Monday, December 30, 2013


Moe, I'm ten days late with your letter. I haven't had the time or energy to write it. But I did write this.

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Yumi, and I grew up in a little house on Southgate Road, right next door to Reg and his first wife Nina. He was recently retired from Bell Canada; she was British war bride who won my heart with her cooking and liberal use of butter. I spent more time at their house than I did at my own, and when I was 8 years old, I asked Nina if she would be my grandmother. She said she would, and drew up official paperwork and everything. And although the agreement doesn't mention Reg's role at all, he became my grandfather whether he wanted to or not. They took their roles seriously, and so did I. At my sister’s wedding, and later at mine, Reg and Nina were the honoured grandparent guests.

In many ways, Reg was a man of few words, but at the same time, he was a wonderful storyteller. He told stories about growing up in New Edinburgh, skiing in Rockcliffe Park, attending Lisgar Collegiate and taking the streetcar to Britannia to attend dances at the Lakeside Gardens pavillion. He told stories of going overseas in wartime, of his service in India with the RCAF, of meeting Nina in an English dance hall (she told him he couldn't dance and he knew right away that this was the girl for him), and of their war-ration wedding feast. He spoke about raising his family, his work for Bell Canada, and his experiences in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. He told many proud stories about his sons – including Bruce's diving career, and Bob's ability to make and fix anything with his hands. He spoke with delight about his grandkids Philippe and Stephanie as they grew from small children into adulthood. And I know that one of his biggest pleasures in the past year was attending Phil and Katrina's wedding. It was wonderful that he was able to share in your happiness, and Phil and Katrina, I know that having him there made your happiness complete.

Reg also told stories about the lifelong friendships he developed with his neighbours, in the many places he lived. While it was never the focus of the story, what often came through was how generous Reg was with his time and help. He often went far above and beyond any call of neighbourly duty. I am sure a lot of people here can think of examples. One that comes to my mind for me was when he taught my sister how to drive.

He kept the ancient laws of hospitality alive and well. He offered food and drink to anyone who came into his home, and was genuinely disappointed if you didn't accept it. When I was little, he was my pusher of cookies and ginger ale. Years later, my husband Jason and I had to explain that as much as we would LOVE to drink everything in his liquor cabinet, one of us had to drive home. He made the best gin and tonic out there. Even after he moved out of his house, he still kept chocolates and other goodies in his room to offer visitors.

He was incredibly, overwhelmingly generous. So generous, in fact, that it was almost impossible to take him out for dinner, even for his birthday or Father's Day, because he would insist on paying. Jason and I had to learn to be really sneaky and pay the cheque during a trip to the bathroom mid-meal. If you were out shopping with him, you had to be careful what you admired because he would buy it for you.

Reg loved taking care of people. He loved being needed and being helpful.

He also had a huge love of life, and he shared that love with everyone around him.

He was passionate about his hobbies and interests. Golf, jigsaw puzzles, stamp collecting, and photography are just some of the things I'll always associate with him. We shared a love of photography and often went on outings to take photos together.

He was passionate about travel. Whether it was a Sunday drive within the city, a day trip to explore a nearby town, or a voyage across the ocean, Reg loved to travel. Between his service with the Royal Canadian Air Force, his travels with Nina, and his late-in-life discovery of the cruise lifestyle, Reg was a very well traveled man. In the past decade alone, he travelled to Alaska, the Yukon, the Rocky Mountains, Nova Scotia, the Caribbean (twice), the Panama Canal, France, England, Italy and around the Mediterranean. I was fortunate enough to go with him on a cruise to the Caribbean, and I will treasure the memories from that trip for the rest of my life. We went swimming with stingrays together. It was his idea. When he cruised with Lyla a year or two later, she nicknamed him the Energizer Bunny because most days, his energy outlasted hers!

And he was incredibly passionate about Joan. His intense devotion to her touched everyone who saw it, even if it was also driving them insane because he was breaking quarantine rules to be with her or pushing her chair with a sore back, or even better, with his scooter. I am so pleased that he found love again so late in his life, and I'm convinced that Joan is the reason that he made it to 93. Joan, thank you for bringing him so much joy.

Reg was pretty... particular and liked things a certain way. He kept a dozen toothbrushes and alternated them every day. Whenever I packed him for a trip, I would suggest he bring one, he would insist he bring five, and we would compromise on two or three. He was a sharp dresser who took pride in his appearance. But getting him to part with old clothes - even those that were worn through, ill fitting and unworn for more than a decade - was an exercise in patience and perseverance. Frequently, Lyla and I would have to attack as a team. He liked to have at least six different brands of breakfast cereal from which to choose. He loved pie and ice cream - he had a real sweet tooth and strongly encouraged it in others. He was not afraid to speak his mind. And, as the staff here at the Perley can attest, rules were merely guidelines, and they were really for other people. I can recall a day trip to Kingston that we did together. We were doing a guided tour of the City Hall and despite the tour guide's insistence that we stay on the designated route, he kept sneaking away to see if he could find where he had installed the telephone lines 40 years before. It wouldn't have been so bad, but we were the only people on the tour, so his sneaking wasn't terribly effective. If you called him on breaking the rules, he would just smile serenely and maddeningly. I am convinced that for a long time, his deafness was somewhat selective.

Reg was an amazing combination of funny and clever, loving and sweet, stubborn and maddening, and kind and generous. He was a loving father, a proud grandfather, a devoted husband, and a wonderful friend. He has been a huge part of my life. I will miss him terribly.

Thank you, Reg, for teaching me that family is not limited to people who share your blood. I love you very much. When you and Nina moved into that house on Southgate Road, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I would like to close by acknowledging one other person. Lyla, you have done more for Reg in the past ten years than anyone in this room will ever really understand. Through whatever life has thrown at you, Reg has remained your first and highest priority. Thank you for everything you have done for him. He was so lucky to have you.

No comments:

Post a Comment