldn't have to hold down a job ever. He never did understand why his parents rolled their eyes when he said that he wanted Elly to be just like Carrie because he never considered what she did to be work at all. In any event, their courtship and engagement lasted two years; the reason for the delay was trying to hash out whose apartment they would live in and whether Mike would have to take the name Patterson. Once those were resolved, he and Elly were married in an Anglican church in the Winnipeg area in early September 1979. Married life soon settled in an awkward pattern; Elly baffled and annoyed him by murmuring about how overwhelmed she felt as a housewife and her ungrateful son Mike didn't automatically accept his authority no matter how much he reminded him who was in charge. It was at that point that Elly announced the birth of her second (as far as he knew) and his first child: Elizabeth. Since his apartment was suddenly too small, he'd had to put down a down-payment on a spit level in the Sharon Park area. His life finally started looking perfect; he'd finally manage to wiggle out from under his old boss, he had the wife, the 2.4 kids and the house with the garage. Too bad for him and everyone else that life isn't so tidy.