My Last Visit

Sometimes a tiny, almost-invisible spark appears in a girl’s eye when she is about to say ‘yes’, but even the eldest boys at the dance often miss this important signal.

As a young boy, all of the kids from the block would gather on the street and teams would be formed by Teddy H. and Bobby R. the two best athletes on the block, who would take turns choosing players for their respective team.  I was never the ‘best’ at sports, but I enjoyed playing all of them.  I remember standing beside 14 other boys, hoping I wouldn’t be last.  It didn’t matter how good a friend you were with Teddy or Bobby, you stood there anxiously waiting for one of them to look at you and nod.

But it wasn’t their nod that made you feel good for being selected early – it was that small spark in their eyes when they caught your hopeful stare – that ignited a flame inside.

“Good afternoon, Sir!”, chirped the lady at the front desk.

“Oh, uh, yes,” I suddenly awakened, “I have a reservation.”

“Your name please?”

*******

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I arrived at the airport in Toronto in the late afternoon and was waiting for the Hilton shuttle bus to take me to the hotel in Mississauga. After about 20 minutes a Hilton Airport shuttle bus arrives, and I asked the driver if he goes to the Hilton Garden Hotel in Mississauga.  He says that he only goes to the Hilton hotel on the airport strip.

‘But isn’t the airport strip in Mississauga?’ I asked politely.

The driver just shrugged his shoulders, rolled his eyes and then drove away.

So I get out my hotel reservation and call the hotel only to learn that you have to make a prior reservation/arrangement for their bus to pick you up.  I angrily hung up – which is hard when you’re using a cell phone – I miss the satisfaction of slamming a phone down onto its cradle and hearing the thunderous sound that echoes in the other person’s ears for minutes afterward.

I decided to take a limo and after the driver loaded my luggage I told him that I was going to the Hilton Garden Hotel on Matheson Ave in MisterandMissusauga, Ontario.

I checked for messages on my cell phone during the drive to the hotel, and when we arrived, I paid the driver $38 plus a $7 tip.  I got a cart, loaded my suitcases and was standing in line at the front desk.  I was daydreaming about the spark in a particular girl’s eyes, when suddenly…

*******

“Your name please?”  The lady behind the counter appeared to be getting annoyed at me.

“Sorry, yes, it’s St. Andrews” I answered, my mind racing to the present.  I looked around the hotel lobby and guessed that the hotel had only recently opened for business.  It still had that “new home” smell that makes it seem all the more ‘special’.  The smile was just beginning to form on my face when I heard…

“Are you sure you have a reservation at this hotel sir?”

“Yes!” I snapped back almost rudely.  “Is this not the Hilton Garden Hotel in MisterandMissusauga, Ontario?”

“Yes Sir, it is one of three Hilton Garden Hotels in MisterandMissusauga, Ontario!”

A crowd of onlookers began to gather in the lobby… making the scene both tense and stressful.  But I was the winner here!  Yes, and I have a copy of my hotel reservation which I am waving frantically over my head…

I approached the front desk and confidently leaned on the counter and stared into the young lady’s dark eyes and slowly, with my most excellent voice ever… whispered the following our lips just inches apart…

“Is this not the Hilton Garden Hotel on Matheson Avenue in MisterandMissusauga, Ontario?” I boldly and somewhat proudly demanded in a delivery identical to Donald the Trumpster.

“No Sir, this is not Matheson Avenue.  This street is Traders Blvd,” she replied somewhat apologetically as the crowd roared with laughter at my stupidity.

“Oh!” I tried hard to swallow, but I guess that my foot must have been between my new teeth implants.

There didn’t appear to be a spark in the young lady’s eyes, but she did come out from behind the counter to hug and console me.  I was a broken man, without a lot of options, and was hoping for a miracle.

When the front desk lady was finally able to break free from my hug, she quickly jumped back over the counter and offered to honor the reservation at this hotel if I paid the $21 difference.  It was cheaper than spending another $45 on a limo to get me to the right hotel – so I happily agreed.

I got to my room, undressed, and then fell fast asleep.

*******

Sunday, April 24th

A continuous beeping noise was the first sound that I heard, and it appeared to be coming from under the bed.  Seasoned travelers know that you should never look under a bed in a hotel room, but I was no longer a seasoned traveler – so I got out of bed, got on my hands and knees and peeked under the bed…

It was my cell phone that was beeping!  But why was it under the bed?  I remember plugging the phone into the electric outlet in the bathroom –  so how the heck was it under the bed?

