Mike and DenisDeano and Mike

“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.” ~Mitch Albom

I’ve been going back and forth since I found out about the death of my very first love on Tuesday about whether to write this blog or not. I have been walking into walls all week, however, and after seeing a moving, beautiful video of him late last night,I have decided that like everything else in my life, I owe it to myself and all of my followers to be all out there on this blog.

First, it is important to point out that there is a difference between a first love and your true love. I have married my true love.I am forever grateful that I have him, and we have our beautiful family. A testament to how much he loves me is that he understood the difference between a first love and a true love, as well, and allowed me to grieve this week without making me feel bad for one second. Anyone who knows us as a couple knows that he is so secure in my love for him that he embraces my past – and everyone in it. Thank you, Al. I love you very very much.

That being said, I have never, however, forgotten my first love. His name was Michael. And, he was one of the most special people I have ever known.

Secondly, it is important to remember that although Michael was my first love, I wasn’t necessarily his. In fact, I’m sure I wasn’t. I can honestly say that I don’t know who his first love was. It doesn’t matter, though. If you ask me, this is usually the way of it.

In any case, I have just been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love I have received from people wanting to comfort me. This makes the sadness a little easier to cope with. It was so long ago, I wasn’t even sure that people remembered us together, and how we made each other happy, and how, whatever it meant to him, it meant everything to me.

Michael was funny – he could light up a room. He had beautiful eyes and a laugh that cannot even be described in words. I used to tease him that it sounded like a hyena. But, that doesn’t really do it justice. He loved old school rap, his friends and his cats. When we were in high school, he had one with six toes on one paw. This caused much laughter for my friend Jill and I. I don’t   know why. We were in high school, I guess, and things like that are funny.

Michael had a little white Toyota – I’m pretty sure it was a Corolla. My heart would leap when I would see it round the corner and head down Doe Lane. A group of guys would pile out (sometimes Mike Volpe, sometimes Jimmy Stiling, Mike Galgliano and usually Chuckie Sciarabba, Kurt Becker, Eric Spinato and Chris McNamara.) You see, Mike was popular, he was the kind of guy everyone wanted to be around. He had a lot of friends, In addition to the White Toyota crew, there was Denis Spronck, Eric Person,  Kenny Barone and the list goes on and on. Jill and I were only Freshmen and they were Juniors so, our curfews were quite different. So, Jill and I would wait for them, under the streetlight, listening to Whitney Houston, Bryan Adams and Doug E. Fresh. Then, the little white car would come around the corner and we would be together. Lots of laughs, singing, talking and love on Doe Lane. The minute Mike stepped out of the car, the butterflies would start. I was in LOVE.

The summer before my freshman year was one of the happiest of my life. I wrote “Nicole & Michael 4Eva” on everything (I’m pretty sure it’s still etched into the streetlamp mentioned above.) I practiced writing Nicole Ann Donahue eight million times and when he would leave, I would go to my room and listen to love songs all night. I would fantasize about walking down the aisle with him and what our kids would look like.

In addition to Doe Lane, we had lots of good times at his house. The cat with the six toes (WHAT was his name??), watching TV (Blues Brothers was one of his faves) and just being together, talking for hours, and, of course, laughing our asses off.

The love I had for him was certainly deeper than the feelings he had for me but, it didn’t matter. This is the thing; most woman have a guy that they will be a fool for, that they will treat better than they are treated, and that they will remember forever, no matter how it turns out. Michael was that guy for me.

In hindsight, we were just kids. During my entire high school years, Michael went on to be with other girls but, when they didn’t work out – he would call me. And I would jump. This went on pretty much throughout my entire high school years. In between my boyfriends, I would inevitably end up hanging out with Michael. It only stopped after I met my husband. When he called that time I said “no”. To say he was surprised is putting it mildly.

I was lucky enough to be able to see him at my sister’s engagement party and we had a beautiful talk that made me feel so much better about what we had. I was married by then, had two little kids he got to meet and was in the middle of a grueling chemo regiment. He was funny (as usual), made me laugh and made me feel beautiful although, believe me – I felt anything but.

And, through the years we kept in touch, mainly through e-mail but, it meant a lot to me. Not many people can say that they stayed in touch with their first love until their adulthood but, I was fortunate enough to. Every once in a while I would open my e-mail and find one from him just to check on how I was doing and what was new. He thought I owned a hair salon (where he got that from, I have no idea – I can hardly do my own hair!). He told me that Denis Spronck straightened him out on that. He was proud that I owned my own business and had a family and was very happy that I had made it through all of my health issues. He made me feel beautiful. He made sure I knew that – he was kind.

I am so overwhelmed by all of the outpouring of love and support I have received this week. It was so long ago, I wasn’t sure anyone even remembered us together, except for my close friends, of course. But, they did. And, for that I am so grateful. In my mind, in some odd way, it validated the fact that whatever it was we had, it was real, on both sides. It’s helping me to heal. I thank you all.

Although I hadn’t seen him recently, one of my dearest friends, Dean Spinato, did. He texted me while he was with him and sent me a picture of them, sitting around a table at a restaurant, smiling. It may have been one of his last pictures, and I will treasure it forever. I was able to tell Dean to send Michael my love and give him a hug for me. I’m so glad I got that. Thank you, Dean.

My sadness is mixed with guilt, however. Cancer, sepsis, twenty surgeries and I am still here. Why? Michael was such a great person who made everyone around him happy. Why is he gone? Why were Chuck or Vincent or Jerry or Keith or Lee or all the rest of the classmates that we lost taken too soon? My greatest hope is that they are all together now. Laughing and reminiscing and having a great old time. None of them deserved to be taken from us. Why should I be so blessed to still be here? I always go back to my Grandmother’s belief – that it’s in the book. Just as the day you are born is predetermined, so is the day that you die. Another theory is that their work on this earth is done, or that God needs them, or that they were too good for this life. The truth is, none of it makes sense. Not really. Maybe someday we will understand the meaning of it all but, when that time will be is a mystery that has been pondered by theologians, philosophers and scientists since the beginning of time. There has been no definitive answer, as far as I know.

One thought that makes me happy when I’ve thought about Michael, and seen all of the beautiful tributes that people posted this week on Facebook, is that he really lived. He loved, he laughed, he played sports, he worked, he had more friends than you can count, he loved his family with all of his heart and most importantly, he spent his time making others happy.

I am so sorry for his family, his friends and all those who loved him. If he was someone elses first love, I am sorry for them. I am sorry for whatever animals were in his life now (he loved animals – and always had cats – my particular favorite name he gave one of his cats was Suka). I am just sorry. And sad.

There is a piece of my heart that will be forever changed. But, I’m ok with that. It was worth it.

And for anyone who knew Michael, and is hurting right now, I hope you take comfort in these words.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ~Mark Twain

And, the passing of Michael is another good time to remind everyone what I have learned over the past decade, being sick at such a young age.

“No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow”. ~Euripides

Please, laugh a lot, spend time with family and friends, hug your kids, eat that piece of cake, take vacations, don’t wait for the movie to come out on video, buy that bag you want and don’t ever forget that tomorrow is never promised to you. Tell people you love them.

We love you, Michael. May you rest in peace.

Mike 85