I'm listening to Wednesday morning folk with Merianne on KMUN this morning and singing along to some of my favorite songs....and reminiscing about what life was like with The Best Boyfriend Ever, back in the day when we'd go camping in the big red van, roaming Colorado and Utah canyonlands, and sitting around a campfire at night while he played his banjo and I sang the songs we knew, sometimes solo and sometimes harmonizing.
I remember those days so fondly. Gil was a funny man, proficient on the banjo, an IBM guy who worked on multiple government classified projects before he retired, cute in his curly-headed lanky way. We were quite the pair: "Kit and Gil, up next" on the open mic roster at Swallow Hill in Denver. I have a notebook full of the songs we knew, some I'd never heard before but came to love as I learned the words and harmonies: "Summer Wages", "Amelia Earhart", Walt Michaels stuff.
We were together for three lovely years. He wasn't much for saying "I love you" but I figured he did love me and was willing to let it lie. He acted like he loved me and that was enough until one afternoon, sitting on a hillside at White Ranch, outside of Golden, he said, "we need to talk" and tearfully told me that he had been unfaithful with a woman friend in his AA group.
I had followed his lead in so many ways, attending AlAnon meetings to understand my own behavior with people who were alcoholics, learning to sing with a mic, depending on his companionship to brave the kind of camping we did, getting familiar with the "circle of fifths", basking in his admiration of my singing ability, getting to know his friends and his banjo-playing son, laughing at his jokes, admiring the way AA had helped him shape his life.
He asked me to forgive him,. I told him I did---too quickly, probably---and we went on from there. But something was broken, and a few months later, he told me that he needed to sort out his life and he wanted to just be friends from then on.
Like many so-called "just friends", we had a hard time with that. I couldn't believe he was really gone and he couldn't believe I couldn't let go. We kept trying to be friends rather than lovers but it never really worked.
But our separation made it possible for me to answer the call to ministry that I felt so strongly a year after our breakup. And four years later, he and his current lady attended my ordination and I got ready to move to Portland.
Gil visited me in Portland, sans lady friend, a couple of times and it became evident that he was not well. He'd had some weird reactions to medicines, his vision had gotten wonky, and he couldn't manage the banjo any more. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease, and his health went downhill from there. I'd talk with him by phone occasionally till he couldn't manage a conversation any more. I made friends with the lady friend who had stuck by him during his failing health; I talked with her more than I could talk with Gil.
And then he died. But I never got over those blue eyes.