Archive for February, 2009

Memories

February 24, 2009

I responded this morning to a Bill, a fellow blogger who was bemoaning his inability to remember names.

He isn’t alone in this. I carefully listen for people’s names when I am being introduced and repeat them in my mind several times while in the blathering introduction part of the conversation about where one lives and works, and who one knows and doesn’t know. If I don’t catch it in the first two seconds, I’m not shy to say:

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name,” and then I keep on repeating it in the front lobe of that sometimes ineffective organ just behind my forehead.

I try to use that person’s name before I wander on to the next person to whom I will grant the privilege of forgetting their name but saying, “Well, Alice, it was very nice to meet you….” I make a mental note, try some other mnemonic gimmick to help me remember, like “Alice the Palace”, or “Alice in Wonderland but with red hair”.

I have a solution for this, but it hasn’t caught on yet. We should tattoo children with their names on their foreheads in the year of their birth in a formula that everyone understands.
Simply “Gloria” for instance. But later on, if she prefers to be called Ria, Sweetie, or Glore, we might be out of luck on the memory thing.
Of course, if one has multiple names like one poor individual I knew who, in addition to her first name,  legally inherited the first names of all her grandmothers – Ocean  Evangeline Katherine Gertrude Alice – and then had a double barreled, hyphenated last name, it might be a bit much.
She was tagged Ocean when she was a babe and we never called her anything else in her growing up years. Well, maybe. We might have tagged her Sweet Ocean as an innocent infant, and when she was in the terrible twos, we called her Riptide from time to time.

When she got to be thirteen she rebelled. She wanted to be different from the others of her Love-generation that were called Fern, Amazing Sky,  Tamarak, Otter, Sturgeon, Torrent, Heaven Scent, Cedar, Sunset, and Hollyhock, to name just a few.  She took a firm stance and wouldn’t reply to anything else but Evangeline. The tattoo wouldn’t be much help then, would it?”

Re-tattooing is a messy business, I understand, so perhaps this isn’t a definitive solution; but as we Love Generation parents become the Love Generation Greats (grandparents, that is) there is becoming a population boom of mentally-challenged name retainers.

For a while in my late Fifties, I called everyone at home Dear. That helped a lot until I got in trouble for it at work when I called my boss Dear and he didn’t like it. Then there was the time, I called another of my work colleagues Dear, inadvertently. His wife happened to work for the same organization and heard about it from some sniggering fool. I had a lot of explaining to do. He denied familiarity. I did too. I even claimed that I was losing my memory and just called everyone Dear to get over the embarassment of forgetting. She didn’t buy it. I was in upper management then and should never have admitted my lapses in memory not only limited to names. Oops!

I changed to ‘Luv, but some thought that was too familiar and the dicey situations continued to compound. One is supposed to remember the Regional Director General’s name AND title. “‘Luv” simply isn’t adequate in those situations. It was time to retire.

Retire, I did.  Unfortunately, I’ve moved to a new community and live on my own, peacefully. After looking after a family of five, the quiet is just heavenly. The downside is that I don’t know anyone here and have had to start learning names all over again.

I had several people over to dinner the other night. There were eighteen of us, to be precise. I knew Mrs. Stepford and Aimée because they have become regulars in my life. I knew Stephen and Janice because, miracle of miracles, these two lovely people had been in a remote teaching community where I taught briefly thirty years ago and they came to live here twenty years ago and I rediscovered them when I turned up here two years ago. The rest of the invited guests I’ve known only for a short time – it was, after all, an evening for me to get to know the artistic community better.

But I was the hostess, yes? It fell to me to introduce everyone.

So here’s my new trick.

I put my right hand on the shoulder of a guest on my right hand side and then do the same for the person on the left hand side. I say, “You know each other, don’t you? and look somewhat hopefully to each one of them with the best smile I can produce.

If they do, hopefully they will say “Hi Craig!. Of course I know Craig” as the other says “Alice! Nice to see you”.

And if they don’t, hopefully they will fill in the blank when I say, “No? Well, this is….?” and I trail off, and the person fills in the blank “Heather” and the I do the same for the other person, if they haven’t already jumped in to say their name, and I haven’t had to admit to my total lack of memory.

