Last week I celebrated my 59th birthday so during a pensive time I decided to write down the names of 59 people who held significant influence in my life.
Though not always, in most cases the influences were positive.
Many had been involved in my life for a long time; in some cases the relationship was brief but profound.
Naturally, my list consisted of several family members and relatives—even all four of my wives.
Ironically, three names on that list manifested for visits the past few days, reminding me that sometimes we forget to live in the moment and often (way too often) fail to tell others how special they really are. Two of them are long-time buddies and the third relatively new but hugely significant.
Ralph Krehbiel and I go back to high school days at KSS. Cooking class to be precise, although cooking was hardly the draw.
I had to fill an elective slot in my school semester I decided cooking was not a bad idea. Ralph just liked food. The bonus was Miss Atkinson. Oh yeah.
Miss Atkinson was fresh out of university and while I am sure she was an amazing teacher, she was also simply amazing—at least in the eyes of a Grade 11 bad boy.
Poor Miss Atkinson inherited an all-male class of 20 or so similar aged drooling lads—few of whom could care a baker’s measure about culinary expertise. However, attendance records for her class were likely impressive.
Regardless, cooking brought us together and ironically cooking is partially why we will likely be seeing each other a little bit more in the future. Ralph is now a tremendous hobby chef and is compiling a recipe book of sorts, with which I may assist.
Laughing, sharing stories and memories, and talking about future goals reminded me of what a huge influence Ralph was for me. Not only did he steer me into martial arts, but we also became very close friends who helped each other through some tough times. Neither of us actually believed we would see age 50.
After meeting Ralph, I found myself telephoning another blast from the past—well known former Kelowna photographer, newspaper editor and ink-stained wretch Rainer ‘Ziggy’ Ziegenhagen.
I needed some personal advice and knew if I really wanted an honest, no BS, answer to a couple of tough questions, few were better advisors than Zig.
Like Ralph, Ziggy sort of inherited me. I came with the job. Actually, we first met while toiling as writer-photographers for opposition local newspapers, and despite the competitiveness of our worlds, we got along well. Within a year or two we were working together. He eventually became the editor. Over the years we were co-workers and also roommates.
We shared a similar passion for music, strategy board games, lengthy engaging debates, and just good ole plain fun.
Ziggy has always had an amazing ability to see things that many others do not. He sees through things that many folks only see around, if at all.
Quick wit, a lust for life and laughter, and a stickler for detail, not much gets by Zig unless he wants it that way.
Some 20 years ago Ziggy disappeared from the greater part of the universe. When a newspaper office he was working for in outer B.C. was blown up (literally), he simply decided he’d had enough of the public spotlight and pulled a Houdini.
I never talked to him and had no idea where he had gone, until a few months ago. As brief a time as we’ve enjoyed reconnecting, Zig is clearly as astute as always—his gregarious laugh and quick wit well in hand.
True to form when I asked him for his thoughts, he shared them openly and with the exact sort of clarity which I sought from him. Thank goodness, some things never do change.
I am still not sure exactly where Mr. Z lives nowadays, but certainly he still resides within a friendly neighbourhood in my heart.
Last, but not least was a lunch with Graeme James. A more unlikely couple of friends the world has rarely seen.
Graeme and I were total strangers when we were sworn on to Kelowna city council five years ago. I knew nothing about the man when Mayor Sharon Shepherd plunked me next to him at the council table.
All I knew was when he sat forward in his chair his massive frame blocked me from the site line of the mayor. I felt safe there, like in high school knowing that I was hidden from the teacher behind the big kid in front of me.
Over the next three years, while the two of us argued about just about everything we did come to a mutual respect and like for each other. We wound up car-pooling to about 85 per cent of all council meetings and other outings—and most of the time we debated all the way.
Graeme was never rude, insulting, or unfair in his thoughts and comments with me. I watched him closely around others and in all kinds of situation, and marvelled at his ability to stay focused to the issue and to do his best to decide the right answer in the big picture.
It quickly dawned on me that when it came to Kelowna and to people—Graeme James gave his very best. Graeme has been the perfect reminder that while we may not all be built the same way or carry the same pedigrees and histories, that regardless of politics, religion or any other factor, nothing can truly stop people from working together except people themselves.
When it comes to life and choices, Graeme and I decided to set aside our obvious differences, pursue our common denominators and be friends. A win-win all around.
My birthday list of friends is not long, nor is it complete, but it certainly is precious.