Not too long ago, I came across a Dear Abby headline that caught my eye: Happily Married Woman Still Misses Lover Who Never Was. The letter was signed “Needs Closure.”
Needs closure. That’s me. My past love, the one I can’t shake entirely, was my high school sweetheart, my first true love. Upon graduation, we attempted to carry on our relationship despite the fact that we lived two thousand miles apart.
At forty-five, I am truly happily married to a man whom I adore, and we have created a family and a life together that is built on trust and love and grace. But I still think of my young/old love. I feel that he- or the we that was- will always have a place in my heart of hearts. Our relationship, which ended badly to tell you the truth, holds a sacred place in my being. It is but a memory- a precious but tumultuous snapshot of a youthful time- passionate lovemaking on a blanket in the field behind my parent’s house, tender handholding in the local movie theatre.
I know so few people who are walking around on the planet who don’t wonder about a past love, or think about that time of life when that particular love was alive. Mine is named Darren. I have friends of all ages and backgrounds who have told me theirs: Kenny, John, Gayle, Derek, Colleen. My mother recently went to her fiftieth college reunion, and had those old feelings come up after spotting her first boyfriend, a man she had not stood next to in over five decades! This “wondering” seems to be a universal condition.
It is not so much the “what if’s” that get a hold of me (what if we went to college in the same state, what if we had managed to stay faithful, etc.) but more like the feeling in my body that won’t let go of the memory of him, of the us that used to be. So when I read this Dear Abby’s explanation that past loves are actually “imprinted” in our electrical circuitry, it just seemed right. Ah ha! Our relationship was literally “in” me still, just as I have suspected now for almost thirty years.
I have seen Darren at two high school reunions. At our tenth, we were still both single and I am sure the thought of “what if?” wandered across both of our minds. But nothing happened, and I know now that this is for the best. It was at that reunion gathering, after years of silence and despair that I felt (and after making a formal amends to him years prior, for essentially screwing things up between us) that I was able to look him in the eye and thank him for the gifts he had given me.
You see, Darren had opened up my world to the joys of backpacking in the Rockies. He showed me awe and wonder for the grandiosity of nature while at the same time to appreciate the small things, even good socks or the right camping hat. I told Darren that, to this day, when I go hiking, the memory of him is with me, in my feet and in my heart. I was able to share my gratitude for the time we had together.
At our twentieth high school reunion, we simply had a good time, exchanging stories and laughter about our present lives, enjoying the fact that we still both shared a love of adventure, travel and the outdoors. He and my husband Jay hit if off so naturally (no surprise there, they are a lot alike!) that former classmates were compelled to ask if we were all buddies.
Through the years there has been healing and self-forgiveness for the pain and loss of that early love relationship. Still. Every now and then Darren pops into my mind or shows up in a dream. But I no longer wonder why. I just think, oh there he is again. And I know that he is “electrically imprinted” in me and shall forever be.
And that is as it should be. Abby said so.
This was the second of my essays to get published in an anthology. The book is entitled Heartscapes: True Stories of Remembered Love (editors Kate Harper and Leon Marasco, Spruce Mountain Press, 2012.) This photograph is a “selfie”–I’d just gotten a fabulous new haircut and came home to find this book on my front step. As a newbie to the writing world, I was thrilled.