Dennis Anderson with his brother, Fred, writer, painter
Fred Anderson has published a new book, edited by his sister, Marjorie Anderson: Keep It Cold and Other Good Advice. It is a collection of fifty short anecdotes from a widely varied group of people who have responded to a request for “memorable words of advice that have made a significant difference in your life”.
David Arnason, poet, fiction writer, filmmaker, former head of the Icelandic Department at the University of Manitoba has written the forward. He says “They tell of the moments, the words, the flashes of insight that have altered their lives in meaningful ways….Sometimes, it comes from incidental encounters – with a teacher, a workmate, or an older self looking back on childhood reactions….It is a testimonial to the human spirit.”
There was a capacity crowd at the launch of Keep It Cold at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg on November 27. Various people who have written pieces for the book read their contributions. Jim Anderson, Fred’s brother, said that Audrey Waytiuk’s reading about her lifelong challenge of living with depression touched everyone in the room. The most important piece of advice she’d ever received was from an uncle who told her that what she needed to do was to “Keep trying to try”.
Fred’s anecdote, “Advice on Ice” is about a interview he and three fellow university students conducted with Otto Zwigg, the owner and CEO of Provincial Cold Storage. Mr. Zwigg provided Fred with the title to this book by replying to every question about his business practices with some variation of the phrase “keep it cold.” He was obviously teasing the students, but, in the end, “keep it cold” is brilliant advice if you are running a cold storage business. And it became a mantra that Fred could apply in other aspects of his life.
Fred is the youngest of the eight children of Asdis Guttormson and Thorsteinn (Stony) Anderson of Poplar Park (now Libau) MB, that isolated marshland behind the south shore of Lake Winnipeg. In his forties, Fred developed Parkinson’s – a terrifying disease that compromises muscular strength and mobility. And, over time, remorselessly attacks both body and mind. The younger someone develops Parkinson’s, the more severe it usually is. His family members, many of whom are writers and editors, joined in helping him achieve the publication of this book.
Fred’s Parkinson’s started with stiffness – frozen is the word. The dopamine level in his brain was not high enough to keep his muscles flexible. The Parkinson’s meds added dopamine, but it was difficult to keep the level balanced, and as the disease progressed, the stiffness could last for up to ten hours. There’s no cure for Parkinson’s, but over the last twenty-five years there have been many attempts to help Fred medically. He has had electrodes implanted into his brain and has undergone many different drug therapies .
Faced with a debilitating disease he began to write. His first published book was White Flashes on Charcoal, a book of poems. When he was young he had started to paint. Defying the effects of his Parkinson’s, osteoporosis and stints in a wheelchair, he’s continued to paint, and now sells his paintings at Lynnwood Capital Care facility in Edmonton where he lives.
Born in 1946 in Poplar Park, Fred did everything right. Academically brilliant, he won the Governor General’s medal and was the valedictorian at his high school graduation from Selkirk Collegiate. He went on to distinguish himself as he earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees in business and worked for the Manitoba Government, Northern Life Insurance Company, Ladco Development Corporation, and then his own property development firm, Jason Properties Limited, located in Edmonton.
In spite of contracting Parkinson’s in his early forties, Fred continued to operate his property development company for another ten years. Only when his mobility was severely compromised did he move into assisted living and then into Edmonton’s Lynnwood Capital Care complex.
Ray Taylor, in the last anecdote in the book, writes about Fred. Ray was blinded in an industrial accident. He knows about Fred from visiting the complex where Fred lives.
I had often felt sorry for myself. Blind, you know…lots of extremity pain…tremors and the usual “why me?” attitude—all the normal aspects of depression one goes through with a disability. But then I’d think of Fred: How many trips to the hospital, how many setbacks, and how many recoveries? Where did his spirit and tenacity come from? And, what the devil did I have to complain about!”
His brother Jim answers by saying that Fred never gives up because, “he remains interested in people and the world.” His brother Dennis claims, “Fred does not have the word ‘despair’ in his vast vocabulary”. Fred is an inspiration to everyone who knows him.
I’m pleased to have had a small part in this book. I provided one of the anecdotes. The brief narratives are heartfelt and inspiring. Time after time, the problems and the advice touched me. I came away from reading the book, thinking, “There are good people in this world.”
Keeping It Cold can be purchased from McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg (www.mcnallyrobinson.com) or Tergesen H. P. and Sons in Gimli (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).