Ed Tennant, long time friend and companion to my family growing up, has just passed from this life to the next. He is, in every sense of the expression, survived by us all.
I knew Ed before my ability to make my first memories. He and my Dad, John (Jack) Henry Kregel, were friends since the army. From their days in the army, they both became police officers together around the 1960’s. I’m not sure who came to San Francisco and who came to San Jose first, but eventually the pair kept our home city safe in San Jose by the time I was on the scene.
Growing up, The Kregels and the Tennants did some of their vacations together, based exclusively around skiing and the two cabins between our families.
The skiing and the cabins went away when I reached High School age, but Ed and my dad still continued their friendship decades afterwards.
The thing between Ed and my dad was something none of us could name or describe. Sure, they were friends; but friendship was a weak, slim word for what I grew up with. They were married and devoted to their families, so their bond was with the families they loved, provided for, and sought to protect. And they weren’t biological brothers: they had those and this thing was a bond beyond family.
What was it?
Most of the time I saw Ed with my Dad, it was without warning. When my Dad would pick me up from a summer camp or drop me off somewhere, Ed might have cone along. Or not.
I can remember walking home from school on some Friday to see my dad, outside of our house, wrestling with the ski racks on our car. Foolishly, I’d ask what we were doing for the weekend and he retort, “Going to the Tennant’s cabin.” Most of the time, I’d like to believe, the Tennants knew we were coming.
Dad, throughout the last decade, would often drop by the Tennant’s without warning or announcement. He one time, when I was with him on long weekend from College, broke into the Tennant’s house to make coffee while he waited for Ed to return.
Ed and my Dad would talk for hours. Both of them viewed their role in the Universe as the last of the good guys, the Blue Knights of law and order. They were to keep everyone in their place and the streets safe from those who wanted to endanger our good Republic. Certainly, as a “woke” Anglican, liberal, 21st century fellow I have cause to deconstruct most of their claims and stories. But they had them non-the-less.
Ed was larger than life, one of the first men I knew as a kid who could fill a room with his presence. He was generous with everything- kindness, stories, advice, support, and warnings. I can remember coming home from school and feeling the air conditioning to our house have slightly changed, a signal that Ed had stopped by unannounced.
Ed’s kids- Patrick, David, and Kirsten- would come sometimes, mostly when we’d be at the cabin. They were much older than me, amiable teens who didn’t mind being shadowed my two tiny rug rats- my brother and I.
I was the shy, youngest kid out of the kid pack that would run laps around the main floor of whatever cabin we occupied. The whole environment made me laugh and loved listening to the stories around “adult table”.
Ed taught me poker. He also explained to me why revolver pistols never use silencers. Both of these things I have not yet had to use as an Anglican Priest, but I’m glad I gleaned them from my dad’s buddy.
“Buddy”, that was what he named me rather than the “Grinning, Shy Kregel Kid”.
Audrey-Ed’s wife-, as my memory serves me (as often it doesn’t), was a wicked story teller as well. However, her tales were 95% in the delivery. If the boys let her finish, there was usually some kind of pay off that, if you tried to retell it, lost it’s former glory in a generation removed.
Storytelling, that was what we were really doing at these connections. We just brought along the skis and poles as props.
Ed and my Dad came down for my first ordination as a Baptist Minister. I was worried about being seen by them. I was getting ordained in a fairly squeaky clean, ultra-Republican Southern California mega-church with pretences so think you could cut them with a steak knife.
As we walked across the parking lot into the church, I was about ready to give them the lecture: “Don’t cuss, don’t refer to minorities with any of your pet names, don’t describe women by the parts of their bodies, don’t…”
Instead, I just leaned back inside of myself and prayed, “Into thy hands, I commit Ed and Dad.”
They attended the service and we were off to eat a lunch nearby without incident when, shouting from the steps of the church, cried a voice: “Holy shit!! Ed!! John! What the fuck are you doing here?!”
“Holy shit,” Ed said. “It’s fucking Ed Carrager! John, it’s fucking Ed Carrager!”