I looked at the time on the clock radio; it was 2:15 in the morning! Why was my cell phone under the bed and why was it beeping? I looked at the list of callers, checked for new emails, updated my status on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus but couldn’t find a reason for my phone to be beeping – or a button on the damn thing to stop it from beeping.

And then I woke up.  The room was frigid – I could almost see my breath.  I sat up in bed and stared at myself in the mirror – and wondered what had just happened.

I quickly jumped out-of-bed and raced into the bathroom – and to my surprise, the phone was still plugged into the wall.  It had all been a dream!  I breathed a sign of relief and opened the door to the mini bar.  So many choices.

I looked at the time on the clock radio.  It was 5:15 AM, which reminded me of a song by that name.  I closed the mini bar door and decided to have a bottle of water instead.  But first, I will jump into the shower.

I was drying myself when suddenly I heard a beeping noise!

The same noise from my dream!

I looked around the room but couldn’t find the source of the beeping.  And then it suddenly dawned on me – it was coming from under the bed!

*******

This time, the search under the bed yielded the noise culprit – it was my notebook – giving me my wake up call.  Back in the day, I would have relied on getting a wake-up call from the hotel operator – usually, a hot-sounding front desk bunny softly whispering something like:

“Good morning Danny, it’s me, the gal of your dreams.  Please wake up, have a shower and shave – and meet me poolside (in the hot tub) in 20 minutes.”

Now, in the age of Star Trek, we are all a bunch of Captain Kirk wannabees – yelling into our flip phones and talking to our computers/laptops/notebooks/tablets or iWatches.

I quickly got dressed and called my youngest brother Randy, who lives in Oakville.  I would be staying at his place for most of my stay, and he and his wife Alice would be picking me up at my hotel. I wasn’t able to give him directions because I didn’t even know whereabouts in MisterandMissusauga I was staying.  But Randy has a university degree and is unusually smart (despite being married 13 times), and he assured me that they would find the hotel.

I should probably point out to those of you readers who are wondering why I didn’t stay at Randy and Alice’s place when I arrived.  It’s because I am usually so tired after a long flight and by the time that I arrive that I just want to chill and go to bed early. – and staying at a hotel is the easiest.

We had lots to discuss and plan during the two-week stay.  I was hoping to find answers about my past life in Ontario and learn more about my family and friends.

I would be attending a Lodge Meeting on Monday night – which would be my first time back since June 1982.

I also wanted to visit my parents’ grave site, see my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends in the Southern Ontario area.

And of course, I wanted to see at least one Blue Jays Game while in town.  I was also hoping to take a trip to Haliburton to my Grandparents gravesite in Ingoldsby.

*******

Monday, April 25th

I was driving to Whitby from Oakville to visit with my parents and then go to my brother Freddy’s place in Ajax, where I would be staying for the night.

I stopped at the florist shop in downtown Whitby and it was then that I noticed her!  Could it actually be her?  The Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s  lookalike that I wrote about a few years ago?

Our eyes instantly met and it was then that I saw a tiny spark…

‘It’s her!’, my heart screamed.

My mind (and heart) raced back to that magical month in downtown Toronto and the mystical Holly Golightly lady at Tiffany’s.  (Here’s the link to that story: http://danielstandrews.com/2016/03/14/my-holly-golightly-audrey-hepburn-a-love-story/ ).  But just as I cleared my head, she vanished into a crowded Tim’s Donut shop.

I entered the shop without thinking about what I would say or do.  It’s one of those things that you do on impulse – let the moment take you.  I could feel the excitement flowing through my body – but this time, I wasn’t going to let it end as it had before (see Danny’s previous post).

I stood in line searching for her but she wasn’t anywhere to be found!  How could she have disappeared?  Was I imagining this?  Yes, of course!  It was that re-occurring dream of mine: I was the “Fred” character and she was the “Holly Golightly” in my favorite movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Do dreams ever come true or do they all die?

I laughed at my silly and ongoing fascination with romantic and adventurous dreams and walked into the flower shop.  I recognized the lady behind the counter – she served me last September when I bought the roses.  She knew that I was from Vancouver as I had given her my actor/writer business card.

