Monday, May 2, 2016

Love is the sweetest thing. . .

Late in my third year as a student at the Montreal General Hospital, I began going out with a young man who worked at the YMCA, then affiliated with and housed in the old Sir George Williams University building. I have no memory of how or where I met him although I have tried my best to remember.

I was still living in residence so our relationship was built around my inconvenient nursing hours and my student curfew. I think it was likely that we didn't have much money — I certainly didn't and he was quite new at his job — and we spent a lot of time walking around the streets in downtown Montreal, stopping for coffee, sitting on a bench under a tree.

He was very good company: he was funny and easy-going and he seemed to enjoy doing things that would please me.

We often went to eat in one of the downtown St. Hubert BBQ restaurants. There was one on Ste. Catherine, just west of Guy St. which we often went to; this one was a few blocks east of there, on Peel St.

The food was, it certainly was, memorable. Mmmm. . . that sauce was so good.

When the weather wasn't good or when we had run out of places to be, we'd often sit and talk in one of the "beau rooms" in my residence at the General. A beau room was comfortable, furnished with a couch and chairs and table lamps. The door had a window in it and supervision was never far away. Your feet were expected to remain on the floor.

He didn't have an apartment but he was expecting to get one and in the meantime, he was staying with some people and couldn't comfortably have guests over.

He did take me to see his office in the Y building and he introduced me to his boss. We spent a short time socializing and had a nice time there.

One evening, sitting in the St. Hubert, he told me he'd bought me a gift. I think it was an occasion — maybe our monthiversary — and he slid a small bag across the table. It was a book, a vintage edition of Tennyson's Collected Poems. He knew I liked poetry and he'd really made an effort.

Edited to add: When I first published this story, I had mislaid the book and I used a generic Internet photo of a Tennyson book. The book has been found and this is it.

Several weeks after we had begun dating, I was booked to go into hospital for a tonsillectomy. This is considered a fairly serious procedure for an adult; I had been working up until my admission and had been on a course of antibiotics to get my tonsils down to a normal size for removal. He insisted that he would be coming to the hospital to see me post-surgery which I tried to discourage as I could only imagine my swollen face, lack of voice, puffy eyes. But he did come and he sat beside me, holding my hand while I was in and out of consciousness.

I had long-standing plans to go home for a month to New Brunswick — Chatham-on-the-Miramichi — to recuperate from my surgery. He said that he could get some time off and suggested that he would like to come to NB to visit me. Of course I said yes and we looked at a calendar and arranged that he would come by train toward the end of my month and we would travel back together.

We spent a couple of sad days anticipating our separation, then he took me to the station. Before I went down the stairs to the train level, he held me tenderly and said the time would go fast and we'd see each other soon. I remembered an errand I hadn't run and I gave him $40.00 and asked him to go to a Park Avenue tailor to pick up my MGH blazer which had been custom-made and was waiting for me. He happily agreed and off I went.

Life was stale and uninteresting at home but the one thing that kept me going was his correspondence. I had three letters from him in the time leading up to when we'd see each other again. His letters — I still have them too! — were sweet and often hilarious. He was Jewish and he had decided that when we got married, we should have two kids that we'd name Golde and Moishe. He filled his letters with little drawings and fantasies about our life together.

The day I was going to the train station to pick him up, I was both nervous and excited. My mother didn't help. She wasn't really looking forward to this visit although she was willing to go through with it and I knew she'd put on a hospitable act.

It was a warm, sunny, perfect day. I drove to Newcastle to the train station and parked where I could see the platform and where the passengers would be disembarking. I was calm and waited patiently. I heard the train whistle and saw other people who were meeting passengers get out of their cars and start to assemble on the platform.

The train lumbered in and came to a stop. As the passengers began to disembark, I got out of my car and walked over and joined the crowd.

I'll continue the story tomorrow.

(You can read part two right here.)


  1. Well, you certainly know how to tell a story! Was he on the train? Did he break your heart? Did you ever see him again? I know he isn't Dan in disguise.