Or, everyone is sitting about in an expectant circle when a new arrival appears.  I say, “You know everyone, don’t you?” and of course they don’t, but those who don’t know the invitee wave their hand a little like they might have in elementary school and proffer their name…”I’m Bill” and Fred, George and Janis follow on. I haven’t had to remember a single name, though I’m repeating after everyone in that frontal lobe of mine to see if I can’t make one or two of them stick.

Well, I’ve got to go now. I’m going with whats’ername to do some shopping.

I’m going to see if we can’t stop into the Tattoo shop  on today’s rounds.

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Valentines Day

February 18, 2009

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This is one of my recent daubings, not too serious, that I used as a demonstration to show a friend that she too could paint. I simply put on a ground of ochre then painted on the heart.  Then I used a stencil and a thin wash of the same red to make the pattern behind it. It’s the kind of task non-painters can tackle because they will get a simple image that looks good, and then they have learned to hold a brush, mix paints, applied an underpainting, experienced an opaque use of paint and a transparent one.

There’s a story behind this.

Both of us live alone. With no significant other, as  euphemistically each of us are,  Valentines Day comes with no one to celebrate it with.  The phone was ringing off the hook, you understand, but I’ve been screening my calls because Otto, my brother, is harassing me over family matters and I don’t want to talk to him.

While I was out getting my hair trimmed and set, Robert Redford left a message to say that he was stuck down at Sundance with his business concerns but wished me a fabulous Valentines Day. Despite his wrinkles, he could put his shoes under my bed any time.

I’m rather fickle, now that I’m single, so the calls kept flooding in. Paul Gross, Harrison Ford, William Petersen (CSI’s Gil Grissom), and on and on.  But despite their jet setting life-styles,  somehow none of these offers turned into a concrete commitment for a wine and dine.

Late Thursday, I had a chat with my good friend Doreen who similarly was in a quandry. Whom to choose from all the good offers?

On Saturday, she phoned around nine. She didn’t feel like a Valentines fling and she hadn’t accepted any of them. In preference, she opted for a quiet evening, a bottle of wine, a sane conversation. She thought she would just stay home.  Except the day was beautifully sunny and she had a friend, Jacqueline,  who had just moved into my town and since Doreen was coming all the way out to see her friend’s new house,  could come out and see me at the same time? Perhaps we could both see Jacqueline and then Jacqui would have a contact in town.

It would have to be in the afternoon. Jacqueline was going to Bedford House with her devoted husband for SVD dinner at six. Anyway, we would want to meet Jacqueline without Steve because, well, you know, the conversation changed the minute you inserted a man into it. No more conversations about recent pedicures, past loves and high school beaux, gardening finds, kitchen recipes.

I suggested that Doreen stay for dinner. A good bottle of wine and some conversation was in order.  And so it was arranged like that.

On Friday, I had a funny day. I had a client coming to see my art work. The client was proposing a showing of my art work in the lobby of her business. The house had been cleaned up beautifully and I needed it clean for Friday week when I was having my next Art Salon. There’s no point in cleaning up twice.

Once my visitor left, I just couldn’t get started at anything else. The house looked unfamiliar because everything was tidy and put away. I didn’t know where to start.  I sat in front of the television watching the CBC news, the business report, Don Newman’s Politics, the weather, even a bit of sports. Now there’s another man who could offer his shoes….

I washed my few dishes. I picked up the pile at the front door, all of which is slated to be delivered or disposed of elsewhere than my house. I decided to deal with the infamous package of a small baby crib blanket that I had made for a friend in Mexico who had just produced her first, an exquisite little boy. I had wrapped it in a gold gift bag complete with a bit of bright coloured tissue paper thinking that, if they opened it at the border, they would not have to destroy a beautiful wrapping job. This fit very nicely into a plain small liquor store box, the kind that holds twelve bottles.

Previously in the week, I had taken this to the Laity Street post office and the clerk brought out her measuring tape.

“Before you start putting it through as a sale, could you please tell me how much it will cost to go surface?” I asked.

Through half glasses, she looked up at me sternly, “Surface is $59.50. If you want to send it airmail, it’s only $75.00.” Her gaze held me, waiting for an answer.

Gadzooks! That was incredible! What on earth had happened to our postal system!

“For Pete’s sake” I expostulated.  “It’s a third of the return air fare to go there. I’ll deliver it myself!”

I took the box away from her, asking “Does size matter?” She disdained a reply. She was already dealing with someone else.

