March 30, 2014

Love, Loss, and Life.

It amazes me how often, things happen right when you need them to.

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Today was a busy, full day. I helped a friend move. I went home, and got some work done. I had fun, and it was a satisfying day, but I felt… Well, emotionally heavy.

I was reflecting on everything that has happened over the past year - especially considering my odometer rolls forward another year in less than two weeks. Yep - I’m turning another year older!

And what a year it’s been! My relationship ended. I found my Mustang. I had a wild and adventurous summer. I had something traumatic happen in the fall that shook me to the core… I just bought a beautiful 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham in mint condition. And I feel settled in myself and my life in a way I never thought possible. Overall, I’m pretty damn happy!

But the one thing that seems to elude me is finding a partner - someone who’s truly ready for a good, healthy, adult relationship.

I’ve been questioning lately whether it is indeed possible to find such a partner, and I was moving closer to the conclusion that maybe, such a relationship wasn’t in fact possible. Maybe I’m asking too much? Maybe my destiny in life is to be single for the long haul? These are the sorts of things that were going through my head. I think we’ve all been there at some point.

I had a good heart-to-heart talk with a friend about all this, and I was feeling a bit better about life, love, and everything else afterwards. But, I still felt this heaviness I just couldn’t shake.

It was a warm spring night tonight, so I parked my Cutlass in the Village and went to my favourite pub with a good book. I talked to some of the other patrons, a couple of guys my age at the next table. And an older guy on my other side joined in our conversation. His name was Stan.

He was visiting from the East Coast for a few days, he said.

“Oh yeah? What brings you here?”

“Well, I retired early recently… Because… My partner of 16 years died suddenly of a totally unexpected heart attack almost a year ago. And after that, I realized that I’d better start really living my life now because I never know when it’s going to be taken away.”

Jesus Christ, what do you say in response to that? I just sat there in stunned silence. I couldn’t imagine being in a relationship for 16 years - and if I was - I couldn’t imagine suddenly losing my partner out of the blue.

After a good long pause, I said, “Wow - I… I’m so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine what that would be like. I do totally get the importance of living your life now, though. That’s what my last year was about.”

I told him about my breakup, finding my Mustang, and then running off on my own terms last summer. By this time, Stan had moved over and was sitting across from me at my table.

My curiosity had gotten the better of me, and I sensed that he wanted to talk about his partner… So I asked, “What was he like? How did you guys meet?”

“We met almost 20 years ago, in a line at a movie theatre. He was in front of me with a bunch of his friends, and we just happened to strike up a conversation… He went to his movie, I went to mine… And we bumped into each other in the lobby after our shows. We chatted again for a few minutes, and then he had to go. But before he left, he gave me his business card, and asked if we could get together for coffee or something soon.”

I was floored. In my world of iPhones and online dating… I couldn’t imagine something so random leading to a 16-year marriage!

Stan told me about the life he had with his partner Tom. He told me how his parents thought of Tom as another son. And how, when his mother was in her final days with Parkinson’s disease… How kind and gentle Tom was with her.

He told me how Tom would leave cutesy sweet notes around their apartment for him to find. Or how Tom would text him with encouraging messages before a tough meeting or presentation at work.

Stan and I talked about relationships, and I shared how I’d love to meet a partner who shares the work of life and with whom life is more enjoyable.

“I know exactly what you mean! Tom and I… Well, it was the little things… I would would cook Sunday brunch for us and look after the kitchen. Tom would look after the cars and make sure they were always gassed up. We each did what we did best in our life together.”

Stan told me about how he and Tom had their own, individual lives and interests… But how they also identified as a couple, without losing their individual selves in their relationship.

“In the first week after losing Tom, I had to go and gas up the car. I pulled up to the gas pump, and stared at it dumbfounded for a moment. You see… I hadn’t used a gas pump in over 16 years. Tom did that. I remember the gas station attendant called me through the intercom and asked if everything was OK - if there was a problem with the gas pump. And I said that no, there wasn’t a problem with the pump - there was a problem with the user!”

Now that? That’s love. Wow. The room suddenly seemed to get a bit dusty.

I never thought that a gas pump would be a metaphor for love, but it totally just happened.

I told Stan, truthfully, that I’d never heard such a story of love between two gay men before. Ever.

Before walking into the pub, I had been beginning to think that such a relationship or love was not possible. But lo and behold - in front of me was a man - a gay man - who had lived it. I could not say any more that the type of relationship I wanted wasn’t possible.

It was time to go, and so Stan and I stepped outside into the spring night.

I showed Stan my Olds Cutlass, the newest (oldest?) member of this family of cars I’ve apparently begun to build. We hugged, and he went off to his hotel, and I got into my Cutlass.

I closed the door. The noise of the world outside went silent. I put the key in the ignition, turned it, and the American carbureted beast started up. I turned the car around, and started the drive home. My mind was abuzz with the amazing story Stan had shared with me.

I began to think that maybe… Maybe what I was looking for in a partner might actually be out there? It dawned on me that…
…I bought a Mustang a year ago.
…My hands were wrapped around the wheel of a mint ’87 Cutlass right now.
…I’d just met a total stranger who shared an incredible story of love, partnership, loss, and the importance of really living life. Right when I needed to hear it.

If those three things can happen… Well, I say anything is possible!