When Sylvia and I divorced, it was a hard time for me, and I had reconnected with a friend, Elle, from my childhood, whom I had the biggest crush on, as a kid. But the events that would transpire, would forever change my perspective on life and real love. But I should really start from the beginning.
A man meets a woman in his younger years, expecting that when they fall in love, it will last a lifetime. It does not happen in every case. I met Sylvia in my second year of at York University. We dated and lived together for a couple of years before marrying. I was a Computer Science nerd, and she was in Theatre Arts. We were polar opposites. A real “Sam and Dianne” relationship, it was to be exact. The year we decided to get married, the house, we had rented, had burned to the ground. We lost everything, except the things that truly meant something, like my poetry and her high school year books. From that point on, we went through many things over a 25-year marriage.
Sylvia experienced Polycystic Ovaries, which we were fairly certain were caused by the birth control pills, she had been taking in the beginning of our marriage. So, when we were ready to have kids, we had to go through a painful and costly fertility clinic to have our first two girls. But by the time, our second daughter was a year old, I had just started a new job and Sylvia phoned me on my first day frantically. She must have left a half dozen messages while I was in training, because by the time I got to my new cubicle, the light on my phone was blinking. So, I called her back, and she told me about the Doctor’s visit, she went to, as she had not been feeling well.
“What’s the one thing, you’d never believe the doctor told me today? Take a guess,” was the reply I received when I called her back.
“You’re dying?” I really meant that answer too.
“No! You idiot, I’m pregnant!” I was in total shock. So, a year later my first son was born and three years after that, my second son came along. For the next ten years after that, marriage and family happened. I think if I could total the events that happened in those years, it would be a substantial sum. Moved to the USA from Canada, went bankrupt, fought to rebuild equity, went through numerous jobs, and built back our equity, and finally bought a nice home in the city and made a decent family life for ourselves. Idyllic right? I thought so too. And then, it just happened.
How does anything happen really? I got really sick. I had a staph infection that overwhelmed my whole body and left me paralyzed from the waist down. I ended up in the hospital with a major heart attack due to the staph infection, and I died for ten whole minutes. Yes, I crossed over. And yes, it was a life changing experience. But that’s a story for another day. The point was Sylvia, never believed I was sick, when I went into the hospital, until I was in the ICU and dead. Then she was beside herself with one teenage daughter and three children to take care of, if I didn’t survive.
I did though, and she sang my praises on Facebook, about how she almost lost her best friend, which in five years would bite me on the ass, when she told me she was seeing someone else, and that he was her best friend. Divorce, you have to love it. It’s a cop out for people, who feel like they can’t cope. I never gave on my marriage, until Sylvia called her boyfriend her best friend. And after 25 years of marriage, I thought, “Why didn’t I just stay dead?” But then I realized, I was here to raise my children.
It was about three months after I had separated from Sylvia, that Elle came back into my life. To describe Elle, is like describing a Generation Xer. Elle and I were as thick as thieves in our childhood days. She was my first love. The kind of love of innocence, when life was full of possibilities and wonder. She was the woman I compared all other women to, as I grew up. Living in a time before the internet and cell phones, we knew the value of playing outside as kids. The value of riding our bikes to the local strip mall. We ran through sprinklers, and played hide and seek. We laid among the marigold flowers in the fields near the local creek. I would always pick a bunch for Elle. She would put them in our hair, and start singing.
We knew about being home before the streetlights went on. And up again early in the morning, grabbing our bikes to find other adventures in the neighborhood. Elle would eventually take that love of life and go on to become one of the greatest actors of our time. I lost touch with her when we were teenagers, long before her stardom, as my father moved our family to the country, to rebuild the family cottage into a family home.
I was in my new apartment a little over three months. I had barely even settled in. A message appeared in my Facebook, “Matt, I know I was a bit bossy as a kid and people always thought I was a bitch, but you never did.” I was a bit puzzled, as the name came up Danny Marigold, which I knew was Elle’s Stage name.
“Who is this?”
“It’s Elle…Elle Kjarr…I hope you remember me from our school days.”
“Oh, I remember you! It’s been what 35 years? How are you?” Oh, I remembered Elle. I followed her career. It was like winning the lottery for me. Elle had rose through the ranks in Ontario, performing in theatre arts, at Stratford, before heading to New York City, where she landed a role on a hit comedy series. Later she and her ex-husband, who was a famous music producer, would go on to invest in several famous pop groups, and start a famous record label in California.
