Sorry in advance, this will not be a controversial post as the title might suggest...
I wanted to share a few memories of one of my brother-in-laws Gary Haydel.
I found out yesterday that Gary has Stage 4 Cancer, no further news yet or treatment plans at the time of my original post. I just found out this week that Gary will be going home to hospice care....
A little history, and this will be a running post in the sense that as things pop up in my head, I will add them to this single post.
My sister brought Gary to our home on Westbury street in Jefferson back sometime in the seventies. Gary was a co-owner of a family run bakery. He had been married before, not sure how long, but growing up in that strict Roman Catholic family, my sister even thinking about dating a divorced man was eye opening to say the least!
Gary seemed pretty cool when I first met him. He was driving a sporty little Datsun 260Z I believe. My sister seemed happy and evidently my parents must have approved because before you knew it there was a wedding taking place. I remember wearing that cheezie 70's style tux. The wedding was held at this fancy place called The Balcony. I still have pictures of the wedding, one of my favorites is me sitting next to my grandmother. She looked like she had one too many drinks and I looked like the cat that just swallowed the canary. Oh well.
Not long after their wedding, my friend Allen and I started working at this bakery. Allen was a few years older than I at the time, I was eleven. Our job included washing down the cinder block walls of this bakery. My guess is that this hadn't been done in years! It was nasty to say the least. Other task included the general sweeping and mopping and my favorite, scrapping the nasty cake off the floor in the walk in freezer! Oh, so much fun....
Sidebar, Allen stayed working at the bakery and eventually became their head baker. Allen was a cool dude as they say. Many stories to tell about the fun we had. The bakery and his lifestyle eventually killed him, but that is a story for another day.....
Back to Gary
Things you would have noticed in Gary’s house.
Artwork, he loved beautiful works of art
Disney collectibles, not at first, but over the years he built of a collection of watches, original cells and other figurines [That rubbed off on me, but I only collected a limited series of watches and figurines from two of my favorite movies]
Speaking of figurines, he has a bunch of Italian ones, though I can’t think of the name now...
Back on track.
Gary is unique to say the least. Not a mean bone in his body as far as I could tell. He would sit by the oven in the morning and make open face grilled cheese sandwiches to eat. I would always ask him when I was there to hook me up with a few. That and chocolate milk was a favorite of mine, and maybe a few hot glazed donuts!!!!
I would love hanging out with Gary at the bakery. When the closed the doors, he kept working. He would head over to the cake decorating side and start icing cakes for the next day and making roses. I was always amazed at how easily he turned out/churned out pans of beautiful roses.
The bad... Gary had an older brother who pretty much was a jerk to him. I am not sure if I ever witnessed anything that resembled a kind word spoken from his mouth to Gary. He would always call Gary stupid or other disparaging words and even a full vocabulary of curse words aimed at Gary on a daily basis would fly. The worst part was that the rest of the family that would work there would go along with this bashing of him. I never understood it to be honest....
I say that to set the scene. Gary would sit by that oven and just work. Who of us could do that? To be constantly belittled day in and day out, it was just wrong. Gary survived though and it didn't deter him from his work or his dreams!
I would often spend the night at their house if I was working at the bakery as I got older. Gary would wake me up at 4 or so in the morning. Before we left for the bakery, he would sit outside and smoke a cigarette or two along with downing a soda. We would hop in the panel van and head to work. The whole time Gary would crack the window and keep the steady stream of smoke from his cigarettes going out.
Gary and I got along well. Some of that was because he was cool. He like cars and guns.... Who doesn't like guns! Plus he had the funds to buy some really neat guns. We would travel to gun shows and it was always interesting to see what type of military style weapon he would buy. Riding in the van for many years, an UZI made in Israel would be our partner... Just in case someone tried to rob us when we getting out of the van or before the bakery opened.
That same UZI brought many smiles on my face. On one of his visits to my parent's home in Pearl River, we fired a magazine or two into the ditch. At some point with all of the firing going on, a PR police car came down the street. It stopped about a block away, and turned down another street. I guess they didn't want to deal with a fatigue jacket wearing adult and a smiling teenager firing an UZI!
Oh Gary.... what memories, gun shows, traveling and seeing all types of really cool weapons. I watched in amazement as Gary got what we call a Garand thumb. I had to laugh, because I tried to warn him. He acted like it didn't hurt, but I promise it did! I had fun with him and guns. I was like his walking dictionary early on for guns. He would have me do the research and then he would buy them. It was fun!
Gary was nothing like his brother to say the least. Maybe part of the reason I liked Gary was that he was a dreamer. He dreamed big and was not scared of what the negative brother would say about his dreams. Long before the King Cake business took off, we would go up on a Sunday morning and sell the left over King Cakes from Saturday.
