February 22, 2015 - Lee (4th person I approached)
I was at the always busy Granville Island Public Market this afternoon, and approached a lady sitting by herself. She smiled when I told her what I was doing and said I could sit and chat with her. However, when I told her that I would want to take a photograph, she told me she would have to decline.
“I’m proud to say, for myself, that to date, my photograph is nowhere to be found online. I hope to keep it that way,” she said with a pleasant smile.
The second person was waiting for a ride, so she didn’t have time to chat. I hadn’t even gotten my introduction out to the third person I approached when I recognized Mandy, whose story I heard on Day 58 last year. She was enjoying some quiet alone time, watching the sunset. We had a quick chat, and then I left her to enjoy her sunset time.
Lee was sitting on a bench overlooking False Creek. I asked him if he would chat with me, and explained what I’m doing.
“Sure, I don’t see why not,” he said, moving a walking stick that was leaning against the bench. He was smoking a joint, and I told him not to let me stop him.
“I was born in Kelowna. I’m the second oldest of five children. We grew up on a farm, so there were lots of chores to do. I had to help milk cows and feed the animals. There’s always something to do when you live on a farm,” he said. Lee also helped his mother with caring for his younger siblings.
As we chatted, I noticed a seal popping it’s head out of the water, about thirty feet away from where we were sitting. We stopped talking and watched the seal swim around, keeping it’s head out of the water.
“I started to break-in horses when I was in my teens,” Lee told me.
“People started paying me to break-in their horses. I did that quite a bit while I was still in school.” I said that he must have a good affinity with animals. Lee seemed to downplay that notion, and I countered that it takes skill to break-in a horse, it’s not something that just anyone can do.
“Yeah, you’re right. It takes patience. And understanding. You do need to have a way with horses, for them to trust you. You’re right.”
“I graduated from high-school, in Grade twelve. I always thought school was a riot. Until the time to graduate got near, then it became a panic. I panicked getting ready to leave, and I panicked at the thought of not being in school anymore,” he told me.
“I got into my own little business. I was getting cattle fit for showing. I was feeding and grooming cattle. Then I took some on the road for shows. I spent six months travelling from one side of the country, right across, ending at the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto),” he said. Lee travelled for six months, with cattle shows.
The seal popped it’s head out of the water directly in front of us. Lee saw it and pointed, and I turned my head just in time to see it dive back under the water.
“I got a job building trailers for long haul trucks after doing the cattle shows. That job took me to southern California for about six weeks. I did a few other things, and then got into the flooring industry, and did that for thirty-five years,” Lee said.
"Look, there it is again,” he said, pointing towards the water. The seal had popped it’s head above water.
“Hey boy, come on back,” he said loudly in the direction of the seal. As he said that, the seal turned it’s head around and looked in our direction.
“I think they know my voice by now,” he said.
“I’m down here all the time.”
“I got married, twice. I have a son from my first marriage, and then a step-daughter from the second. My first wife left and took off with our son to Florida. She didn’t want to be married to me anymore,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“I don’t hold any ill-will toward her. None at all,” he replied when I asked.
“No, she did what she had do. I didn’t get to spend as much time with my son. He would come and spend time with me. I always knew that one day he’d come back. Now he lives here and we’re good and close.” I asked if he was still married or in a relationship.
“Only with me, myself and I,” he said, laughing.
A gentleman approached Lee, saying ‘Hello, long time no see. Where’s the other parts of you?’ Lee laughed, telling the guy that his wheelchair (the ‘other parts’ ) had broken, and he was waiting for Health Canada to give him a replacement. He’s been waiting for over a week now. I told Lee’s friend that I didn’t know Lee, but that I was asking him about his life. ‘Oh, he’s got some great stories, that’s for sure,’ he said. The two said goodbye, and as the man walked away, Lee bid him farewell and “go safely.”
“About ten years ago, I was diagnosed with CIDP (Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy). I had been experiencing symptoms for quite a while before the diagnosis. But I thought it was from doing flooring for so many years. My blood cells are attacking one another, and all of the joints in my body are deteriorating. That’s why I use a wheelchair. I can manage to walk, but I can’t go any distance,” he said. That explained the walking stick leaning on the bench next to us.
I asked if marijuana helped ease the discomfort.
“Well,” he said.
“I don’t know if it actually does, or if it's just in my mind that it feels easier. But it does help me to feel better, yes,” he said, smiling at me.
“I’ve used cannabis for probably close to forty years. I’ve got a prescription for it now. And I have a federal permit to grow marijuana as well. If I needed to.”
Lee had started to rub his hands together, and the sun had gone down.
“I’ve got to get going here pretty quickly, it’s getting colder out and that isn’t so good for me,” he said. We sat long enough for Lee to tell me about a great trip he had a number of years ago, to see a friend that lives in the Philippines.
“I stopped in Japan and Hong Kong along the way. I was there in the Philippines, with my friend for Christmas. We had Christmas dinner while sitting in his pool. It was a great trip. I spent six weeks with my friend, and two months in total, travelling,” he said.
“I’ve always been a bit of an adventurous spirit.”
I had taken a photo of Lee early in our conversation, because the light was fading. I thanked him for his time and we shook hands. He had a comfortable, yet firm handshake. I stood up and Lee used his walking stick to balance himself as he got up from the bench. He had been sitting on a plastic grocery bag, which he picked up and put in his pocket.
“Well, It was very nice talking with you,” he said.
“Have a good night. Stay safe,” he said, as he slowly moved towards home. #notastranger