I remember helping Elle run lines in our grade 7 musical “The Marigold Flowers and the Singing Door.” Elle could sing like nothing I had heard before. She had the range of the greats like Judy, Ella, Julie. She had the range of songbird. Back when other kids were outside playing at lunch time, Elle and I would be in the theatre of our school rehearsing, and singing and laughing, and talking about the future. We both wanted to go to California. But I never made it. Life got in the way, and we never reconnected. I went on to program computers and raise a family.
“35 years, 6 months, 2 days and 7hours…LOL,” I read that line over and over again. Only Elle could remember facts like that, especially when it meant something to her, “Wow, you have a good memory!”
“How could I not know the date of the time I would last see you again. I remember your dad and you were picking up storage boxes, at the plaza. I was with my friend Kim, and I saw you and waved! But your dad was rushing you to get that old yellow pickup loaded, so I don’t know if you saw me,” Oh, I saw her. It was the mid 80s, and girls wore rocker outfits. And she had on a leather jacket and a burgundy crushed velvet dress. The skirt part of it extended to just over her knees. And she had black stockings and black go-go boots on. Her hair was that curled frizzy 80’s style, puffed up and stayed in place with hairspray. It was like she was about to pick up an electric guitar and start playing a rock anthem. I knew I was completely attracted to her! “I saw you, but my dad was in a hurry.”
“I knew. I really wanted you to come over, or I wanted to come over and say ‘hi,’ but Kim was in a hurry too. She wanted to get the latest albums at the record store.” I remember Kim, she was always into new fads and always moving. If I didn’t know better, I swear Kim was related to my dad, “I wish I had come over, but I was 14, and well you looked amazing and I was sporting a…well you know…I had to put some boxes in front of me…lol.”
“OMG! Really?!? That’s so funny! I was thinking if I could get you alone for 5 minutes, I was going to get your new address and then kiss you. I mean it wasn’t like our first kiss on the St Mary’s Catholic School sledding hill,” I remember that kiss. I had just received a 7-foot, 7-seater toboggan for Christmas. Elle was with us in the following weeks after Christmas to inaugurate that sled. We had about 9 children on it, with me on the front, Elle in the seat behind me, and Chad Edgington, the biggest kid in our grade 4 class pushing all of us off the top of the hill. That toboggan got so much speed, we lost four kids, half way down the hill, Chad was being dragged behind the toboggan by the back rope, and Elle had her arms so tightly around my waist, I could barely breathe. We went flying into a fence, and I hit the pole. As I lay on the ground moaning, Elle came up to see if I was ok. Then she proceeded to kiss me on the lips. Any pain I was feeling, magically disappeared.
“I wanted to kiss you again, at the plaza so badly. I knew you were going and I’d never see you again. I remember those days so much, that when I was doing my kissing scene in the show, my fellow actor, actually said to me, “Not sure who that kiss was for, but damn girl, you need to find him and reconnect!” When I told him about you, he was like, “but aren’t you engaged to Ryan?” And of course, by then you were married. But now, I hear you are separated? Are you seeing anyone?”
Suffice it to say, I told her about my life after I left. We talked all night on the instant messenger. About her own divorce, my adventures, and my marriage and separation and my kids. We totally reconnected and became a couple. And when I went into the hospital again, this time for Pancreatitis, she stayed with me, at me bedside. We laughed and we cried together, and I was able to pick up the pieces of my life because of Elle. And then COVID came. And before it was a full-blown pandemic, somehow, she had contracted it. By the end, the ventilator was just a wheezing noise, that I despised. I had stayed with her at the hospital, as I could. I brought her marigold flowers, which seemed to grow outside the hospital, and placed them in her hair. She loved it. In three weeks of contracting Covid-19, Elle passed away quietly in her hospital bed. I was inconsolable.
A year to the day later, after Elle passed, I found a florist, near the cemetery, who sold marigold flowers. I brought them to the grave, and placed them on it. I met up with Elle’s parents at the cemetery, and Elle’s mom had brought marigold flowers too. She turned to me and said “We all associate the Marigold’s with you and Elle…the fiery yellow, orange, and red hues with the warmth like the Sun, happiness, joy, optimism, and good luck…You two had that kind of love.” I miss Elle every day.