Gary as sketched by Jasper
Do you remember what you ate for lunch yesterday? How about where you put the house keys? Or the specs you are wearing on top of your head right now? Or your password for your email? Where you parked? Did you flush the toilet or did you feed the fish? Don’t worry if you can’t because neither do I. There is a laundry list of things or events that we tend to forget every day and it’s a shame that most of them are the most important items in our lives.
This leads me so a short story about a friend of mine named Gary. One Sunny September morning, the crew was having its rounds to the local McDonald’s in Langley. We fell in line as usual; we ordered the same set of coffee as usual;, we sat in our favourite hub as usual and read The Province and 24 Hours as usual. All was bright and dandy and sounded like our typical Monday morning routine until I heard this phrase, “I KNOW YOU!” in a volume a bit louder than the usual, a pitch higher than the usual and a tone more excited than the usual. Then I told myself, “I know that voice!”
It was the voice of our resident septuagenarian, Gary. He was pointing his finger at this man, an older man—I’m guessing he was in his 80’s—with a short silver mane and a snugly knitted sweater, sitting with a woman, enjoying what seemed to be an uneventful breakfast in peace until Gary somehow made it more… well, eventful. I got curious and went closer to eavesdrop at their conversation. Gary repeatedly said, “I know this man!” “I know you!” At that point, I started to worry that the man and the woman were getting uncomfortable at the sight of a tall and slender 70-year old guy getting all giddy at seeing them.
I approached Gary as he was apparently talking to me and he indeed was talking to me, he said, “Jasper, I know this man!” I was ready to apologize to the couple for the suddenness and randomness of what’s happening but the man beat me into it. He calmly asked Gary, “How do you know me?”
Gary hastily responded without a buckle, “You were a bus driver! Last time I saw you was…” Gary then started to look up, and count to himself, trying to use all the fingers that he has. “29 years ago, 1987. Jasper, am I right? Am I right? 29 years ago?” I was just dumbfounded at what is happening and did an uncertain nod as if I did my math. In reality, I didn’t know; it was a courtesy nod.
The man then quickly responded “That’s right! I WAS a bus driver! And I retired sometime in the mid 90’s. How do you know me? And why do you remember me?”
Gary replied with a big grin on his face and said, “Because you were the bus driver when I hurt my right ankle. Here, this foot, my right foot,” said Gary as he raised his pants and lowered his socks to show his formerly hurt limb. “You stopped the bus and helped me to stand up. You said I sprained my ankle from one of the steps of the old bus. You helped me. That’s why I remember you. I just want to say, ‘THANK YOU’ for helping me.” Then Gary just casually walked away as if nothing happened, ordered his usual small coffee with double cream and double Splenda, sat on his usual corner, read his usual newspaper and proceeded with his usual day.
The lady that the man was having breakfast with and I were just watching the whole spectacle unfold in awe.
The 20-year retired bus driver did not have the chance to react to what happened. As he struggled to keep his twinkly eyes from tearing up, he did not even have the chance to say, “you are welcome.” (He did after a while, before we left for our work sites.) I noticed that the woman started crying and jokingly said to her—I can only assume—husband, “Aw, you did one good thing in your life”
The whole 5-minute interaction that I witnessed seemed like a lifetime of my wondering, “Do I remember enough? Have I said thank you enough?” I thought of asking Gary what he eats so that I can have even a fraction of the sharpness of his memory. It made me realize how nice it can be if we can consciously remember events, memories around us or at least try to remember these things that either put a smile on our faces or happiness in others.
Gary continues to teach me every day how to be grateful for even the tiniest bits of our days, whether he found a penny in the lot, a beer can in the bush, or win the lottery. I am trying my best, although it is futile, to consciously make an effort to remember things around me like Gary does. One thing is for sure, this moment that I saw, this moment that made me believe that gratitude and humanity are still alive amidst all the terrible news we get every day and this beautiful moment shared by two great souls nearing the twilight years of their lives is something that I will never forget. Thank you!
By Jasper Macabulos, Semiahmoo House Society
Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community.
The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.