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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Loves of My Life

By Johna Ferguson

How does anyone know whom he or she is really in love with, for love is such a fickle, often fleeting thing; here today, gone tomorrow just like the blush on one’s cheek or the sharp pain from a needle prick. But I will think back. Maybe it’s imagination on my part, but I still remember some of those feelings that made my heart beat faster at certain times. I think they must have been from some sort of love.

When I was a girl in sixth grade, my mother and our neighbor enrolled we two girls in a ballroom dancing class. It met once a week and we were driven there and brought home by our mothers. We didn’t know anyone in the class but we were paired up with a set of twins, just our age only from a different grade school.

Our mother’s knew their family so in their minds it was okay. We learned ballroom dancing, mainly to waltz around and around the classroom. But during the time we also had outside of class lots of fun.

The four of us rode our bikes, went swimming and the like but of course, under our mothers’ constant supervision. At the end of classes there was to be a formal dance. Imagine, we were finishing grade school and worrying about going to such an important dress-up affair at age 12.

But a formal was another thing. I had in mind a certain type of dress I wanted and my mother being a wonderful seamstress said she could make it for me. I was thrilled with the finished product. Well, that was until I saw my best friend in the dress her mother bought her. It was a dream. It was white with tiny red-flocked dots all over it and it even had dropped shoulders. Certainly I was a little jealous, but after all, she was my best friend and how could I complain about what she wore.

At the time, I thought the twin I danced was my first and only love for even if my heart didn’t jump about in my chest, it swelled a little on being a close friend with a person of the opposite sex. But obviously it wasn’t much of a love affair for after that summer, the twins were sent away to military school and that love faded away just like an old flower does. Maybe years ago, I learned that he, my first love, had died suddenly of a heart attack. One down and counting.

After that year, the other neighborhood mothers thought their daughters should attend dance classes; fox trot and the like. We all joked at the thought of being held in the arms of a boy we didn’t know, or perhaps with one we couldn’t stand.

The class was assembled from many neighborhoods so of we didn’t know a lot of the other kids in the class. The teacher obviously had arranged an equal number of boys and girls when she enrolled us in the class for we girls were to line up and dance with the first boy in the other line.

I remember none of us wanted to dance with Barry for he had sweaty hands. We didn’t want to dance with James for he was too short, and another one to try to avoid had pimples all over his face. But that year I thought I fell in love.

The boy was tall, dark and handsome and he usually chose to dance with me when we didn’t have a line-up type dance. My heart beat a little faster when he was near. He used to occasionally walk me home from school but I guess it really wasn’t love for that summer we drifted apart, never looking back.

When I recently went to my 55th class reunion, I read he had died during the previous year. Two down and counting.

Then, what I consider my real boyfriend enrolled in the dance class during our 9th grade term at school. He had appeared one day in my geometry class, sitting right behind me. Good thing he was good at math for I had to pass my papers to him and he usually finished or corrected my problems before I had to hand them in.

When I saw him at dance class I wondered if he’d know me since he really only saw the back of my head. But he did, and whenever there was a free dance, he asked me to be his partner. He was tall, blond and ever so handsome. My heart definitely felt different with that boy than with any previous one.

That love of my life and I continued to be boyfriend/girlfriend through high school. After high school, we both were attending college. I was going to Stanford but my boyfriend didn’t have that kind of money so he was going to the U of W. I decided to dash my plans and instead go to the U with him.

My mother was rather upset, to say the least, but I’d made up my mind. I did promise her that for our first two years at the university we wouldn’t date, I would look around and make sure he was the one I wanted.

Needless to say, living in a sorority there were endless chances to meet boys. I dated this one and that one and in my sophomore year there was one boy I really liked. We did lots of fun things together; skiing, dancing, sailing and going for long walks while holding hands and an occasional kiss. But that spring I left school early and went on a trip with my parents. When I returned that summer I was hospitalized.

Some of his friends came to visit me but he didn’t come as he was working. After that, with my former high school boyfriend came around all summer long for visits, that short yet very sweet affair I had, was over. I read in the newspaper a few years ago that he died suddenly. Three down and counting.

