.I have been writing much about new love and the wonders it brings, but today is New Years Eve day, and this one … like every one since 1967 … requires that I take some time to dwell on an old one.
I was 16 on this day 41 years ago, in love and feeling as though my future was secure.
Sure, many 16-year-old girls are convinced that their soulmate has found them and that happy-ever-after is a done deal, and perhaps that was the case for me then, but Gary … Gary Wayne Boggs … was special.
Gary and I had been together since I was 14 … a long relationship for a teen … and he was my salvation.
My family life at the time was rocky … to say the least … and his home, complete with his mom and his twin brother, Greg, was my bolt hole, my safe place, the roof under which I could relax and be myself.
I was a wild child, and it being the 60s … we were, after all, only a few months from the “Summer of Love” … had all the chance in the world to live up to the title is spades. I counted amongst my friends Hells Angles and drug dealers and Black Panthers and rock stars … it was California, you see … and I had very close to no parental supervision.
My time was my own, aside from infrequent required check-ins, and no one cared much where I went or what I go up to.
No one, that is, but Gary.
He was 19 in 1967, and had for 2 years taken it upon himself to see that I had someone to answer to. He was patient and understood that I had wings that needed testing, so gave me room to do just that, but it was clear that I would have ‘splainin’ to do if I disappeared for a few days or appeared suddenly looking rode hard and put away wet.
He protected my virginity as if it were some treasure I had no right to squander, and more than once was sent for when I got myself into situations where dire consequence was inevitable.
How many times the sound of his Harley would thunder from the street signaling a saving grace that meant that I would not have to pay the band even though I’d willingly, and stupidly, danced.
His plans were well-laid: I would have my time to grow up, to get all the wildness out of my system, to taste the fruits of the tree of knowledge, and suffer all consequences that would teach me, but not hurt me too seriously; then, when I’d finished school … university included … we would marry, have 4 kids, live in Berkeley, not far from his mother, and work to make the world a better place.
His determination toward this future was my touchstone and made all things possible.
On New Years Eve day 1967, Gary ran to the store to buy cigarettes for his mother … and himself, too, I’m sure, but that part of the story holds no guilt for anyone and wasn’t discussed. On the way home, a woman with 3 screaming kids in her Buick station wagon pulled out of a side road into the path of Gary on his Harley. She broadsided him, throwing the bike down, and Gary head first into a telephone pole. His neck was broken and he died instantly.
I wasn’t there for the aftermath, having been unceremoniously sent north to live with my mother, but will never forget the phone call from his brother that broke the news to me.
I still have the ring he gave me, but lost the drumsticks his mom insisted were meant for me … instruments of funny torture they’d been for years, but I can barely stand to remember those times, even now.
What he would have become is a question I ponder often … although so fully formed at 17 when we met that I can easily picture him pushing 60 … and what my life would have been like had I not been left to my own devices, and vices … by the following year I was pregnant and headed into a loveless marriage, shotgun-style … taunts me.
This will be the 41st new year that begins with him not in the world … the 40th that ends … and the world is poorer for the loss. For 41 years I have spent time with him on this day, remembering, wondering, and missing him.
Rest in peace, Gary. You live in my heart, and always will …