Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Pal Arlo

My pal Arlo has sailed on. I'm so glad he was able to go as he has wanted to for such a long time now. I'm also glad I spent some time with him before coming out here - he wished me well but was sad to see Ron and I go. I visited him every week and even though the last months were visits where I mainly sat with him - that was good. His last words were in response to my habitual farewell - "See you later, alligator." I would call out as I left and he would answer "In a while...". He never added the crocodile which I would then mutter under my breath as I passed the nurses' station. I'm sure they wondered but never asked.

Last night I couldn't sleep for thinking about him I told him before leaving that I would miss him but I didn't know for the life of me why! He laughed at that. I'm glad my karma and his were entwined. I'm glad to have been his friend for over twenty years - to have seen him conquer demons the like of which I hope never to encounter. Demons that haunted him from his time in the war and even from his childhood in Saskatchewan. Many of the stories that make up his book A Sailor's Stories hint at those demons - some come right out and name them. They never stopped him from doing what he perceived as his duty. He wasn't religious - anti-religious really, but he had very strong moral values, honed in the depression and set in stone during the war. He was loyal and honest. He kept his wife Shirley at home when she developed Alzheimer's, refusing to consider putting her in care. He was with her when she died.

After he wrote his book he decided he would sell it down at Pier 21 - where the cruise ships came in. There he was up til he was 91, sitting on a little chair greeting tourists and encouraging them to buy a book. And they did! Who could resist the droll man with the long white beard! He was determined that people should read of his time in the war. Here is what he says on his blog:

AUTHOR’S NOTES:I want to make it perfectly clear; the stories in stage one of this book are unadorned fact, as true as my memory permits. These accounts constitute Naval History since they detail my servicein the destroyer, H.M.C.S. St. Laurent, when it was an escort for the first wartime convoy leaving Bedford Basin in September1939; my service in the destroyer, H.M.C.S. Saguenay, when she was torpedoed in December 1940; my service in H.M.S.Drake during the Plymouth Blitz and my service in the battleship H.M.S. Rodney during its bombardment of the German battleship, Bismark in May 1941.They are the reason I struggled to publish this book. Too many stories are being lostas Naval veterans die off: Let these not be among them. 

Ron said last night that Arlo might have been the last living person to see the Bismark!
Well, I must go write now. I could go on about Arlo for a long time and I'm sure I'll revisit his stories here. Aren't I lucky to have known him well?

Here's a photo of him I took on our last visit together a few weeks ago.
 See you later, alligator ...

1 comment:

don m said...

don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've lost till its gone … true of forests but maybe more true for people.