My name is Denise Sevier-Fries (nee Buchy). Parca is the Roman Goddess of Childbirth and Destiny and after you get to know me, you will see why I believe she has, without doubt, made me her Poster Child. Come here for some serious issues, but mainly just some cheeky fun; satire with the odd parody tossed in, and a generous helping of hyperbole, with a dollop of facetiousness.

I am Canadian so expect a bit of politeness too. Sorry.


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Saturday, November 23, 2019

BETTER HANDS ON A SNAKE: A Brother Broken By Disease and The Sister Who Picked Up The Pieces

Rhonda picked up Bob’s hand and placed it gently on the Stanley Cup.

Splaying his fingers so they could feel its cool steel patterns, she helped them travel down the side and up again, allowing a slow and thorough sweep over the decades of engraved names.

She avoided looking at his tear-filled eyes, giving him a period of grace to enjoy a personal moment of wonderment and awe, and a sliver of the privacy that his disease had stolen. Bob knew he could never die a happy man, but he and Bobby Clarke had touched the same Cup. That was happy enough.

Millions of people go to see the Stanley Cup, but how many people can say the Stanley Cup came to see them?

Born in a small prairie town in Canada, my brother Bob and sister Rhonda could not have been further apart. In every sense. A fifteen year age gap leaves a lot of dead space between siblings. The rare shared experiences don’t really stick. There is just a thin shared branch of a family tree.

Where Bob was a tall, fit, Hollywood-handsome jock with the kind of aloof self-assurance and blue eyes that melted chastity belts like chocolate bars on a June dashboard, Rhonda was a sharp-tongued girl with a pleasant face and the meaty Ukrainian thighs the women of our family were legally required to own. Where Bob walked under a perpetual spotlight of attentive admiration, Rhonda was, I admit, largely ignored by her shitty babysitters (read: the sisters, including myself). A household with seven children is bound to have issues, and we had our fair share, but we were always close-knit. We laughed a lot and went through myriad decks of playing cards. That’s my memory anyway. Until that awful summer.    
Most of us had grown up and left home...going off to university, finding jobs, getting married or, in Bob’s case, joining an NHL farm team in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Mom had a scrapbook full of Bob’s headline-news hockey career, and we were all mighty proud.

He was 19 when St. Louis nabbed him. 6’0”, 185 lbs, playing Centre with a smooth, effective style. He played for the Billikens first, and then went onto play in Syracuse, New York, and a few other American teams. 

Like all his teammates, he was waiting to get called up to the big leagues. He had always been a top-notch hockey player and much of my childhood was spent being a rink-rat watching him play with the local Junior A Hockey club, The Dauphin Kings.

Captain Bobby Buchy. Always the star of the show. At least in my eyes.

Well, maybe not just my eyes.

Scoring 5 goals a game was not unheard of for him, and when a team in Montreal tried to trade 4 of their players for him, it wasn't a surprise. They surreptitiously flew him out to Quebec to court him, but Coach Steve 'Boomer' Hawrysh wasn't having any of it. He called them back to block the steal and refused to let him go. 

Bob was a joy to watch. And funny at times too: I can't count the number of times the games were stopped so the rink staff could shovel the ice to find Bob's lost contact lens, the jam packed crowd of 2000 fans cheering uproariously upon its recovery! 

His dream, like most Canadian kids who slept with their blades on, was to play in the NHL and nothing was going to stop him. 

However, Multiple Sclerosis had other plans. 

I was 9 when Bob left home. He started his professional career with all the eagerness in the world, but all too soon, he just wasn't doing as well as he knew he should be. He wasn't feeling himself. Was it nerves? Not enough sleep? These things were never an issue before, so why now? There was nothing obvious to point to, so it must be that he just wasn't as good as he thought he was. His stats never grew and neither did his confidence. He blamed himself. Who else was there? 

He then moved from team to team, his total points dropping while his penalty minutes rose. At home he'd been a lover, not a fighter! 

Not anymore.

Now the only life he had ever wanted was slipping from his fingers.

Desperately unhappy, with his self-assurance and dreams now shattered, Bob left hockey and entered dental school, trying to wrap his head around his unfathomable loss and stark new reality. But his naturally positive good nature and instinct for survival soon helped him refocus and his new path began to look brighter.

And then we got the call.

I was 14. My big brother was my hero, and now my hero was blind and couldn’t move. MS had drawn his name on Fight Night and it was Round 1.

Sucker punched. A TKO.

He was sick for months, and then unexpectedly he went into full remission. But at age 24, he was forever a changed man.

He began the life of a Free Spirit. Quitting dental school, living in the bush up North, building log homes, grabbing at pleasure at every turn, doing whatever the hell he pleased and living in constant fear of a relapse. People who didn’t know him thought him an odd duck, a drifter...or a Charismatic Pirate who was quick to laugh and cheat you at cards. And steal your girlfriend. 

