This week has been complicated. There’s been an extraordinarily beautiful wedding, the burial of a young man whose genetic inheritance caught up to him much too soon, a 40th birthday celebration, and the observance of a sad anniversary. But the cloud that’s hung over the last few days has been for a longtime friend whose cancer, despite months of treatment, got the best of him.
Mike was 15 when he came to Canada – alone – escaping the ’56 invasion of Hungary. He spent some time in Montreal at a range of menial jobs, but soon, like so many others back then, he started heading west. He learned English, got himself through a degree at UBC and forged a career as an entrepreneur, ever the independent man, both in action and in thought.
He loved nothing more than a good bout of arguing. And even though English was his second language, his vocabulary was one of the richest I’ve known. He may have pronounced words with an accent, but he knew how to pull out the most precise, the most elegant choice for the occasion. Or, as was more likely the case, the cause.
A visionary he was, but like so many visionaries, ahead of his time. It’s interesting to think about how the city of White Rock might be different if Mike had won a seat on Council when he ran for office. Marine Drive might now be a pedestrian walkway with a market-style mall; shuttle buses would run up and down State Street, providing pedestrians easy access to the beach.
Dear to my heart was his love for good food, especially if it was a bargain – or better yet, free. He loved to fish, dig for clams, set a trap for a feed of crabs.
One of my favourite companions for mushrooming in fall, he’s the only person I know who could find truffles without the help of a pig or a dog. He had a great eye for spotting a patch of helvella at the side of the road – only trouble was, when he was on the prowl, he’d drive while looking at the verge, rather than watching the road. This led to the occasional slip of wheels onto the shoulder, and more than one offer to take over the driving. Not a chance, especially with his beloved Fiero. But I suppose the occasional slip of the wheels must at least be good for the passenger's heart.
Anyway, next time I go for dim sum without him (especially if they serve chicken feet), I am going to miss him. Just as I am going to miss him when I have Greek food or crab or when I eat outdoors in the fading light of evening, especially if a boisterous discussion is on the menu. I am going to miss this man we mostly called Michael or Mike. Although in my heart I will always think of him by the name we used when we lovingly mocked his accent, and called him Der Mickey.