David and Dee
Posted by joeabbott on September 27, 2012
In 2008, my wife Suzanne and I had the opportunity to travel abroad and visit Australia for two weeks and then on to New Zealand for another two weeks. We went as part of a tour group and met many wonderful people. Of that group, however, we only really kept in touch with David and Dee (Dorothy) Gardner.
In the beginning we would correspond monthly, but as time moved on, we wrote a bit less often. Every Christmas holiday, we’d get a card from David and Dee; it was a photo-card created using one of Dee’s paintings as the image. The art never seemed based on a holiday theme, but was always excellent and one of the centerpiece cards we received during the year. In 2011 the card was only signed by David but we didn’t pay that much heed: it was Dee’s art still on the front and David always was the more outgoing and talkative of the two.
Then I wrote to them in late March this year but was contacted (through my blog) by David’s and Dee’s daughter; she had bad new: Dee had passed away late in 2011 and David was stricken by Alzheimer’s disease. Later in 2012 David moved to an assisted living residence.
David and Dee appeared to be the oldest people on the tour with us, but they were both young at heart and each time we found opportunity to visit with them it was a pleasure. I’ve looked through the pictures that we took and, sadly, there are far fewer digital remembrances than memories. I’m writing this post to share the few images we have.
On one of the excursions, we took a long bus trip from Darwin Australia to Jabiru in the Kakadu National Park. The map says it’s just a two and a half hour drive, but they weren’t on my bus; that driver took forever! While the duration of the trip was a little trying, the hardest part was the driver’s monologue. Just a long unbroken exposition on trees, local history, animals, legends, and other stories. While always interesting, the details were text book-dry and his delivery unceasingly monotone. The mood in the bus changed from “tourist interested” to “tediously resigned” and the words kept flowing out of the driver.
At about the time I noticed David had placed a cup over his ear to block the sounds, the driver said, “well, if there are no questions, I guess I could turn this off and let you watch the scenery.” I leaned over to David and teasingly whispered, “I’m going to ask him an open-ended question!” David’s response was perfect: “For the love of man, please do not!”
My next photo, to the right, was from a dinner cruise we took in Sydney Harbor. We sought out a table with some of our favorite folks and ended up with David & Dee, as well as Jean & Arthur Nethery. It was for the better as the cruise organization offered to pick up the bar tab and some of the other tourists took advantage (in all senses of the words) of the offer. Our table was a bit less loud but we enjoyed a wonderful evening of dining and getting to know our tablemates.
Unfortunately, I lack the digital photo skills to tune up the picture and shooting into the sun was beyond the skill of the wait staff who took the shot. Sorry it’s a little dark.
As the tour moved to New Zealand we spent a wet and windy day on a boat in Milford Sound, taking in the dozens (if not hundreds) of waterfalls all around us. It was spectacular. One of the highlights spelled a minor tragedy for David: as we stood at the back of the boat, a gust of wind hit us and blew David’s Australian Tilly hat from his head and into the Sound! His face in shock, he froze, hand out, beckoning to the floating headwear, now a distant fleck of white in a wind swept body of water. Just a beautiful pose as he helplessly watched. Adding to this scene was the fact that he’d been wearing a clear plastic trash liner that he’d poked holes in for his arms and head … the look, the pose, the response: it was all part of David’s ingrained comic mannerisms and timing.
In the picture to the left, he was showing Suzanne how to use his 35mm camera; even though it was 2008, he was still using a film camera. And, to be clear, Suzy was plenty familiar with film cameras but he still felt compelled to show her the features, and to get her confirmation, before he felt comfortable surrendering the unit.
That was one of the more enjoyable afternoons we’d had. Others from our tour group huddled indoors, bemoaning the wet and discomfort: David, Dee, Suzy and I were celebrating the fact that we were halfway around the world, amid waterfalls and rainbows, looking on at Miter Peak, and in New Zealand!! From this point on, we enjoyed bumping into David and Dee and sticking with them.
The picture to the right is from our time in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park: part of the hotel we stayed at included a small museum which ran a 3D film. I hopped down before the show started, but after most folks had donned their eyewear, and snapped a picture of the group. David and Dee were in the back row. As always, Dee looked happily prim, the very picture of composure; David … well, he looked just a tad lost and played that to great affect.
We had a lot of very good times on our trip.
I’m missing pictures of the quiet meal we shared on the sidewalk in New Zealand, strolling with them in a museum in Wellington, or the dozens of other small exchanges we made throughout the trip.
After we parted at the airport in Auckland, we shared contact information and later would send email and snail mail; I mentioned the holiday cards earlier that were always favorites. David was an actor by profession (here’s a link to his IMDB filmography) and taught at some universities in Canada. He’s accredited enough that those interested can read his bio in The Canadian Encyclopedia. In our exchanges he was particularly tickled by a chance to meet up with “Wonder Woman” who he’d shared time with on screen; here’s his description:
Thought you would like a copy of this. 13 years ago in 1996 Lynda Carter and I were in a film together called "Family Blessings". I was her Grandfather.
She was in Toronto on Saturday, and I decided to see her and buy a CD of songs she was selling. There was a huge lineup, of course, and it took an hour before we said hello again. I brought a photo of us together that had been taken in 1996, and that’s what I’m holding in the photo taken on Saturday.
Here are the pictures he included:
He was starting a memoir but didn’t type so he’d write it out longhand and Dee would transcribe and type on a manual typewriter. The working title of it was “Tales From a Shy Extrovert” or something like that. I asked him how he was doing on that each time we exchanged messages and it was clear the book would likely never see the light of day. I expect it would have been a joy to read.
Between his personality and Dee’s painting, there was a lot of talent in that couple. But, I see I’m babbling because I don’t know how to close.
How do you finish such a post? Sadly, we won’t see Dee again but I hope her art continues to touch others; David’s Alzheimer’s disease is cruelly taking him before he’s left us. So, I’ll finish this post as I finish most things that I’m not sure how to end or that I’d even want to end: with an ellipsis and hope that there’s more to come …