A nugget of Big Medicine every day. #87 C’est tiguidou
As a semi-pro breaker of bad news I should have seen the signs. Ambulance Mike calling relatively early on a Sunday morning. No attempt at striking a Monty Pythonesque accent as per the previous hundreds of calls between us. Straight to the point.
“Did you hear that Christian Meloche died this morning?”
It got very quiet inside my head. I could hear the hens clucking outside as if they were off in the distance somewhere.
“I just wrote about Christian and I and the summer of Jesus of Montreal,” I replied, as if a non-sequitur would somehow negate the bad news Mike was trying to break. “He died. This morning. It was cancer. Denis Hebert also died – more cancer. Do you remember Denis? He was a gentle soul.”
Christian Meloche was dead. It wasn’t like we were close or even friendly really. We were partners once. It was still quiet in my head.
“You okay?” asked Mike.
“I need to digest this, get my head around it. Thanks. Bye.”
In my head I was thinking “Christian Meloche died. He had cancer and it killed him this morning.” I felt the need to blurt out “C’est tiguidou” but, of course, it wasn’t ‘tiguidou’ [‘a-okay’].
Christian had taught me the correct usage of the expression ‘C’est tiguidou’ [sounds like ‘cé tsiguidou’] during our time together on the ambulance. We worked nights in Hochelega-Maisonneuve mostly with regular forays downtown and occasional trips out to the West End where we’d marvel at the relative calm while waiting for sunrise and the end of our shift.
We were the oddest of couples – an anglo paramedic fresh out of States and a franco union activist who loved working the streets East of The Main. I was tall and chunky, Christian was tall and lean. He favoured all-night diners where they’d serve up poutine with smoked meat sprinkled on top. I was always hoping for something a little greener. And yet, for reasons best left to alchemists to work out, we clicked as partners.
My partnership with Christian was short as ambo partnerships went. We only worked a few months together before I left the ambulances to go to work with Cote Saint-Luc EMS. The intensity of the calls we rolled on was on the high- to just-shy-of-insane side. We were both experienced medics, loved the job, and challenged one another to stay up on our respective clinical games.
We talked politics, redesigned the EMS system, and consistently disagreed [often loudly] about the role of the union in protecting our jobs. We talked in a mix of english and french that became our own surreal patois shorthand – a ridiculous mix of directly translated words from each other’s mother tongues thrown around casually in the presence of others for effect.
And then we went our separate ways. Christian stayed on the rigs and became much more involved in the union. I went to Cote Saint-Luc EMS. We lost touch for a long while until Facebook afforded us the privilege of occasionally crossing one another’s digital pathways.
We weren’t close friends by any stretch of the imagination. We were partners once – and forever. Rest In Peace, Christian. “C’est tiguidou”
Be well. Practice big medicine.