August 6, 1978 – I remember it well. It was probably the best night of my life. The Eagles were playing at Exhibition Stadium – the mists of time don’t allow me to recall now which of my girlfriends I was there with. But I do remember meeting the cutest boy alive, with a gorgeous head of blond hair, an adorably infectious smile, and a voice so distinctive that, to this day, I can still hear it. We took one look at each other and spent the rest of the evening completely focused on each other… oblivious to the concert in front of us. I was 17, he was 16. I couldn’t believe my luck.
The rest of the summer we spent hanging out at Ontario Place, back to the Ex to hide in the bushes and make out… and eventually, his bedroom. He was my first. We spent hours on the phone learning each other. I just wanted to hear his voice, no matter what he was saying. His favourite bands were Boston and Genesis, he played hockey and football, he was good in Math, he had a brother and a step-dad, he worked part time in the sporting goods department at the Bay downtown, and… I found out later, I was a rebound from his long term relationship, a girl he reconciled with when the school year started. It was short, but meaningful… at least to me.
We kept in touch, became close friends and intermittently spent time together; usually when we both happened to be single. We seemed to linger on the possibility of rekindling our youthful attraction, but we never reconnected physically. That one time, my all important first time, is still a singular memory. And a very nice one, despite my infatuation, and extreme nervousness.Those were still pretty innocent days, and this step was serious enough for me that this boy gave me his school ring to take home as a token of respect or some kind of promise. Of course I was heartbroken when he ended it, but I got over it in time. Through it all he was sweet, kind, considerate and a really wonderful listener at a pretty delicate time in my life.
Somehow, weirdly, except for the years I lived in Vancouver, we always worked in close proximity to one another. So even if we had fallen out of touch, we ended up running into each other regularly. The last time I saw him was about 3 years ago.
His birthday is in early May, so naturally I thought of him, wondering what he’s been up to, is he happy, maybe he finally got married and has a couple of babies, where is he? I googled his name and found his obituary. He died of cancer last fall, at age 51.
I felt overwhelming sadness. What a loss. He was an incredible person. Bright, articulate, funny, caring. Still so gorgeous, with that voice. An accomplished career in communications, he dabbled in photography, loved the cottage and fishing. And so much more I didn’t keep up with. His obit said he didn’t want a visitation or a service. He was not married, had no children.
Mostly, I couldn’t believe someone that I’d known since 17 was now gone. Why hadn’t I stayed in touch?
What I wasn’t was shocked. It’s the second time this has happened to me. The first was in 2005 when googling an old boyfriend who’d remained a good friend but whom I’d lost track of yielded the same unbelievable result.
There’s a lesson here. Stay close to those you care about. I probably shouldn’t have needed to learn it twice.
The only thing I have of this beautiful man who meant so much to me in my young life and who was a fun and trustworthy friend throughout, is a series of photos he took of me in 1999. I needed a picture for a column I had begun to write and he offered to photograph me. Obviously, he’s not in the photos, but I think you can see him by the look in my eyes.
I will miss knowing he’s in the world.