So on this Friday, I found a clean shoe box. I took away the fancy gift bag, wrapped the blanket in a pristine white Kitchen Catcher plastic bag and stuffed it into the box. It just fit. The card that went with it almost made it too much – a final straw – but I taped the box shut with clear packing tape and it would hold.  I wrapped it in Kraft paper and then addressed it to Dianella and went off to the post office at 224th Street in the drugstore.

When I got there, there was a small line-up. The customer at the counter kept looking back at the three of us waiting, apologizing, “Sorry, this is taking so long.” He hesitated a few seconds and nervously turned back to us again, “Sorry. So sorry.”

It didn’t matter to me. I had time. But as I often  do, I started to make some wisecrack out loud, just in case I could entertain myself with a conversation. The woman ahead of me replied and we had quite a conversation. I told her that I hadn’t lived in this community long, and she confessed that she had only been here two weeks.

“Are you visiting or have you moved here?” I asked.

“Oh, we just moved here.”

“What made you choose Whonnock?” I asked. Our town is a bit obscure and out in the sticks.

“My husband has retired and but he’s still working two days a week with a Veterinarian here.” Her accent sounded English accent. Well, it wasn’t really a clear English accent. I eventually asked her where she came from and I remembered her saying Australia.

She asked me what I did and I told her I was retired, but that I was starting a gallery and studio in my house.

You know how hard it is sometimes when you move to a new community. You don’t know where things are and you don’t know the best place to buy your vegetables. You would like a referral to a doctor or a dentist but you don’t know whom to ask. She was really a friendly natural sort, so I offered her my business card and promised her a cup of tea or coffee, her choice, if she would like to come to visit. She said her name was Jacqui and I promptly forgot it.

She was delighted and said she would come, but she and her husband were going to Hawaii for a month. She’d get in touch with me in April when she got back. She loved art and she would be just thrilled to come see my work.

By that time, the line moved forward, she became engaged with the post mistress and when she was done, it was my turn. We waved each other good bye and that was that.

The post mistress measured my shoe box and informed me that surface mail would cost $14.00 and if I wanted to send it air, it would cost $27.00.  There was no tracking on the surface mail, but I could insure it for $100.00 and if it did not arrive in six weeks, I could claim the insurance.

“So!” I reflected out loud “Size does matter!”

“Yes,” she said, conversationally, and next time you might think of using a bubble wrap envelope that we sell, if it’s something that can’t break. It’s so light that it reduces the cost as well.”

I went away happy. I’m still planning that trip to Mexico, but I don’t have to do it right away now; and Dianella will have the blanket for her baby before he has outgrown it.

Doreen arrived on Saturday and we had a good bowl of hearty soup before we went off to her friends place at two. I recounted my adventure at the post office and told her I had really enjoyed the woman’s company. It would be great if she took me up on coming for tea.

“There’s a lot of construction going on here. Even with this recession going on, this community is going strong. Here and Vancouver, it was officially reported that there is no slowdown in housing starts. Everywhere else the reports of job losses are devastating. I just can’t imagine what those poor people will do without jobs, ” I commiserated.

We got in the car after lunch. I had the map and navigated. I couldn’t find the exact address and we went down Kanaka Creek Road to a dead end and never found our cross street. Doreen called her friend and we retraced our route, found Lougheed Highway again and then our cross street that would take us up into a new housing development of Whistler-style chalets – all duplexes, all the same. The landscaping had not yet been done. Each place had a double garage. Each was perched on a hillside. There were lovely views out the back of  the Kanaka Creek Park Reserve and on the other side,  interesting repeating views of rooftops and gables. All was spanking brand new.

We found the house number and parked the car on the steep driveway. Doreen knocked on the door. The door opened and the woman answering gave a huge hug to Doreen and they chattered a bit in greeting. I stared in confusion.  I’ve got a bit of short term memory loss these days and I knew the face but I couldn’t place it.

“I know you!” I said, a bit challenging, a bit challenged. “I’ve met you before! But where?”

“The Post office! I talked to you at the post office yesterday.”
“Of course, ” I answered, relieved. It wasn’t someone I had known for a long time. I wasn’t really insulting someone with my faulty memory.

“Too much!” declared both Doreen and Jacqueline. “That’s just too funny! I can’t believe it!.