Once again, I purchased two roses for my parents.  But this time I noticed a display of beautiful butterflies, which I have always loved – so I had the sales lady include them in with the flowers.  Neither of us had to say what the roses or butterflies meant – she had obviously been on a similar journey in her life or maybe she has been reading my blogs – the website is listed on the business card I gave her last September.

I meant to make a mental note of her name but forgot.  And although I could see the faint outline of a tiny spark in this lady’s eyes, perhaps it too had been extinguished by a broken heart.  Who knows what burning secrets are locked in the deepest corner of anyone’s heart?

I had tears in my eyes as I left the flower shop and so did the nice lady.  I waved goodbye, wondering if I would ever be back to her store?  It’s funny but I am sure that I’ve known her from a previous life.  Or maybe she just reminds me of someone.    She never returned the wave, she just stood there staring as I drove away.

I pulled up to the Dad and Ma’s place on Thornton Road in Oshawa.  It’s just a short walk to their resting place but with each step, a new tear would fall onto the flowers that were clutched tightly in my trembling hands.

And as I laid them down, the butterflies seemed to flutter their wings – as though they wanted me to follow them – but sadly, it was just the wind.

cemetary_May2016

I sat down and stared at the gravestone and wondered why it didn’t hurt so much this time.  Had time finally healed the scars?  Was it time to finally let go?  Would this be my final visit to see them?

As I got to my feet to leave, I noticed the shadow of a person standing beside me.  I quickly turned to see who it was but there wasn’t anyone there!  I looked at the ground beside me – and the shadow was still there!  I stared in disbelief – was I finally losing it?

Suddenly, the sky darkened and a single beam of sunlight streamed from the heavens to the spot in the cemetery where I had parked.  And there beside the car was a little boy on a bicycle.  He looked strangely familiar and so did the bike he was riding.  And then it dawned on me…

Danny's first bike

It was me!

And I was staring back at me – the 9-year-old on my first bike that my Ma had bought me with money that she had saved from her housekeeping fund.  It was a used bike – just like all of the skates and most of my clothes – hand-me-downs that no longer fit any of the original owners.

I watched as Danny got on his bike and started riding out of the cemetery.  He was just leaving the gates and then he stopped, turned and waved at me to follow him!  He had a serious look on his face – it was neither happy or sad – but why was I seeing this obvious hallucination – this blast from the past?

I quickly started to walk back to the car – forgetting to even say goodbye to my parents.  Danny wanted me to follow him – I don’t know why or where but I knew that if I didn’t, I’d probably regret it.

I had no sooner gotten into the car when I noticed a beautiful scent and it appeared to be coming from the back seat.  I quickly glanced in the rear view mirror and found myself staring directly into the eyes of you-know-who.  She had a concerned look on her face but there didn’t appear to be a spark.  In fact, her eyes were dark – very dark and they seemed to be pleading with me to do something. She finally pointed her finger at the younger Danny and I knew that she wanted me to follow him.

I turned to see Danny frantically pedaling his bike down the street towards Rossland Road.  And every block or so, he would turn to see if we were following.  And we were!

Within a few minutes, we arrived at the Midtown Mall in Oshawa.  I turned to the Holly Golightly lady sitting beside me but she was just sitting still, quietly staring at the back of a house that overlooked the mall.  Tears started flowing…

It was Mrs. Simpson’s place!  This was the place where I had rented a room – no meals – just a room in the basement.  This is where I lived during my last year in high school in 1968/9.  My parents had moved to Georgetown but I stayed because I was in hopelessly in love.

It wasn’t until I had gotten out of the car that I noticed that little Danny had disappeared!  I turned to see Holly approaching the mall entrance and caught up with her just as she reached the door.  She waited quietly while I opened the door for her and she smiled at me as she entered.

I wasn’t ready for what awaited us inside.

*******

‘To everything… there is a season’ (or so the saying goes), is definitely true because everything I remembered about the mall had changed.  The Dominion Store, Gambles Department Store, Shoppers Drug Mart, Country Hearth Restaurant and even Dino’s Men’s Wear – where I worked after graduating high school – were no longer there!  There were only a few people wandering around the mostly deserted mall of my youth.  It made me sad but then I saw little Danny waving for me to follow him.  Again, he began to pedal his bike like he was going to a fire.

