Sunday, November 25, 2018

My Love Letter to Patti

On November 18, 2018, a "Celebration of Life" was held in Oakville, Ontario, where my late wife Patti's friends and family could gather to honor her memory.

Below is the talk I gave:

Before I begin my talk, just let me say I will do everything in my power to remain stoic and to keep my composure this afternoon, since if there was anything Patti hated, it was maudlin sentimentality.

That’s one reason she didn’t like Justin Trudeau.

And I promise that’s my last political comment of the day.

I don’t want this day to be about politics; I don’t even want it to be about sadness or grief.

Instead, I want it to be a day we all remember and celebrate Patti’s great beauty.

And yes, Patti was beautiful in every sense and every meaning of that word.

Certainly, I found her beautiful to look at.

In fact, I was attracted to her the very first time I laid eyes on her.

That was back in 1987.

We were working in the same building, as a matter of fact her office was on the same floor as mine; as a matter of fact her office was strategically located next to the washroom.

That meant I’d take two or three trips a day past her office and every time I did, I’d see that beautiful blonde lady sitting at her desk.

So, now that I think of it, it wasn’t my heart that brought me to Patti, it was more like my bladder!

Anyway, one thing led to another, and before you knew it, we were exchanging wedding vows.

Yes, things moved fast.

We went on our first date in June 1987 and were married in May 1988.

Patti wanted that ring on her finger!

But that was just Patti being Patti.

Once we were married I began to appreciate the other aspects of Patti’s beauty.

For instance, she had a beautiful spirit.

This manifested itself in what I would call her “infectious friendliness.”

I always said, if you locked Patti in a room with 20 strangers and came back in 15 minutes, you’d find her surrounded by 20 best friends.

There was something about her that exuded happiness and cheeriness.

She was always reaching out and socializing with people, whether it was a clerk in a store, or a cashier in a supermarket or a random person on the street.

And to be honest, I sometimes found that to be a bit annoying.

It meant anytime we took a walk it would talk three times as long as it should because she had to pet every dog she came across and compliment every couple with a cute baby and talk to all our neighbors about their gardens and lawns.

Meanwhile, I was like, “Let’s keep moving so we can get home and watch Night Court reruns.”

But she had to socialize.

That was just Patti being Patti.

Her beautiful spirit was also reflected in her wonderful sense of humor.

Patti loved to laugh and she loved to make other people laugh.

In fact, I think one of the secrets to our marriage’s success, was that we both loved to joke and to poke fun at the world’s craziness.

Certainly Patti liked to poke fun at my fashion sense.

Indeed, sometimes I’d come home and see that as a joke, she’d thrown out my favourite old baseball cap or T-shirt.

Though I must admit, she never laughed or smiled when I rooted them out of the garbage.

But that was just Patti being Patti.

The other thing about her spirit, was she loved to have fun.

“Let’s have fun” could have been her motto.

And she would use any excuse for a party or celebration.

“It’s the first warm day of Spring, let’s have fun”, she’d say;  or “The Blue Jays won a game; let’s have fun”; or “you found your missing sock, let’s have fun.”

So yes, to be around her was to always have fun.

That was just Patti being Patti.

But I don’t want you to think she didn’t have a serious side.

She did.

In fact, that leads me to the other beautiful part of Patti – her passions.

She had, for example, a great passion for learning.

And let me say first, Patti was an extremely intelligent woman.

But more than that, she had an intellectual curiosity, a trait that’s rare these days.

What I mean is Patti never wanted to follow the herd or go along with trends, she always wanted to chart her own path.

Basically, she was an individual.

And by the way, calling someone an “individual” is the highest compliment I can bestow on a person.

At any rate, when Patti wanted to learn about an issue she was never satisfied with accepting conventional wisdom.

She always researched stuff with a massive intensity, until she basically became an expert in whatever topic she was studying.

To give you an example, a few years ago Patti and I were having dinner in Toronto with another couple and with a noted American constitutional lawyer.

During the course of the dinner the topic of Conrad Black’s trial came up – an issue Patti had extensively studied.

And when this American lawyer expressed an idea that Patti couldn’t support, she instantly raised her hand and said, “That’s an opinion, I will not entertain.”

