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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Remembrances of Friends Past

Earlier today, I met with four old friends to honour the passing of a fifth. 

Behind me are Jeff Pitts, Kevin Kelly, Vern Ryan, and Ray Brown, old schoolmates and friends. In the 1980s, we regularly met with our other friend, Paul Ravensdale, to play Dungeons & Dragons, Supremacy, Villains & Vigilantes, console or computer games on various Atari machines--and we even raced around outside too, back in those days before cell phones and the Internet. 

Paul was a tall, strong guy, the kind of person that would have made a terrifying bully for smaller kids. But while Paul had a temper that could be set off under certain circumstances, he was absolutely not a bully, but a stalwart friend with a sadistic sense of humour that really resonated with me. Paul took sinister delight in making things very difficult for our characters when we played roleplaying games in modern settings such as Recon or Top Secret. If we made stupid decisions in Paul's games, we paid dearly. Harsh, but fair, and we always had a blast. 

As often happens, I fell out of touch with Paul (and everyone else in this photo but Jeff), though I did have coffee a couple of times with Paul in the early 2000s. Paul joined the Canadian Armed Forced before his wedding back in 1989 (an event those above attended), and served most of his time in Manitoba. But he worked in Edmonton for a short interim, and that's when we briefly reconnected. 

Paul retained his friendly demeanor, but his experiences overseas had affected him deeply. He didn't speak in specifics, but it was clear he was traumatized by his experiences in the former Yugoslavia during its breakup in the 1990s. 

One of those lunches with Paul in 2002 or 2003 was the last time I saw him. It's a truism that any time we see someone could be the last time, but realizing the reality of it still hits hard. I learned later that Paul experienced further trauma during his military career, and I regret not reaching out again immediately. You never know when it will be too late. 

Ray and Vern were able to travel to Brandon, Manitoba, for Paul's funeral, and organized today's gathering for us to celebrate what would have been Paul's 55th (I believe) birthday. We caught up with each other's lives, shared some laughs, and exchanged some thoughts and memories about Paul. We all remember him fondly; he was a big (literally) part of our lives during some of our most important formative years. 

Miss you, pal. I hope you're at peace. 


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