|Moose Jaw Officer's Mess|
A friend of mine recently visited.
He lives in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with his wife and baby daughter. We met while we were going through phase II of military pilot training. I grew up and got a real job. He was good enough to stay and instruct future students.
Moose Jaw is many things. There is a sign as you enter the town that says “Moose Jaw, Culture Capital of Canada 2007.” I am not sure what that means. I do know that Moose Jaw was the ‘Tick Capital of Canada’ for 18 consecutive years. Last year they lost that title to a SPCA shelter in Yellow Knife.
|Cheese. In more ways that one.|
There should be a sign that states “Moose Jaw, the City where grown men cry.” It has been a focal point of Canada’s military pilot training for 40 years. Countless dreams have been forged and crushed under its prairie skies. I am not ashamed to admit that I had a hard time. I wasn’t a natural ‘hands and feet’ pilot. I worked like a man who had nothing left to loose. My effort and my friends got me through and in the end, I was good enough.
My friend was much better than I was. He was asked to stay and instruct future Canadian Forces pilots. I was asked to get as far as one could get from the pilot training system.
|Autistic Savant on the left, me on the right.|
When we were going through Moose Jaw, we belonged to Apache Flight. It was a rag tag group of misfits, autistic savants and high functioning alcoholics. Somehow in the crucible that is Moose Jaw all of us forged a pretty tight bond. They say a friend will help you move, a good friend will help you move a body. I know that to be true.
Anyways, my friend visited. It was the third time in a year and a half he stopped by. He didn’t really come and see me or enjoy Eastern Passage wine. He came to see a friend of his who was battling cancer. The first time he came out, his friend was just completing chemotherapy and the cancer was in remission. He introduced us to his friend at that time, and I remember being careful about touching things. I didn’t want to give him my cold. I spent the night with my hands in my pockets. Cancer is a shitty disease and makes us feel like fools.
|One of many misfits and my daughter.|
A couple of weeks ago my friend visited for a second time. He came at the request of his friend’s mother. The cancer had come back, and doctors gave him weeks to live. He dropped everything and came to help the best he could. He spent long hours sitting beside a dying friends bed, waiting for him to come back into consciousness. He argued with him, even in his friend’s sickened state, so that others would be allowed to say their peace. He arranged video conferences between friends across Canada and in Afghanistan. He said and heard things that no twenty-something should have to endure.
His second visit happened while I was at sea. He stopped by late one night to say hello to my wife. They talked and consoled each other. When he left, he hugged her on the front porch and said goodbye. They didn’t worry about what the neighbors might think.
|High functioning alcoholic.|
This past Friday my friend visited again. He brought his lovely wife (she is way too good for him) and his ginger baby girl. He was going to his friend’s funeral. We offered our place for as long as he needed, and made it clear that we wanted him to stay as long as he could. He was apologetic that he was only staying one night. The funeral would be in a town a couple of hours from our place and he needed to help his late friend’s mother with the funeral.
Yesterday, my wife received an email from his wife. She thanked us for letting them stay. She also said that the funeral was postponed because of a medical emergency, and that they had been staying in a hotel room for the past three days. The baby had caught the flu.
Last night my wife and I were talking about everything that had happened. She said, ‘Its so sad.”
I said, “He isn’t in any pain anymore and it gives me comfort.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know that no matter what, if something ever happened to me, he would be here for you.” I also know that standing beside him would be a group of misfits, autistic savants and high functioning alcoholics.