Sunday, February 13, 2011

Scottie !! A Tribute to my Big Brother ...

The follow is the written version of my words spoken yesterday at the celebration of life for my brother Scott ... I wish there was someway to have recorded the memories and stories that were shared by his friends and family ... for a few brief moments, we revelled in the legacy of my brother and what he meant to the people who's lives he touched over his all too brief sojourn among us. Most fitting of all was the observation offered by our uncle Walt - now the eldest member of our family, who noted that Scott shared a common legacy with our Great Uncle Newt Cain, and Uncle Drake, both who were our bachelor uncles and who enjoyed a good drink once in awhile, and who could be forever relied upon for sarcastic, yet well intentioned teasing and harassment, and who loved and valued their family ... Scott like Newt and Drake always had a smile on his face, a smart-assed comment to offer, and a heart of gold beating beneath a sometimes gruff and prickly exterior ...

So, to the reflection I offer to my brother ...

I found this quote earlier today as I was getting ready for this gathering:

“there is no failure, except in no longer trying. There is no defeat, except from within, no insurmountable barrier save our own weakness of purpose. Endurance is not about being too stubborn to give up on the impossible, endurance is about having heart enough to keep on doing the impossible ... those who endure, seek to do what is deeply important to them no matter how difficult it may be.”
(Joan Chittister, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope)

Today we come to honour, and perhaps more importantly, to celebrate the life and legacy of one who knew and lived endurace despite seemingly insurmountable odds and challenges ...

Scottie, Scott, Uncle Scott, nephew Scott, that smart ass ... whatever moniker you might chose to apply to him (and there were many), Scott was who he was without apology and perhaps most significantly, without regret. Scott was proud to be himself, and you had to take him the way he was ...

So, today I would like to begin by inviting you, his family and friends, to share a memory or a recollection of Scott and how he touched your life. Then when we’re finished, I will share my reflections on my Big Brother and what he meant to me, and we will together raise our glasses in a toast to Scottie and his memory ...

For my reflection, I have chose to weave it in and around the words of Ecclesiastes 3an ancient celebration of the turning of the seasons and the passing of time ... The Book of Ecclesiates begins with the words:

“For everything, there is a season, and time for every matter under heave. A time to be born, and a time to die,”

Scott Edwin Ankenmann, was born on November 20th 1961 in Stratford Ontario to Samuel and Isabell Ankenmann. Six years later I joined the fray, and from the pictures we have displayed, we have clear evidence that for a time he actually did appreciate and love having a little brother. Scott would spend his life in and around Stratford, with a few notable excursions elsewhere ... Scott was a student at Bedford, Juliet and Northwestern Secondary Schools.

Scott died at home suddenly on Monday January 31st, 2011. We found him lying in his bed on the evening of Wednesday February 2nd. Scott was 49 years of age ... too young, and he went too soon.

“a time to plant, and a time to harvest what has been planted,”

Some of the plants Scottie was involved in planting and harvesting we won’t speak of here ... but the planting and harvesting and tending that Scott was most intimately involved with over the last 20 years was tending to the bush on his 40 acres out at Fairview. Scott loved that bush, and over time carefully cleared the brush and waste trees, and made it into a place of beauty ... sure, there were a few parties along the way, and some haywire activities, but at the Bush Scottie kept it real and found his sanctuary where he was truly happy ...

“a time to kill, and a time to heal ...”

I don’t know if Scott ever killed anybody ... 40 acres can hide more than just a few bodies ... but to the best of my knowledge, beyond a few brawls and fights here and there, there was nothing more than some cuts and bruises, but no fatal injuries or deaths ... Scott was at heart a marshmallow – he avoided killing just about anything. He practised ‘catch and release’ on almost everything. Everything except flies – OH MY GOD, he hated flies ... as for healing – when his Rottie Teddy got creamed by a semi on Erie Street, the countless bowls of Swiss Chalet Chicken Noodle soup carefully spoon fed to Ted over weeks and weeks of recovery prove beyond a shadow of a doubt his commitment to healing, and his tender heart ... Scottie valued life, and enjoyed it fully !

“a time to break down, and a time to build up ...”

