We had a man to man talk, Dale and I, and as man-talk frequently is about women, we talked about women as we rode the duet bike through the pastoral farm fields of our city in the country. Dale did the peddling from the rear of the duet, which is actually a tricycle, as was pointed out to me, while I did the sitting up the front, and in this fashion we had our manly conversation. As mentioned, about women. Our own women of course.
In between our conversation Dale pointed to the low-hanging ash clouds against the mountains, which originated in Oregon and California, and the rows of capital farm-houses, showing the owner's welfare, obtained by the products growing around their places, blue - and rasp-berries. Dale even spotted a field of blue grapes on the Canadian side of Zero ave.
Young kids on small bikes, doing a 12 km distance, swarmed by like a flight of swallows, assaulting the silent morning air with their hyped up cries, but came to an abrupt halt at a stop sign at a busy street, waiting patiently until it was safe to pass, then as one roared off again.
Sparse motor vehicles made a wide berth around us and only when the road was clear did we return to our man-talk. I did most of the talking I'm afraid, because Dale did all the heavy work, interrupting the man-talk only when he saw something interesting on the way while keeping the paddles going.
I didn't know Dale Carlisle as well as I knew his wife and her mainly through my daughter the American, Debbi Williams McLeod. Both were, beside best friends, members of a Sweet Adeline Chorus and together with two other members sang at our fiftieth wedding anniversary in April 2005.
Dale Carlisle, a lifelong cyclist, is a recreation therapist at Menno Place who supports those living with dementia through a walking program, a woodworking club and the new Duet bike initiative, at Menno Place. He recently drove 1,700 km through four western provinces to raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease, set in motion when a close friend of his own age was diagnosed with a rapid form of this disease.
“I wanted to to do something more, I wanted to make a difference,” he said.
I learned during this relative short trip Dale as a compassionate and capable person who is a friend to the unfortunate, and am honored to be his friend. I may well become one of the people with dementia he supports through his programs, and should this happen I would not hesitate to be enrolled in his programs, because he is a dedicated man who cares.
I trust him, completely.
Men like Dale do make a difference.
So does the bus driver who lend me his warm long-sleeved jacked to wear during the ride.
I will not forget easy the ride, making my small contribution to the MCC society – sitting down.
When Dale peddled us back to the Tradex Convention Center, where MCC held their annual collection and auction feast, hoping to get a million dollars together to help the home- and country-less, we were welcomed by the first fast bikers who had 25 and 50 km behind them, but had started earlier, and – of course, the photographers.
Trough gestures we were asked to smile at our arrival but my mouth being cold would not cooperate and stubbornly stuck to a grimace.
And what we were talking about during our trip?
Didn't I tell you that we talked about women, meaning our women, well that is what we did.
Only two years after our wedding anniversary my wife, having been stricken by ALS and being wheelchair bound, and I, drove to Mission Hill's park, overlooking the Fraser river, to hear a concert by the Sweet Adeline's with Dale's wife and our daughter participating.
It was going to be the last time that my wife and I were going out together to an event.
The evening had reached the point that one can almost feel the quiet, the dark sneaked slowly in and mist fogged the banks of the river, the first stars already winked.
Anne and I enjoyed the unique sound of the Sweet Adeline's blending in with the stillness and loosing itself far, far away, in the tree tops. The dusk of the evening adding to the fairy-tale ambiance, when we heard the director announcing a solo by one of the members.
I heard only part of what she said -
“... with her beautiful voice will sing 'the River'...”
A slender silhouette appeared at the darkened front of the stage, who, with a pleasantly clear voice penetrated the dusk with that unforgettable, bewitching song.
During the long pause, following her beautiful rendition, her voice still resting on our mind, and just before the restrained applause, Anne proudly whispered
“That is our daughter Debbie.”
The spring following the chorus was present also at the funeral of Anne, my dear wife, singing the same song, so loved by us both, but now the solo was going to be sung by Dale's wife Roxanne. She had requested my daughter Debbi to ask me not to look at her, and I did not look at her, but heard her sing to honor my deceased wife and our entire family, in front of a filled church with a clear unwavering voice 'the River.'
It was then that finally I shed tears.
You never know where men really talk about, when they talk about women. Sometimes it is about things one never forgets.