Friday, April 22, 2022

S IS FOR SMARTIE

One of my best friends passed away on Easter Sunday. Though we were separated by thousands of miles, we spoke on the phone at least once a week. He was mere fifty six years of age.

My avid readers will recognize his name as well as his photo, as he has appeared in several journal posts over the years (even has his own label). All very raw and still in shock, I am struggling to deal with the loss. 

As a result, I have decided to share what his oldest and dearest childhood friend "Howie" posted for him on the exact day my letter S was due. 

I think it paints a perfect picture of this wonderful man. The words brought me to both tears of laughter as well as deep sadness. Words can not describe how much I will miss him.

Rest in peace Smartie. Keep my seat next to you warm and your wit razor sharp....Until we meet again.

Love you always xoxo ~ Rhondi

I miss my buddy

He’s gone.  That’s what his ex-wife said to me when I answered the phone the evening of Easter Sunday.

All who knew Brian entered a new world in that moment.

So far, that world is one of shock, disbelief, boundless sadness and equally boundless gratitude; feelings all common in the wake of the loss of loved one. The shock, disbelief and sadness will settle.  The gratitude for all he brought to my world, will remain forever.

His laughter was matched only by his ability to make others laugh.

At the end of grade 7, we went on a class camping trip to Bass Lake Provincial Park.  As far as we could tell, our teacher, modeled his classroom management style after Joseph Stalin. From the perspective of a bunch of dumb, gangly 12-year-old boys, he was mean.

The camping area was a large, rectangular field. Perfect to ensure boys tents lined the perimeter of one side, girls on the other.

In line with our teacher’s overall approach, there was a seemingly endless list of rules. Among them, very precise direction as to when all were required to be in tents and very ominous threats of consequences if not.

As 12-year-olds we had yet to develop much in the way of foresight and probably worse, we had yet to develop any awareness of our limits in that regard.  Despite the dire warnings we came up with, what we believed at the time, was an airtight plan. Immediately after sunset and tent check, we’d leave our tents, bolt across the field under the cover of darkness and visit our classmates with the utmost confidence that none of this would stir even a hint of suspicion. 

Once darkness set in, tent checks complete, the zippers of 16 tents rang out and the charge was on. 

Almost instantly the flaw in our planning was exposed.  Who would think that teachers would patrol the tents after dark? Clearly 12-year-old boys didn’t.

Thankfully almost every one of us detected the flaw immediately, dove back in our tents, with adrenaline surging but safe from suffering the wrath of our teacher supervisors.

Everyone, that is, but Brian.

Peeking through our tent doors, there he was. His silhouette like a gazelle, bounding on an open plane, all on his own, in the dark, cool, damp, spring air completely oblivious to his solitude.

It turns out that teachers must develop an extraordinary capacity to identify 12-year-old running boys in the dark of night.

But as Brian’s luck would have it, that wasn’t his biggest problem.

In a highly predictable twist of fate, the world’s most fearsome teacher spotted him immediately. We cringed as we heard him yell: “Smart, where are you going?”

At that moment, the magnitude of Brian’s initial mistake compounded significantly.  For instead of responding with something like, “I’m just running to the bathroom”, he chose instead to announce, with a completely misplaced sense of sarcasm, at the top of his lungs, “I’m going to an orgy”.

And to make matters much worse, as he was sometimes known to do, he added, “where the fuck do you think I’m going, you asshole?”  

It was too much for 12-year-old boys. We spent years laughing about it.

And that’s what he did more than anyone I know. He laughed a lot and he helped other people laugh a lot.

Equal to his ability to make people laugh was his ability to build big friendships.  He had more best friends than anyone I know; he did it effortlessly, sincerely and happily.  He was as comfortable with his 3-year-old grandson as he was with the 93 year olds he was working with as part of his studies to become a healthcare aid. 

I will always be proud to call him my best friend as I know many others are too.

The span of his musical taste was broad. Together, we saw John Lee Hooker, The Clash, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Talking Heads, The Police (actually more than the musical kind), the English Beat, Flock of Seagulls, Eric Clapton, the Hip, Nash the Slash, lost some/most of our hearing watching the Headstones at the Rivoli and watched some dude throw a banana 125 meters and land right at the feet of Joan Jett - an act of athletic prowess I have yet to witness again.

But his greatest achievement is undoubtedly his family. His son, daughters and his wonderful grandson; they featured prominently and lovingly in virtually every single conversation. Each of his kids inherited his greatest attributes. 

Among the many things uniting the human experience is our frailty. None of us live perfect lives. We all deal with challenges. 

All of us, in our own way, do the very best we can to accommodate those challenges. 

We love our families and friends and care for our communities, our country and the planet.  We count on those we love in our time of need.

This was especially true of Brian.

I am grateful for every second he lived his life.  

I will miss him for as long as I live mine.

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