I don’t really remember when I first met Kevin, it was long enough ago. His brother and I were thrown together on a curling team at the Burnaby Winter Club back in the mid-90s, and have been curling together (off and on and the geography of our lives allowed) since. I suspect Kev joined us some time in the late 1990s, but I surely must have met him before that. I guess that doesn’t matter.
Kev and I were the same age, about the same skill level at curling, and I liked being his teammate. Both on the ice where our kinda-serious-but-not-good-enough-to-take-ourselves-too-seriously attitudes were aligned, and in the club after games. I may have been more serious back then, but he was probably more realistic. Through various men’s and mixed set-ups and in random bonspiels, Kevin and I played together a lot for a few years, almost always with his brother. When his time became more precious with family and stuff, he concentrated on mixed and we didn’t play together for a few years, but a couple of years ago, he joined us again playing men’s at the Royal City Club. Honestly, he was throwing better than ever.
Well, maybe not ever. There was that season at the Coquitlam Curling Club back in 2004 when we all seemed to come together in March. A team firing on all cylinders, we managed to win the Club Championship (a just-ok team in a just-ok club), and qualified through the regional club championship tournament to represent at the Pacific International Cup. At the time, this was about the biggest competition a club curler without dreams of Brier glory could qualify for. We played the national teams of Pacific Rim nations, and even won a few games. We weren’t just good, we were just good enough. Our hungover come-from-behind upset of Team Korea will probably be the highlight of my curling career. But that’s a story for over beers, shared often. We got the patch.
The thing is, the reason Kev was such a great teammate wasn’t the wins (they were too few and far between to sustain us), it was the celebration/ lamentation time of post-game beers. We always laughed, at ourselves, at each other. We debated the state of the world, and the obvious solutions. It is worth noting that Kev and I both had a lot of political opinions, free to share, louder as the night went on, but *never*agreed on politics. We had fun finding the flaws in each other’s ideas, sometimes sulked in our beers when it was us who got called out. Always we laughed.
For a while, we were members of what I sometimes called our Winter Triathlon Team: curling, hockey and poker. We played them all with varying skill, mostly as excuses to drink beer and scotch and bust balls. Kev was easily the best poker player of our group, just a solid, smart player of the cards without the aggressive bluster of his brother or my over-optimistic dumb luck. He was always just there with a surprising number of chips at the end.
This was offset by him being – and I apply no undeserved hyperbole here – the worst hockey player I have ever seen. He only seemed to be able to glide with one skate, pushing himself along with the other in a curler-type gait. He stopped when he got to the boards, the stick was really only there to provide a third point for balance. His zone play was similar to the tykes who play during the first period break at Canucks games, but he wasn’t as fast. Kev was bad at hockey, but he showed up every week and played, and we were lucky to have him on our team. We laughed.
Shortly before the entire Gong Show Hockey Club enterprise fell apart, he appeared not in the dressing room, but in the stands – and I still remember the game. His girlfriend wearing an engagement ring.
Kev, in those early years I knew him, didn’t have great luck in love. Girlfriends, but nothing that stuck. Then he met Jen, and it was over. They were married in a year, he traded his sports car (“more show than go”) for a minivan and the kids started arriving. I saw him less, but it was clear he was never so happy as when he was spending time with Jen and the kids. He grew up in a close family, they all worked the family business and his brother and his parents seemed like his best friends. Maybe its the Mennonite roots, but I think having his own family was the part of his life that mattered most to him. Being a dad was what he most wanted to spent time doing. You ask him about the kids, and you got that Kev smile. Contentment might be the right word.
When Kev got sick a couple of years ago, it looked really bad right away. Every cancer journey is different, and his was a fucking roller coaster. Bad diagnosis, great response to therapy, sudden setback, excellent response to a new drug, bad side effects, the whole shitty range. Through it all, he was forever pragmatic. It seemed he was the most positive guy in the room, and at times it looked like he may pull it off. In the end, best of science had no more help to give. He died at home this week in relative comfort with his family he loved so much by his side. There is some mercy in that.
Fifty-one years isn’t enough time.