Bill was an army brat as a boy. He probably wasn’t raised to be an army brat; most boys whose fathers were in the army probably weren’t. Stereotypically they were raised with strict discipline, similar to preacher’s kids. Preacher’s kids and army kids are similar in a lot of ways besides being raised strict to keep up the image. They moved a lot. Their dads were gone a lot. Obviously this made an impact on who they became as adults.
Bill became a traveling salesman as an adult. I think he sold everything from Watkins and Fuller Brush to cars. All the stories kind of run together for me and rarely had much to do with what he sold. They were usually about the people on the way, and the adventures he had on the road. Now Bill is retired. He told me the other day that he has been married for 60 years but he really doesn’t look that old but maybe that is because he walks a few miles every day. The reason I wonder is because I wonder whether half of what he says is true. It doesn’t really matter. He loves to tell stories and I enjoy listening.
I’ve been meeting Bill almost every day for the past few years, ever since the new Discovery Trail opened up in Abbotsford. He walks his dog and I bike to work. At first I just biked by and waved or said, “mornin,” but after he noticed we were both regulars he flagged me down for a chat. I sometimes stop or if we are going in the same direction I pedal slowly while he walks and eventually we part with a, “have a good one!” or “teach those kids something today!” If the weather is bad or I’m a bit late I usually just wave and he yells something after me that I can’t understand. After a number of months I figured since we had shared information about the state of our bowels, surely we could also exchange names. This was of course accompanied by the standard hearty Canadian handshake.
Our conversations include the whole range: things are wives are doing, why his dog is scared of my bike, what a good dog he is, which part of his body is aching today, something about politics [often a rant against our present premier], how times have changed, the schools he went to, life on the prairies, life in BC, what’s happening at my work and in my family, what’s happening in his medical appointments, household adventures, and of course the major topic – the weather! The weather is not just small talk in Canada. It is our national religion. My apologies to hockey but if it wasn’t for the weather in Canada, hockey wouldn’t exist. We talk about that too. We also talk about religion since he knows I’m a professor at a Bible college. And he always apologizes when his language gets away on him. He cusses with the best of them! I suppose that comes with being a salesman, I don’t know.
I have not seen Bill for a few weeks now. Last week I had reading week so I worked from home. This week I’ve been on my regular schedule, yet have not seen him. This morning was a beautiful sunny spring morning. There is no weather-based reason he should not be out walking his dog. I have to confess I actually looked for him around every corner and was disappointed that I did not see him anywhere. I am a person of routine and so is he. If my routine is upset in the morning I often forget numerous things during the day. It was troubling to not meet him, but I think it might be more than the break in the routine. I’m beginning to care for him as a human being. I hope he is well. I hope is wife his well. I hope his dog is well. I want to tell him about my wife who has been on strike to give him more fodder for complaints against the premier! If he died I would want to go to his funeral and yet no one would know to contact me. These thoughts ran through my head. I realized that we have developed a real human connection.
I miss you Bill. I hope I see you tomorrow. Even though the forecast is for rain, I might stop anyway just to see how you are doing.