that I haven’t seen in many, many years. Feels almost silly or as if the tears would be forced. Haven’t seen him since a niece had a skate party and we just happened to be in town after a move to Massachusetts and were able to go. The skate rink…..spent so many hours there. Christian Skate Night on Tuesday nights with my bestie during college. Taking the school age kids twice a week during the summer when I ran Shady Oaks summer program (even drove a school bus!).
I remember one of my favorite songs to skate to back then….Gloria. The guy who worked the day care skate days. He was young, cute and wore white pants (Why white pants? I do not know! Never a good idea guys.)
The people I met on Tuesday nights. The older couple….the husband called me “Brown Sugar” because of my dark skin. I think his wife ended up calling me that, too.
Rich and Cathy and their daughter. They were pretty good to me. Opened their home up to me and I stayed there for a summer between sophomore and junior year in college. They fed me frog legs and turtle for the first time. It was the last time, too.
And then there was Tony. Tony was the manager of the skating rink. He was about 5 years older than me and had a twinkle in his eye and a smile that was unmistakable. He drove hot cars and the young girls at the rink were drawn to him. He was a nice guy. Like, a really nice guy. I had such a crush on him.
I remember many conversation in the booths at the snack bar at the rink. See, Tony was Catholic and I was Christian. Back then, it never occurred to me that there were Catholics who were Christians, too. I lived in my own little bubble of how I thought and was taught that Jesus was and if you didn’t fit within that mold, well, you needed my guidance. So, Tony and I had great conversations about religion, denominations, personal relationships with Jesus, man-made rules, faith and hope. And even though I’d go back and change much of what I may have said, our conversations were still deep and solid.
I’m pretty sure I wanted to be sure that Tony was a believer so that I could possibly date him. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was the case.
I remember someone at school telling me that I shouldn’t witness to Tony because he might accept Jesus just because he liked me. I found that to be the most foolish advice I’d ever been given and I’m glad to this day that I ignored it. We still talked faith. We talked about a lot of things.
I remember sitting in a bank line once. I was in the very far lane and the teller came over the intercom and said “the guy in lane one says hello”. I looked over and sure enough, it was Tony. I’m pretty sure I smiled for a week. He was so adorable.
August 2009, Tony was playing golf and was stuck by lightening. He spent the next six years in a wheelchair and made his residence in a nursing home. I watched videos of him celebrating his birthday there and that twinkle in his eyes and that beautiful smile remained.
Tony passed away March 19, 2015. On my birthday, no less.
The last time I saw Tony in person was at the skate party I mentioned above. I laced up my skates, after many moons of not doing so, stood up, felt a bit of vertigo because, like, when did I get so tall??? And once I got myself adjusted to the wheels again, I skated over to Tony and said “remember me?”. He said “how could I forget!”.
Tony, there is not a chance I will ever forget you!