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Like busboys in a restaurant

By on June 3, 2017

You know how when you’re watching a movie or reading a book and a line hits you right in the feels and sticks with you throughout your life?

Here’s a few from my collection of those quotes:

“Stay Gold, Ponyboy” The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

“I’m your biggest fan.” Misery, Stephen King

“Make it count.” Titanic

“I feel the need. The need. For speed!” Top Gun

“Stroke the furry wall.” Get Him to the Greek

A few days ago, I found out a friend of mine died of a heart attack.

The first time I met Travis, I was 5 and he was the coolest 6 year old on the block with his tousled blonde hair, charming smile and flirtatious wink that made all the girls giggle. His mom and my mom became friends, and I remember playing Monopoly on their living room floor with his older brothers while they had coffee. They weren’t very nice to me, teasing me the whole time and his brother even tried conning me out of my Monopoly money. Travis eventually stuck up for me and it was then that I decided we were going to be friends forever. He didn’t want any part of that idea though and decided that teasing me was the best way to get rid of me.

“Oh, he likes you!” my mom declared after I went to her in tears.

His mom laughed and said, “Boys tease you when they like you. I think you have a crush!”

I turned beet red and denied all of it. I had a crush on lots of boys, I wasn’t committing to one, not even at that age.

When I walked to school with Trav and the kids from our block, I felt safe. He had this way of protecting me even if he didn’t intend to and when we both moved to different schools, I was sure I would never see him again and that broke my heart.

Travis and I stayed connected through mutual friends and because our moms became best friends. The only time I would see him was if I went with my mom to visit his mom. Honestly, it was the only reason I endured coffee dates at his mom’s house. Of course, anytime I did see him, I’d get ridiculously shy and just chatter on about becoming a sports writer and getting out of the inner city without ever looking back. He didn’t pay much attention but flashed me that shit eating grin before leaving to hang with his friends.

My life path twisted shortly after into a darkness where there was no light, and I never really thought about him much until after I left home and was visiting my mom.

“Remember Travis? He’s going to be a dad.”

“What the?! WHY???” I demanded to know. Even though we hadn’t spent much time together, there was no way he was having a kid let alone had a girlfriend I didn’t know about. It didn’t seem right. Didn’t he know that the number one way to never getting out of the inner city was to have a kid at young age? Apparently when you meet the person you’re supposed to be with, it doesn’t matter how old you are. I, however, was nowhere near settling down. I liked my single life and couldn’t comprehend how two people could commit to each other at such a young age. Despite my reluctance to want to like her, Karen and I became fast friends, spending time together having coffee while their young daughters (they eventually had another one) played in the living room or sat with us at the table. Trav was usually at work but every once in a while, I’d see him on a weekend before I’d hit the clubs with my girlfriends. He reminded me to be careful and call him if I had any problems. I’d just roll my eyes and say, “Yes dad!” before yelling that I loved them both and would see them later.

Before I moved to Kelowna for my dream job as a sports writer on a daily paper, Travis and Karen had me over to celebrate my new chapter. They were supportive of me in every way but Trav insisted that I not become too stuck up when I became successful.

“Shut up,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Just don’t be a snob. I won’t put up with that,” he replied, smirking with that charming smile of his. I couldn’t help but laugh and grabbed him for a hug.

“Whatever, jackass. I love you. See you guys in a few months.”

Once again, our paths separated but when they merged a few years later, it was like no time had passed. By this time, I was married and introduced Ron to my other family, Travis and Karen. It was nice to see them and I was excited to bring them together, thinking we would spend weekends together and be one big, weird, awesome family.

The last time I saw Karen was about a month before I had Oscar. I was 8 months pregnant and she had just had a baby boy, the apple of Travis’ eye, named Hunter. It freaked me out to see a toddler because kids and I weren’t exactly sympatico but I remember seeing Hunter toddle around in his little bouncy chair, apple sauce on his face, and the same dazzling smile as his dad. Knowing this was going to be my life in a month scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know how Karen could manage three kids and be married for 65 years already (cough, it seemed like it!). She was so happy and I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of a lifelong love that she had with Travis. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for any of it when I met Ron but knowing that they had this relationship that had no drama and was built upon love gave me some hope that maybe my life could have that happily ever after that seemed to elude so many people I knew. Travis and Karen weren’t typical with all their happiness and kids and house and success: growing up in the inner city didn’t exactly give you the model for that type of life but somehow, they made it happen.

