My best friend Paul moved from Niagara to Calgary many years ago. Nicknamed Calgary Red, he created a wonderful life with his high school sweetheart. They worked hard — he with an employment agency and she in banking. As is too often the case, just when it was time to retire to enjoy their cottage in Windermere and trips to Mexico, Brenda died. Tenaciously and courageously, she fought the curse of cancer until a wish for peace overtook her will to fight.
Knowing Red and loving him to the end, her last directive to her husband was: “You need to get on with your life. You need a woman in your life.” That was more than a year ago and Red has spent this time grieving by self-distraction. Involved like never before with his daughter and son-in-law and his two grandsons, Cooper and Miles, Red is trying to be a great-granddad. Brenda’s last words are almost constantly on his mind, but he’s done little to fulfil them. He’s busied himself by travelling with extended family as well as old friends.
In fact, just last month he was struggling through a strenuous cycling tour in Provence, France, with a friend and his wife when he blew out a knee. His flight back from Venice to Toronto was delayed, cancelled and finally rescheduled.
Tired and frustrated, he boarded his final connection with Air Canada from Toronto to Calgary on July 2. They bumped him up to business class, Seat 4D, aisle. Sandy was in Seat 4F, window. She was also tired, having just returned from Europe after a vacation with her son in Greece.
They swapped travel stories and commiserated about the state of travel over glasses of red wine. On and off, they napped and chatted, easing each other back into a Canadian homecoming. Red, 76, fit, funny, good looking and modest, actually described Sandy that way, as well as tallish and younger with brown hair. They were immediately at ease with each other. It was the good and comfortable company that Red had been missing.
He helped Sandy retrieve her luggage and together they walked out of the airport and into the chaos of taxis and vans. It was about 1:30 a.m. Although Red could not raise his Uber driver, Sandy’s Lyft was there on time. She lived, Red thinks, in Strathcona Park. “Why don’t you get in, come to my place and you can call a cab from there?” she said.
I interrupt this tale of two strangers tossed together at 38,000 feet by serendipity and Cabernet Sauvignon to note that I write humour books, and my take on men — Guys – Not Real Bright And Damn Proud Of It! — was actually dedicated “For Red: an exceptional average guy.” Just sayin’.
Red, now into his 28th hour of travel, said: “No, that’s OK. I’ll just grab a cab from here.” Unfortunately, I was not there to whack him upside the head. He has regretted that jet-lagged brain blip every day since Sandy’s ride faded into a dull, grey Calgary night.
Note to single seniors — it’s not like it used to be. Moments like this seldom come around. Get a number.
So let’s all put our heads together, not to mention our Facebook connections, and find Sandy for my buddy Red. Maybe, just maybe, we will help two seniors work their way through this precarious world, as one.
And Sandy, one more untimely misstep by my friend and, yeah, I will definitely give him a whack.
William Thomas is an author, a TV scriptwriter and a syndicated columnist. If you find Sandy, email him at [email protected]
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