Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Pause for a Friend

Those of us who spend our lives strapped to a computer are really connecting with real live people. Still, it is not the only place we foster relationships. I want to take a moment to celebrate one person I did not meet online.

The blue toolbox -- I still have it
I can still see Doug Rooke sitting beside me in the second row of Doc Todd's Starcraft van as we embarked on yet another long seven/eight-hour trip home in the dead of night from Regina after another Calgary Colts junior football game, which was usually a loss. 

After taking care of the players, coaches, and trainers before they boarded the bus, and the locker room was emptied and swept clean of debris, "Dougie" could finally settle in and relax -- well, not really.

This is when he jumped into his next line of duty -- a self-imposed one: driver watch. Regardless of who drove the van, Doug slightly leaned forward in his seat behind the driver and kept a watchful eye on his alertness, keeping him awake, in case he got tired and his eyes began to droop.

What I remember most about Doug is his selfless and tireless giving of service, no matter what that might be. He was also the beacon of light, the person everyone came to air their differences, tell their good news, seek a shoulder to cry on, or just have company. His office (the equipment room) was open nearly 24/7.

Oh the stories, the laughs -- there are many. The conversations: years' worth. 

Some of the smaller moments end up being big ones, such as our stop at a Kindersley, Saskatchewan eatery. We were chowing down when looking down the middle of the aisle of tables was the biggest, fattest black cockroach we had ever seen, just motoring straight down the middle towards us like he was on a mission. I think we kept eating, but we lifted our feet up in the air and were kind of afraid it was going to come to our table. Back in the van, after the good doctor played up on our ewwiness, pretending that his takeout fries were crunchy, we were creeped out for the rest of the road trip, but laughed. We had eaten at that establishment many times since but never forgot that moment and laughed about it often. 

Then there was the tub. To our last days with the Colts and afterwards when I would meet up with him at the Stampeders, we couldn't think of or look at that white tub without laughing.

The Shack
It was a statutory holiday. The arena at Optimist Park in Calgary was closed. There were no games or practices on the fields, therefore no personnel at the facility. Doug and I were completely alone. Our equipment "shack" was situated beside the arena and we were loading up both our vehicles to take everything to McMahon Stadium to get ready for a walk-through and a game.

Dougie didn't have a very big truck, so the height to lift anything into the back wasn't too onerous. As usual, he checked his list to make sure everything was packed. It was custom that the tub would be packed with game jerseys, and it was. Most of the items were loaded and the tub was next. In a matter-of-fact sense of duty, we grabbed either end of the tub to lift and only needed to strain for about an inch to get it over the tailgate. We got it up and just as we were about to push for that last inch, we burst out laughing. Of course, we let the tub to the ground, shook it off, and tried again. One more time for that last inch, and just before, I saw Doug smile out of the corner of his mouth and down went the tub again. Every attempt ended up in laughter. It got ridiculous. We even started to panic and tried to think of anyone in the immediate area we could call to help. How the hell are we going to get this on the truck? We continued. I swear it took us at least a half hour, although seemed like more than an hour. We just couldn't stop laughing. I don't know how we did finally get it onto the truck, but we did. 

Over my 18+ seasons with the Calgary Colts, I probably spent more time with Doug than anyone else in my lifetime, as well as with our general manager Keith Evans.

While my heart is heavy with the knowledge that he has passed on to the next life, his gift of friendship is one of my prized possessions.

Dougie attending a player on the sidelines

Me with Keith Evans, Aubrey Cummings (Stampeder player), Doug Rooke, and the Grey Cup

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