Friday, 12 October 2018

I miss my Dad...

**David writing again...

Richard wrote this back in July.

It is unfinished, and I don't think it was intended to be a blog post, but it's exactly the sort of thing he'd share, when he was done with it.

It is somewhat fitting that he writes of missing his Dad, as we miss Richard.


I miss my Dad. I remember so much about him and often wonder what he would think of this or how he would handle that or what he would say about the next thing. He was my Dad. He was not perfect; he was deeply flawed, almost incapable of any emotional connection beyond anger. Yet he was my father, my Dad.

Richard Thomas McBride was born in East Kildonan, a part of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the center most province in Canada, equidistant from all three Canadian oceans. Perhaps that is why he was destined to join the Canadian Navy. Perversity was my Dad’s name just as often as the name he acquired in the navy, “Mac”.

His birthday was, and still is, October 3, 1930. He was born between the two great wars of the twentieth century, too late for World War One, where his father, uncle and grandfather all fought, and too late for World War Two, where is older brother Adam fought. I would like to say he was born in the sweet spot, at the perfect time, but that would be a betrayal of his service in the Korean War. There were plenty of wars to go round in the twentieth century and likely there will always be some place where men can kill other men in the service of something they don’t understand and will never reach.

My father spent his childhood years in Winnipeg, living at the end of the streetcar line where the bright yellow tram cars of the Winnipeg Electric Company turned around, taking the working class from this outer suburb into the Winnipeg city center each morning and returning them back each night. Like a great many cities in the depression era, the streetcars ran to the very edge of the city. In his case it stopped near the end of his street. At the other end of his street, off to the east, there was nothing but open prairie and the rail yards of the CPR. The other side of his childhood dominion was bounded by the sluggish and muddy Red River. He loved his childhood time; the prairie was his playground and the Red River was his personal Mississippi.

He was the second of four children. His older brother, Adam, was born in 1925. Then, five years later my Dad came along. Five years after that, in 1935, his sister Diane was born. Then, in the mid-1940’s his brother, born with Downs Syndrome, came into his life. For the whole of his life my Dad admired his older brother Adam in spite of his erratic and unkind, sometimes criminal, behaviour. For the whole of his life, my Dad doted on Ronnie, granting his every wish in spite of the damage to a man who, due to his incapacity to understand, would often ask for the very things that were worst for him; more food, more candy, more beer, staying up late. My Dad would not say “no” to Ronnie, and he could not say “no” to his older brother Adam.

The Great Depression hardly touched my father. He once said to me that if it weren’t for the neighbours and others around him, he would never have known there was a Depression. His father, my grandfather, worked for the railroad all through the 1930’s. While the pay was not great, there was always money for the family, albeit often subsumed with my grandfather’s prodigious ability to consume alcohol.


Monday, 8 October 2018

I have lots to give thanks for this Thanksgiving, really.

**David again...  (I feel the need to keep stating this... just in case...  :) )

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving.
Richard often gave thanks for having so many people in his life, who cared, who shared, and who occasionally put him in his place when he acted up.

He acted up a lot after the diagnosis.  Wouldn't you?
"Hi, I'm your neurologist.  I hope your credit card has a 4-year expiry date on it, 'coz you don't!  LOL"...  <sigh>
Richard would have thought that was funny.  I'd admit it if not...

He got angry.  That's part of life.  Often, it's a passing issue, like missing the last train, not having enough cash to buy lunch with, or being 20 minutes late for a movie.
With ALS, you have a lot to be angry about.  Life, the Universe, and Everything, can be blamed for it, but you still have to deal with it.  Having ALS steamed him up.

He blew off that steam with this blog, and more than a few of you, his readers, have thanked him for it.
He never felt he was a spokesperson, an advocate, a role model, or an inspiration.
His personal, real, day-to-day life, didn't seem that special to him.

Many agreed, and didn't think him that special... he was just being himself.
But there really WAS something special about him.
His ability to laugh at his terminal illness.
His ability to laugh at him peeing on himself.
His ability to laugh at anything, really.
It might take an hour, a day, or a few stiff drinks, but eventually, he'd be able to laugh at pretty much anything life threw his way.

Any time there was another bump in the road, friends around him would help remind him that "things could be worse," to which he inevitably replied with a smirking shriek, "I have ALS. How, exactly, could things be worse?!?"  Often, the reply was "You could be out of Scotch."
He'd give Thanks for a stocked bar.
Then he'd give Thanks for a stocked fridge.
For a roof over his head.
For friends & family to keep him centred.
He had a lot to be thankful for.

So did we, who knew him.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

The party to end all parties?

***David writing again...

Last night we had a party.  Perhaps the party to end all parties.
Not a wild, raucous, who-is-that-crashed-out-on-the-couch party, but the 'last party' at Richard's.
There isn't another like him; there won't be another party like his.

