What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. - Pericles
This is the last flag that flew from my grandfather's flagpole. He took great pride in that flagpole and the condition of both the pole and the flag that flew from it. A fact that my father was always aware of as he was the one that fixed it as was needed.
Thanksgiving weekend we had a big wind and rainstorm. It was about 2 months after my grandfather died. Driving by his house as I do almost every day, I often find myself absentmindedly looking in, getting used to the way it is now. The day after the storm his flagpole lay broken on the ground. The flag tangled and torn in the nearby bushes. In many ways it was a small thing. Inconsequential really. But I couldn't just leave it that way. Knowing he would not be pleased to see the flag that way, I parked at the side of the road and walked back. Carefully, I untangled the flag and untied the ropes, trying not to tear the flag any more. Leaving the flagpole and the last of my patience behind, I took the flag home. I just couldn't leave it. Even though my grandfather is not here to care.
This is how people stay with us. A little voice that pipes up from time to time. Even after they are gone. Those voices of all who have influenced us. Often, popping up at the strangest times. My grandfather lived a long, full life. I've made peace with being gone. This Remembrance Day is still going to be a hard one though. It's hard to explain. And I have no idea what I'm going to do with that damn flag.
Lovers that bless the dark
October 23rd, 2007. That was a day filled to the brim with memories. The two of us are trying not to get on each other's last nerve while getting ready for our wedding in a tiny hotel room. Krista's feet were blistered from our epic walk the day before. Our trip to City Hall for a marriage license ended up with us walking over much of Lower Manhattan. Many of the cabs decided to go on a one-day strike for reasons that elude me now. Of course, those blisters do not show up in any of our wedding photos.
Then, of course, there was me trying to tie my necktie. It was an experience so traumatic that it is enough reason to not want to get married again. After thoroughly pissing Krista off, I left with my tie tied, some cash hastily stuffed in my hand, and stern warning not to come back to the hotel room while Krista prepared. In the hotel bar, I downed a double (or was it two?) of Jameson's whisky. With my back to the entrance of the bar, I hear someone in the doorway quickly taking photos. Then I hear other people in the bar trying to figure out who I am. I turn to see Sonia, Krista's old friend from Bathurst, smiling and taking another photo of me finishing my last drink.
Sonia goes up to see Krista in our room. I hang around in the lobby wondering if my tie is ok. The two of them show up, and we make our way out to the street and find a cab to take us to Central Park. We are on our way up Eighth Avenue when we get in a fender bender with another car. The two drivers are in a prolonged discussion about the situation. So we pay and walk the rest of the way up Eighth Avenue and Central Park West. Past the Dakota Building, through Strawberry Fields, past the edge of the mall and down to Bow Bridge to meet our photographer, Anthony Vazquez and officiant, Beth Lamont. Krista and I end up getting some photos taken around Bethesda Terrace and the mall while we wait for Beth to show up.
I can remember Beth, Anthony, Sonia, Krista, and I standing in the middle of Bow Bridge with a few onlookers. That is about all I remember of the actual wedding. I can’t recite one word of the vows Krista wrote. Is my tie ok? It came time to sign our Marriage License. We needed to witnesses, not one. So Anthony became our second witness. There was a little problem though. Both Krista and I failed to notice that the license required signatures in black pen. One of the bystanders had just a pen and gladly produced it for us.
Afterwards, there were more photos. I received a gentle ribbing from a NYC firefighter. Krista received a sincere, if somewhat backhanded compliment from a jogger that seemed to be every bit of New York herself. Later, as the sun was sinking over Greenwich Village, Krista and I made our way to a place called Babbo. I had to call a month in advance for reservations. The meal was incredible from what I can remember. It was a seven-course meal with a glass of wine for each course. I wasn't too worried about my tie at that point. Happy Anniversary, Krista.
The older I get the more aware I become of my roots. I do not see any haggis in my future but I have been looking at kilts. Tonight I will be raising a glass of single malt. Robbie Burns was a bit of long winded fart, but here is one of his that seems appropriate for today.
Winter: A Dirge
We sailed away at the break of day to pull traps in oilskin trousers
Last summer, you may remember seeing the news article about the bridge in Northport, Nova Scotia that was named in honor of Larry Brander. Larry was a fixture of the community. A life-long resident, Larry was always interested in the people who he lived alongside. Larry was always there to lend a hand or drop by to visit. Seldom did he go away without a few dollars in his pocket or a satisfied sweet tooth. Most of my memories of Larry involved the Northport wharf back in the late 80’s, early 90’s. My father bought lobsters from several of the fishermen, many Larry’s brothers. So needless to say Larry was there to see how things were going, lending a hand filling bait bags for fishermen or going out to help sort and band lobsters. Sometimes, he would help out with the weighing of the lobsters and loading of ice onto boats. A hard worker until the clock struck noon or 5 PM. Larry was always interested in whatever was in your lunchbox or on the supper table. Nothing ever went home or in the garbage. A man with a firm sense of priorities. Larry liked to help out in many, many ways. Until it was time to eat.
Larry loved people. Often you would be greeted with a friendly handshake. The ladies usually received one of his warm hugs. As gentle and as friendly as Larry was he was also an avid wrestling fan who liked to challenge you when there was a lull between unloading boats. If you were lucky it would be an arm wrestling match on the crates. If not, the elevated platform for weighing lobsters became a squared circle and the match was on. More than once I was the victim of one of his sleeper holds. Often inspired by Atlantic Grand Prix wrestling's Killer Karl Krupp, Larry would have you in the claw hold and crying "uncle". It was always in good fun.
You can’t fish lobsters without bait. So sometimes I would go on a bait run with Steve Russell, who worked for my father at the time. If you happened to be passing through Northport and Larry was around, you better stop and take him along on a trip, or you would be on the receiving end of one of those claws. Now a couple of things that you need to know about Larry that two of his absolute favorite things were the Toronto Maple Leafs and Stompin’ Tom Connors. More than one trip to New Brunswick involved Stompin' Tom on heavy rotation in the tape deck. Yes, tape deck. It was 25 years or so ago you have to remember. If you were lucky, Larry would grab 2 or 3 Stompin' Tom tapes. If not, it was the same single tape over and over again. The only break from the marathon was the stop at the fish plant and at Fred's in Cap Pele for a hot hamburger sandwich, washed down with diet pop. Dessert was usually another serving of Stompin' Tom. Understandably, it would be many years before I listened to his music again.
This is how I remember Larry. Stompin' Tom always makes me think of him. And he makes me think of Northport. Larry has been gone for years. Many of the fishermen from that time are gone too. So other than memories there really isn’t much left for me to hang onto. Visiting the wharf just isn’t the same. The day that they officially renamed the bridge in Larry’s honor I walked down along the wharf with Steve, his son and my parents. It just isn’t the same now.
So last night I received this photo in my inbox. I was absolutely thrilled. Not nearly as thrilled as Larry likely was at the time. I don’t know who took the photo but it is a gem. I wonder if he and Larry sang Gumboot Cloggeroo? When Larry sang that song on the wharf I usually had a front row crate. Look at Larry with his arm around Stompin' Tom, the glass of beer. This is how I want to remember. I am smiling looking at this photo. It sums up my experiences with Larry to a T. Often when I think of Larry it makes me sad that someone with such a huge personality is now gone. If only all of us could live our lives as honestly, compassionately and unabashedly as he did. Now if you excuse me, YouTube is calling. I have one more walk down memory lane. O.K YouTube, take me to the Gumboot Cloggeroo.