. . . hello boy, good-bye man, I’ll drive with my wipers on
Saturday Jan. 25, 2014
Birthdays of people who matter are easy to remember, aren’t they?
Alex, January 24, 2014
Gary, November 11, 1949
Every year on January 24th for the rest of my life, I will celebrate my grandson.
Every year on Remembrance Day, a note on my computer’s calendar says ‘call Gary’ . I can’t imagine changing that.
To wish them happy birthday, to laugh with them, enjoy with them – the anniversary of their birth.
There ought to be an instruction book for life which covers how-to for all events and occasions we’ll encounter. It seems to me, as much as we think about and prepare for how we will feel when expected things arrive – we never get what we expected.
We get different.
We get more.
We get surprised.
We get mixes of emotions we never intended or believed possible.
Whether tears of joy or sadness, feelings of hope or disappointment – they flow like fountains.
Bittersweet morning . . .
I went trolling for wisdom – surely, in all history, in all literature – there must be words of wisdom for these moments, for this day. I found some – precious, not perfect, but perfectly suitable for my requirement ~
“When a person is born we rejoice, and when they’re married we jubilate, but when they die we try to pretend nothing has happened.” – Margaret Mead
“No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.” – C.S. Lewis
I’ll focus my trip, my attention, my today on seeing my newest family member Alex, but my mind will be on one of my oldest friends who won’t laugh with me anymore.
Sweet – on one hand, joyous, seeing my 1 day old grandson, Alexander Christopher (Alex), he’s probably wondering what all the fuss is about and why some old guy traveled 200 miles just to hold him. And he’ll meet his sister Isla for the first time today too … woo-hoo!
Bitter on the other hand – stunningly sad.
I haven’t reached Gary for a few days – his voicemail was full, which isn’t unusual. He often lacks strength to listen to and clear them, or sometimes even strength to answer the phone if he is awake, which most often he isn’t. He didn’t call me either. Again, not unusual – for a guy who has had about an hour each day of calm time with energy for talking when not being poked, prodded and engaged with helpers and face-to-face visitors. I planned visiting his hospice today. I was online to look up its address and thought – hoping best/fearing worst – I should check Edmonton Journal obituaries, and found what I feared finding , that he is already gone.
Gary died Monday.
I talked to him that day, briefly, no idea it would be our last. I didn’t say goodbye. I said “see you soon – I’ll be coming to Edmonton to hold that new baby when he arrives".
Strange feeling this – planning to see him today, then learning he’s been dead 5 days.
I hadn’t heard from his brother or son – but I expect they have many things to take care of that would preclude notifying his friends.
I’ll be remembering our conversations these past few months far more than ones from the previous 40 years. He taught me some valuable lessons. Through him I’ve got some things about life in ‘revised perspective’, how we see pains and gains. I saw someone move so quickly from having life and the whole world at hand – poised for his 20-30 years of comfortable retirement he’d planned so carefully for – to being left so swiftly without a chance to grab any of his dreams, enjoy any of those planned trips or to creak-open his cobwebbed tight-wad wallet to spend some money on an ‘I always wanted one of those’ treasure.
My friend was cheap. But I don’t think he left feeling short-changed on life, though short-changed on time would be an apt description of his regrets pile.
Having grand plans and enough money to last till 90 served little use in dealing with his disease. He’s gone at 64, pained no more, laughing no more, but still very much alive and living in my memory.
So, I have one boy to see today, not two.
Gary used to complain, up to and including our final conversations, that his family never thought he had amounted to much or respected his accomplishments. He was wrong. He was every measure of man and father, friend and kindness that I’ve seen in anyone.
My final words for Gary?
Those will come with time.
It seems to me, best way to remember him this sunny morning is with some music.
I’m not much of an Elvis fan. But he was. Still, I can’t bring myself to remember Gary with any of Elvis’s words – couldn’t find any with appropriate message for this occasion, for this feeling – so I’ve chosen these instead and these partly for their messages – in part for the visuals. Gary and I never took that trip to Las Vegas he wanted – and now that I think about it, I’m sure he would have insisted we go to see Elvis impersonators …
Not the last time we talked, but the time before that – I asked Gary if there was anything un-said, anything he still needed to do, and whether he was ready to die. He told me what needed to be done was done, that he was ready. I’m not sure if he really felt that because he’d been holding on so intently, but it was clear that he wanted me to think everything was OK, that he was done, that he was ready.
When we are born, just like little Alex, we are perfect unspoiled human beings. We live and then die, unchanged – still perfect. Our experiences and those we impact are the only legacy we leave, the only one we can.
If there is a post-script to his life, Gary will be living on in my life and many others. If he’s doing something – anything – anywhere else, I’m sure he’s online building his next e-business venture, listening to Elvis tunes and forgetting to return phone messages.
Good-bye my friend.
column written/ published from Calgary
morning walk: 8C / 47F, sunny day ahead – perfect for a highway trip; icy-treacherous in the shade, melting in the sun, gentle breeze, Gusta sensing (some things are set out to load in the car) a car-ride in her day, wolfed her breakfast down and is wagging like she has a mid-belly hinge
CONGRATS GRANDPA! No name grandson? All doing well?, CM, Calgary, AB (from Houston .. I ain’t goin nowheres!)
Friendship brings both happiness and sadness. Celebrate the happy times by keeping them alive in memories. Sadness has no place in those memories but also needs to be honoured and I'm sure your friend Gary appreciates your way of doing this by your kind thoughts and visits. How joyous it is to be a grandpa again. Congrats to you and family on the newest arrival yet to be named, LK, Calgary, AB