“When you told me you met someone yesterday, you said they came from Australia. Jacqueline is from South Africa. I never thought to put the two together. Isn’t that a hoot!”

To cover my embarassment, I said, “You were supposed to come to my house for tea, not the other way round. Isn’t this amazing!”

So we went in and had a cup of tea and a wonderful chat. Jacqueline truly is a lovely woman – graceful, gracious, interesting, accomplished. I’m impressed. She will be, if she too wishes it, a great friend.

So then Jacqueline recounted how she had come home from the Post office and recounted her day to her husband.

“What is is with all these Kay’s?” she had  said. “Doreen told me she was bringing her friend who lives here out to meet me tomorrow; then I meet this one in the Post Office; and then, we just met one last week. Where are they all coming from, all of a sudden?”

We spent a good half hour dissecting this coincidence:
How had I not remembered that she came from South Africa not Australia?

I confessed that I had guessed Australia then when corrected, my brain did not register it. Anyway, it hadn’t been hugely important, that fact, so I was just telling the story and Australia was good enough for someone you might never see again. It wasn’t a critical piece of information.

Why hadn’t Doreen connected the information? Well, Kay had said the people were from Australia, and Doreen’s friends were from West Vancouver. Kay hadn’t known that Jacqueline had been living in West Vancouver before they moved here.

Why hadn’t Kay remembered Jacqueline’s face and name, yet she the story was important enough to recount it to Doreen? No answer on that one – Kay was simply a bit memory challenged now.

We had a good three hour visit – a tour of the house and gardens, a cup of tea, and one of those conversations that ranged from toenail varnishing to medical science discoveries (Doreen being in the field of endeavour) .

When Doreen and I got back home for dinner, we decided that if we were going to get a visit in, ourselves, that we would crack the bottle of wine and she would stay overnight so she could enjoy her glasses of wine and not have to drive afterwards.

After dinner, I promised to show her how to paint. She with the PhD claimed to be an art dummy. I pride myself on being able to get anyone started on the ruinous addiction of painting.  We had two small canvases to work with. No point in biting off more than you can chew in one evening.

This amazing friend five foot two blond  not only can tell you the latest in DNA research, she has installed her own hardwood floors in her apartment, built her own furniture, painted her entire apartment herself, sewn her own drapes, but she tells me she can’t paint – artistically, that is.

I gave her a dab of yellow ochre and a small house painting bristle brush and bade her to cover the entire surface of her canvas with the ochre.  Then we had a glass of wine and while we let it dry. With acrylics, this is fast. By the time we’d finished glass number one, I gave her a dab of cadmium red and asked her to paint a heart on the canvas. I had a similar canvas prepared with yellow ochre and I demonstrated the heart. She followed.

While that dried, I repeated to her my lessons on composition (which you can find way back somewhere in these posts). I had a paper lace doily at hand so I demonstrated how one could  cut up the background space with other shapes to make the composition more interesting.

She had her own ideas about how she would add to her two basic elements but wanted to think about how that would look. We repaired to the living room and  sat back down with glass of wine number two for a bit of conversation while, multi-tasking, she decided what else she could do to complete her painting.

The results of hers were just great for a first painting! Brushphobia has diminished considerably. She claims that it was fun! so perhaps she will do it again.And no, for the moment you don’t get to see it. I ‘ll have to ask her permission to post it, so check back if later if you are interested.

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Painting is one of those things – if you like it, it keeps drawing you in bit by bit until you are addicted (in a very positive way) to its wiles.  It takes you away from the trials of daily life. It allows one to engage in a mental activity much akin to meditation where the single stroke of a brush can be the most important task at hand; or the exact mix of a grey is a crucial and pleasant artistic decision.

And there, my friends, is the story behind this little decorative painting, sitting in Doreen’s back-pack at the front door, waiting the time of departure; and I have her first effort sitting on my easel.

The Dreaded Valentines has come and gone

Remembering Dan

February 2, 2009

I was a lowly clerk in the organization, a large Property Management company and my task to was make a manual count of our employees every month by tabulating who was Taken on Strength – hired –  or Struck of Strength – or fired. I managed every personnel document that showed whether a person was on permanent staff, term or casual and showed the length of term, if the appointment was of the latter two kinds. The task was picky, and detailed to the quarter of the month.
This report was sent monthly to headquarters for them to roll up into a national count of those TOS and SOS .

