Five years ago today, we lost our brother Gary.
It wasn’t a surprise, really. He was definitely on his way out, barely responsive as liver failure slowly shut down his colossal frame. We were making plans to put him in a hospice for his last days when my sister Renee phoned, early in the AM, with the news that we wouldn’t have to find him a hospice after all.
I didn’t cry much that day, perhaps because I had already exhausted my supply of tears a few days before. When I came home from the hospital the previous week after getting the word that Gary was terminal, I tried to tell my sons, but broke down in tears. I got about as far as “Uncle Gary is…” before I couldn’t say another word.
I loved Gary. Everybody loved Gary. He was always the life of the party, a guy with a great sense of humour who loved to laugh. He was a big guy — huge, in fact — who smoked and drank. When I was editor of the Examiner, I had Gary write a weekly column about his efforts to lose weight. The column was called Waist Away, I believe, and it was terrific while it lasted. Gary had a real flair for writing, and built up quite a following, particularly among “plus sized” women. I can’t remember exactly why the column died out (I think he suffered an injury of some sort, causing him to stop his exercise program), but it did. Sadly, Gary was the type of person who just didn’t finish things.
He worked in circulation at the Edmonton Journal, but that didn’t last. He was a disc jockey for a while, I think it was in St. Paul, but he didn’t like being so far away from the family in Edmonton. He started a courier service called Fast Lane, but that didn’t last either. That was Gary’s problem. He was smart, personable, funny … and fat. Some people use their girth to their advantage, but Gary wasn’t one of them. I got the feeling (and I may be entirely wrong) that he was uncomfortable with himself as a person. Maybe that’s why he never found his niche, his place in life. He was kind of a jovial, funny lost soul.
When we were cleaning out his apartment after he died, among his meager effects was a set of Tony Robbins inspirational tapes. I don’t know if he ever watched them, but they clearly didn’t help. Something about that discovery made me sad. I saw them as a sign of his secret pain at not really finding his place in the world. We threw them away.
My wife and I were the last or next to last people to take stuff out of his apartment. When I looked around the empty apartment, it hit home — Gary was really gone. I cried so hard that I let my wife drive home. Then I walked for a long while, crying all the while, half sad that he was gone, half angry that he went the way he did, as the not-so ripe age of 46.
There was so much potential in Gary, but it remained unrealized. But, he was a good person, loved by his family and friends. That should probably be enough of an accomplishment.