We use the term "friend" often. Normally I don't think we give it much thought. It just flows off the tongue, is gone into the either, and never given another thought.
There are all kinds of friends one makes over the years. Some we meet at primary school, college or other educational sources. Friends you have worked with, often for many years. Of course for many there is church, playing sports, and friends of friends, often play an important source.
However for me, as I look back over my eighty two years, (so far so good) it has become apparent as time goes by that the friends I have made from my first eight years of school, and those through my thirty year professional life, as an Air Traffic Controller, have been special.
Why have I made the previous statement? It just popped into my little brain. I didn't give it much thought. No big analysing or second guessing.
However I will do that right now.
I have many fond memories of my early youth, and the core group of friends I grew up with. But what makes them special? Of course over the formative years you spend with friends means just that - formative - we all evolved into the adults of later life. As we evolved we talked - a lot - about a lot of things. We made many mistakes together, laughed together, and at times cried together. We got into situations. We grew up, many of us moved many miles away. As time grew we all saw less and less of each other. We often lost contact with one another for several years. From time to time, I believe most of us had some little event trigger a clear memory of some little thing, that brought a flash of a friend and life event. It is when you meet these friends after many years, they don't seem to have changed. They have all had a million experiences in a life you have not been involved with - but to the two of you, neither has changed.
Working together as an Air Traffic Controller was in a lot of ways like playing on a sports team. We looked out for each other. We often worked very hard together. We had four lines - we called them crews. There were normally about eight men (later and women) to a crew. We overlapped with two other crews part of the time. We worked strange shifts, originally in the late 50s I believe we worked an 8 on and 3 off schedule, a bit different from today, which I think is more like 5-4. We went out for drinks after work together. We went to baseball games, hockey games, played golf, etc. We had interesting times together. We could relate. We didn't get paid what we wore worth!
Here again after retiring some of us sort of drifted away, some stayed close through events arranged for the old farts, by some dedicated retired Controllers. When you meet one of these old friends, even after many years, it is like time has not changed them - except in appearance. Even their voice seems the same. Was reminded of this when talking to Jim and Terry on the phone recently, recognizing the voice instantly.
Don was one of my best friends, he just was. We didn't have a lot in common. He though I was crazy to play hockey, he would always laugh when I would limp around after a game. I had four kids - he was single. Politics we did agree. I always kidded him about his use of the cursor.We were just friends for over sixty years.
Don Begg was one who I believe stayed relatively involved with the retired group. I was less involved after retirement, but have always had such fond memories of that wonderful group of dedicated men and women.
Don and I didn't see much of each other, maybe once every three or four years, until five years ago. He called and we went out for lunch a few times that year and he came for Christmas dinner with our family a few times. I called him this December a week before Christmas to invite him, but he said he was not feeling well enough to come. He said he didn't feel up to visitors. I phoned again right after Christmas and he again said he was not well enough to have a visit. So I went over the next day, after all he did not have to let me in!
Don did let me in, and I am glad to report we had many laughs together, despite the fact he advised me he would not be around much longer, since he was in line for a Doctor assisted Death soon.
He wasn't sure just when, but he believed in the near future. I think the prolonged discomfort of his brother Jake's passing had a profound affect on him. I visited him every week for the next few weeks. A few days after my last visit, Jim Paxton, one of Don's good friends, phoned me to let me know he was a patient at Peace Arch Hospital in white rock. Either I or my wife Beth, and Daughter Carol visited him almost every day until Jan. 23 when he said I should take a few days off since he was going to get the proceedure on the 27th of January. I knew Terry and Greg were to visit him on the two other days, so I kept away.
Beth and I arrived at Don's room about 11am Jan.26. He was not in his bed. I asked the nurse where Don Begg had been moved.
"Are you a relative?"
"No, just friends for over 60 years"
"I'm afraid I can't say much since you are not a relative."
"We are aware of the procedure Don is to have tomorrow."
"OK I will have to talk to the supervisor." And she left for a few minutes.
She came back.
"I' can tell you that Mr. Begg had the procedure yesterday at 5PM. Evidently he moved the time up so as to not inconvenience anyone. Even the nurses were not advised."
Although on one level Beth and I were expecting a death, it still came as a shock, we didn't have time to say Good By. Or say a little prayer, although Beth had prayed over him previously.
It is strange how life often throws us a curve ball when we least expect it. For the last two days I had been going over in my mind what I would say, if Don asked me to be with him at the end.
I had made up my mind I would stay with him.
I didn't have to make that decision!
MY FRIEND, DON BEGG, MADE IT FOR ME!