It was a bean counter’s world serving an ivory tower.

Obviously that didn’t occupy all my time, though the majority of it. In between times, I typed for various managers and, after a promotion, I edited the typing products of the typing pool. I had risen rather quickly in my responsibilities but not in my pay. The stenos were resentful, feeling that they deserved the position on a basis of seniority.

One of our managers, Frank – a mining developer by hobby, had the most beautiful scripted handwriting and a fine command of the English language. Donna, a rather blunt witted steno with a major ego and a Grade Ten finesse of the same language felt obliged to correct his “errors”. Nine times out of ten, I was required to settle bristling indignation on his part and aggressive defensiveness on hers.

The trouble was, she would take it upon herself to correct him. The first time I typed something for him, I didn’t understand the spelling of the word “materiel” and quite politely approached him to check if this was what he wanted.

“Oh, Thank God!” he exclaimed. “You had the intelligence to ask.” and he went on to complain about his stenographic nemesis and then to patiently explain to me the difference in meaning of  “material” and “materiel”, the latter referring to the equipment and supplies of a military or governmental organization.

Into this emotionally seething unit of typing and tabulation came a young manager from national headquarters.  Much later, I discovered he was four years younger than I which made him about thirty two, then. He was an administrative wunderkind who had rapidly succeeded in being promoted to upper management. He had a prodigious memory and was a whiz with numbers. He knew the organization inside out but as any new interloper to the hallowed ranks of Management, he had to prove himself to earn his acceptance therein.

He held occasional staff meetings to keep us all informed of whatever we were allowed to know. At one of these, he announced that had bought the first personal  computer for general use for our section. We had been asked to get to know this curious machine that was reputed to do everything but the family dishes. It was reputed to take all the problems out of typing and composing and would simplify our calculations for monthly reporting.

On the day it arrived, our young manager showed us how the computer operated, how it turned on and off; how, with a program, one could type, reposition the text for a pleasing page presentation and correct any errors  before printing the page.

Carol, our best typist, an English comedian and theatrical star by avocation, was terrified of the instrument. We had to wheedle and beg to get her to try it out.  With exaggerated  horror, she would exclaim that this idiot of a machine would never overtake her abilities to type a spreadsheet without fault. Spreadsheets were the cornerstone of her happy career. She could be inordinately proud that all the section’s spreadsheets were given to her to type. I couldn’t think of anything more boring. It was bad enough that I had to proof read them.  But she was right, she never made a mistake either in her numbers nor in her alignment of the forms upon the page.

My immediate supervisor, the Manager of Program Planning and Control, dreamed of becoming a certified bookkeeper and later, perhaps even an accountancy designation.  She loved the work because it was one of those jobs in which one could achieve perfection. Numbers did not lie.

My immediate supervisor set out a schedule when each of us was to learn to use the single computer that had been assigned to our section. It really was a marvel.

In order to get my term job as receptionist, I had to type twenty three minutes a minute. My inexperience with typing had been a drawback; but now with this new tool, I felt liberated. As receptionist, I had sat at the phone desk typing. Unlike Carol,  I made plenty of errors. I wasted more paper and more carbon because I mistyped a word and had to start again, or got the whole thing finished perfectly only to find that the text was not centered on the page. I would just have to start again.

Carole was assigned an electronic typewriter. These too were expected to assist us in our written missives. After all, computers were so expensive, we couldn’t expect everyone to have one. The electronic type writers were more economical than computers and as the old ones wore down, we were expected to learn these new machines that had many new advantages to help a hapless typist.

Carole, however, was terrified of it and as Head of the typing pool it was my responsibility to ensure she learned it. We sat hours, side by side, and she couldn’t get it. She pined for her Selectric. She knew it intimately. When the lesson time ended, she gratefully returned to her instrument at the receptionist desk.  She was more often ill and didn’t come to work. When she did, she spent inordinate amounts of time away from her desk, walking behind a manager and mimicking his gait and mannerisms. When everyone began to chortle at her mimicry and the manager had turned to see what had happened, with impeccable timing, she was apparently going about her own tasks, innocently unaware, along with the manager,  why anyone would be snickering.

Carole retired and my perfect-numbers manager was happy to be able to replace her with someone more in tune with the times. Jobs were juggled. We lost the receptionist position and the typing pool when we all got our own computers.  We were expected to do our own correspondence on the computer. There was no need, now, for a typist.

