Monday, February 12, 2007

Happily Ever After?

With Valentine’s Day creeping up on us again, thoughts inevitably turn to thoughts of romance; in particular, I think about the road that brought Chris & I where we are now. I think it’s time to share the next part of our story.

As I wrote in Isn’t it Romantic”, Chris & I met 28 years ago, when we were sixteen. While it wasn’t love at first sight, we did come to love each other- it just wasn’t time for our “happily ever after” yet.

Let me back up a bit. The year before we met had been really rough for each of us. Chris’ father had been killed in a canoeing accident on a trip with the Explorer Club- Chris had been in a boat behind his Dad & witnessed it overturning; his Dad’s body wasn’t recovered until the following day. He became “the man of the family” at 15, & had bottled up most of his emotions as a defense mechanism. I had been battling clinical depression, after a series of failed relationships & bouts teenage hormones. My stepfather & I had always had a tenuous relationship, civil at best; the arrival of my youngest brother (when I was 14) put enormous strain on that situation, which deteriorated into loud arguments & a shoving match one evening. By the time Chris & I started seeing each other in May of 1979, it had already been decided that I was going to move to Kansas, to live with my father for a year.

So our romance began, knowing that it would have to end in a few short weeks. Our time together was very limited- we lived in different towns, attended different schools, & neither of us was driving yet. I think in those six weeks, we saw each other maybe seven times, & talked on the phone once a week. We only had one afternoon alone together- we went into downtown Oakland to have lunch & do some shopping- all the rest of the time we had other people with us.

The most memorable time together was when my Mother invited Chris to join us for a weekend at our house in Carmel Valley. To say I was astonished would be an understatement- my mother was inviting my boyfriend to stay in the same house with us for two days- but I was glad for the time together, even it meant sharing him with my younger siblings. Not surprisingly, that weekend Chris & I became intimate; it was the first time for both of us, & while I know now that it wasn’t how God wanted us to begin, I can’t honestly say I regret that decision.

A week later, I left for 5 weeks in Spain, on a student exchange trip that I had been planning for a year. I missed Chris terribly & wrote him several times, but he never wrote back. I began to doubt that he really cared about me- what I didn’t know at the time (& he was too embarrassed to tell me) was he is dyslexic & very ashamed of his handwriting.

When I came back to the States, I had one week before I was to leave for my new home in Kansas. Chris & I saw each other only once that week; there was a dance that our club attended in another city, so we rented a bus to take everyone. Chris was very distant that evening- he chose not to sit with me on the bus & only dance with me once the whole evening. I felt that my fears about his feelings for me were confirmed- he’d got what he wanted & now was trying to brush me off.

After returning to town that evening, I was standing in the parking lot, waiting for my ride home. Chris came up behind me, wrapped his arms around my waist, & held me. I was surprised, given the way he had been avoiding me, but I didn’t want to argue at that point. We didn’t really talk much- I suppose we were just trying to ignore the big purple elephant in the room. He asked what time my plane was leaving & said he wanted to come to the airport with us; I commented that the year would pass by very quickly, since we were both going to be starting new schools. Then my ride came; we hugged each other tight, & as he let me go, Chris said, “I really do love you, you know.”

I left two days later. I didn’t call Chris to tell him when the flight was leaving; instead, I wrote him a letter that arrived that day after I left. In the letter, I told him that even though everyone was saying I’d only be away for a year, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to live with my family again; that even though he was willing to tie himself to me, it wasn’t fair to let him wait for something that wouldn’t happen; & that I as much as I wanted to see him again, I couldn’t face having our last memories being tearful goodbyes in a crowded airport, with people looking on. I also told him that I would always love him, regardless of any distances or time that would separate us.

To be continued…

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