“A stunning first impression was not the same thing as love at first sight.
But surely it was an invitation to consider the matter”
Lois McMaster Bujold
In 1981 I started reading a book by Robert Ludlum called The Bourne Identity (perhaps you’ve heard of it)? I was 14 years old and loved to read murder mysteries, thrillers and desperately romantic short novellas (which sounds ever so much more exotic than the 104 or thereabouts Harlequin Romances I read one summer). They all had stories about things I did not fully understand but of course was intensely curious about. Most of my friends read Tiger Beat or Seventeen or nothing at all, so I pretty much discussed my latest book of intrigue with the dog or the cat if they’d listen. I was interrupted in the middle of Jason Bourne and his Greek satchel entering a bank vault and finding his stash of passports and money and guns, when Angus McKay knocked at our door. His best friend Pete had recently started dating my sister and he was looking for him. He was almost 5 years older than me and I knew who he was but had never spoken to before. The conversation went something like this:
“Who’s book are you holding kid?” said Angus, acting cool and sporting a smug smile, hair that curled and messed on top of his head like he’d not brushed it in days.
“ I would appreciate not being called a KID first of all and it happens to be my book but perhaps a Neanderthal such as yourself couldn’t understand such big words!” (that was me, sweet and such)
Throws head back and laughs. “ Well looks like somebody shit in your cornflakes this morning kid. Bourne gets killed in the end you know, have you made it to Berlin yet?”
Sarah, momentarily fluxed, pulls out the big zingers in her 14-year-old repertoire, stamps foot for impact. “ Well you are ridiculous, of course he won’t die. Honestly can’t believe you couldn’t even make it through ‘til the ending so you made that up. I refuse to speak to you any longer!” Stomping out of room, back straight, shoulders back.
Angus, chuckling calls out “ don’t skip to the back, just ‘cause you can’t stand it now!”
And that was our first meeting. Epicly underwhelming I know but it set the course for many more years of fun for Angus and me, like an old dog, never fully developing the capacity to resist reacting to his always deliberate attempts to make me stomp my foot. For him, it’s like sport.
For many years thereafter Angus and I hung out with a crowd of friends from our hometown. I was one of the youngest but somehow always connected with this group. We drove around in the guys ‘souped up cars, hung out in driveways and coffee shops and at night held bush parties in fields far away from our parents, car radios at maximum volume ‘til the batteries died or the sun came up. We never dated, just circled the wagons so to speak and more than once I asked him if he liked me, which he vehemently denied and then would proceed to tell me that whoever my boyfriend was at the time, he didn’t deserve me. He organized camping trips for us all on more than one occasion, booked the sites, rememebered to bring wood and an axe, reminded us to bring food and tents and beer and basically looked after us all to a degree. When my parents divorced and my living circumstances changed dramatically, he didn’t miss a beat, just showed up at the new addresses as I moved, again and again and never questioned the whys or the how comes?
When he graduated from College, he took me as his date, even though he insisted we were just friends. His father showed up in full Navy formal dress whites and boomed and saluted everyone, and his Mother delighted me with stories about being a girl in Montreal. There was a (not to be indelicate) “larger” girl in his class who was good friends with him, who leaped up on a table in the full swing of events at the dance and crashed to the floor in a magnificent boom and splintering of wood, much to his amusement and my horror. Later on that evening, sitting on somebodies living room floor. while Angus and his multiple Rye and Cokes snoozed in a corner, she kind of threatened my life through clenched teeth in a whispery, Cruella-de Ville kind of way and told me he would someday be hers. In reflection, I think I viewed that as a challenge.
And so our lives moved forward, diverged and intersected and our friendship remained strong. My Grandmother loved Angus for of course, his parents had taught him how to treat and respect their elders. She’s wink and say. “ Is that boy coming ‘round whenever she’d visit, the one with the curly hair?” I ‘d long since given up on whether or not he was interested romantically until one night when a bunch of us went to the best, or worst, depending on perspective, bar in town, across the street from my University, Wilfrid Laurier. The rules at Phil’s Grandsons Place were pretty much don’t look up, don’t look at the floor, don’t wear sandals and beware the barbers’ chair. We were all hanging out and enjoying our cheap drinks and too loud but great music when a mystery blonde sidled up to our table and started putting the moves on Angus. I was aghast and irritated by this ‘Trampenstein! “ Like seriously who does she think she is?” I fumed to my bf Michele. Michele just laughed, long and deep and then looked me in the eye and said “ Sarah my dear, I think you’re jealous.” I was so taken aback by that statement I couldn’t react immediately (well that and the shots from the barber chair). I protested “ Of course I’m not jealous, like I don’t want him, he’s too old for me and well it’s just that nobody else can have him… wait, uhmmm… Whatttt??? Arghhh…” and I stomped my foot.
Fast-forward a few months, literally three or four months, and we were sitting on a bench in Stratford and engaged. My friends at University were shocked, thought I was rushing things. My grandmother was over the moon and gave me away at our wedding. One of our friends (well not really friend since I’d declined his romantic gestures several years earlier) said, the night we ran into him in the beer store parking lot, “ hmphhh, I give it a year.”
So began our marriage, 27 years and a day later (I struggle with timelines) and a million moments all building a thread in time. Twelve houses, renovations galore, “up” sales and “down” sales, friends and neighbours all along the way. Two children born, raised and off in the world, our greatest tribute to our marriage is those girls. He held my hand through the thick and thin, always trying to understand the Venus in me with the Mars in him.
When my Grandmother was dying on the 6th floor, I was suffering our third miscarriage on the 4th and I told him to stay with her and say nothing. I left the recovery room and came upstairs, took a deep breath and smiled as I entered the room. She lit up when she saw me and told me how she’d been telling “the boy” about her dreams of our new baby, it would be a girl with red hair. She loved our firstborn Catey so much and was delighted we were expecting again. He was smiling with her and didn’t ever let her know, for that I am ever grateful because I am sure it was very hard for him to sit and pretend. She died dreaming of that baby and as it turns out a year later our second daughter, Aidan (Gaelic for little fire), was born.
When Princess Diana died and I walked around for weeks bursting into tears at random moments, he was perplexed to be sure but didn’t, for once, tease me in my grief. I still don’t understand that myself. When our girls were faced with Diabetes and brain surgery, he let me do what I needed to do, focus all of my Mom energies and he kept’ all the proverbial balls (mortgage, bills, life outside of hospitals) up in the air. We have rebuilt and restored homes, moved across the country, travelled some and dream of more. We are in sync most days, not all to be sure but always together inspirit. Sometimes in recent years our 21-year-old brains have been betrayed by our fifty + year old bodies and we laugh about it and move on anyway. Our breakfast these days involves Vitamins and Bran Buds, not quite the sexy scene one might have expected that sunny day in May, 27 years ago. Still we wouldn’t have it any other way.
So happy anniversary Angus McKay, love of my life and in-house everything ❤