Last summer, our family travelled to England and Scotland and while in Scotland, we met up with a number of aunt, uncles, and cousins of mine. We spent a great evening with my cousin Ian and his wife Lesley at the racetrack in Hamilton – I wrote about it here (July 11). Last week, Ian passed away suddenly. He was only 45.
Ian was quite a character – charming and very outgoing with lots of personality, but not to the point of being obnoxious. Well, not usually, anyway. We didn’t really know each other very well since we lived on different continents our whole lives, but whenever I saw him, he always treated me like we were best friends. I was unaccustomed to this. I grew up in Canada, while all my aunts, uncles, and cousins live in Scotland and England. Whenever I did travel to Scotland or they travelled here, there was always some awkwardness because we were family but didn’t really know each other. Ian didn’t care about that – we were cousins, and so when we were together, we were going to have a good time. The night we went to the racetrack, I think Ian felt like the host – this was his country and his town (he saw a few friends of his while we were there), and so he was going to make absolutely sure we had a great time. And he succeeded.
We were visiting my Aunt Sandra in the morning when Ian called looking for us. He suggested we go to the racetrack while Aunt Sandra babysat his girls and our boys. When we arrived at the racetrack, there were hundreds of other people there as well, and the lines for food were very long. We were hungry, but we didn’t want to wait in the long lines, so we decided we’d get dinner later. We went and got our betting forms and some drinks, since the drink lines were much shorter. Ian and I got beer, Lesley got wine, and Gail just had water. Ian asked if she wanted wine or beer or something else instead but Gail said no because alcohol can affect the medication she takes for her diabetes. Gail has Type 2 diabetes and it’s completely controlled by the medication – she doesn’t need insulin shots, and she’s pretty much free to have whatever food (sugary or not) that she wants. Once Ian heard that Gail was diabetic, he got an idea. He asked what Gail wanted to eat and Gail said that the BBQ pork sandwich sounded pretty good. Ian said “I’ll be right back” and dashed off towards the food stand. He returned just a few minutes later with a couple of sandwiches and a couple of orders of
fries chips. We asked how he got them so quickly with such a long lineup, and he just said “don’t ask”. We suspected that he had run up to the front of the line and shouted “I have a diabetic woman who needs food right now!”, which was technically true, if a bit misleading – it’s not like she was in danger of passing out if she didn’t eat right away. Gail and I felt a little guilty eating when others were still waiting in line, but we were pretty hungry and the food was good so the guilt didn’t last long.
My mother reminded me of a similar event that happened when Ian came to Canada as a teenager for a visit. We went on a day trip to Niagara Falls. While walking around Clifton Hill, Ian went into a candy shop, mainly because of the pretty girl behind the counter. He talked to her for a little while and managed to talk her into giving him free fudge, but not just a bite or two – he came out of the shop with fudge for all of us.
Ian was a big guy with a big personality and an even bigger heart. From our conversations that night, I know that Ian was very proud of his 20-year-old son Martin and adored his two little girls, Alexis (7) and Zarah (3). As I said we didn’t know each other well, and he had only met Gail twice, but there was no question in my mind that Ian would have moved heaven and Earth to help us if we needed it, because we were family and that’s all that mattered. I know he holds a special place in my sister’s heart as well. He will be very much missed by his Canadian cousins.