I ran back to my car and within minutes, I was traveling to the next old haunt on my bucket list – Sutherland Avenue – the street where I grew up on.  I parked outside our old home and searched up and down the street for a familiar face but the street was very quiet.

Our old house looked great – she had aged well with time.  I wondered how we all had managed to live in such a small home – with six children and two adults sharing a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom home and only 1 telephone on the wall in the kitchen.

I wanted desperately to sit on the front steps – just as I had all of those years ago but didn’t know if the people living there would mind.  I looked beside me and then behind me but the Holly Golightly lady was nowhere to be seen.

And as I looked back at the house, I saw my dear Ma – a much younger mom – sitting with me as a baby.

My first photo with my Ma

My Ma and me on the front steps

She was probably in her late 20’s at the time.  I wonder how many of today’s ‘Moms’ could do as well at raising a family as our moms did back in the day.

Little Danny at the front door

Little Danny at the front door

Those front steps were wonderful to see again and I decided to knock on the front door and ask if it would be okay to sit there to take a ‘selfie’.  A young lady answered the door and I introduced myself.  She smiled and seemed very happy to meet one of the home’s original inhabitants.

Her name was Nancy and she could tell that I was getting emotional.  She offered to take a few pictures of me sitting on the steps.  I handed her my cell phone and then sat down on the steps – for the first time since 1968!

13082594_10154159080869993_3204540969980358948_n

It didn’t matter that the entire street had changed.  The chestnut trees were all gone and most of the homes had had updating done.  But there was something missing.  I was just about to say goodbye to Nancy when it dawned on me to ask her if there were any of the original neighbors still living on the block?

To my surprise, she said yes!  She went on to say that Mrs. Mills from 3 doors up the street, was still alive; was 96 years old and still drove a car!  I asked Nancy if she thought that Mrs. Mills would mind if I knocked on her door to say hello?  She said she thought that Pauline would be thrilled to see me.

Wow, I didn’t know that her name was Pauline – my girlfriend in 1968 was also named Pauline.  She was the one who had broken up with me shortly after our engagement.  I heard that she’d married well and was living happily ever after, in Toronto.

I almost ran up the sidewalk – the same sidewalk that I had slept on as a young boy.  Ma said that she could never get me to take an afternoon nap and that she would often find me fast asleep on our sidewalk.

I knocked on the door and a tiny lady answered.  She was much shorter than I remembered.  But I was much younger back then and grown-ups always seemed so much taller and older.  ‘She probably won’t remember me,’ I thought.

“Hello Mrs. Mills, I don’t know if you remember me – I’m Danny St. Andrews from down the street.”

“Oh my!” she cried, “It’s so great to see you!”

She was still very alert and seemed quite independent.  We talked and talked and then I said goodbye.  She told me that Kerry, Ronny, and Philip all lived on Vancouver Island!  Kerry was the oldest of her boys and we had been the best of friends.  I have not seen any of her boys since 1968.  I gave her my business card and told her that I would keep in touch.

“Danny, I remember when you were a boy, there were 16 kids living on this street and they were always outside – from morning to night – playing.  Now, although there’s still the same number of children (if not more), and yet there is never any of them outside playing.  They are all inside their homes playing video games or watching television!” she said and then smiled as she waved goodbye.

Just as I was getting into my car, little Danny pulled up beside the car.  I rolled down the window to speak but couldn’t get a sound out.  I wanted to tell him so much.  But seeing him finally gave me something that I’d lost all of those years ago.  In 1968, I went from being an 18-year-old kid to being a grown man, with too many responsibilities and nobody to guide me but “me, myself and I”.

This is where all of my dreams were born and soon, I will be able to put them all to rest.

Danny in 1968

It has taken me a lifetime of searching to find what I was looking for and now, I was starting to ‘get’ what I had never been able to understand.

And as I drove away, I could see little Danny in the rear view mirror.  He was pedaling as fast as he could but he couldn’t keep up.  I tried slowing down but the car kept going faster.  I started screaming “faster! faster! and pleading for Danny not to give up but his poor little legs weren’t strong enough.  My eyes were filling with tears as I whispered a goodbye to him.  Our eyes met for one brief moment and I watched as the tiny spark in his eyes flickered and then he disappeared.  I hope he thinks I turned out okay or mostly okay.  Goodbye, little Danny!

