Then, one day, they are gone. The show is cancelled, the host retires, they pass away. In the words of Stuart McLean, we find ourselves "standing in the kitchen of our life, surrounded by the ones we love, and feeling empty, and alone, and sad, and lost for words, because one of our loved ones, who should be there, is missing."
Stuart passed away this week. A consumiate storyteller, beloved by Canadians and those of us who became Canadians when we listened to him, we hung on to his famaliar voice as it flowed effortlessly while the story was told, with pauses and inflections we came to expect and love. As the audience, we sat by, thoroughly involved in the telling. In the best radio tradition, a listener's imagination fills in all the blanks. Prose and masterful narration help us develop those spaces in between.
I was one of the millions of listeners who tuned in weekly for whatever awaited us: eclectic music (much of which now fills my music library), The Story Exchange, the trials and tribulations of Dave (the owner of the world’s smallest record store…where the motto is “We May Not be Big But We are Small”), his wife Morley and his children Stephanie and Sam. I count myself fortunate to be among the thousands that saw The Vinyl Cafe live on stage, bringing all the radio magic to small venues.
Many of the stories were hilarous tellings of Dave’s antics, such as finding himself trapped in the sewers, riding a bicycle on top of a moving car, cooking a Christmas turkey or being mistaken for a patient when visiting a friend in the hospital. An equal amount were stories about memories and traditions, such as Dave remembering his father and passing that memory on to Sam, or Dave and Morley’s ninety-year old neighbour Eugene wanting to taste rosemary honey again, a flavor from his youth in Italy, or about the death of the family dog. I can't tell you how many times I have heard "Morte d'Arthur," but I do know I cry every time. I already know how it ends, but much like "Charlotte's Web" it still pulls at the heart each and every time. They are always good, healthy tears and I finish more happy then when I started.
Like many, when I read Stuart's words it is his voice I hear in my head. Some of my best writing also plays in my imagination with Stuart's voice, as I like to think it worthy of his reading it out loud.
"Dave...knew he had told them before. He knew what he was doing. You have to tell stories over and over. It is the creation of myth. The only road to immortality."
And so, we tell these stories again and again. Because, in the end, we're all stories.