I posted on Thursday that we had already-in-motion, plans for a Thanksgiving dinner party at Richard's place on Saturday.

He would have wanted it done in his absence (he truly did want us to gather once he was gone - to empty the freezer and have one last evening in the place many of us came to know as our social centre), so it was a fitting tribute we shared drinks, good stories, bad jokes, a few tears, and lots of food.

It was a good party - considerably quieter than normal, but not from a sombre mood; it was from a lack of his deep voice taking centre stage, demanding attention, wanting to be heard.

We will miss him, but as he told us, and as one learns as one ages, life must 'go on'...
We remember, we smile, we move forward.

Many of 'The Group' were unable to attend last night.
People have their own lives, several were on vacation.
We will have another party, soon, so they will have a chance to catch up.
It won't be the same, as it won't be at the apartment, but it will be the people that matter - the people in his life, and the memories we have of him.

It will be hard to find another setting where everyone would be so welcome, so appreciated just for randomly dropping by.  This was partly Richard being stuck at home a lot of the time because of the ALS, wanting people around him; but partly it was simply his way - he was a social animal.

He was a good host, and always worried about what to prepare, what to offer, what food or snacks to buy - even when struggling with a budget, and knowing full well that our potlucks inevitably ended with food to spare, he worried about being a good host.

Last night, he was a great host.  We remembered the best things, and occasionally the worst, about him, and raised a few glasses to the simple grey urn with his ashes in it, resting on top of the bar - even in the afterlife, he probably wanted to be near his Scotch...

For the first time, though, the instructions were clear - empty the fridge & freezer, it wasn't needed any more.  Lots of people took lots of food, so much that there won't be any Tupperware in the estate when time comes to clean out the apartment.

That's what he wanted, so that's what we did.

It was a good party; he was the guest of honour, a role he often just plain expected us to give him.  This time, it was true.  It's just too bad he missed it.  He'd have had lots of fun.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

I'm hosting a party!!

*This is David writing once again...*

Richard loved a good party.
Richard loved a bad party.
Richad just loved parties!

He loved throwing them.
He loved going to them.
If there was a party somewhere, he wanted in.

I heard recently, that while in the US on a road trip, he discovered a (unrelated) McBride wedding taking place in his hotel... naturally, he wormed his way in & had a great time.  A party where none was expected?  Perfect!

He missed the housewarming party of Dan & Anisa this past weekend, something he was very much looking forward to.
He would have brought a bottle of his own home-made wine - a Barolo, a Cabernet... whatever would be appropriate for a housewarming.  I'm a beer drinker, so what do I know of wine?
I know that I will take a bottle home from his wine rack this weekend, let it age - a year, five, ten perhaps - and then enjoy it with someone I care about, as I cared about him.

This weekend, there will be another party.
We had a Thanksgiving dinner potluck planned for Saturday, once again at Richard's place.
It was decided to continue with the plan, as he would have wanted.
He didn't want anyone to mourn his passing.
He wanted people to 'eat the food and drink the booze' and remember the good times they had with him.

There were plenty of good times.
And they WERE good times.
There were some bad times, of course; like the 'Weekend of Crying', that first weekend after his diagnosis at the rental cabin (bad reason, but good weekend); the day he finally accepted he could no longer drive his pickup truck; the last road trip we took when it became clear he would need a professional caregiver to travel with him to care for his 'personal needs'.
But even with ALS, they were mostly good times.

Richard's Calgary social life started in September of 2010, when he first came to a pub trivia event at the Unicorn Pub downtown.  I was an organizer in a social group, and a dozen members came to that event with me.
This was an ongoing, mostly-weekly event at the pub, and a small core group of us had begun to attend regularly.
Then Richard walked in...   Immediately, I could tell he'd be trouble <laugh>.

All but two of that original attendee list are still in 'the group' of friends, eight years later.
Most of us see each other fairly regularly, but usually surrounding Richard.
As we are very different people, with very different lives, it pains me to acknowledge that we won't likely be seeing each other as often in the future - Richard was the glue that held 'the group' together.
We will try.

Over time, 'the group' grew larger, people came & went (as happens in life), but the core dozen or so have remained.
On Saturday, most of 'the group' will have one last party at Richard's place, to celebrate his life & the good times.

We will share stories, play a little trivia, do a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity ( or Exploding Kittens (, two of his favourite games, and of course, we will eat the food and drink the booze.
We will laugh, cry, maybe sing & dance (it depends on how much wine there is).
We will enjoy.  He would want that.
After all, it's a party.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

A poem

**David writing...

Richard loved this piece...

Do not go gentle into that good night
-Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning
They do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.