My path once again took me in a different direction and for the next few years, everything changed; kids, new city, post-partum depression, and the start of my healing journey that took years to get through. Karen and I stayed in touch with a phone call every once in a while but even those seemed to fade into a yearly thing.

There are certain quotes that you carry with you throughout your life and pop up during some monumental moment, perfectly capturing the essence of the memory:

“Friends come in and out of our lives like busboys in a restaurant.” Stand By Me, Stephen King

Travis was like that. He popped in and out of my life mostly as a result of my friendship with Karen. About a year and a half ago, I got an email from Karen telling me that Travis was trying to get a hold of me. I had just published Forgiveness and Other Stupid which chronicles my journey of growing up in the inner city and in it, I mention his mom’s friendship with my mom and what impact that had in certain events throughout my life. My first reaction to the email was that Travis had read the book and was pissed that I had written about his mom so I reluctantly called him expecting to him to give me shit.

“Hey Trav, how are you?”

“I’m not doing so well. I wanted to tell you that my mom passed and the funeral will be on Monday. I thought you’d want to know since your mom was her best friend.”

I took a deep breath. That was not the conversation I expected to have.

“I am so sorry! How are you doing? You OK?”

Of course he wasn’t OK, his mom had just died, asshole. He  asked if I would come to the funeral but I was hesitant to bring my past into my present so I told him that I’d rather just see him and Karen for dinner when things settled down. He understood and we made a date to get together.

When we got together a few weeks later, we reconnected like no time had passed. We caught up, laughing at memories and I was looking forward to making so many more new memories with them both.

I grabbed Travis and demanded he take a selfie with me.

“What the hell is a selfie?” he asked.

“OMG, I’m gonna be your first!” I laughed.

After that night, we became the family I had always wanted, spending time together, laughing, bringing up memories from the inner city and admiring each other for how far we had come despite the challenging circumstances of our childhood. When I had my book signing at Chapters, Travis, Karen and Hunter came to celebrate and support me.

“I’m so proud of you,” Travis said as he hugged me.

A couple of months later, I bought two passes for Travis and Ron to drive race cars at Edmonton International Raceway knowing Trav would be thrilled because he was into cars and racing and boy things. Karen and I just watched from the stands, smiling on a hot day as I snapped pictures, capturing the moments.

Last month, Ron and I went over to celebrate Travis’ 44th birthday. As always, he was charming, gracious and happy to be surrounded by people he loved. I took out my phone and grabbed Karen, posing for pictures and laughing because we were having fun. Before we left, I grabbed him and yelled, “SELFIE!” He just laughed and put his arm around me, once again humouring me.

I hugged and kissed him on the cheek. “Happy birthday, babe! I love you!” I said before leaving. As we drove home, I texted him: Happy birthday Travis. I love you like the brother I never had.”

He replied, “And you my sister that I always wanted. Happy.”

His funeral was yesterday and I’ve been to more funerals than I care to count over the years but his was by far one of the toughest. I lost a brother, a friend and a Red String of Fate soul mate. There’s heartache with every loss despite all the shit I know about spirituality and this journey that we’re all on. Knowing what I know makes it easier to get through this but my heart is broken and I’ll miss him forever.

Sitting here writing this post, I feel like Gordie LaChance at the end of Stand By Me with the clicking of the keyboard as I reminisce about the friend I’ve had since I was 5 except I’m sobbing like a fucking moron and Gordie seemed to be able to maintain his composure. Blah.

Beautiful souls come in and out of your life but if you’re lucky, they become part of your story and stay with you forever.

I love you, Travis. I always have and I always will. Catch you in the next lifetime, my brother.

Love,
t.