Sep 3, 2012

Ode to a Friend - Tony McGee

Abigail and Dolley readers it is with great sadness that I learned the news of the passing of my friend, Anthony William McGee I.  Tony, as we all called him, was 48 years old and died unexpectedly of natural causes on 08/28/12.  Tony was the beloved brother of Pam and Donna, the son of Peggy and Junior from Pineville NC.  Tony is survived by his wife Lyn, his two daughters, Ashlyn and Amber, and his granddaughter, Layla.  Today he is reunited in Heaven with his cherished son, Will.  Tony will be missed greatly by all who loved him.

My story with Tony is an old one and a simple one, he was my first love.  It was the Summer of 1984, Tina Turner and Springsteen played on the radio, we wore parachute pants, and drove American muscle cars with racing stripes.  Older than I by four and a half years, we had never seen each other until that party at Kenneth Moore's.  Shortly after my Sweet 16, I was on a date with one of his friends.  Tony met me in a darkened hallway, I don't know if it was an accident or if he'd seen me go the restroom and was waiting for me.  It's more fun to think he was waiting on me....  He backed me up against the wall with his arms braced on either side of me, leaned down and asked me, "What's your name?"  I nearly kissed him in that moment.  The chemistry between us was amazing, not merely a spark, more like a lightening storm, beautiful, wild, and dangerous in its intensity.  I broke up with his friend that night on our ride home.

It was a classic summer romance, full of longing, passion, and fire.  I was giddy and spent every waking minute thinking of him, talking to him, or trying to figure out how I was going to get to him.  I wanted to crawl inside his skin.  He was funny and playful, full of life and love.  He laughed easy and loved to tease and tickle.  The only time he ever got mad at me was when I had a friend drop me off at Pineville Park to wait for him to get off work.  He was angry at me for being there at night, alone and made me promise I would never do that again.  Neither of us had a car, and come to think of it, Tony did not even have a license... he worked second shift and our time together was hard earned!

It was doomed from the start and in retrospect, he knew that long before me.  We came from two different worlds and our future paths did not run in parallel but our lives briefly intersected.  Love doesn't always make sense, it doesn't see the obstacles, and it believes it can defeat all. First love is powerful magic full of promise and a level of invincibility that is absent from any that should follow it. Alas, it is also a wicked double edged sword, I did not escape without scars.  In the weeks, months, and years that followed, I often wondered if it was worth it, the answer is most definitely, yes.  To have loved such a sweet soul is one of the greatest blessings of my life.

By late August, we were over and I found myself surrounded by dozens of partying friends at Myrtle Beach.  The boy I had broke up to go out with Tony was there and chased me around all weekend.  I was heart sick and simply wanted him to leave me alone.  After three days of forced revelry, I took a solitary walk down the beach.  I sat on a piece of driftwood and wept bitterly.  It is perhaps the hardest I have ever cried in my life.  An older lady came over, put her hand on my shoulder, and asked kindly, "Are you okay, Honey?" I looked up from my sobbing and told her, "I've lost someone that I love."

As the years went by, I would think of him and hope he was doing well. When he joined Facebook, I broke my "No Former Lovers as Friends" Rule and accepted his friend request.  I did it mainly because I had learned of his son's tragic death and I wanted to offer him my sincere sympathy.  I thought of him often and each time I would say a prayer for he and his family.  I was very careful not to open the Pandora's box of first love, I am a happily married woman, after all.  He respected that, but periodically would send me a short note or comment on a status with such sweetness that I realized that perhaps he too still felt a tenderness for me.

I have always been a writer and was working on my first novel the Summer we dated.  It is Tony who I use in my mind to bring that first love to the page.  It's his warm embrace and soft lips that I recall in the passages about young love.  That Summer of 1984, when we were separated by thousands of miles, we would walk outside and look at the stars.  We took comfort that we were at least looking into the same night sky and we talked to the wee hours of the morning.  I had forgotten that until he sent me a note last year and reminded me of it.  So tonight when I look at the stars, I will remember you, my friend, my dear first love - rest in peace Tony McGee, I'll see you soon enough.

Even before he died, I would hear these songs and think of him.  I'd like to think he did the same.