Stuart left me a message on our answering machine once.
We had been back and forth, trying to figure out how I could use one of his stories that involved a character with a disability. I offered to edit, he agreed. He wasn’t sure. He fiddled. I fiddled. Back and forth. He was gracious, but concerned. I was just hoping for the story. As was Stuart’s way about telling the story right, he called and said “I’ve been reading this and it’s one way to read it in print, one way to say it out loud. I could do it, but I…. I just won’t.” Ultimately, we couldn’t come to an agreement on editing it for print, so he offered tickets to his Christmas show in Saskatoon as an apology for how it didn’t work out. We loved the show. And we loved him.
Rick and I have lost count of the times we have listened to Stuart on CBC Radio on our drive home from shopping, errands or some trip. If it wasn’t quite finished, there were times we sat in the garage, the engine off but the battery still pumping juice so we could listen to the rest of the story he was telling that week. He had a perfect mixture of anticipation and familiarity, the knowledge of the characters and where they were going that made his storytelling so wonderful. His audiences would start to murmur and laugh when they could see what was coming; he’d say, “Wait for it!” Brilliant and authentic. We think Stuart knew that it was better to go to your grave being beloved than being famous. He didn’t tell chest-beating Canadian stories – he didn’t seem to be that kind of guy – but the stories he told were a celebration of gentle Canadiana. He didn’t tell you this was a story about Canada or Canadians, you just felt it. The stories were real, his characters were warm, flawed and believable, and funny as hell.
My god, how we will miss those times we sat in the garage to wait for the end of the story.
Sundays will never the same.
We are so smearing turkey gravy on the lightbulbs this Christmas.
How about you?