Paco and I spent ten glorious days at a beach club in Antigua this past winter. Four or five nights after we arrived, we were sitting on our oceanfront terrace enjoying what we call a steadier when I casually opened my email to see what was happening in the rest of the world. As I scrolled through the usual crap, there was a heading ...David passing. I opened it and learned that an ex boyfriend (Ill call him David to protect the innocent) had died of lung cancer that week . She wondered if I knew he had been sick. No I had not.
D and I had had a rather fun loving and hilarious time together for the first couple of years after my departure from my most recent marriage. Yes there's been a few. He was a darling man. We loved eachother. But well, he was just a little too wound up and neurotic for me and perhaps a touch gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I enjoyed him in his burnt orange skinny jeans. But in my opinion, there's only room for one neurotic in a relationship and that was my territory. We had a rather heartbreaking end and that was that.
So there I was on a tropical island being comforted by you know who. He fed me scotch and listened to my stories. He's a freaking saint of a man that Paco. He was married to the same woman for thirty four years before they divorced. I on the other hand have been serially monogamous for forty years. I have had more than one love of my life although none of them were my ex-husbands to be honest. So what to do with this grief?
I have a number of female friends who have lost their partners after decades of union. People gathered. People shared collective memories. They cried. They laughed. They comforted. I have often envied my friends who had somehow found the key to a long relationship and commitment. I sucked at it. But still, I was full of grief for this man and nowhere to put it. Does the loss of one long relationship mean more than a collection of losses? I don’t have the answer and now I’m sounding like Carrie Brandshaw. Loss is the most uniquely personal thing I know.
After I moved back to Toronto I would sometimes wonder if I would run into D on a city street arm and arm with a a gorgeous woman...or man. I looked for him in the streets. But meanwhile he was dying in a hospice. I reached out to the person who had emailed me and asked if we could get together. And we did. Over drinks she revealed to me that on his last day on earth he told her that I had been the love of his life. Yet, he had never ever contacted me after he got sick. And I was strangely sick about that. Death feels closer once you're lost in your sixties. Time is precious. I know I will lose others I have loved. That's a given. And yes even the exes will eventually croak too. It's all a strange and complicated emotional tapestry. Paco will continue to feed me scotch when needed. But he better not be going anywhere anytime soon.
He asked me the other day how long my longest relationship had lasted. Ten years I replied. His response? OK then we just have to make it seven more years and I will have beat the curse. In the meantime, I have learned there actually can be two neurotics in a relationship. We're writing a book. It's called The Neurotic's Guide to Living With a Neurotic.