His sister Karen had been so kind as to send me a small photo album with pictures of him, a memorial card from the funeral services in Alberta and his Toronto Maple Leafs Zippo lighter and case. I was very touched by this. She had also included a wonderful and very heartfelt letter which at one point, actually caused me to laugh out loud as I read one of the passages.
Spider had always been a die-hard Leafs fan. "Aren't those the only kind of fans they have...?", I would often kid him. Like many others, he espoused this fervent, if somewhat misguided belief, that the Leafs would eventually triumph and vindicate their fans' unshakable faith in them. I of course, would placate him as though he were my mildly-retarded younger brother. It was one of our many 'shticks' that we would perform for anyone within earshot.
Myself, I had gradually lost interest in the NHL or indeed anything having to do with hockey, after having moved from Montreal to the Maritimes. For me, the initial expansion beyond the Original Six, was pretty much the death knell of hockey as the purists knew it. Since then, it has become all about the money and very little to do with the game itself. It's just another big business clusterfuck. The final nail in that coffin, was when I decided to give up drinking. Hockey games were after all, just another excuse to drink... So I was never really a big fan of any hockey club, by the time Spider and I first met. Let alone the Leafs. As I used to tease Spider: "Why the Hell would I cheer for the Leafs of all teams, 'specially now that I'm finally sober???"
He'd keep telling me: "I think you need a program!" and I'd reply: "Not one that endorses cheering for a losing team... this is supposed to be my recovery, not backsliding!" So when I read this particular passage that Karen wrote, you'll understand why it struck me as absolutely hilarious:
Karen wrote: "I am enclosing his "Toronto Maple Leafs" lighter and case. I know he would want you to have it, as he was always telling me what a great fan of the Leafs you were".
It was at this point that I simply howled with laughter. How very much like Spider to spread such hilarious disinformation about me. It's like having your best friend over for an evening with your family, but telling them beforehand that he's gay and dyslexic, then sitting back and watching the fun as the evening unfolds.
She continued: "I don't know if you still smoke, but if you do please think of Eric every time you light up".
Well, I finally gave up smoking a year ago as of last October. So, it's now been a year and eight months. No matter. Having Spider's Leafs lighter is an honour, as it surely was one of his most prized possessions. I will take it on the road with me, as you never know when you're going to need a source of fire...
I probably think of Spider at least 20 times a day. He is forever tied to my own sobriety and even though we never rode a mile together, he will always be my best riding buddy. He owned that lighter case for longer than I knew him and any time I might catch sight of it or his Zippo, they will always bring back the fondest memories of conversations enjoyed and laughter shared.
I am ever so grateful to Karen for this kind gesture.
I thought of all this as I rode in this morning. Not in a preoccupied way, or anything like that. But enjoying it, letting it flow through me as we leaned and swooped our way through traffic in the wonderfully balmy morning air. As we engaged the Rockcliffe Parkway, crossing the overpass which spans the 174, I spied a doe grazing in the field to my left. The tall grass left only it's back, neck and head visible. We leaned into the right-hander and down the stretch. Head pivoting, eyes searching, I countersteer ever so lightly and she settles into the big left-handed sweeper leading to the bridge. Just before reaching the bridge, again on the left-hand side, another doe grazing near the road this time. Two sightings within a minute or so... and no traffic ahead.
What a great start to a Wednesday.