He was a tough, stocky fellow with a loud grating voice. I sure didn't enjoy his behaviour at our weekly village card game. He banged the table a lot. He was a school bus driver and had a rough cut to him. Apart from his beard. Which was immaculately trimmed. A big red face. If I'd been a kid on his bus I'd have been terrified of him. He basically ignored me even when we shared the same table. And then a couple of months ago I found out from someone else he had cancer. Real bad.
So next time he was at my table at cards I hesitated and then said to him I was sorry to hear of his troubles. And meant it.
"Oh," he said in his big roary voice, surprised like, "I'm just about getting used to it. I had a treatment in Halifax last week and they said I was riddled with it."
I scrambled for something to say. What in gawd's name does one say?
"I can't imagine what you're going through...if there's anything..."
"Why!" he shouts, "That's very kind of you. See, I'm trying to spend as much time with the four young grandchildren. And the wife. She's sick too....."
Yesterday he died. We had two minutes of silence at the card game.
And then, simultaneously, everyone in the room banged their tables.