Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gold Standard

This year for my birthday, you gave me a knife. "It's my favourite kitchen knife," you explained. "I wanted you to have one for the TH."

And indeed, it has become the kitchen go-to piece of cutlery. It's perfectly weighted for my hand, and it can chop at lightning speed a pile of ginger root ...

... or it can settle in for the long haul, tackling with methodical precision enough turnips and sweet potatoes to feed 60+ people:

It is so like you, Brian, to notice what is difficult for me and then try to mitigate it. You've always had that kind of insight into the inner workings of me, the core that is unexposed, for the most part, to mere cursory examination and interpretation.

I think it's been that way almost since we first met as teenagers, both working for the town of Three Hills. You, preternaturally careful, thought before you spoke; I, impulsive to a fault, would blurt out what came to mind.

Somehow we became friends. 

Both of us went on to use sharp implements: you - always seeking to heal, to help, to restore - became a dentist.

I discovered the power of the pen - both for ill and for good - and attempted to learn how to write.

Thirty-four years later, with much water under the bridge, we both strive to rightly divide the word of truth, using what instruments we have in our respective reaches.

And here you are, at 50, the gold standard for what a friend should be.

You are balanced, fair, reasonable; you have a sense of humour and don't take yourself too seriously; you seek the highest good for others, sometimes to your own detriment.

You love your family unequivocally, celebrating milestones and accomplishments with them as often as you can. As I write, you and your beautiful Viv are close to heading to the airport on a trip of a lifetime, a trip that celebrates what it means to have lived fifty years well. 

You make time for what's of value. Thank you for making time for my Mum and Dad, for being with us as she slipped the bonds of her earthly home and went to be with God. Your presence and the words you spoke to me that day have been a source of great consolation over the past six years. Thank you for lending Dad your oximeter when we went to India - you suspected it would give him enormous reassurance, and it did.

Thank you for showing up at the TH unexpectedly every now and then and lending a hand just when it is needed most.

You have always been able to cut straight to the heart of the matter. I remember once, when I was planning a trip back to the States in 1989, you took me out for coffee and - looking me directly in the eyes - asked me if I was sure I knew what I was doing. You listened to me babbling away, and then in a few succinct sentences you laid out the reasons not to go.

I went anyway. And you were right.

You have always heard me; you take my dreams seriously. And because you have been listening with sympathy and without judgment for all these years, you are able to encourage me to be the best "me" I can be.

As I've been ruminating on our friendship I turn to Mary Oliver, who knows a thing or two about friendship so comfortable which stands the test of time, and who can say everything so much better than ever I could: 

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your heart
had been saying.

And I want to say thank you for a friendship which endures through the vagaries and the vicissitudes of life. My own life would be so much less without you in it. Happy 50th birthday to the friend of my heart. 

Here are Lyle Lovett and Randy Newman - two of my favourite singer-songwriters, singing one of my favourite songs:


  1. And as the years go by, this friendship will never die. It's proved to be (right from high school) - destiny! Cultivated and cared for, cutting like a gleaming knife through chaos and chores, making things beautiful. Happy Birthday, Brian!

  2. Br Ironside like your laugh!


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