He wandered.

And that was Bob’s life until, 10 years later, MS rang the bell for Round 2. This time it wasn’t a TKO, but he was on the ropes. And he’s hung there ever since.

A lifelong, slow and unrelenting attack.

Playing cards at the kitchen table (a family tradition), Bob would sometimes stand up and his legs would wobble. Those long muscular legs that used to pump like an iron horse on the ice, thrilling us all with their solid elegance, now barely able to push back his chair. Struggling visibly, he would shun anyone stupid enough to offer assistance, and then leaning on the countertops and walls, he’d drag himself, tortured step by tortured step, to the bathroom. The usual 10 second walk became a 10 minute ordeal. One way.

We would sit back and wait, feigning interest in small talk. An unspoken agreement to provide a half-assed background din so Bob wouldn’t be embarrassed by us overhearing his difficulty making it up and back down the hallway. Grunting. Shuffling. Heavy breathing. None of us making eye contact with each other, only half hearing each other speak, listening instead with perked ears for the dull thud of a fall. Or a call for help. Lost in our private anguish at the unseen evil that was attacking our brother. All of us helpless to fight back. Not allowed to help.

He would make it back eventually, sweating and red-faced from the effort, and we’d start up again like nothing happened. Deal the cards.

A true warrior, he fought. And he fought. And he fought.

Much later, suicide notes were found tucked in-between book pages: I will NOT end up in a wheelchair. I’d rather die.

What does one do with old suicide notes?

Rip them up.


Don’t tell Mom.


Although my brother won his battle against Suicide, he lost his war with The Wheelchair.

Rhonda had remained at home and soon, mom and dad couldn’t live without her selfless, invaluable help. It suited them all perfectly and they had their routine down pat.

Then at age 35, health worsening, Bob had to move back home. Rhonda was now 21.

Things slid downhill quickly after that.

Defeated and dejected, Bob was learning to cope, but our family home wasn’t very big and definitely not wheelchair friendly. His legs were near useless now and his hands were starting to numb. Mom catered to him devotedly but inside, she was crushed. And scared. Dad just lived in some kind of blind denial. Accepting the truth would have broken him. The weight of all that fear and sadness became tangible and the symbiotic nature of their home drastically changed. Duties shifted and allowances were made, whether they were welcome or not. Rhonda fumed. Bob fumed. Frustration and anger mounted. Clashes of personality began to hit hard and daily petty spats between Rhonda and Bob eventually turned into shouting matches. 

I think it was Mom’s obvious distress that finally made them run up the white flags, and they simply recognized that they were just two people who were pissed off at what life had dealt them and they’d become each other’s convenient punching bag. The wall of contempt fell and the healing began.

It started with civility. No more name-calling or rudeness. No arguments. They ignored each other for a while but spoke politely when circumstance necessitated. And then one night during a regular game of Rummy with Mom, Bob couldn’t hold his cards easily anymore. His fingers could barely move so they called it a night.

Next game, Rhonda unexpectedly joined them and helped Bob deal the cards. She then shifted them around in his hand with his instruction. Looking at his cards, he shook his head somberly and said, “I’ve seen better hands on a snake.”

The laughter around the table was loud and cathartic. Like a giant chalkboard brush wiping the slate clean.


Bob, ever defiant and hungry for independence, soon decided he needed to be on his own and wanted to live in his old cabin by the lake. How’s that possible, one could ask? Great question. How can a man who cannot walk or move more than a finger look after himself?

He can’t.

And so the Charming Pirate re-emerged and with assistance from his new ally and astonishingly resourceful sister, arrangements were secured to have help come up twice a day to the lake to 1)  get Bob out of bed and 2) get Bob back in bed.

In-between those times, save for the odd visitor, he was all alone.

 It wasn’t ideal. We worried. A lot.

“What if a hungry bear comes by, or your cat curls up on your face and smothers you one night? ”

“Then I die. My choice.”

Freedom to choose saved him from despair. Complete autonomy became his standard, and his life became bearable. 

Then years later, at age 58, his condition worsening, Bob finally threw in the gloves and moved back home. Our aged parents were a handful for Rhonda to manage, and Bob, now a quadriplegic, became a full-time job in his own right. Drastically lessening the hours (and income) from her job as a Teacher's Aid, she became nurse, secretary, chauffeur, concierge, personal shopper, cook, maid and most importantly, lottery ticket and bingo card buyer to them all.

Bob was in and out of hospital with so many near-death bouts of pneumonia, we lost count. We’d visit him in hospital and he’d whisper-sing the Fred Penner kid's tune, ‘The cat came back, the very next day…’ and we'd laugh through our tears.

