By Dennis McCloskey
You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.
When I first spotted Kris, she was driving a canary-yellow Ford Mustang two-door sports coupe with six cylinders under the hood and a four-speed manual transmission. Years later I would joke that I fell in love with the car before I fell in love with the tall, blond driver.
Kris and her girlfriend — both teachers — were moving into the same Toronto apartment building where I lived with my long-time buddy. The year was 1972 and all four of us were recent university graduates and starting our careers.
I was an eligible, twenty-four-year-old bachelor and Kris was a stunning bachelorette. We both loved sports and soon became good friends. Very quickly we discovered that downhill skiing was our passion.
For the next year, as we progressed from companionship to love, we found that the relationship was quickly "going downhill" — that is, we were downhill skiing often at the Blue Mountain ski area in Collingwood, Ontario. Once, on a mountain outside of Calgary, Alberta, I hinted to Kris that one day I would propose to her on top of a mountain.
For years, I'd had an abiding desire to move to Australia. The more I learned about it, the more I fell in love with it. I liked the Aussie's love of sport and the temperate climate, with 340 sunny days a year in the city of Sydney. That appealed to me since Canada sometimes seems like ten months of winter, and two months of bad skiing!
Best of all, I would not have to give up my love of downhill skiing because Aussies ski in the snow-clad Australian Alps — in July and August.
I decided I would quit my job, give up my apartment and move Down Under. That was the easy part.
The hard part would be telling Kris.
She knew of my desire to live in a country 9,670 miles from Toronto, and had made it clear she would never leave the country of her birth, her family and friends, or her teaching career.
I knew that in order to realize my dream I'd have to break up with Kris.
I chose a warm summer evening to break the news to her. I invited her to go for a walk with me in the neighborhood, and brought along some tissues because I knew there would be tears from both of us.
As we sauntered along Talara Drive, near our building, I broached the subject slowly. "You know how I've always wanted to move to Australia?"
She slowed her pace. "Yes," she replied somewhat hesitantly and expectedly, as though she knew what was coming.
"Well, I'm going to move there at the end of the summer. I wish you would come with me."
Kris stopped and looked deep into my eyes. I saw a tear roll down her cheek. I prepared for the waterworks that I knew were coming, but I was taken off guard.
"Dennis," she said in a voice as kind as could be. "I just want you to be happy, and if this will make you happy, I think you should go."
Whoa! That's not the reaction I was expecting!
Was this a test to see how much I loved her? No. I realized she was speaking one of the fundamental truths of the universe: that love isn't owned and it can't be taken, only given. She knew if you really love someone, you have to give him the freedom to choose.
I mumbled something like, "Oh, okay, um, well, we'll see."
We continued on our way but I was deep in thought about this wonderful woman walking next to me. If she was willing to sacrifice her happiness so I could live my dream, she was a very special lady.
In the coming weeks my life's priorities changed. My desire to emigrate to Australia weakened as my love for Kris strengthened. A year after that fateful walk, Kris and I were skiing at Mont Sainte-Anne near Quebec City. I knew the time had finally come, so during one ascent up the mountain in the chairlift, I proposed to her. She accepted immediately, and not because I had threatened to throw her off the chair and into the snow if she refused!
We were married on August 22, 1975 and thirty-eight years later our love is as deep as the mountain snow we have skied on together, in places like Whistler, British Columbia; Sunshine in Banff, Alberta; Steamboat Springs, Colorado; Jay Peak, Vermont; and many areas of Quebec, including Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentians, Mont-Orford in the Eastern Townships, and of course, Mont-Sainte Anne.
Kris and I have travelled together to dozens of countries since our first date and we still enjoy downhill skiing as much as we did when we first met. We've still not visited Australia, but it's on our "Bucket List" and when we do, you can be sure we'll be skiing together in the Australian Alps, and we'll think of what might have been.
We may even exchange an Australian greeting for the decisions we made so very long ago: "Good on ya, mate!"