Danny in better times

Little Danny

Seeing little Danny made me realize, after all of these years, that he was always afraid of not being accepted or loved.  And for a brief moment, an overwhelming sense of sadness returned; it was like a knife to the heart.  How unhappy that little boy must have been.

I drove around my hometown for the rest of the day.  And I knew that it would probably be the for the last time.  Maybe it’s true – that you can never go back?

*******

Saturday, April 30th 

It will be hard to ever forget this date.

They say that ‘sad things come in threes’.  Well, on Saturday, April 30th, it sure did.

The first shock of sadness came when I opened Facebook and saw my cousin Donna’s daughter Leila’s picture, holding her newborn son Zion before saying goodbye to him.  I cried when I read it and I am crying now as I write about it.

Zion

Can’t sleep, today is going to be a hard day. Saying goodbye to our little man, Zion. ❤ Wish this was all just a dream and I could wake up and hold you forever. ❤ R.I.P Zion ?❤

I drove to Donna’s house, knowing that she would be at the hospital.  I sat in the car in her driveway and thought back on all of the happiness in that house.  I left my business card and a lot of teardrops at the front door.  Little Zion was loved by many, many people and we will cherish him forever.  I wish that I could have given Donna and Leila a huge hug.  So very sad.

Later, on my way back to Randy and Alice’s place, my brother Freddy called to tell me that his best friend Geoff had just passed away that morning.  The funeral would be in Georgetown on Tuesday.  I told him that Randy and I would go to the funeral with him.

The third sad event that day was when I got an email message that my friend Harold’s wife had just passed away that day from cancer.  I sent him an email with my condolences.  Harold works at Surrey Memorial Hospital/Fraser Valley Cancer Centre and I know that all of his co-workers are with him and share his sadness.

I can’t remember a day or week so sad.  It sure wasn’t turning out to be the exciting trip that I had planned.

********

Monday, May 2nd

On Monday, I drove to Cambridge, Ontario to meet with three of the guys that used to work with me in Western Canada.

wrg1

Western Region Alumni (L-R) Maurice, Gerry, Danny, and Allan.

We worked hard, played harder and always got out of town before anyone could catch us.

I asked the waitress to take some pictures/video of us.

Happy to meet…

WR3 (2)

sorry to part…

Happy to meet, sorry to part, hoping to meet again...

and hoping to meet again…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, May 3rd

Randy and I drove to Georgetown to attend Geoff Parker’s funeral.  We paid our respects to his wife Nancy and their children and grandchildren.  It was great to see his brother Greg, who I used to hang out with in the early 70’s.  It was the first time we’ve seen each other since 1973!

Before leaving, we decided to visit the house on Delrex Blvd. in Georgetown where my parents moved to in 1968 (I remained in Oshawa to finish high school).

DelrexBlvd

Delrex Blvd., Georgetown

 

 

 

 

 

Another sad goodbye...

Another sad goodbye…

 

 

 

 

Randy and I then returned to his place in Oakville to get ready to go to the Blue Jays game that night.

******

The baseball game was a thrilling, nail biter.  I bought some souvenirs and then Randy and I headed back to Oakville on the train.

BLUEJAYS2

(R-L) Sister Linda, her son Russell, Danny and Randy. Freddy is standing above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was on the GO Train that night that I realized that what I had come to Ontario searching for, was no longer there.  The burning questions had all been answered.  The flame was dying… a tiny spark continued to flicker for a few painful moments… and then everything became quiet and at peace.

It was finally time to let go of that Holly Golightly lady.  The movie character I loved as a teenager and my life-long crush was just a silly fantasy – and it finally dawned on me why.  Little Danny always dreamed of things that he could never hope to ever have but it never stopped him from trying, because quitters seldom win.  Besides, Audrey Hepburn passed away some years ago – why chase a dead dream?

And it was also time to finally store away all of the other memories from that period of my life.

But saying goodbye to my little Danny was the hardest part of my past to let go of – and I couldn’t.  Because little Danny is who I was; who I am; and the who I hope to always be!

The next morning I returned to Vancouver – to my Holly Golightly.

My Holly Golightly - she's a Coton de Tulear

My Holly Golightly – she’s a Coton de Tulear

 

And that is where a spark always shines – in her eyes and in my heart.

Hugs,

Danny