However, a problem arose. No one had sufficient experience with the binary beast and no one was capable of properly extracting the reports that we needed from it. We were assigned a computer tech.

We had all been given computer training of the most simplistic sort but it was insufficient.  In one of our staff meetings, our manager announced that Dan would be coming to join our group. He would  assist us with our computer problems and he would now extract all the reports. My job had changed. I was to take the spreadsheets that he provided, review them for changes and duplications. I would input the information and then he would do his magic.

When Carole left, her position and duties were considered inessential. We no longer would need a receptionist. Everyone would have his or her own telephone voice mail box and when visitors came, the employee could come to the front door and escort them wherever they were meeting.

For the occasional general inquiry, the phone would be forwarded to my number. I was not the receptionist, but I was once again answering the phone.

I think we were all a bit surprised. Our unit was composed uniquely of women. The supervisor and the two heads of section were all very girly kind of women – the kind that have conversations about getting their hair done and their manicures; of babies and growing children; of bargain hunting and shoe shopping. A major event of many a return from lunch was parading purchases that had been bought on the half hour break.

Into this covey of women rolled Dan. Yes, rolled.

Dan was a paraplegic. He had the use of his shoulders and so could rotate them sufficiently to lift his arms. With a special leather glove on either hand, strapped on by Velcro, Dan could lift pencils, the rubber tip downwards, to tap on the keys in a hunt and peck fashion, to manipulate the computer.

Somehow, the other women seemed to disappear together on lunch hour, leaving fifteen minutes in advance and returning each separately, as if they had no idea where the others had been.

Just as she left, my supervisor would glide by me in a sultry  sweeping step with a simpering grimace and say,”You can go at twelve thirty. You’ll watch the phones while everyone is away for lunch, won’t you?” She was my boss. I answered, “Yes”.

So it was that I got to know Dan.

Dan was a gruff sort. No fool, he knew what was going on. Both of us were limited in resources. We both brought our lunches and ate our lunch fare together. His was thinner than was mine, which he blamed on his need to keep trim.

“Sitting in a chair all day long doesn’t help you keep in shape,” he said, referring to himself. “If I can’t exercise like I used to, I have to watch my diet.”

With the girly girls gone, we talked about all sorts of things. It wasn’t long until I had discovered how he had become paraplegic. A very sporty, dare-devil youth, Dan had been hang gliding when the apparatus had broken, mid flight, and he had come tumbling to the ground. When I thought about it, it was a wonder that he had survived at all. He had loved all sports. He had been a fisherman – surely an occupation that had demanded full use of one’s physical capabilities.

After he had recovered sufficiently in the hospital, he had been sent to GF Strong, a rehabilitation facility. Everyone there had extreme injury and a long program for recovery. Dan, of course, could no longer do those things to which he had aspired. The physically active jobs that he had done were not possible. If he were going to be productive, he would have to learn how to work a computer.
His job with us was the first that he had on leaving GF Strong. It was term – that is, he was on probation so he worked hard to prove his worth. With the unthinking cruelty of our organization’s hiring practices, his terms were extended three months by three months. Each time, management was unable to tell him that he had been extended even until the day that he was supposed to otherwise go.

“Just come in on Monday,” was my supervisor’s advice to him. “We’ll get it sorted out.” I had been through the same mill with my own appointments so I knew how unnerving it was; but I felt that it was even more cruel for Dan who would not easily find another appointment.

Dan never lost hope; and he kept on being renewed until, under company policy, five years later they took him on permanently, full time. Against all odds, he was able to be independent. He would allow no one to pity him. If every he missed a day, he made it up. He would allow no one the chance to say that he did not do his work or that he was absent too often to be able to do his job. While everyone else seemed to take time off for medical appointments with in office hours, Dan never would unless there was no other option. And if he did, he came to work at an ungodly early morning hour to make up his time.

I admired his spirit so much. He was an inspiration to me, that despite crippling adversity, he could be independent and honourable to the greatest degree.

Some in our section, though, were not so happy with his coming. The women were edgy about having a man work in their midst. It had been a very feminine enclave. Besides, Dan was rough. He spoke gruffly and abruptly. He spoke his mind without dancing around a difficulty. If you didn’t like it, too bad. To my mind, it was refreshing.

