Did you ever have someone come into your life as if predestined and then after time sadly leave it without you ever knowing anything about it?
I had not seen my old friend Grant all winter and I was beginning to worry about him, almost anticipating the worst. I found out earlier today that he passed away some time last fall. I think that he died alone, as he had lived the last couple of decades of his life.
Grant was in his late 70s or early 80s. I first noticed him on downtown Southampton streets soon after Rosanne and I moved into the community. It was fair to say that he was a town fixture. Everyone knew him, but very few took the time to know him, if you understand what I mean.
Initially I passed the time of day with him when we would cross paths in the coffee shops and restaurants that he frequented on a daily basis. He was a slight, frail man who was stooped and walked with a laborious shuffle that was painful for me to watch. As time wore on, and his health declined, he relied on a motorized scooter to get around.
He was always alone and I got the impression that he might enjoy company. From time to time I would buy him a coffee just to have the opportunity to get to know a little more about him. Eventually, I was able to joke with him and always enjoyed getting a laugh out of him during our chats. One of our favorite conversation topics was fishing. I even joined him a few times as he dangled a line from the Southampton harbor breakwater. He was originally from the Maritimes and had worked for many years as a miner in Sudbury, before coming to Southampton to retire. He lived in a subsidized seniors complex and in bad weather, he could often be seen trudging on foot across the cold and windy Saugeen River bridge, making his way to a favorite eating spot at noon or to a local grocery store on Highway 21 later in the day.
I picked him up in my car countless times and dropped him off at either destination. I was, and still am, in the habit of grocery shopping in the late afternoon, around 5:30 or 6:00 o'clock, at least four times a week. It was not unusual for Grant to hail me in the grocery store parking lot and to ask for a ride home on evenings when weather conditions were not conducive to scooter navigation. His grocery purchases never amounted to more than one bag -- maybe a can of soup, some cookies, a left-over sandwich from the day's deli and always a couple of scratch-and-win tickets.
Even though I introduced myself to him on our first meeting some eight years ago, I don't think he ever remembered my name. As a matter of fact, I never asked him for his last name either. We just chatted, one old-timer friend to a younger one. I enjoyed him, and I think that he enjoyed me too. Whenever Lucy was with me riding shotgun, she also had a wag of the tail and a couple of licks for him. "How're you doing boy!" he would always say to her with an affectionate chuckle.
He once told me that he had a lawyer relative who managed his affairs in trust and doled out living expenses from his pension money on a monthly basis. He may have had a daughter living elsewhere, but I was reluctant to ask him about that part of his life. I tried to impress upon him my willingness assist him in any way possible and gave him my telephone number on one of the last occasions that I gave him a ride home, some time last September or October. He never called on me.
My neighbor, who just happens to be produce manager at the grocery store I mentioned, told me this evening that he thought that one of the Southampton restaurants held a wake in Grant's memory shortly after he died last fall. I didn't know anything about that either. Too bad! I would have liked to be there.
I am struggling with a feeling of melancholy as I type this farewell to an old codger I befriended along the way and who never really knew my name. I hope I occasionally filled a small void in his life...Now I kind of feel that I am the one with a void.
God love you Grant. I wish I could have been there for you in the end, but I trust that you are in a better place now. See you anon, I hope!