The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

April 18, 2009




Today, that is Saturday, April 18, my buddy Jaring will almost certainly break some world records in masters swimming.

He wanted me to be there, but I can't, I have to drive my kids here and there (well, not THERE) and everywhere.

Jaring is the most gentle of souls. I can't recall just how I initially found out about him, but I think he was 96 or 97 at the time. I called him up, we met, had some photos taken for the story I was doing.

He appeared on the front page of our newspaper that next day.

Because who doesn't love longevity combined with commitment and excelling at something people half his age couldn't or wouldn't even consider trying?

I wrote about him again in today's paper, and that link above takes you to that story on our website.

He joked with me the other day that I have singlehandedly made him famous.

I've written about him now three or four times. He's just an amazing man that people love to read about, young or old.

I've been to his apartment, seen all of his medals, sat down beside him and listened to his tales.

He is very physically affectionate, he wants to touch you innocently if you're patient enough to listen to him talking slowly. He is gentle, deliberate and so honest and gracious.

I've met his wife Gladys, who I was saddened to hear had suffered a stroke since the last time I saw him and is basically out of it, withering away in a downtown hospital. I think she's about 93.

Before that happened, Jaring called me this winter looking for help in contacting the organizers of the 2009 Canadian Masters Swimming Championships in the Toronto area.

I found their website, contacted them, told them about Jaring wanting to enter and that he would be 100, and they were thrilled.

They contacted him and helped him fill in all the entry forms.

We only talked on the phone this time around, and he expressed disappointment I couldn't be there to see him break these records today.

But beyond that, he sounded different, like some of his zest, his excitement for life, had been taken from him.

He told me more than what I put in the story about it, but he said Gladys's head was drooping and she was unresponsive.

And as the story says, he finds it lonely in his apartment without her in a senior citizen's highrise in the west part of town.

It was Christmas when I was last there, she was all excited about the season and the levy that was going on during my visit on the main floor of their complex.

The organizer of the masters meet told me it's common for people to die while they're swimming at some of these events.

And I think that's what Jaring was saying when he told me he wouldn't stop swimming, that he'd do it until he dies.

I hope that isn't soon. But he's lived for 100 years. He's a beautiful man.