One of my most favorite memories of my time in Newfoundland was that of meeting and befriending some of the people whom I met. Over these years, I have stayed in touch with some of them. Some I hear from regularly; others intermittently but happily.
One who stands out is Bren. I first met him in 2004 on my first trip up there. At that time, he was a spry and very active 84 years old, just about to learn how to navigate the internet. I wandered into his shop to look at some of the crafts his lawn sign was advertising. And a door into a new world was opened.
Bren came out of his workshop where he had been “turning” some bowls. Dressed in work pants and a flannel shirt, Carhartt-type jacket and hat, Bren greeted me warmly. He said I was the first this year. First what? I was a little confused. Tourist of course. How could I have not known?
It was late March and the tourist crowd had yet to invade these lovely shores. I could have been considered the vanguard, but I really wasn’t a tourist in the traditional sense. I was happily working on what was to become Arn? Narn. But I was interested in picking up some local crafts and art for gifts for loved ones back home. So, in that sense, i was a tourist.
Bren invited me into his home while he brought out his wares to show me. Remember, I was the first and he wasn’t yet ready for the annual onslaught of intrepid travelers. We talked and I bought. And exchanged e-mail addresses. As I was about to leave, Bren invited me to stay for a cup of tea. I was running late, for what I don’t remember, but I demurred and headed back to St. John ‘s.
Later that year, I received one of the best New Year’s notes ever – an e-mail from Bren, trying out the internet. His message reminded me of how much I enjoyed that trip.
I went back the next year, 2005, I bought some more, we talked some more, and we drank beer and tea this time. We were now friends.
Two years later, I returned with my wife Carla and introduced her to Bren. They hit it off immediately. Why should they have not? More beer, tea, laughs, and stories.
Over the years, we exchanged notes, thoughts, and news of each others’ lives. Bren’s back started to give him problems and he had to give up his craft. We are the poorer for that. But he remained as active as he could.
Bren is now, according to his most recent e-mail of two days ago, 91.5 years old. He has sold his home and moved into a facility where he can receive the care he needs and shares his days with others. He states “I am adapting to a new life of idleness & being amongst a lot of people.” They are richer for that as I am for knowing Bren.
I am happy to report I now have plans to return to Newfoundland next summer. I look forward to seeing Bren once again… good friends are hard to find.