Taral Wayne: After the Piper Played

By Taral Wayne: I see that Murray has already reported on Mike Glicksohn’s Funeral at File770.com, and left little behind that I can add.

Worse, I hardly heard a word of the service.  I arrived almost exactly at seven, in time to see the piper in his kilts and bearskin, skirling “Amazing Grace.”  Next thing I knew I was being seated in a pew next to Shirley Meier.  At the altar, a woman had begun to sing an unfamiliar solo.  There was an unobtrusive prayer.  Susan Manchester spoke, then Mike’s brother,  Manning.  Mike Harper took the microphone next, and finally Robert Sawyer.  A number of other people paid their last respects from an open mike passed around.  Now and then I would make out a tantalizing “Mike” or “atheist” or “avocado” but never enough to piece together a coherent thought. 

After the service I talked with Robert Sawyer about this.  Being familiar with my hearing loss, Rob was aware that I probably heard nothing of what he said.  But he added that it was a weak mike, and that most of the speakers were too far from it as well.  I guess that made me feel a little better about missing what was evidently a very humane and entertaining service.

So I filled the time by counting heads, instead.  There were 300 seats, and most seemed filled.  My estimate is that around 275 attended, to whom I could put names to around 25.  I recognized a few other faces as well.  It did seem as though everyone in the local fandom who might have attended, did.  The other 250 I assume were friends of Mike’s, family, neighbors, and people he worked with.  Some were, indeed, Mike’s old students.

The service made no bones about Mike’s atheism and that the prayers were to console Susan more than to ease his way into the hereafter.  It was not a secular ceremony, unless one counts the piper – and no Scot would consider the pipes as anything but a religious observance.  (I wonder who among us was Scottish?)  Prayers were called and hymns sung.  Those of us who don’t attend church learn to follow the crowd and lip synch.  Yet if it was a religious funeral, it was far from stolid or grim.  As Murray took great pains to reproduce, the eulogies were sprinkled with humour and anecdotes that shed light on a man with a very positive outlook on life.

However, Murray was forced to return home right after the service, and missed the reception afterward.  I don’t think he was far off the mark for how many turned up Mike and Susan’s home. 

I should mention that the snowstorm that day was one of the worst experienced in Toronto this winter, and was clearly much later in the year than is normal.  Weather Canada warned us to expect up to 4 or 5 cm. – about  two inches to those of you who still use the “American” measure.  We got as much as 10 cm. or four inches in the space of an eight hour working day, which is outrageous at the end of March.  It was hard not to imagine some purpose behind this last minute winter-blast. 

Fortunately, the snow ended sometime during the service.  The house on Windermere was only three or four blocks away, though, so it’s all too easy to imagine 200 people trying to squeeze into a modest two-story brick building.  There was actually a line to get in out of the cold.  Once in, it was as tricky finding where to step through the boots and shoes as it would be to tiptoe through a well-planned minefield.  Once past the mountain of footgear, you came abruptly to a solid wall of humanity.  There might not have been 200 people in that house, but 75 is easy to believe. 

There was one thing you could always say about MikeCon if you came on the party night.  Mike and Susan laid out the best table you can picture, with lox and bagels, fresh pastries of all kinds, cookies, fruit, cheese, crackers and, of course, beer and wine.  Though I overheard Susan to say, “We have a little food,” the reception after the service was in no way second place to a MikeCon.  I have a weakness for such spreads.  I tend to make a pig of myself, but since I rarely have such delicacies at home, I can’t resist having one of everything.  Maybe two of those.  More of something else.  And there was plenty to go around.  I probably had a spot more wine than as good for me too.  By the end of the evening I was feeling just fuzzy enough that I knew I had to stop.

There was, after all, the long arduous trip home to consider.

