“Be Well, My Friend,” as told to Nesta Primeau by Darrell Frick.
Last week we celebrated my son's thirtieth birthday. Over a Heineken I explained that I was having difficulty in my business relating to clients in his age group.
"Dad, the answer is simple and it's not you - it's us. My generation knows nothing of hardship. We don't anticipate it and make no plans for a margin of error. We've been sheltered by parents who insist we not experience the difficulties they've had. Missing our morning latte upsets us."
My son's opinion brought back memories.
Forty years ago I was a single man living in Southern Alberta. One Friday evening I attended a party. It was no different than parties of today - the music was loud and conversation difficult. Male and female, we were all there for the same purpose - to rout out some candidate as a lifelong partner. Or not.
I was introduced to a Chinese man my own age. Willy's English was terrible. I made a polite effort but after a few minutes, I simply smiled, handed him my business card and moved on.
Early Monday morning, Willy showed up at my employer's office. He requested a closed-door conversation - "...private...private," he said. Quickly, he outlined his purpose: "I want you to lend me $5,000".
Since I was neither wealthy nor a banker, I was taken aback. Five thousand dollars is a considerable sum today but in the mid-seventies this amount was significant.
Willy answered my questions. Without embarrassment he explained that he was the "son of second wife with three children".. His father was a bookie in Hong Kong who had given him enough money to enter Canada as a student at the University of Lethbridge. Willy's student visa had to be renewed every six months but now his father was broke. Immigration required that he document his ability to continue at University for another semester but he had "...no money..."
Willy stared into my eyes unblinking. "You give me money - you want someone dead, he dead tomorrow." I recognized his statement as useful for making a point. At first, silence filled my brain. When conversation resumed, he and I brainstormed. In the end I was convinced that his father was unable to assist him further. I was his last hope to stay in Canada.
Have you ever been entrusted with someone's future? I sensed life and death hinged on my decision. Willy recognized Southern Alberta as his land of opportunity. Since I had escaped to Alberta a few years earlier, it was mine, too. I understood time and chance. Here it stood. I agreed to lend him the money.