Saturday, February 28, 2015

That Damned R.I.D.E. Programme!

William "Slim" Davis    1926-2015

“You say you're not special because the world doesn't know about you, but that's an insult to me. I know about you.”
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars


     William "Slim" Davis was my wife's Grandfather.  He passed away on February 12, 2015, at 89 years of age.   He didn't die of anything in particular; not cancer, heart attack or stroke. He simply died from having old parts that were worn out from a life time of hard use.  In many respects, it is the way to go.  Imagine, not dying of anything but, instead, simply drifting away.  That's what Slim did.        
     Surrounded by those closest to his heart, Slim relaxed his will to live, gave one last silent breath and his life ended.  It was all so sudden and peaceful that, at first, his family didn't even realize he had ceased to breathe. But, he had and was gone. Just like that.

     Most folks who knew him called him, "Slim".  My daughters called him, "Grandpa Slim,” even though, technically, he was their Great-Grandfather.  Slim Davis stood over six feet tall but never cast more than a wisp of a shadow in his life, owing to a build that could best be described as willowy.  He was a soldier for Canada in World War II and, upon its' conclusion, settled in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. He married his sweetheart, Mary, and fathered four children; two of whom survive today; a daughter named Carolyn (who my girls call Aunt Sis) and a son, Bruce (who is my Father-in-Law and who my girls call, Poppa).  Bruce, in turn, fathered two girls; the eldest named Keri (who is my wife) and the youngest named Stacy (Aunt Stacy, we call her).

     I met Keri slightly over fifteen years ago. Although I was 36 years old at the time, it felt as though my life was just truly beginning.  Unbeknownst to me, at almost the same time as I was falling in love with Keri, Slim was losing the love of his life, Mary. She passed away a few months before Keri and I began dating. Her passing set off a series of ever-diminishing concentric circles of loss for Slim; circles around which Slim wandered for the entire fifteen years of our relationship. 
     Loss of Love (his Mary, passing), loss of purpose (he had retired from a lifetime worked at a furniture store as a mover), loss of independence (he lost his driver's license after an accident which, in turn, caused him to have to leave his home and move into a retirement residence), loss of health (he couldn't drive so, he walked everywhere. Then, he found walking hard and was forced to sit much of the time. In the end, he lay in a hospital bed almost every hour of every day, sitting up, beyond his capability.)   But, the measure of a man is not in what he loses along the way; it is definitely about what he imparts to those lucky enough to know him. I consider myself to be one of those lucky ones.

     But, before our relationship ended, it had its' beginning.   It was our first meeting that paints the memory of the man that I carry with me in my heart as I stop to mourn his passing. It is this first meeting that I will describe to you now.

     As my relationship with Keri first blossomed in Love, the time soon came to meet her family.  As it turned out, the first member of her family that I ended up being introduced to, was Slim.
     Keri warned me that Slim could be a bit prickly at times. She told me not to be thrown by the tattoo of a naked lady that adorned his fore arm nor, by the state of the vinyl flooring in his kitchen, which had torn and been patched back together with a staple gun. She said that I would be able to judge the success of the visit by whether or not Slim invited me downstairs to his basement bar which was adorned with a variety of girlie posters, mugs in the shape of a breasts, where the liquid within came out of ceramic nipples and a table lamp that had naked females stencilled into the lampshade which would, when turned out, rotate and cast shadows on the wall of the lovely ladies.

     We arrived at Slim's bungalow-styled home early in the afternoon.  He was in his living room with his dog, Pepper, watching Wheel of Fortune on the TV, as we let ourselves in the side door.  When Keri introduced us, Slim shrugged his shoulders and tilted his head in an "aw shucks" manner and shook my hand.  He immediately invited me to sit down and offered me a beer.  As he did, he called me, "Partner".  We made small talk about the weather and about the half-hour drive down to his house. As the Wheel of Fortune wheel clicked away,  Slim leaned forward in his chair and lobbed the hand grenade of a question that was really burning in his mind. He asked me for my opinion of "that damned R.I.D.E. Programme".   *(The R.I.D.E. Programme stands for Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere and involves local police manning a series of roadside check points. They, then, check the drivers of all cars who pass by for signs that they had been drinking.  It is a very successful and important safety programme; one that has won many awards and saved countless lives.)
     This question was the real litmus test, as it turned out.  Since Mary had passed away, the widowed Slim had taken to waking up each night in the wee hours of the morning. He would dress, climb into his car and drive around the streets of Cobourg to, in his words, "see if anything was going on".  There rarely was anything "going on" except for those R.I.D.E. Programme check points which were interfering with Slim's late-night sojourns. He couldn't understand why he kept getting pulled over ("It doesn't make sense,” he would say)  That a single man, driving slowly up and down the streets of town in the middle of the night (prowling, in the minds of some), attracted the attention of the authorities, seemed lost on him. I smiled at Slim and simply said that I was glad the police were keeping dangerous drivers off of the road. But, I agreed with him that it must be a pain to get pulled over when you were simply trying to get on your way.  Slim replied, "Damn straight, Partner!"  He relaxed his body and sat back down in his chair. A few moments later, he invited Keri to show me the basement bar. :)

     Slim and I got along very well the entire time we knew each other.  He was always very respectful towards me.  Part of that was because I was a man and he was definitely a man's man. But part it was, also, that I was good to his grand daughter, a good father to my own children and that I had a respectable job that I appeared to be good at (school teacher).  As a man, I measured up.  That counted for a lot with Slim.

     As it became evident that Slim's final days were upon him, my father-in-law asked Keri and I if there was anything that we wanted of Slim's as a memento.  At first, I could think of nothing.  Slim was not a materialistic man so there were no possessions of monetary value that needed to be salvaged. But then, after some thought, there became a growing need within me to have something that could be just for me, not to be shared with Keri.  So, I asked Bruce to go through Slim's collection of flip-it girlie calendars and select the prettiest girl who happened to represent any of the pages dated May 16th, the day Slim was born.  Bruce granted my request.   The young lady in question now graces a place of honour in the room where I keep my tools, some of which I got from Slim when he left his house and moved into the retirement home.   

Slim, on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
    As a man, Slim measured up. That counts for a lot with me.
    Rest in peace, my friend.  You were unforgettable.  Thanks for everything you ever did for me and my family.  I am better for having shared our time together.  God Bless.

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