Scott was by trade and training, an autobody mechanic, but along the way he dabbled in a dozen or more jobs and professions. He worked as a Gas Jocky at Suny’s Gas Bar in the Towers Parking Lot, then for a time as an autobody apprentice and mechanic at Red Dale’s Chrysler Dealership on Ontario Street. For a time he also worked at Kroehler’s Furniture at Romeo and Ontario street assembling furniture – it was a job that got him in trouble with the Union. Scott was being paid piece work, while the other unionized workers were being paid by the hour. At one point the Shop Steward came to Scott and said – “you gotta slow down, you’re making the other guys look lazy ...” Scott’s reply? He smiled and offered a sarcastic “Really? You don’t think they’re making themselves look lazy ALL on their own?”

But Scott was happiest working for Lucky and Joe at Boehmer’s doing construction. Along the way he made some good friends, had more than a few misadventures, and learned a lot about the construction trade ... many of his happiest memories were connected with Boehmers’:

Scott told the tale of once installing a fireplace in the home of a member of Stratford’s Police Service. When the job finished, this officer brought out two 24’s of beer and invited the crew to enjoy themselves ... as they left Scottie made sure the youngest guy on the crew – the one who hadn’t been drinking, drove the truck back to the shop, then he called me for a ride home. When I got to the shop, he asked if I could drive the other guys home too ... after hearing the story of the beer I agreed ... Scott said – “you watch, they’ll be waiting for us, cause you know that snake called his buddies and said – “they’re were all drinking beer and are gonna be driving home ...” As we drove out past the old drive in site up the street from the shop there were three police cars sitting there ... Scottie leaned out the window and waved at them yelling “HEY !!!” at the top of his lungs.

His other story came one night while I was home from University. He come home three sheets to the wind and wandered off to bed. A few minutes later there was a knock at the door, and I was confronted with a member of the Stratford Police who asked me if the owner of the 67 Firebird Convertible sitting in the driveway was present in the residence?

I replied “the car belonged to my brother, and he was here ...”
They asked to speak with him.

When I tried to rouse Scott from his bed he refused. Even after being told that it was the police, he swore at me and went back to sleep. Finally on the third or fourth try, I managed to rouse him and he staggered out into the kitchen where he was surprised to find himself in front of a police officer ... he beat a hasty retreat to his room to put some pants on over his underwear, then returned to speak the officer. The exchange went something like this:
“Were you in the McDonald’s drive thru earlier this evening?”
“Um, yup.”
“Were you driving the car outside?”
“Who was?”
“My buddy.”
“What’s your buddy’s name?”
“Joe what?”
“You don’t know Joe’s name?”
“Do you know where Joe lives?”
“How do you know Joe?”
“I work with him.”
“And you don’t know his last name.”
“Nope, just Joe ...”
“You mean to tell me, that you let someone drive that car. That nice convertible out there, and you don’t know his name, you don’t know where he lives, you only know his name is Joe and you work with him?”
(Grinning) “Yup, that would pretty much be it ...”
“Listen, if you don’t tell me his name I could arrest you for obstruction of justice...”
“Really? (Bigger grin)”
“Yeah, I could ...”
“Go ahead ...” Scott holds out both hands towards the officer, “Put the cuffs on me then ...”
“I could ...”
“Go ahead, I’m ready to go ...”
The police officer then puts a call out to the restaurant and gets a description of the driver ... over the radio we hear the following description: “tall, clean shaven, blonde hair ...”
Scott’s smile broke into laughter and he again held out his hands:
“See I told ya I wasn’t driving ... guess you better haul me in officer!!!”
Eventually the officer left and Scott went back to bed giggling ...

Oh, and it is also worth mentioning the little episode with Scott taking a cinder block or brick off the noggin while he was taking down a scaffolding at a job site ... only Scott could walk away from that one ... guess it proves just how hard headed he really was !!

“a time to weep, and a time to laugh ...”

“Tee hee ...” Ask Hannah about her Uncle Scott’s “tee hee” ... can any of us think of Scott without that damned grin on his face? Hearing his laughter? And remembering his teasing and his comments like “yeah, just give your head a shake ...”?

A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the comedy of the late Bill Hicks. One day driving to the bush, I popped in a Bill Hicks’ CD – along the way the a comedy bit about Hicks drinking and driving came on. Scott howled with laughter as Hicks said – “I was so drunk that when the cops pulled me over and got me out of the car, the flashing lights made me think I was just at another club dancing ... ‘turn the music up!!’ I called out as I danced in their headlights !!” Scott wiped away tears of laughter as he said “Right on, I’ve been there !!”

