Day 216 - Colin

Day 216 - Colin (3rd person I approached)

August 05, 2014 - Today was another first. I have a couple of friends visiting from out of town, so I spent the day being a tourist and tour guide in our wonderful city. We took the train home and, sure that my friends would make it back to my place, I set out to meet a stranger, at 11:00pm…


Colin was sitting on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette. He was charging his phone in a conveniently placed electrical outlet outside the restaurant he was sitting in front of. When I walked toward him, based on my first ‘read’ I wasn’t sure how my approach was going to be received. I told him what I was doing, showed him my Facebook page and explained the story would also involve taking his picture. He was absolutely willing to chat, photo and all. I sat down on the sidewalk next to Colin.


He was born in the township of Langley (British Columbia), about 45 minutes east of Vancouver. 

“I have one brother, he’s two years older than I am. When I was seven years old, my mother remarried and my stepfather wasn’t really into having children around. He was wealthy and so my brother and I were sent to a private boarding school in Vancouver. There were a number of issues that generated for me from his actions. Some of which I worked through in my twenties and some of which I’m still working through,” said Colin.

“My stepfather divorced my mother when I was about 15 years old and it wasn’t a nice situation. It was a very difficult time. He was incredibly mean and uncaring, and my mother left that marriage with nothing. My brother had earned himself a scholarship at our boarding school. I wasn’t able to continue going there as my mother, now a single parent of two, could not afford the fees and tuition. I finished high school in Langley. I was a bit of a savant, had artistic interests, and was an emotionally sensitive kid. I liked Mary Tyler Moore and that wasn’t something that I felt I could share with my friends,” he said laughing.

“I mean I thought she was hot, a strong woman who was in control and confident. I’m a Pisces, and I’ve always known that a strong woman would be an ideal match for me, adding a good balance. Someone to keep me going and on track when the sensitive artist side might derail me."


"I also knew that I wanted to have children. I wanted to have children to become a father. I also wanted a strong woman to be their mother. I wasn’t even sure I was interested in marriage. I didn’t want my children to have a childhood like mine. I wanted to offer them a better experience growing up than I had,” said Colin. I asked him if he meant not having the experience that he had having a stepfather, and being sent to boarding school.

“Yeah, that too. My stepfather was a pedophile. He abused me from the start. Whenever I came home from school. It got to the point that I would stay at school to avoid dealing with him. I later found out he had being abusing some of my friends as well. Everybody deals with things in different ways. Some people act out, some self medicate and some suppress the memories and feelings in order to try not to feel them. I suppressed it all,” he said. 


After graduating high school, Colin went to Mexico.

“I wanted to be in a place that to me represented a spiritual grounding, rather than religious. I had spent some time when I was in Grade eleven or twelve trying to understand what religion was. My stepfather was Jewish and I knew nothing about it, so I went to a synagogue. I wanted information, and to know things. What I discovered was that I’m more of a spiritual person, the Aztec history and culture in Mexico appealed to me. I wasn’t into a resort style vacation. I travelled around and spent time trying to work through some of the feelings I had been suppressing,” he said. Colin spent a year in Mexico. At this point in our conversation, Colin’s phone rang. He answered telling whoever called to ‘park across the street, give me five minutes.’


"When I came back to Vancouver I got a job as a busboy and then a server in a restaurant. Expo ’86 (World’s Fair) happened in Vancouver and I got some work there. Life was going good. I was working, I had my own apartment and things were looking up. I felt stronger about my past and had managed to work through a lot of my personal issues. I was getting some counselling and support. It was easier back then, not like the years long waiting list that our broken system is now. There was help available when I was in need,” said Colin. 


“Then I met a women. We saw each other, locked eyes and spent most of the next two years together. It was like love at first sight, for both of us. We drove down to Mexico and had a great trip, and I asked her to marry me. She knew what my goals were. She met the things that I felt for myself were qualities in a woman that I wanted to have children with. She was a strong woman, she believed in commitment and I was in love. Somewhere on the trip we conceived our first child,” said Colin. They got married and over the next ten years, had three sons.

“I’m open and honest with my children. I want them to feel they’ve had a good childhood and that we have a good strong relationship. It’s important to me. I started my own business as a painter and in time it grew and became very successful. I was able to buy a nice home in Kerrisdale (a middle-upper class neighbourhood) and life was great.” 


Twenty four years after meeting the love of his life, his wife ended their relationship.

“I was devastated. The one thing that I always knew I didn't want to happen, was happening. I fell apart. My sons stayed with her, and she asked me to leave our home. I didn’t know what to do, or how to handle the emotions. I was feeling suicidal and checked myself into a psych ward. I spent about four weeks there, getting an assessment, working though some things. I wanted to get to a place where I felt safe for myself. It took the better part of a year to work through things. I started to feel that I was strong enough to pick up the pieces and move on with my life,” he said. 


Colin’s phone rang again and he answered it and told the caller ‘one minute!’ and hung up. It was Colin’s oldest son, who had driven to pick up Colin and drive him home. I could see a vehicle parked on the other side of the street about half a block away. There was someone hanging out the driver’s window looking at us. That was Colin’s son.


I suggested we continue talking while we walk toward the car.

“That was two years ago that my wife ended our relationship. Last December (2013), she called and asked to see me, that she needed to talk. We talked and she told me she had made a huge mistake. She asked if we could work on our relationship and get back together. She kissed me and it was kiss like it used to be. I am still in love with her. I couldn’t say no,” he said. They are living together again as a family.

“My oldest son is leaving tomorrow to go to Shambala,” said Colin with an air of pride in his voice. Shambala in the largest and longest running music and art in nature festival in Canada. Shambala limits attendance to ten thousand attendees and accepts no corporate sponsorship. It depends entirely on a dedicated team of two thousand volunteers.


Then another first for me, with this project that just keeps giving. I met Colin’s very handsome oldest son. We had arrived at the vehicle and Colin opened the passenger door. His son must have wondered who I was. I said hello and explained why I was talking with Colin and thanked him for his patience waiting for his Dad. His son said ‘Don’t worry about it. take your time. He’s got an interesting story to tell.’ Colin put his belongings in the car, and standing against the vehicle, continued chatting.

“My son came to pick me. I’m working on a painting job nearby and as it’s so hot lately, I’ve been painting in the evenings when it’s cooler. That's why I'm dressed like this and have paint splatters all over my clothes.” I commented that Colin and his son must have a good relationship for his son to come and pick up his Dad at the end of the day. His son made a waving gesture with his hand, as if to say ‘well…’  and then laughed. Colin smiled,

“Yes we do have a good relationship. You know, it doesn’t matter how far off track, or how far apart things go. If you stick to your own beliefs and stay true to yourself, things can work their way back together again. You just have to stay true and honest.” #notastranger