Our own stories from the Vinyl Cafe: on letting the men you love know it

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

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As men, we need to tell the men we love that we love them. We need to tell them so they know they are loved, and we need to do it for ourselves too. So that we are open with emotions and don’t get saddled with unspoken words too late in life.

It sounds simple, and it probably should be.

The problem is, many of us don’t know how to do this. I certainly don’t. So we give high fives, or we tell stupid jokes, or we talk to these men about sports or some other mutual interest and hope they know we love them.

We rarely come out and say that we love another man or that they have impacted our lives.

Stuart McLean just announced a more permanent than ever break from the Vinyl Cafe. The break, as he mentioned himself, is to take care of himself as he undergoes cancer treatments.

For many reasons, I love Stuart McLean and I am grateful for what he has done for my life.

Spending time with Stuart

Often, you don’t know how strongly you have built a relationship until you take to look back at it. This is called “taking things for granted.” We assume people will always be with us and that the emotions they help us feel will always be there. With the announcement he made, I just so happened to find myself looking back at the relationship Stuart and I, two men who have never met, have had.

He has traveled with us on our own trips out East, the kids in the back seat drawing pictures, while Andrea and I drove through the hilly roads of new Brunswick listening to Dave and Morley. Our kids, who are now seven and four, could tell you exactly how bad it smelled in the family car in the Christmas on the Road episode.

He has provided the wedding anniversary entertainment for my partner and me at numerous Ottawa Christmas shows. We would always sit up close and marvel at how effortlessly he interacted with the crowds. On the drive home, we’d pop in a CD of his Christmas episodes and laugh as Dave went on his turkey adventures. We would sit in the car for a few extra minutes if it meant getting to hear the final few words of a story.

His roundabout story helped me laugh off a terrible half marathon I ran one spring weekend. I turned on the car radio angry, and left the car laughing at the image he helped me conjure of a village driving in circles.

Share your own stories when you can

I feel that for all the stories he has shared with me over the years, I owe him my own story. And what I have learned from him as a person and as a storyteller, is that the number of words we write is not directly tied to how important our stories are.

Last night I burst through the door at 11:15 p.m. and dropped everything so I could bring my phone upstairs. I lay down beside my partner and rested the phone on a pillow between us. There we listened quietly to a Vinyl Cafe Christmas story we somehow hadn’t yet heard. We spent 15 minutes in silence, having already discussed the Vinyl Cafe hiatus news earlier that day. After about eight minutes, she put her hand on my back. After ten minutes I had put mine on hers too. It was amazing how familiar a story we had never heard could sound.

But there we were, listening to a familiar voice tell an unfamiliar tale. We laughed at every turkey reference and cried at moments that brought back memories of our own first Christmas. And, as usual, there was plenty of silence as we let Stuart’s voice fill the bedroom. It ended with a clap from the crowd and still more tears in our eyes.

Then it was over, the story done, the clapping over, the tears wiped away. We went on about our night as people do. But it was sad listening and knowing there would be no more stories from Stuart. For now.

So, let it be known, thank you Stuart for the memories you have given us so far. It is no stretch to suggest your voice and your words have helped shape our relationship. I suspect the same is being said to you from thousands of others who consider you a close friend.

We love you. I love you. You are loved.

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