Not long after that, he proposed an idea of shipping King Cakes around the country. He worked a deal I believe with Fed Ex to handle this new idea. The whole time he got grief from his sibling. That grief was non stop!
Needless to say, that business boomed! My father built them a call center in the warehouse behind the bakery and we added some shipping containers for storage and box building. Now they are ‘world famous’ for their shipping King Cake business.
All of that showed me a lot about how to dream, and to Gary's credit, despite working in a hostile environment, he didn’t let that stop him.
Gary was the stable one. As much fun as he liked to have, he was thrifty. His financial base allowed the family business to afloat and even grow. His brother was not as thrifty and was always trying to keep up with the Jones's if you know what I mean.
Speaking of fun... Gary was the one who introduced me to skiing. Yes, I skied at one time of my life. It was only a couple of trips, but they were unforgettable to say the least. One time while Gary was driving, he tried to drive over a boulder in Colorado... to say the least the car did not clear it, so after we struck and bounced over the boulder, we were left stranded on the side of a mountain until we caught a ride to the airport as the car poured gasoline out! I will never forget how he threw the keys for the rental car on the counter. The lady behind the counter asked where the car was, and Gary just said something like, on the side of the road going to Breckenridge....that is why I paid for the insurance!
Only Gary could pull that off! It was too funny. Or the parties we would have in the Condos there. Yikes, way too much alcohol and hot tubs, but who is counting. I will have to keep it clean, so it is best to keep it quiet for now.
Then it came time for Beth and Gary to have kids. Gary worked even harder to make sure his family had everything they needed. His kids went to the right schools and Gary never wavered in his work ethic or his desire to provide for his family.
As his children got into college, all he could was talk about them and their accomplishments. My guess is that because he never went to college, so it meant so much more for him to see his children succeed. Every time one of the girls did something or graduated from something, or got promoted, Gary would let you know. He cannot stop talking about how accomplished they had become.
But that is or was Gary. He loved our family. When my father was alive, he would come over and work with my dad out in the yard or help my father build something. He truly had found a real family.
Speaking of family, who could forget the family that lived in his backyard in Harahan. No, not illegal aliens or such, but a family of white Samoyed dogs. He built them a kennel! It had their indoor area and each dog had an outdoor run. It was equipped with A/C and a tub even. But the real fun came when he had a sled made for them to pull. Yes, you heard me correctly, in south Louisiana we would take the dogs up to the Mississippi River levee and hook the dogs up to this sled and mush them down the river levee. I am laughing at how that must have looked to those people driving by us.
But that didn't stop Gary. Later in life Gary bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle. He loved the bike scene and talking about bikes and other shit. But then again, Gary could talk to anyone about anything! Gary scared the shit out of me on one ride. We were riding on River Road, twisting and turning away and in the blink of an eye, Gary overshot a turn and went off the road. All I could think of was how my sister was going to kill me for Gary killing himself on a motorcycle.
Needless to say, Gary bounced up and before you know it we had his bike sorted and he was riding home. After that experience, Gary told me if you were going to lay a bike down, that was the way to do it. All I could think of at the time was that I never wanted to find out how to correctly lay the bike down. Well... as things would go, many years later, I would lay my bike down on the way to hitting the front door of a car that pulled out in front of me.
The memories... too many to list
The facts... he was the brains of the operation at a little bakery on Jefferson Hwy and he has always had a kind soul and love of family [even though his 'real' family shit on him constantly, he loved them anyway]
Hang in their Gary, we all love you!
I continue to reflect on the fun times that we had and the way he treated me. He was the type of brother I wish my own brother would have been. I am sure that I did things that he got mad about.
One such story, one day one of the 'shop girls' at the bakery was complaining about being tired and at work. I was getting rid of some old pies and she said something like, I wish I had that pie in my face so I could go home.... I said really? She answered yes and I smashed that cream pie right into her face. Needless to say Gary was not happy that day.
But that would have to be it on the angry side of things, I never experienced him saying anything like the abuse he suffered at the hands of his brother come out of his own mouth.
As the time approaches for his passing, I wish I could talk guns with him or just talk life. It's funny how we always think we will have tomorrow and unfortunately sometimes tomorrow does not come.
A couple of weeks ago I had a nice conversation with him. He was upbeat and the conversation ended up talking about God. I was so happy to hear him speak of his faith and trust in our Lord. We prayed together and as I hung up that phone I was so happy that I called that morning.
Love you my friend.
If we can dream of heaven, your heaven will be a beautiful mountain top [with or without snow] I will always think of you there
until we meet again