Remarks from Michael Alexander
WHEN MR. C. WAS FINSIHING SOMEONE’S PROGRAM, HE WOULD APPLY A SERIES OF TECHNIQUES THAT HE CALLED “POLISHING AND TONING.” THESE WERE DESIGNED TO ADD LUSTRE AND DRAMATIC TENSION TO A PROGRAM, AND TRANSFORM IT INTO A WORK OF ART. ON THOSE RARE OCCASIONS WHEN THE ART DIDN’T HAPPEN, MR. C. WOULD SUBJECT THE PROGRAM TO WHOLESCALE REVISION.

I WAS WITH MR. C. ONE NIGHT WHEN HE USED THESE  VERY TECHNIQUES TO ASSESS HIS OWN LIFE AS A WORK OF ART.

MR. C. TOOK ME TO SEE CHAMPIONS ON ICE IN BUFFALO, SO I COULD MEET SARAH AND TOMMY, AND EXPERIENCE THE THRILL OF BEING BEHIND THE SCENES AT A MAJOR ICE SHOW.
WE ARRIVED LATE IN THE AFTERNOON, WHEN THE SKATERS WERE PRACTISING. MR. C. AND SARAH AND I SAT IN, AND HAD AN ENTIRE SECTION OF THE ARENA TO OURSELVES. WE WERE HAVING A GREAT CONVERSATION, WHEN I SUDDENLY REALIZED THAT SARAH AND MR. C. WERE HAVING A PRIVATE MOMENT. I TURNED AWAY, FIXED MY GAZE ON THE SKATERS, AND TRIED NOT TO LISTEN. BUT I COULDN’T HELP BUT OVERHEAR WHEN SARAH SAID, “MR. C., WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT......’

INDEED, WHEN SARAH BEGAN HER LESSONS WITH MR. C. AT THE AGE OF SIX, WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THEY WOULD END UP TOGETHER THAT DAY IN BUFFALO, AND SARAH WOULD BE THE CHOREOGRAPHER FOR ALL OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST SKATERS.

THE SHOW WAS AMAZING! ON THE WAY HOME, MR. C. AND I WERE CHATTING UP A STORM. THEN HE FELL SILENT, AND I THOUGHT THAT HE HAD FALLEN ASLEEP. EVENTUALLY, I TURNED TO MY RIGHT, AND MY EYES WERE DRAWN TO HIS BRIGHT BLUE, PLAID PANTS – THEY WERE ABSORBING THE GREEN DASHBOARD LIGHTS, AND THEY WERE GLOWING. HIS UPPER BODY WAS SHROUDED IN DARKNESS, BUT I COULD SEE HIS SILLOHUETTE. HE WAS SITTING UPRIGHT, WIDE AWAKE, LOOKING STRAIGHT INTO THE NIGHT.

AND I REALIZED THAT HE WAS RUMINATING ON SARAH’S COMMENT. HE WAS THINKING ABOUT WHERE SHE HAD STARTED AND WHERE SHE HAD ARRIVED, AND WHERE HE HAD STARTED SO LONG AGO, AND WHERE HE HAD ARRIVED. AND FINALLY, HE SAID, “SOME DAYS I WISH I HAD DONE SOMETHING MORE SUBSTANTIAL WITH MY LIFE.” I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY TO THAT; SO I SAID NOTHING.

BUT THE COMMENT WEIGHED ON ME. THREE DAYS LATER I CALLED MR. C. IN THE MORNING, AND I SAID, “MR. C, I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU SAID IN THE CAR, HOW YOU WISH YOU’D DONE SOMETHING MORE SUBSTANTIAL WITH YOUR LIFE. BUT MR. C., YOU BRING A SENSE OF JOY AND ACHIEVEMENT INTO PEOPLE’S LIVES EVERYDAY, WHAT COULD BE MORE SUBSTANTIAL THAN THAT?” HE CHUCKLED UNDER HIS BREATH AND SAID, “OH, KIDDO, THAT ISN’T WHAT I MEANT. I JUST MEANT IF I’D GONE INTO BANKING, I COULD HAVE MADE MORE BUCKS!’

MR. C. OVERCAME MANY OBSTACLES IN THE FINAL YEARS OF HIS LIFE – TWO STROKES, A SERIOUS HEART CONDITION, THE INSERTION OF A PACEMAKER, A GREIVOUS INJURY WHEN A KID ON A BIKE RAN HIM OVER IN A MCDONALDS....AND HE HAD TO FACE BEING KICKED OUT OF THE CLUB HIS FATHER FOUNDED BY A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO DIDN’T EVEN DESERVE TO CARRY HIS SKATES.

BUT THROUGH IT ALL, HE USED TO SAY TO ME, “I DON’T CARE ABOUT YESTERDAY, I ONLY CARE ABOUT TOMORROW.’ MR. C. WAS ALWAYS HOPING FOR ONE MORE DAY, ONE MORE OPPPORTUNITY TO CONCEIVE A NEW ARTISTIC VISION, TO FIND A NEW WAY TO TEACH A TRIPLE JUMP, TO WIN ANOTHER COMPETITION....ONE MORE DAY TO CREATE AND INNOVATE.

WHEN MR. C. DIED, I COULDN’T RECONCILE HIS INSPIRED OUTLOOK WITH HIS ACCIDENT AND THE TERRIBLE SUFFERING HE ENDURED IN THE FINAL MONTHS OF HIS LIFE. AS THE KIDS AT THE RINK MIGHT HAVE SAID, “IT WAS JUST SO WRONG.”

AND THEN I REMEMBERED A LESSON I HAD WITH MR. C. AT THE ARC. DURING THE LESSON, HE SPOTTED A COMPETITIVE SKATER WHO WASN’T GIVING A HUNDRED PERCENT. AND HE HELD FORTH, AS THOUGH SPEAKING TO THE ENTIRE RINK, AND SAID, “BARBARA ANN HAD A BEAUTIFUL SMILE, AND SHE WAS NICE TO EVERYONE, BUT SHE WAS TOUGH AS NAILS, TOUGH AS NAILS.” ANOTHER TIME AT THE CRICKET CLUB, I HEARD HIM SAY, “IF YOU WANNA WIN AT THIS GAME, KIDDO, YOU’VE GOTTA BE TOUGH AS NAILS.”

AND THEN I REALIZED THAT MR. C.’S ACCIDENT HAD GIVEN HIM ONE LAST OPPORTUNITY TO DEMONSTRATE, NOT MERELY THAT HE WAS TOUGH AS NAILS, BUT THAT HE WAS TOUGHER.

I ENJOYED EXHILARATING MOMENTS WITH MR. C. BOTH ON AND OFF THE ICE. AND YES, WE HAD OUR ROUGH PATCHES. BUT, I WILL ALWAYS CHERISH THE TREMENDOUS JOY AND THE HUMOUR AND THE WISDOM THAT MR. C BROUGHT INTO MY LIFE; AND I SHALL NEVER FORGET HIS EXTRAORDINARY COURAGE. GOD BLESS MR. C.

Michael Alexander