A cat with nine lives, indeed! But then the whispering stopped.

MS took his voice.

So Rhonda and Bob developed an exasperating and painfully tedious way to communicate that we dubbed 'AlphaBlinking'. When lip-reading fails, Rhonda starts with ‘A’ and works her way down, all the while looking to see if he is blinking once for ‘yes’, or twice for ‘no’.... slowly spelling out his words.

YOU try it. Good luck.

Once, I flew home cross-country to see Bob in  the ICU at the hospital, thinking his time had finally come. I tried to AlphaBlink his final words to me and failed miserably. I was devastated. Rhonda stepped in to help and we eventually realized that he was asking about his old battered goalie stick from his childhood that had been recently unearthed from the deepest dregs of the basement. He had been spelling it G-O-L-I-E and it had been throwing us off for 20 minutes! We laughed so hard... until he was airlifted to Winnipeg and I knew that damn stick might be the last thing we ever talked about.

But, the cat came back.

Predictably, set routines drastically changed after he needed a tracheotomy: feeding tubes; perpetual throat suctioning; nightly distress-checks every 2 hours. Very much like a newborn babe needing regular feeding and changing. 

If anyone asks Rhonda if she has kids, she doesn't know how to answer. Her life was like motherhood!

My brother and sister carved out a life for themselves with the tools they were given. Neither are prone to verbally expressing affection (NOT a family trait...the rest of us are embarrassingly mushy), but they give each other the gifts of kindness, laughter, and a love that is never spoken, but always shown. Every single day.

I love getting pictures of Bob's bright, colorful birthday parties. His brilliant, hilarious Halloween costumes. Their lovely Christmas celebrations. Scenic day-drives to the parks and lakes.

What could top that?

Well...there might be ONE thing.


It happened on August 22 2018, when Rhonda gave Bob the most treasured gift of his life.

Any true fan would kill to touch the Stanley Cup, and one day, to Bob’s utter amazement, news hit that it was coming to the house.

To THEIR house!

Dauphin Kings Alumni and Head Coach of the Washington Capitals Barry Trotz brought The Cup to town to raise money for charity. Hearing that Bob couldn’t possibly come to the fundraiser to see it, he brought Lord Stanley to see Bob.

Why would he do such an amazing thing?  

Barry once said, in a SPORTNET article: " [my] favourite player was a centre named Bob Buchy. He reminded me of Jean Beliveau — tall, graceful, skilled. Everyone has a favourite player growing up and I guess a lot of them are [NHL] stars these days. Mine was a player from our hometown.” (link to article CLICK HERE )

Carrying the large, iconic trophy carefully in his arms like a big shiny baby, Barry walked up the wheelchair ramp and into our hearts. My brother’s eyes were as wide as any Knight newly gazing upon the Holy Grail.

Rhonda’s face split into such a wide grin, she found teeth she didn’t know she had.

A chat.
Pure magic.

They say that our experiences in life are like Deposits that we save in the Banks of our Minds. The more we experience, the more we save, and then in our solitary Golden Years when its hard to get up from our rocking chairs, we can make Memory Withdrawals, enjoying them over and over again. My brother had led an interesting life for a while, but MS robbed him from filling that memory bank. That special day did much in way of enriching that vault.

There must be a special place in Heaven for people like my sister Rhonda and Barry Trotz…but Bob? Well, I’m not sure where pirates go…
My beautiful brother Bob quietly passed away in his sleep on Oct 22 2022. My tribute to him can be read here: THE CAT DIDN'T COME BACK

                                     PHOTO ALBUM:

AGE 19: CAPTAIN BOBBY BUCHY of the Dauphin Kings:


Off to play in St. Louis: (Rhonda is in this pic too!)

 Number 19:

Handsome bugger!

Me and my Hero:

In remission:

Many years later, already in his wheelchair:

                                        Bob and my twins Scott and Chaelan circa 1992

Bob with Mom and Dad:

Happy holidays and celebrations with Rhonda: here in Christmas 2019

And my personal favorite:

Bob, Barry and Lord Stanley:

And finally...
Bob and Rhonda:                          

                                                                    THEN AND NOW

                                                                    Here in 2010:

THE END? Nope, not by a long shot...


I was delightfully surprised at the overwhelming reaction this blog piece received on the hometown Facebook page I posted it on (as a last minute link in another story actually) but my most cherished comment(s) of all, was from retired Senior Associate Chief Justice of The Supreme Court of Manitoba, The Honourable Jeffrey Oliphant, who was born and went to school in Dauphin. Here is his post, which is followed by a dozen other back and forths (not shown)... mostly me gushing all over the poor man for his encouragement. *facepalm*

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