Sunday, February 28, 2016


0% chance of cure means manicures right?
#icebergrightahead #fuckcancer

This was the facebook status I read. This was how I learned that my daughter’s first love was not going to make it.

Mary met Andrew at nursery school. It was not love at first sight. While he was a confident four-year-old senior, she was a timid junior, only three at the time. She sat at the playdough table watching the other children, too shy to join in.

When both children graduated to kindergarten, Mary attended a small community school. Andrew bravely took the bus to the French-immersion school in a nearby city. For many years, they lost touch, even though they lived only four kilometers apart.

Everything changed in high school, when their love of the arts reunited them.

All grades played and worked together on drama productions and symphonic concerts. Andrew’s seniority no longer mattered, and Mary was beginning to find her own voice. He drove her home after late night rehearsals of “The Crucible”. They laughed together in the back row of the school band as they kept the beat in the percussion section. She finally announced to me that they were “going out”.  Andrew was her first boyfriend. She was sixteen. She was head over heels.

When he started coming around our house on a regular basis, I was so happy for both of them. They giggled. They made silly videos, always including Mary’s little brother. They hosted parties for their group of self-proclaimed band geek and drama nerd friends. At Halloween, everyone wore costumes. Mary was a rag doll and Andrew was a ghost. They played hide and seek in the dark outside, screaming and squealing and stealing kisses, I’m sure.

Andrew charmed Mary’s grandparents by attending family dinners. His ability to chat with anyone put us at ease. And he treated Mary like a queen. They got all dressed up to attend symphonies and plays, she in her vintage black cocktail dress and he in a sharp suit, both beaming from ear to ear.

Ready for a night on the town.

But over time, some distance developed. Andrew moved into his own apartment while Mary was still finishing high school. One afternoon, as I was packing to go away for a few days, Mary came out of her room in tears. “Andrew broke up with me,” she sobbed. “I don’t know why.” I held her as she cried and cried and cried. And I was cursing him in my head, knowing that I had a plane to catch and couldn’t stay with Mary for very long. She assured me she would be okay and that she would get together with her best friend while I was gone. We talked on the phone several times a day, and when I returned, she seemed to have accepted the situation. I was probably angry longer than she. How dare he break my daughter’s heart?

Some time later, Andrew moved to Toronto. Mary went to his going-away party and I marvelled at her open-mindedness. I was still holding a bit of a grudge.

The going-away became Andrew’s coming out.

Freed from small-town Manitoba, Andrew found his true self. My daughter’s first boyfriend became her best gay boyfriend. Suddenly, it all made sense.

When she moved to Toronto a year later, Andrew was there for her. He took her to Nuit Blanche and they recorded a tangled video of themselves wrapped in string, laughing hysterically in the middle of the night. They posted YouTube videos, with Andrew giving garish make-up lessons to Mary. As I watched their antics from afar, I felt so relieved that Mary had a hometown friend with her in the big city. He was an anchor for her. He was a comfort for me. It was a new kind of love.

Glitter Fest 27th birthday party!

And now, Andrew has cancer.

It is terminal.

He is twenty-seven years old.

Mary phoned me last night. She was crying again. She had said her final good-byes to Andrew at a “funeral dance party” in Toronto. At the end of the night, Andrew said to Mary’s friend, “Take good care of my Mary”.

Andrew is headed back to Manitoba with his mom. He is coming home to die. He has planned his funeral. He wants glamour, glitter, Madonna and Cher. I know I will fly Mary home for this.

100% chance she will always love him.


ÓConni Cartlidge
February 27, 2016

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