Ed Carrager, I learned, was a San Jose Police Officer who moved down to the LA area, got remarried, became a devout Baptist, and was an elder of the church I got ordained at. Later, he said, “I knew I always liked you, Eric. I just never put 2 + 2 = Kregel until I saw you with Ed and your dad.”
After the ordination, we had an evening BBQ with my friends, Ed, and my Dad. Some friends of mine were musicians, so they played music that involved the use of puppets (long story, but it was their thing). Ed took it in stride; my Dad snarled, wondering what failure I had undergone to have rock music and not Wagner at my BBQ (another long story).
Ed met my wife and m friends, smiling and approving of everything. “You got a real catch there, Eric,” Ed said.
“It’s kind of like a fairy story, the troll marrying the princess,” I said to him.
“Gosh, I’m living that one myself.”
Ed approved. Above and beyond the church service, the ordination, and the title change, that was what I needed to hear that day. I still carry that with me today.
Ed and my Dad had a fast, furious, and mysterious short hand with each other. They often swapped roles, one being the dreamer and the other the guardian of reality against all dreams. Examples of this:
Ed: Hey John, I got an idea. Do you have $3000 laying around your house?
Ed: Real Estate idea.
Dad: Naw, it won’t work.
Dad: Hey, I think I know why music for teenagers is so awful. It’s because they aren’t drafted. If we have a citizen’s army, like the one in Switzerland, they’d all be in the army and that would teach them discipline. Then we wouldn’t have to hear rap everywhere.
Ed: I think the problem is bigger than just the army, John.
Dad: I’m thinking of living, for four months, off of brown rice, beats, and beans. What do you think?”
Ed: No, don’t do that.
Once I saw them get into a fight. They were dropping me off to a 3-week Outward Bound backpacking camp in Oregon and the two got into it. I’m not sure what about, but they both got mad at each other. My Dad turned silent into a sharpened sulk; Ed muttered to himself in the aftermath.
We pulled into a pizza parlour in Northern California. Ed ordered multiple pies and the three of us sat down. The two men sat silently, looking away from each other. When the food came, Ed showered his slice with cheese, peppers, and salt.
“You’re going to kill yourself with those levels of salt,” my dad told him. (By the way, this was back in 1989).
“It’s on your pizza too, John,” Ed said.
“Yeah, I guess,” he said and they went back to telling stories.
Ed told complete stories; my Dad spoke in only scenes, a mosiac of random thoughts and sensations. Growing up, my Dad’s stories shaped, framed, and guided me into what to look for as as of interest or heroic. My Dad was a great story teller, but when I try to retell them to my girls, they always ask for the inevitable, “And then what happened?” And I can’t tell them because my Dad never finished a tale, instead it just reminded him of the next series of adventure.
Ed, later in life, finished my Dad’s stories for me. As a kid, I learned that my Dad and Ed sold illegal liquor when they were in an oversea language school to learn Vietnamese for the Army. But that’s it. I’d mention this to my friends or family and they would want to know more and I would just shrug.
When my Dad had his stroke-ending all of his storytelling- my brother and I had a cigar with Ed. Ed brought up the story and I finally got the beginning, middle, and end.
They both were students at a language school in the Far East. The soldiers would be sold, for their off-hours, alcohol at a reduced rate. Ed and my dad, as young men in their twenties, would buy as much as they could carry and then sell it outside of the military base to the locals for twice as they got it. Their profits would be then spent on a fine, five course meal at the nicest restaurant they could find. Then they would repeat this cycle the next time they were given time off from the language school.
This was, I believe, Ed and my Dad’s first scheme.
Ed and Dad had a thing between them, something they could never name. Ed, for my Dad, was the one whole filled in the gaps of the stories and who generously gave and showed up and made things happen. My Dad would do so back to him in his own way.
Ed and Dad had a thing between them which men, of that generation, didn’t speak of. Today, I would use the word “love”. For these two Police Officers from San Francisco in the 1960’s, men didn’t love men! Men shouldn’t love men! But this was not a romantic love, it was something entirely unique that carried both men through the decades.
And that thing between them is something I will miss because, above everything else, I will miss Ed.
Go in peace, Ed.