On Tuesday morning of this week my wife’s father, Colin Crawford, took his final breath and left this world a lesser place.
The dreaded “C” word had claimed another victim in its relentless march to eradicate all of us from this planet.
I have known Colin almost as long as I’ve known his daughter, a shade under fifteen years, and over that time I developed an enormous respect for his intellect and an equal sized appreciation of his sense of humour.
Colin and I shared an interesting relationship. In the presence of others it was a bantering one with the semi-sarcastic barbs and one-liner put downs that are often the hallmark of male friendship and while I have many cheerful memories of my clever repartee, I was always the first runner up in these encounters.
I always enjoyed these exchanges but it is my memories of the conversations we had when we were alone that I will cherish the most.
For a while Colin and his late wife, Laura, lived in the same condo building as Gimalle and me and, as Colin was always an early riser, I would frequently go up to his condo around 5:30am and spend an hour coffeeing and chatting before heading off to work.
Shortly after Laura died Colin moved to a different part of the city and our crack of dawn sessions were replaced by infrequent coffees and the occasional lunch at Cheesecake Café, his favourite restaurant where Colin, ever the health conscious eater, would dine on high fat, high sugar, high calorie desserts.
He frequently told me that if all but one of his teeth were to fall out, the remaining tooth would be the sweet one.
It was during these one-on-one chats that I really got to know my father-in-law.
He had enjoyed remarkably successful careers as both a lawyer and businessman and had been somewhat of a serial entrepreneur before settling into semi-retirement shortly before I met him.
What really struck me the most was the sharpness of his mind. I don’t believe I have ever met anyone who can rival his razor sharp intellect. His genius was his ability to address issues of mind bending complexity and to convert them into simple, bite sized pieces that even I could understand.
My genius, as he frequently pointed out, was just the opposite; to create vast complexity from minute simplicity.
It was his counsel that I sought whenever I was challenged by a difficult business problem and my biggest regret was my own failure to heed his advice time and time again principally because Colin often would tell me what I did not want to hear.
His advice was always guided by pragmatism whereas I often could not get past my own emotional attachment to my challenges.
My last such conversation took place in January of this year. Gimalle had a test scheduled at the hospital where Colin was a patient and I spent two hours with him while waiting for her.
Colin was in pain and the morphine didn’t seem to be doing its job. Despite this he wanted to talk about anything other than himself.
It wasn’t long before he directed the conversation to my business challenges and I shared with him my ongoing stresses and concerns.
After I had finished my usual whining he did something he had never done before. He extracted a promise from me.
Regardless of how difficult, stressful and painful my challenges may become he asked me to promise that I will never give up.
Colin Crawford. Father-in-law. Friend. Teacher.
Till we read again.