The Other Dennis
Every Wednesday evening since February, I have been playing piano at West End Social in Bronte. I play from 6:00 p.m. to 10;00 pm. I always get there at 5:00 p.m. I don’t get there early because I am a dedicated musician who wants to ensure the sound system is balanced and the piano is set at the right level. I get there early to talk to a 88 year old gentlemen named Dennis.
Now it is a little odd talking to someone with the same name as you, though you tend not to forget the name of that other person. There are icons in our world who are known just by their first name. Elvis, Cher, Ringo and Robert come to mind.
You: “By Robert do you mean Robert Redford?”
Me: “Well I was thinking more Robert DeNiro.”
You: “Well what about Robert Duvall? He is pretty famous.”
Me: “Okay Robert Duvall, enough already!”
English Major: “You know Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Frost were pretty famous Roberts.”
Those literary ones always ruin good conversations..
The other Dennis is a regular customer at the bar \ restaurant. He was also a regular at the Coach and Four, which was the name of this location before it was transformed from an English pub to a more modern interior. Many of the loyal customers from the old pub, do not frequent this new named bar, because people do not like change. Waiters and waitresses also do not like change, they much prefer bills when you decide to leave a tip.
The other Dennis is 88 years old and he is at the corner seat at the bar at 5:00 p.m. every Wednesday. I sit at the stool beside him and just listen to the many stories and 88 year old man has to tell, if others are willing to listen. I look forward to this conversation every week.
The other Dennis lost his wife of 62 years, a couple of years ago, and he speaks of her with great dedication coupled with a little pain. As he drinks his Guinness draught, he shares reflections of a life well lived. This life well lived has never used a cell phone or a computer to document that life.
He quit school at the age of 14 in Newcastle, England to begin his apprenticeship in the engineering world. He became a master sheet metal roofer who worked long hours all his life, because that is what hard labour demands. When you shake his hand you will immediately detect the 74 years of scarred, rough, well used skin.
Every week I learned another interesting historical fact of the other Dennis’ life. Thirty five years ago, he bought and managed Monaghan’s Sports pub and grill, across from Sheridan College in Oakville. He can tell you stories with meticulous detail of the unceremonious happenings that are commonplace in a bar filled with young, over served unsupervised college students.
When Dennis was twenty-one, he joined the army and was stationed in the highlands of Scotland. His engineering background allowed him to rise to Sargeant in two quick years. He speaks affectionately of what he learned and he models the gentle discipline from his old army days.
At about 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday John and Maureen arrive and the three old friends sit at the same table and order fish and chips. Lifelong friends is an unpenetrable barrier that younger piano players have great difficulty entering.
When three people sit at a booth, there is always going to be an empty spot for coats, purses, umbrellas and other accessories that weather will determine. Many months into this weekly routine I was asked to sit and join them as they waited for their fish and chip orders.
I have had many memorable moments of accomplishment in my life time. School awards, work awards, an occasional pin for long time volunteering but this invite from 3 wise and wonderful close friends ranks right up there as a special moment for me. I listen and contribute effortlessly to conversations about news, tennis, music, the old Coach and Four and family.
Maureen likes the song Beauty and Beast, so I begin every Wednseday performing that song. Dennis has quite a collection of Perry Como records and shared that his favourite song by Mr. Relaxation was “It’s Impossible”, so I now perform that one. Lately Dennis has been listening to his Nat King Cole records alone in his Condo in Bronte. He asked me if I knew how to play the song, “Unforgettable”? I did not but I do now.
This new status has allowed me to meet Dennis’ kids and grandchildren. Maureen celebrated her 85thbirthday last month I and met all of her family as West End Social put on quite a little celebration in her honour.
Two weeks ago as we reminisced about Maureen’s birthday celebration we shared a dull status of our own birthdates. The other Dennis alerted the table to the important fact that his birthday was coming up soon… October the 4th. I looked a my namesake sitting across from me in the booth. I said “Are you friggin kidding me!” You never swear at a table occupied by smarter, classier, older people, but “friggn” is allowed when the moment warrants such vulgarity.
I immediately asked to see his birth certificate, passport or any other identification to support his bold claim. The other Dennis complied with my formal request. On his driver’s license it quietly claimed that Dennis was born on October the 4th, 1930. I then removed my rather crowded wallet and produced my birth certificate that mirrored his data. That Dennis and this Dennis were both born on October the 4th.
This little coincidence prompted a delightful conversation that ultimately led to a commitment. On Friday October 4th2019, I will be meeting the other Dennis for a drink at West End Social, to celebrate our names and our births. Now there is another person who shares my birthday who family members refer to as my twin brother. I will also be sharing a drink with him and other siblings at his gig later on October the 4th.
The other Dennis understands the importance and necessity of apprenticeship, as he toiled for many years in the 1940s to achieve his well earned status in the engineering world as a master craftsman. I am currently apprenticing to achieve the status of “friend” to an 88, soon to be 89 year-old wonderful man who sits at a bar and drinks Guinness every Wednesday night. I may never get past the label of apprentice with the other Dennis. I appreciate that I may not pass the rigid, difficult steps of all apprenticeships, as my lack of skill will get in the way of this achievement. If over time I become known as “The other Dennis” to his well selected group of friends and family, I will abandon my apprenticeship and proudly accept that respectable title in this group of honourable, humble well aged friends who share a drink every Wednesday night at the West End Social.
Cue the Blong: