“Tara Chook, Keep Smiling”

Back in January, I wrote a blog about the people who live on the periphery of our lives “The Regulars” (https://chrissiestable.com/2020/01/31/the-regulars/  ) And I wrote about Dave, who was moving from a regular to a friend….

As summer came to a close; we would see each other most days, and chat. He was English, always dapper, always smiling and had pockets stuffed with dog biscuits, for his “regulars”- the dogs he knew by name, who knew that he had a treat in his pockets for them. He lived on his own; and I know his daily circuit of the beach was as much connecting with others as it was exercise. There were no strangers in Dave’s life, just people he hadn’t introduced himself to.

I only got bits of his story. And reading between the lines he had not always had an easy time of it. He and his wife had emigrated here in the 70s, to make a new start; but the problems they had, travelled with them, and they parted ways. He never mentioned children, and I know that he would have told me if he had any.  I know he had spent some time living on the streets and was forever grateful for the people who gave him a helping hand; picked him up; gave him a home and set him straight again.. He talked about his significant other – she had told him they were too old for him to call her his girlfriend; and I suspect she was a no nonsense kinda lady, impervious to his charm.. 😉

He was the kind of person interested in other people. He knew about my kids, all of them; and always asked about the “young lad who had left home”, always interested in the Saturday night dinners, the graduation and the board games.

I had spent the summer taking a series of agapanthus photos, and he always wanted to see the photos from that day. We would sit on the bench and he would review them. I always intended to take a selfie with him, and the Aggies..

During Lockdown I fretted that I hadn’t seen him. Knowing he lived alone, I worried that he may not have been getting groceries etc. And of course, that he was keeping himself safe in general. On one of my walks I was taking Teddy Bear photos from the street, I paused outside a block of apartments, and this  voice drifted over the fence “Oi! Do you have permission to take that photo?” Lol, it was, of course, Dave. He popped through the gate, and we chatted, safely social distanced… He was fine. He said that all the young people in the complex, who knew he lived alone, had co-ordinated buying his groceries, and had included him in their Bubble. I think he had really enjoyed “belonging” to the larger group. He had stopped the walks, and pretty much kept close to home. But was counting down the days until he was free to roam once more…

After we came out of level 3 lockdown I once more saw him periodically on my walks. He still asked after my kids and my son in Wellington. And was pleased to know he was coming home for a visit. I wanted to ask him to the family dinner, to meet all of us; but it was Dave’s birthday that week too – his 80 something – and he was heading to The Coast with friends for a long weekend. I promised once he was home, I’d arrange that dinner, so he could meet all the kids…..

Once winter hit, I rarely saw him. I walked early; he had started walking late. He said the cold air was no good for his asthma, and his heart. “I’m fine when I wake up, warm in bed, Lass… But that walk to the cold bathroom is a killer”… He promised to be “Right as rain” once the weather warmed up again….

Sadly, he never got the chance. A few Friday’s ago, I walked past his place. The Police car and ambulance and sad crowd told its own story… I have to confess I wept as I walked home.

Dave was one of a kind. Warm, friendly, grateful that his last years had been full of people, a “girlfriend” and latterly the young people who lived in his complex who had looked after him so well…

Our last catch up was just after he got back from the Coast. He’d of course had a blast! We talked about the coming warmer weather and how he would be out and about again…

And as I said goodbye I got a “Tara Chook, keep smiling!”

“Well Dave, I am, I smile every day. And every day, as I walk past our bench I smile and remember you. My only regret is that I never took that Selfie…”

2 thoughts on ““Tara Chook, Keep Smiling”

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