Getting there

Getting there

Friday, December 30, 2011


It was on the front page of the Yahoo Canada website. Sometimes I go there to read the news, and there, in the first headline, was a name I recognized. I didn't just recognize the name, though. It was someone I knew many, many years ago. The headline read "Canadian producer, writer, dead at 63", and my heart skipped a beat.

When I was in my early twenties I was living in downtown Toronto. I was working in a very small veterinary clinic, just the vet and a couple of other staff. We had a small but devoted clientele, too, the kind that is small enough that you get to know everyone by name and personality. Due to our location in downtown TO we had a fair number of local "celebrities" as clients - actors, comedians, musicians, and the like. One of them was the Canadian producer and writer mentioned in the headline above.

I won't say I knew him well, as I didn't. But I did speak to him many times, when he would call or bring his pets in to see us. He was then about the same age as I am now, and he was doing very well in his career at that point. He was a nice man, tremendously funny, and seemed to enjoy teasing me. I didn't realize then that men in their forties can get quite a thrill from flirting with young women in their twenties - I suppose I was a bit naive in that regard. He was never truly over the line, but I recall once when he asked about my hair. I coloured my hair a flaming brilliant red back then, and one day with a grin he asked if ALL my hair was that shade. It took me a moment to realize what he was asking and when I did I suspect I blushed a shade far deeper than my crimson hair. He laughed, and apologized, and we both smiled. Ever after, though, when I saw him he would comment on how nice my hair looked and we would both giggle.

I left Toronto many years ago, but I never forgot many of the people I met there, including him. I didn't really follow his career, assuming he would do well as he was talented and bright and funny and just seemed the sort to achieve everything he wanted. I thought of him on occasion over the years, but never with any serious thought, in the same way I thought of many of our other clients from those days at the veterinary clinic.

In an odd coincidence I was talking about the veterinary clinic in Toronto just yesterday morning, and so it was on my mind. When I saw the headline on Yahoo I was saddened to see that someone I knew from then, and had liked so much, was dead. When I read the article, though, I was heartsick. He wasn't just dead but had taken his own life in a Hollywood hotel room. That bright, funny, talented, charming man had ended his own life far before his time to leave this planet.

He had left a final post on his blog, a suicide note I guess. I admit that I read it, which might seem voyeuristic but as a writer I know that even when we write just for ourselves we secretly hope someone will read it. And so I read it, because I know he left it meaning it to be read. It touched me, too, because I recognized the signs of someone in a deep depression (having once experienced this myself). I saw the hopelessness, the sense that the world has just stopped making sense. And I cried at the end, knowing that this was his final message to the world.

As I said I didn't know him well, and yet I've never forgotten him, either. I'll never forget his smile or the way he teased me about that red hair. I don't claim the right to mourn him - and yet I do. Because he touched my life, if only for a brief time. Because his loss is real and true and sad. Because he felt so awful about the world that he felt he needed to leave it. Because he will be missed. And just because he was the sort of person who would tease a naive twenty-something girl and make her feel special for a moment. There's something in that, I think.

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