On this dark December night, my mind drifts back to one of my dearest friends, Paul, whose absence has left an indelible mark on my life. As I reflect, I realize that if he hadn't left us in 2010, he would have celebrated his fiftieth birthday this year, and we would have connected a lot more in life's ups and downs.
The memories of our friendship are cherished. I recall the first time we met (he was across the hall), a moment filled with pure joy. His big smile, infectious laughter, and generous heart made a lasting impression on me. To him, I was "Dingy." His nickname inspired by my bangs. :) I need to return to Naniamo, BC, to visit family and that 'Dinghy' Dock Pub.
In the summertime, he called me freckles, as the brown dots on my face became more pronounced when the sun hit them. Around him, I felt an inexplicable sense of safety and comfort. We went to movies together, we played games, we played squash (That first Christmas, 1992, we returned with squash requests.) for fun, and we ran together, which was up the Drumlin at LEC. He liked music, and so did I (still do). Like mixed tapes, we made CD compilations. He put on the best cheesy songs (cue Enya, Eraser, Village People, Spin Doctors, Kool and the Gang, Blancmange etc.) You know, if they are going to be cheesy, they have to be the best.
"I'll stay with you until the endI'll say you let me be your friendI'll say you'll let me in the endI just want to be your friend"
This one night, he was somewhat annoyed with me, though, because a lot of talking came from my tiny room (what else is new?). The next day, all was forgotten, and we continued on.
We planned to live together in 1994 and be roommates, but our plans were scratched as he was accepted into the pharmacy program at the University of Toronto. We still kept in touch, and I saw him when I came home to Scarborough on the weekends and during the summer.
After he graduated, he moved back to the Windsor area, where his family still lives. We continued to see each other and had great times together.
He stayed with us in Scarborough and just loved my mom as much as I do. He even called her mom ('health mom').
In 2002, he was a groom's man at my wedding.
I introduced him to my childhood friends, and he became their friend too.
The news of his passing is etched in my memory forever. I will never forget hearing the sad news from his brother that dark and cold December night. His funeral, a poignant gathering of those who cherished him, took place in Belle River, a five-hour drive from Toronto. A group of friends embarked on that journey at 4:00 a.m. to ensure we could pay our respects. It was a surreal day, and his passing still is.
As I remember him and the void his absence has left, his departure serves as a reminder of the silent struggles many men face. Men are often bound by societal expectations and endure internal battles in silence. It is crucial to acknowledge that conversations surrounding mental health, for men too, play a pivotal role in dismantling the lingering stigma that persists.
Sadly, I just learned his brother passed away. He was 53. My heart goes out to his parents, who have lost two sons too early in life.
He was compassionate, intelligent, hard-working, full of integrity, a dedicated friend, and full of life. I knew when I met him at age 19, we would be lifelong friends. He will always be in my heart.
Thank you for your friendship, Paul. You will always be in my heart.
Dingy (Danna Banana) :)