HodgePodge by Charlie Hodge – I took too long, Danny

I took too long, Danny.

Plain and simple, spin it however we like it – I took too long.

Very sorry about that – I know you understand my apologies are sincere and acknowledge the various reasons for the delay. Regardless the justifications and excuses I drove the bus too slow and you got off before the journey was complete.

I also know I miss you. Even more than I thought.  Even more than we joked about. I’m kind of out of sorts with my days. Nothing is quite like it should be. My world spins in sputters and slow motion.

It’s been several days now and you haven’t called me up for a status on ‘the book’ . An update on the production  and  printing  of the novel we have been working on together for five years.

You were so predictable. Tez and I would chuckle and say, “Well, it’s about time for Dan to call” and sure enough within minutes there you’d be. Now the phone doesn’t ring when it’s supposed to. You’re not calling just before the end of a movie, during overtime in a hockey game, or just as dinner hits the table. Your timing was uncanny, yet for some reason we found it funny.  That was part of your charm Danny -you got away with stuff because you were just so damn loveable.

This time you went away for a couple of days and didn’t comeback. That’s not how it is supposed to work. After all we always joked we were “just old farts, doing a death dance.”

It’s hard to believe our book morphed into such a massive project, taking  three years longer than originally planned. What began as a quick rewrite of your notes and history of the marvelous mansion in Nelson (and the huge significance its original owner and builder had on the country) became a large tome expanding a couple centuries.

I politely told you to take a hike when you first contacted me saying you were looking for a ghost writer. I explained I had no interest in busting my butt and fingers for someone else to get the credit. I wanted to have my name on any book I wrote.

“Oh you can put your name on the book, I want someone who will mention the ghosts that live in the mansion.”

“Yeah, the place is haunted. Nothing horrible or evil, but haunted,” you told me. I was intrigued, but doubtful.

It took a few phone calls to convince me to grab Tez and head up to the stunning mansion five hours east of me, and see for ourselves. It worked – we were blown away with the mansion and the fabulous gardens meandering over the acres and acres of land.

Tez did not want to go back for a while, but I was hooked. Little did I know how many times over the years I’d make the drive yet loved it every time. We had such enjoyable chats while wandering the mansion or reviewing the mounds of notes you produced.  When I suggested expanding the book and explained my vision – you said “go for it Charlie-boy.” As I wrote you dug up data and contacts . Largely though you let me create, and for that you were amazing.

The more time we spent together the more fun we had. I struck a bond with a stranger. Your world became my world.

I got to know your loving, amazing soul-mate Louise. That classy woman was your perfect partner. I learned quickly how much you loved and adored your two kids, Danny Jr. and  Genevieve, your grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Born in Trail in 1944 you grew up in the Kootenays and following high school attended “the school of hard knocks” you often chuckled. You worked the family concrete business, McGauley Ready Mix, before headed to Toronto to work construction in 1967. That’s where you met your gorgeous French-Canadian girl on a dance floor. Free spirits, three months later you both headed to Mexico in a VW van with flowers painted on it. Together you  travelled the world for five years!
Last stop was Africa where you put an engagement ring on Louise’s finger at the breathtaking Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Next stop Japan working with your brother before returning to Canada in 1974.

You helped run the family concrete business back in Trail until your parents sold it and retired in Nelson. Eventually the family took over the mansion there as a bed and breakfast and when your parents died in a tragic car crash you and Louise took over running it. Which is where I met you.

Your love for music and art was another joy we shared but most of all you loved to laugh. Your wit was razor sharp. Your heart was kind to, even though life had not always been easy for you.

But poor health stopped us both a few times. I was hospitalized four times with all the trips of critical nature. – but you stuck with me as I mended. You had major health issues as well. We kept promising not to ‘croak’ on each until I finished the book.

We had a great time as I shared chapters with you as they poured out, something I had never done with anyone. It was not about looking for comment from you it, it was sharing of the process. For you to experience it. Many days were spent in my back yard going over the details of the book.

I kept my word and in spring presented you the final manuscript which you were very pleased with. We sent it off in May.

With your health taking a downturn in the summer we decided to self publish in the hopes of seeing the book printed before either of us died. After weeks of analysing self-publishers we finally picked one, signed all the agreements, and handed them the manuscript. The book will be printed in February and we were both so excited waiting to see the results in print.

Now you are gone.

When the book arrives Dan, hopefully you will know it and look at it with me over my shoulder. Otherwise I may have to bring one with me when I go.

Keep a cold beer waiting Danny, and a good joke because I miss you already.

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Charlie Hodge is a best-selling author, writer, a current Kelowna City Councillor, and a Director on the Regional District of the Central Okanagan Board. He spent more than 25 years as a full-time newspaper journalist and has a diverse background in public relations, promotions, personal coaching, and strategic planning. A former managing editor, assistant editor, sports editor, entertainment editor, journalist, and photographer, Hodge also co-hosted a variety of radio talk shows and still writes a regular weekly newspaper column titled Hodge Podge, which he has crafted now for 41 years. His biography on Howie Meeker, titled Golly Gee It’s Me is a Canadian bestseller and his second book, Stop It There, Back It Up – 50 Years of the NHL garnered lots of attention from media and hockey fans alike. Charlie is currently working on a third hockey book, as well as a contracted historical/fiction novel. His creative promotional skills and strategic planning have been utilized for many years in the Canadian music industry, provincial, national, and international environmental fields, and municipal, provincial, and federal politics. Charlie is a skilled facilitator, a dynamic motivational speaker, and effective personal coach. His hobbies include gardening, canoeing, playing pool, and writing music. Charlie shares his Okanagan home with wife Teresa and five spoiled cats.


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