Scottie loved to laugh !!

“a time to mourn and a time to dance ...”

Scott mourned deeply, the passing of our father Sam in 1968, a loss that has continued to roll through our lives ever since. Then on January 11th of this year, Scott and I mourned the passing of our mother Isabell. Yet, in the face of it all, especially since Mom died, Scott embraced life. Despite his intense physical pain, Scott embraced and savoured life and all that it had to offer. He wasn’t really one for dancing – even in his younger years – but put on some music, gather some people, crack open a case of beer, and Scottie would be there a Crystal in his hand, a cap or toque on his head, a smile on his face and he would be just enjoying the fun. Life was too good to waste !

“a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together ...”

The most obvious stones in Scott’s life are the bricks and mortar of his beloved shop built out on his Bush at Fairview. But Scott’s life is filled with many more stones – stones that are the memories and moments we can recall and share about him, the memories and moments that come so easily to mind as we think about him and how he touched our lives ... these stones are the things about Scott that make us smile and laugh despite our sorrow and tears ...

And there are so many stones to share ...

“a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing ...”

For Scott, there was no significant other ... but he was a flirt, and he shall we say “admired a beautiful woman” ... yeah, let’s be honest, he was like his rotties, a HOUND ... loyal, affectionate and loving – but a dog nonetheless.

Scott was a loyal friend who would do just about anything for anybody without a moment’s hesitation. As witnessed by the many calls, notes, visits, and conversations I’ve had in the last week, and those I witnessed moving through Stratford in the days following mom’s death, I’ve come to appreciate that many people knew Scott and even if he pissed you off, they still liked him and were touched by his life ...

“a time to seek, and a time to lose ...”

When I think of Scott and seeking, I can think only of him and cars. Only Scottie could venture into the deep dark southern US states with a battered old pick up truck and return with a classic car ... he seemed to have a knack for arranging trades along the way, and came out the winner everytime.

And of late, he focused his “seeking” on trips to Costco: “Do you really need six bottles of mustard Scott?” “Yeah, they’re cheap !!”

And I won’t mention the mountain of socks, the pile of jeans, the 87 pairs of Joe Boxer briefs, or any of the other things he’s picked up from Costco lately ... but it’s worth mentioning the Costco card and its role in recent weeks ...

In starting to deal with Mom’s affairs we met with Bankers, Lawyers and a whack of other officials who would ask for two pieces of id. I would pull out my visa, and my driver’s license. Scott would pull out his birth certificate ...
“I need two pieces of id,” they would say.
“I have a Costco card,” Scott would offer.
“Um, NO.” They would answer, “it needs to have your name and your picture.”
“Hmm,” Scott would look at the card, “that’s my name ... and that’s my picture ...” he would look up and with his grin say, “I have a Costco card ...”
“Don’t you have a credit card, or a bank card?”
“Driver’s license?”
Laughing: “Um, NO !! Got that taken away ...”
“Any other piece of id?”
“Nope,” then once again he would offer, “I got a Costco card ...”
Only the banker in St Mary’s accepted Scott’s id ...

And as for losing, we won’t talk about losing his driver’s license ... admittedly there were times we had to wonder if he had truly lost his mind as well ...

“a time to keep, and a time to throw away ...”

Hmmm ... coins ... hot wheels cars ... car parts ... caps ... old cars ... friends ... his Rotties ... Scott was a collector, but more than that he was sentimental beyond belief ... his room is full of wonderful and funky mementoes of his life and past adventures ... he might be gruff and crusty on the outside, but inside beat a soft and tender heart of gold that truly revelled in the warm glow of sentimentality.

And aside from the profusion of clothes that I mentioned earlier, and the towering stacks of Old Autos, he did know how to throw away ... the night mom died I cleaned out the oven to pop in a casserole for supper. When dinner was over, out of habit I started putting everything back in its place only to have Scott say – “what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Putting it back ...”
“Ah, NO ...” he said with a slight smile, “pitch it. I was to use the oven now ...”

And the next day I noticed he had cleaned up the bathroom and gotten rid of Mom’s toothbrush and other assorted items from the counter around the sink. I asked him about it and he said “It’s not like she’s gonna need ‘em again is it?”
Scott was looking forward to clearing away the clutter and getting the house in HIS order ...

