A Friend Remembers Gord Downie As His Neighbour

Below is an "I Remember" feature published in print in The Globe and Mail, but not online. From a Riverdale neighbour of the Gord Downie family:

We moved in next door to Gord Downie and his family in 2011. It was our first house. We were newlyweds. Barbara was pregnant with Roman and I had just started my own business. It was a new and exciting chapter in our lives.

I met Gord on move-in day. He was outside, locked in mortal combat with his Thule rack, trying to secure it to his minivan (“The Black Potato,” he called it). He wiped his hands on the handkerchief that was perpetually hanging out of his back pocket and came and shook my hand.

“Hiya. I’m Gord.”

“No kidding,” I thought.

Our friendship grew in the oddest ways. Around garbage. I’d receive an e-mail: “Hi Brendan – it’s Gord from next door [no kidding]. We’re headed to the country for the summer. Can you take our garbage to the curb on Thursday? Have a great first summer together. These are magical times.”

Another e-mail: “One more time, my Green Bin is tucked inside my Grey Bin. This Thursday could you slide my Blue Bin and Green Bin to the curb with yours?

Thanks for your help with this, Sir. I’m grateful

Summer on!”

It was usually e-mails about garbage. And yard work. And then, slowly, over the years, e-mails about Truffaut, Cockburn, Herzog, Neil Young, Jean-Pierre Melville, Gordon Lightfoot.

We’d congregate in the fall on the driveway, rakes in hand, and commiserate in our utter disdain for raking leaves. And then, in the winter, shovels in hand, and commiserate in our utter disdain for shovelling show.

All the while, we rarely talked about the Hip. He was more interested in my family. In Roman. In movies. In parenting. He exuded love. He needed people to know that they were loved and understood. And he had such a capacity to love and understand.

I doubt he even knew what he meant to me and my “beautiful little family.” He was always funny as hell. Poetic. Kind. I’ve been going through our e-mail correspondence and am touched by the kindness he showed me.

He was always there to offer support, advice. He seemed like he had figured out the secret to living a full, authentic life. All of his advice was in support of adventure – however you can find it.

One day, he was helping his son get his equipment into the Black Potato after his band’s first gig. I had Roman on my shoulders. He gave us both a kiss and said as if it was the last time we’d speak:

“Look after each other, Brendan. Look after each other. Look after each other.”

As it turns out, it was the last thing he said to me. He said it three times. I think he really wanted it to sink in.

– Brendan Taylor, Toronto

– As posted on Brad Wheeler’s Facebook page, on October 27.

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