Fred is a friend of mine. Soldier, lawyer, innkeeper, sailor and now golfer - Fred just turned 87. He winters in Florida at Boca Raton, summers in Canada and in between leaves people in both countries shaking their heads and laughing.
Fred is soft-spoken, well read, quick to smile and sends me invitations to Happy Hour at his Pinky’s Bar that end with the caveat, “Should you choose to decline, further action will be taken.” Did I mention he was once a lawyer? Like many men who become young boys again once they retire, Fred requires constant adult supervision: according to Bert, Fred’s wife.
Fred was a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force, a pilot who flew the Lancaster Bomber during the Second World War. The roar of the four Rolls Royce engines as well as too many night runs over German munitions factories and weapons depots all but destroyed his hearing.
A few summers ago, I took Fred to an air show in Dunnville where they trained Allied pilots during the war. I approached a pilot flying a Tiger Moth, the same small plane Fred had taken his basics on. I told him about Fred and he told me he’d be honoured to take him up for a spin.
After he gracefully declined the invitation saying it would be an inconvenience and he wasn’t dressed for it plus there was the matter of insurance, Fred finally turned and whispered in my ear: “I’m afraid of heights, okay.”
Recently, Fred got up very early to golf with Bert’s son on Florida’s Sanibel Island. Fred and Bert had just arrived at Scott’s house the evening before and he was rooting though their luggage in the dark trying to get dressed without waking up his wife. Bert, of course, was awake and listening to all the commotion. When Fred was finally dressed and ready to go, he opened the bedroom door and enough light came in to allow Bert to see his outfit.
“You’re wearing my pants.”
The large silver buckle on the back of the khaki capri pants was a bit of a giveaway. It’s almost too bad Bert caught the wardrobe malfunction because Fred, in a pair of women’s pants would have so unnerved the other golfers, he’d likely have won the match.
I can’t remember if this happened before or after the day Fred took a mighty fairway swing, missed the shot and returned home covered in black muck from the pond he fell into. It must have been after because before that Fred got all banged up after he fell out of a golf cart when he failed to hear the driver start it up.
Meanwhile, back on their patio in Boca Raton enjoying a late afternoon drink with Bailey, their three-year-old Maltese poodle mix at their feet, Fred noticed a big, ugly raccoon climbing the fence that separates their property and the golf course where he volunteers part-time as a starter. Fred thought it strange that the raccoon was roaming around in daylight, but the animal climbed behind their brick pool house and disappeared.
Then, suddenly, it was there, running toward them and mauling the little dog. As fur flew and blood splattered, Bert and Fred became locked in a tug-of-war trying to extract the dog from the clutches of the raccoon. Bert ended up with a bleeding dog in her arms and Fred, sensing the raccoon was mad with disease and far from spent, wrestled the animal into the pool. From the shallow end, he managed to drag the animal to the deep end where, in hand-to-claw battle worthy of an episode of *Sea Hunt*, he drowned the vicious raccoon: War vet - 1, rabid raccoon - 0. Fred received half his rabies treatments while in Florida, half when he returned to Canada that spring.
You and I will probably never find ourselves in an underwater death roll with a crazed raccoon but, these things happen to Fred.
Thanks to his buddy Dr. Dave Hurst, Fred received a set of hearing aids paid for by Veteran Affairs here in Canada. They malfunctioned during his winter in Florida, so he mailed them back to Canada for repair. Weeks passed, Christmas came and Fred got a notice from the local U.S. post office, located in a nearby pharmacy, that a package from Canada awaited him. Any postal package coming from another country carries a customs label and raises questions. The very large, female postmaster holding Fred’s package in her hand, had just one question.
“What’s in the box?”
Fred didn’t hear the question, so he asked her to repeat the question. There were quite a few people in line behind him.
“What’s in the box?” She was practically yelling now.
Fred again did not hear the question and now he noticed about 20 people in that corner of the store were focused on this loud exchange with the postmaster.
“What’s in the box?” screamed the woman that turned heads in all corners of the store.
“Oh,” said Fred, “these are my hearing aids. I’m really lost without them.”
The postal employee broke up, the crowd laughed long and hard and then in the spirit of the season Bert says, they all began clapping and cheering.
That’s Fred, a walking, talking, not-hearing-too-well Kodak moment.
Remember the old I Love Lucy show? Yeah, well almost everyday Fred comes home, he has lossa splainin’ to do. And, yes, Bert’s new nickname is Ricky.
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