All through his recovery period, Dan had found some way to keep his little house in Deep Cove. When he became permanent staff, he started to look for a new house with everything on one level that he could adapt to his needs.

He found just the haven he wanted near Edgemont Village. It had a large back yard with several ancient cedars in it. He bought the house and had it refitted for his needs. The bathroom was refitted to allow him to shower without help. The lamps had large rings on them so that he could hook his thumb and pull the switch and the drapes were similarly rigged.

When I went for dinner, he did the cooking, having mastered a food processor for cutting vegetables and crushing garlic. He could wheel underneath the kitchen sink and rinse his vegetables and such; similarly, he could reach and make the stove top function. The dishwasher looked after the clean-up.

Every year, he held a potluck Summer Solstice party in his back yard. He had so many friends who helped with preparations that he hardly had to do anything but provide the place. So many colleagues at work, like me, had become enamoured of this rough diamond that the place was packed on the Solstice night.

He worked for us for about fifteen years. In that time, I moved forward. I moved to different sections. Dan stayed in the same place and the others went, some through retirement, others through promotion, and the replacements came and went too.

It was Dan whom I called, all through my career, to help me with computer glitches, or for a hasty lesson. He taught me how to set up my computer at home. He helped me purchase what I needed; and later, did the same for my sister on strength of the fact that she was my sister. He was generous with his time and so patient with us computer nilches.

More than a colleague, Dan had become a close friend. When day seemed insurmountable, he would come and talk to me and we would worry out the knots of his troubles. He did the same for me. When I divorced, he listened to my complaints. When I had to sell my car, he offered to sell it for me.

“You don’t want people coming to your house when you are all alone,” he said, “and besides you won’t be able to tell them about the workings of the car.” So I very thankfully let him cope with the task of selling it. It wasn’t as if I would get much for it. It had been a lemon the whole time I had it, but it was good for parts.

One day shortly after this, he came to me in my office – I had graduated to an office with a door on it which was saying quite something in this organization that insisted on an open office, exchangeable desk plan system.

“Can I come in?” he asked. And then,”Can I close the door?” And he did.

With his dysfunctional hands and great difficulty, he fumbled with his pants pocket and said nothing. He would not allow you to help him with anything, so I knew well enough to just wait patiently. He extracted his wallet and fumbled even more. Without a word all this time, Lord knows how, he managed to extract a wad of hundred dollar bills and throw them in the air. They flutter down like brown leaves across the desk and onto the floor.

I looked at him askance for a few seconds then burst out in laughter. He had sold the car! His face lit up with a radiant smile. He didn’t want my thanks and was thrilled with his little joke. He had been happy to help me. Happy to be useful. Happy to be my friend.

But Dan did not get promoted. His formation had been through GF Strong. He didn’t have a degree. The young people coming up through the colleges had certificates more potent than his. He was bypassed though he could do the work. He was shifted out of the Program Planning and Control Section to the new IT, Information Technology Section where he was appreciated by those who worked with him, but not by his Manager. His frustration grew and his spirit struggled.

In the last few working years, his body began to fail him. He was too often in the hospital for stretches of time that were not compatible with keeping up his work – and he hated the hospital with its lukewarm food and sterile atmosphere.

He went on disability and then was confined to home.

I regret to say that I then saw very little of him. I had my own problems. I had taken on the responsibility for two teenagers. I was looking after my aging and dependent mother.

I had been promoted to a job that was high pressured and required a lot of traveling. I was simply exhausted and I didn’t see Dan.

I’ve been retired for two years now. I phoned a few times, but our schedules weren’t compatible and I think he had too much difficulty in holding the phone, so Dan and I corresponded by e-mail. He could no longer get out by himself.  I wrote to him and told him of my doings.

When I moved, I lived far enough away that it was inconvenient to go so far to see him. He sent me inspirational presentations with beautiful pictures. At that point, I think he was barely capable of the computer manipulations to do it, and yet he sent out messages of humour, hope, beauty and good spirit.

Despite the best of nursing care at home, he was no longer able to live independently. November was the last e-mail I recieved which I think he must have sent just before he was taken to the hospital

“Please don’t give up on me,” it said.

Christmas was a busy time. It mid January when I realized that I hadn’t heard from him for some time. Just about the same time that a mutual friend sent me a letter in reply to a Christmas greeting. Our good friend has gone.

Dan died on January 9th in the hospital