The house looked a little smaller than I remembered it, but that might have been because of the crush of people.  I believe it was even more crowded than MikeCons had ever been.  Could anyone actually be this well-liked by so many people, I wondered?  I’d feel lucky if anyone found an old cardboard carton to put me in, and if six people turned up to see the box taped shut.  In a way, too, I felt a little phony being there, seething with ambivalent feelings.  But despite my ability to find the wrong motives behind anything I do, I was glad I had decided to heed the invitation.  There were people present who I hadn’t seen or spoken to in literally decades.  As well, the light-hearted air of the service continued through the reception.  There were no black veils or floral wreaths, but plenty of warm, humorous conversations.  Many were about Mike, but as many about the use of Photoshop to imitate oil painting, popular vers libre, Edwardian architectural details, Kinder Surprises, blue cheeses, and when the next issue of Colin Hinz’s fanzine was coming out.  Just out of earshot I overheard Lloyd Penney discuss details of a Glicksohn scholarship with David Warren.  There was even a debate over whether it was better to stand out in the cold on the verandah that endure the crush inside, but it was a very short debate as the cons quickly won their point.

Over it all presided Susan, who was warm, open and friendly to all.

You just wished it had been merely a MikeCon of yore.  During a momentary lull, shortly before I left, I asked Susan a question I had been dreading to bring up.  The best way I was able to put it was, “I know this is too soon to ask, but I doubt I’ll have opportunity to speak with you again for some time.  I wonder if you have made arrangements to donate Mike’s fanzines to the Merril Collection at the Library?”  I needn’t have worried.  She wasn’t offended.  In fact, arrangements were being made. 

It was too bad there was no whiskey.  Perhaps it might have flowed for me if I had asked, but none was served openly.  Although I despise the vile taste of the stuff,  I would liked to  have hoisted one in Mike’s honour.

6 thoughts on “Taral Wayne: After the Piper Played

  1. Taral,

    Thank you for that report.

    A long time ago, my mother said to me “one of the worst parts about getting old is watching everyone you know die”.

    We talked about that for a while. I think it had its genesis in the passing of a movie star or performer my mother had been fond of in her youth. What bothered her the most was not the individual’s passing, sad and tragic as that may have been, but the broader message that it sent. The foundations of her life were crumbling and disappearing.

    For some reason, Mike’s passing is having the same effect on me. I knew him, though not well. Enough to say hi in passing, enough to have gotten a few of his fanzines “because” (or whatever the going explanation was for getting one sans contribution, trade or loc).

    I knew him more during the Susan Wood-Glicksohn era than otherwise (when I was more active in fandom).

    I guess what I’m really trying to say is that Mike’s passing is affecting me deeply, more so than I would have expected. I suspect it’s equal parts who the man was and my own coming to terms with the fact that the world I grew up in is slowly and steadily fading away.

  2. I’m glad for Taral’s report, thank him, and am particularly glad to hear that Mike’s fanzine collection will be taken care of. I’d very much thought of it, but felt uncomfortable doing more than mentioning this to Mike Glyer privately.

  3. From reports I’ve read, Taral simply didn’t recognize as SF fans many people from outside the Toronto area, assuming wrongly that they were people Mike knew in the teaching or student worlds.

  4. Entirely possible that Andy is right. I later worked out that at least one person I didn’t know by name was a fan from out of town. Logically, there were others. I still think it likely that a big percentage of the turnout at the funeral were friends, family and people Mike knew at school. Why wouldn’t they be?

  5. A point I didn’t make in the reception piece is that I advised that a condition be put on the collection. I was aware that some libraries will look at a fanzine and if it isn’t reviews or articles on SF, if it hasn’t any known SF names among the contributors, or if it doesn’t contain fiction, will put it aside to trade or sell. I didn’t want the Merrill to keep only the ASFRs and Outworlds while ultimately disposing of the Groggies and Karasses, so suggested that it be a condition of accepting the collection than it be taken in whole, and only duplicated be relinquished.

  6. Last Saturday I was with a few friends. They weren’t really fans, but knew what fandom was, and had heard of Mike’s death. We had dinner at the corner Guyanese-Chinese restaurant, and brought a bottle of Apricot brandy back to my place. Having made a rash promise, Steven bought a bottle of Canadian Club and made me drink the whole bottle in Mike’s honour.

    Thank god they make 50 ml bottles, eh? That’s only about 1 3/4 oz, so it took only a slight effort and led to no visible impairment. That’s what the Apricot brandy was for… I can’t even complain that the whiskey was *all* that bad. Reminded me a lot of Drambuie, but without nearly enough sugar to make it palatable.

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