She then barraged that poor guy with arguments until he was forced to wave a white flag.

She wasn’t afraid to express her opinion.

But that was Patti being Patti.

Another way she expressed her passion, was the way she enthusiastically took on huge projects.

She wasn’t happy unless she was involved in some complicated undertaking.

For instance, about eight years ago I was working on a contract in the United States, meaning I was out of the country for about nine months.

During my absence, Patti – on her own – decided to sell our house; on her own she hired a real estate agent; on her own she sold our house; on her own she bought a new house; on her own she moved into that house.

In short, she did virtually everything.

All I did was sign a paper she faxed to me.

I’m just glad she gave me the address to the new house, because otherwise I’d still be looking for it!

And I have to say, even though I loved our old house, I loved the new one even more.

She did a fantastic job.

But that was Patti being Patti.

Her other passion in life was culture.

Thanks to Patti I was exposed to literature, and to classical music and to the theatre.

I didn’t want to be exposed to all those things, but I’m glad I was.

It made me a better person, in fact she made me a better person in about a million different ways.

That was just Patti being Patti.

But of course, Patti’s greatest passion of all in life was the opera.

She was an opera fanatic.

Thanks to her I learned about opera greats such as Maria Callas, Jonas Kaufmann, Carlos Bergonzi and her favourite Franco Corelli, whom she liked to call “Golden Thighs.”

I don’t know why she called him that; I didn’t want to know why she called him that.

Anyway, Patti listened to opera for hours on the radio, she listened to opera CDs for hours, she watched opera at the movie theatre; she attended opera live at the Canadian Opera house.

And the internet and social media gave her a whole new avenue to enjoy opera.

Mind you that was a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, social media allowed her to communicate directly with her opera stars.

She liked to go on their Facebook pages to compliment them on their performances.

And when they responded to her personally with thanks, it put her cloud 9!

She was so happy.

On the other hand, social media also exposed Patti to opinionated opera fans, many of whom were pushing viewpoints she didn’t agree with.

And that often ruffled her feathers.

Some person, for instance, might put up a post that was critical of Maria Callas’s aria sung in the second act of the 1958 Met production of Aida and that would drive Patti ballistic.

So she’d go online and wage savage verbal war trying to educate.

I’d tell her to stop, because a) she wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind and b) she was just putting herself into a negative emotional state.

Eventually, she agreed that I was right and promised to stop battling opera people online.

But then I’d see her hunched over her tablet, furiously typing away, and I knew just from looking at her, that she was fighting someone.

“I though we agreed to stop taking on these arguments” I’d say. And she’d reply, saying, “I’m not arguing, I’m just having a polite conversation.”

Then two minutes later, she’d turn to me and ask, “How do you spell ‘rot’ as in ‘may you rot in hell?’”

But that was just Patti being Patti.

Anyway, because Patti loved opera so much, as she lay in her hospital bed, she asked that I get her name engraved on a chair at the Canadian Opera Company opera house.

Of course, I promised I would.

Only later did I find out how much that would cost.

And let me tell you it was costly.

Certainly it was beyond my budget.

So I engaged in some fundraising.

And by “fundraising” I mean I annoyed, and harassed and otherwise pestered all my friends and relatives to help me finance the engraving.

It worked.

In fact, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of people.

I ended up raising enough money and just recently ordered the engraving; it should appear in the Opera House in the next few weeks.

And I know a lot of here people here helped with donations, so I’d to offer you all a special thanks. That was one promise to Patti I needed to keep.

Indeed, I’m going to treat that engraving like a belated anniversary present.

As some of you know, Patti and I celebrated our 30th anniversary earlier this year, in May.

At the time I teased her about how 30 years was a long, long time to be with someone.

But now that I stand here, recalling her great beauty, 30 years seems tragically short.

At any rate, I’m going to cut it off here.

Because I have a strong feeling Patti is looking down on me from heaven and saying something like,

“Hey Gerry, speaking of short, why don’t you keep your dopey speech short. The fact is, I’m making all kinds of new friends up here; the fact is, I’m watching operas 24/7, the fact is I’m working on some special projects for God.

So stop making everybody sad, and start having fun.”

I know Patti is saying these things, because even in heaven, Patti will still be Patti.

Thank you.