Another in my attempts to recognize people who have been important in my life, but are no longer present…
About two months ago, Gerry would have been seventy-eight I think. I should have called his widow but I had a t/c with my Mother and then a ZOOM conference with a Grandson as well as several conversations with airlines & car rental agencies as part of the preparations for Grey Cup and time slipped away. Somehow that seemed to reflect my friendship with Gerry, who I’ve known since I was a kid of maybe two or three. We would be in touch, then we wouldn’t and then re-connect and then lose the connection; finally we made sure that we didn’t let it get lost again. Whether through phone calls, e-mails or actual visits starting in the latter years of the last millennium we re-developed that childhood connection – we simply enjoyed each other’s company whether it was on the golf course, on the phone or an in-person visit.
I miss him even though he has been gone for some time now. Even when I had to leave a voice-mail because he wasn’t available to take my call, I knew within a day or so he would get back to me and we would have a lengthy chat – often much more than simply getting caught up. We could talk about the political situation in Alberta, about our families’ long relationship, about the nature of business in the twenty-first century, and the intriguing trials and tribulations of being parents to adult children!! Sometimes the conversations would last for over an hour – never boring!!
There were other interesting moments in our friendship:
Like in 1964 when I was a student minister working within the Calgary Presbytery and I would take part of a day off to come up to Olds to play golf and talk about our futures. When I brought up my thinking about returning to Alberta to continue my university education, he was not simply supportive – he was dogmatic that I should do so without delay. And that first year at the UofA we spent a lot of time together although it was seldom related to our studies. He had a fairly extensive network of friends and he used it to try and find me dates: on that point he was not very successful, although it probably was as much my fault as anything!! He left the U after that year and completed his studies at the U of Calgary which kind of separated us for some time…
After I was back in Alberta, more or less permanently in this millennium, Gerry was adamant that I should take up curling again. I resisted until he convinced me I needed to be at a Synod-wide bonspiel that was going to be held in central Alberta. He was going to be presenting a trophy in his father’s name and because Ralph and my late Dad were such good friends (from the time Dad was a minister in the Red Deer Presbytery) it would be a great symbolic moment if I was to be present. I agreed and then further agreed to play lead on the team he was entering. Now I hadn’t curled since college, but he convinced me that it would come back to me. And during an extended warm-up it seemed like it just might. So we played at least three games and almost won… The presentation also went well and we celebrated our moment of sporting success. It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized the impact of the forty year absence from the game: I could hardly move!! When I phoned Gerry, in significant pain, after taking forever to walk to my Calgary office, he actually laughed!! He thought that the best thing would be to immediately come up that next weekend and curl again. Fortunately I was already committed to a work-related task so I was able to graciously abstain – it was the last time I curled!!
There is a third moment during this millennium that I will always remember. During one of our golfing days he invited a cousin to join us. She was a fun-loving person and a reasonable golfer but she simply couldn’t understand how anyone could really play with us. Gerry and I exchanged barbed snipes, jovial banter and even reminiscences about earlier times going back to our childhood all the while taking our swings or lining up shots. And whenever his cousin would make a comment, it would start us on a new path of conversation that was equally distracting or at least potentially so. I think it was about the sixteenth hole that she finally suggested that it would be nice to try to play one hole in respectful silence. We agreed (starting on the seventeenth tee) and I think we lasted until we arrived at the seventeenth green and then it started up all over again, only shutting up when she was putting. After the game as we sat in the clubhouse, she calmly suggested that we not invite her again until we could commit to a quieter environment. Gerry and I both laughed and said we didn’t mind playing as a duo, but we would consider her invitation – needless to say we never played with her again. Of all my golfing partners (and there have not been a great many when I think about it) Gerry was by far the most fun to play with – I still think about him every golf season.
There are other moments I could reiterate but I hope by now you have a better picture of how special Gerry was to me. He was one of the very few childhood friends who was still a friend when he was suddenly taken away (the result of a fatal farm equipment malfunction on his acreage). He was unique and I miss him.