“a time to tear, and a time to sew ...”

When it comes to tearing and breaking, I can’t help but think of the many broken bones and mishaps Scott was involved in over the years ... and when it comes to sewing, I bet you didn’t know he was actually quite a good sewer did you? In his younger years he would be the one to sew patches on his clothes and mend minor tears and holes ... the reality was though, if Scottie put his mind to it, there was very little he couldn’t do. He had the gift and ability to do just about anything he set out to do ... I remember as a kid he would tear apart bikes and rebuild them and paint them ... even hot wheels and match box cars were taken apart, painted, souped up and re-built to his specifications ... later it was cars and trucks dismantled, repaired and rebuilt in the driveway, much to mom’s displeasure – “oh, what are the neighbours gonna think?” She’d fret ... and you can’t think of Scott as a boy without mentioning the tree forts, the lego cities, the train sets and the AFX tracks ... he was talented and able, and even if he wasn’t and didn’t know what he was doing he had the ability to CONVINCE YOU that he did know what he was doing, and you’d go along with him !

Such was Scottie ...

“a time to keep silence, and time to speak ...”

“Slow down, you’re driving too fast ...”
“My god, would you drive like a white man ...”
“Give your head a shake ...”
“Right on!”
“Yeah, so tell me ... what WERE you thinking?”
And the ever popular – “phhhttt!!”

Scottie knew the value of words, and the value of silence. Some of my fondest memories of Scott in the last 20 years are just walking through the Bush ... the crunch of leaves underfoot, the thunder of dogs, both his or mine, rumbling through the brush, and the whisper of the wind through the trees ... sometimes we talked about life, the universe and everything, but more often than not, we justw walked in silence ...

I did learn along the way though, that sometimes the bastard really did know what he was talking about. He might sound a little off centre at times, and he was frequently more than a little off-colour, but he spoke from the heart, and most of what he said was grounded in good old common sense.

You might not agree with him, but you had to respect him for the strength of his convictions.

“a time to love, and a time to hate ...”

Love him or hate him – he was Scottie, and he remained unapologetically who he was.
A son, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin, and most of all, a friend – Scott was who he was and comfortable being himself.

“a time for war, and a time for peace ...”

Scott started more than a few fights and brawls along the way, and he was always up for a good fight in his younger years – afterall, he and I have German, Scottish and Irish Blood running through our veins, and as in the words of our Grandpa Elliot – “you boys are just set up to have a hard time in life with the German temperment, the Scottish stubborness, and the Irish temper ...” Needless to say, we are who we are, and we are proud of our background !

An interesting aside thou is a conversation I had once with my Grandpa Elliot about Mom bringing Dad home for the first time ... Grandpa came from Chesley, and there was a branch of the Ankenmann’s up in Chesley, and it seems the Elliots and the Ankenmanns didn’t care for each other much up there. So when Mom brought a young gentleman home and introduced him as Sam Ankenmann, Grandpa was less than pleased ... then he got to know dad, and they formed a strong bond of friendship.
Grandpa took a picture at Dad’s stag of Dad sitting at the table, a bottle of Crystal by his elbow playing cards ... this picture is my vision of heaven. Dad and Grandpa and the others who have gone before us sitting around the table having a good time, enjoying a cold one and playing cards ... this picture has hung in my office throughout my ministry, because it my vision of what our faith is ALL about ... and today I know that Scott is sitting at the table with Dad, smiling at someone he has missed in every fibre of his being for 43 years ... today Scott is happy, and free of pain and the sorrow he has carried for far too long ... he is free of his struggles, and I know in my heart he is truly happy and he is at peace.

It is a peace he truly deserves.

I will miss him.
I will ALWAYS miss him, but I know and I am thankful that he is at peace.

(Ecclesiastes 3:9-14)

The writer of Ecclesiastes says that it is God’s gift to all that we should eat, drink and take pleasure in this life
The writer of Ecclesiastes says that it is God’s gift to all that we should eat, drink and take pleasure in this life ... so, would you please join me and raise your glasses in salute and in honour of a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin, and not least of all A FRIEND ...
To Scottie !! To his life and his memory !!!

L’chaim !

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your brother was a wonderful guy with a big heart. He also had a wonderful brother in you. Somewhere he was smiling and watching you deliver these moving words for him. You were amazing ... again. My heart is with you...