With the beginning of my junior year in college, my former boyfriend and I settled down to what we considered was to become our life long plan. But we wouldn’t marry until we had graduated. Those last two years of college would be busy years for us both. That year we were elected one of five couples on campus having the ideal romance. Little did we know at that time what life had in store for us. We just rolled along in our own naïve bliss.

At the end of our junior year, he was to row for the U of W in the crew races in New York and then immediately head to Texas for mandatory six weeks ROTC training. I had taken a summer baby-sitting job. But one weekend when I was home sleeping, my mother woke me. She was crying so I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Finally I understood what she was telling me.

She had just received a call from my boyfriend’s family saying he had died suddenly in a hospital in Texas. I was so shocked I couldn’t even react. I remember I automatically got up, dressed and walked like a zombie down the alley to my aunt’s house. I just couldn’t face the grief in my own house.

Actually, I was so devastated by the news that I couldn’t face up to it. The first thing I did was call a sorority sister in South Dakota to ask if I could come spend the summer with her. I packed and got a train ticket for the next day and left, leaving my mother to represent me at the funeral.

Looking back, it probably was not fair to my mother, but it seemed the only way I could save myself and go on with life. I spent the entire summer with my friend relaxing and facing up to going back to the university in the fall for my senior year.

But before I headed back to college my mother counseled me about starting a new life; she was afraid I’d shut my feelings and myself up tight like a clam. I promised her I’d go out with other boys whenever possible and try to start a new life. So now with his death, four down and counting.

Being a single senior in a sorority house isn’t easy. By then, all my classmates had met their steady boyfriends. One former boy I had dated in my freshman year tried to get me interested in him again, but he just couldn’t light any flame there. My classmates introduced me to friends of theirs and I had a lot of fun on many dates, but nothing serious developed.

Then one of my sorority sisters said she and her boyfriend were going to his fraternity formal dance and he knew a senior boy who didn’t have a date, was I interested? I thought, well why not, so I said yes I’d meet the boy and perhaps go. He came to meet me at the sorority house and we walked down to the “Ave” for a cup of coffee.

He wasn’t tall like most of my former boyfriends, but he had a wonderful smile and seemed so friendly. He was two years older as he and his twin brother had gone into the Navy after high school so the government would pay for their college. He had heard about my former boyfriend but never brought it up.

I agreed to go to the dance with him and found he was a wonderful dancer so the evening turned out to be a great one for both of us. After that first date, he called again and invited me to go to a movie and after those two dates was the start of a friendship that ended in our marriage soon after graduation.

I thought a deep love had developed between both of us, but perhaps I was wrong. Maybe what I thought of as love was just that which was left over from my previous love. However, our marriage lasted 33 years. Sadly it ended in his divorcing me on the grounds he needed someone he could love. I thought that meant he would soon marry a new-found love but now, 21 years later, he is still single and living alone. So who knows what love really is, certainly not him. Five down and counting.

Now I am again in love. This time I think I know more about love for this love isn’t the kind that makes your heart go pitter-pat. This kind is deep and full of compassion and also need. This one is about caring, and I had to think a long time before I got involved in it. This one is a commitment for us taking care of each other through thick and thin since we are both elderly.

In my first wedding years ago, I vowed to do that same thing but I don’t think I thought about it deeply. I don’t think I thought about dealing with memory loss, incontinence and the like. My friends and I used to laugh about June Allyson promoting adult pampers, but it’s a reality one must face. It may come to all of us, only this time it will be husbands or wives, not small babies.

We will watch each other grow older yet younger in so many ways. I not only promised but also want to be there to help him whenever necessary. That’s what marriage in later life is about. But yes, there is also love, not the kind with the many varieties of kisses and body movements you see in the movies, but lots of hugs and smiles. And what about sex in later life marriages? Well, as the saying goes, “if you don’t use, it you lose it.”

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Johna - What a great story!

But I think I consider myself fortunate not to have been one of your early boyfriends. I'm about to turn 72, and I am far too young to be a statistic! - Sandy

I have read there are about five kinds of love, for example, parental, erotic, friendship, etc.
Joseph Campbell wrote about this extensively.
Erotic has pretty much dominated my life, still does at 78. :-)

Love does come in many forms; puppy love, love of family, love of friends, and the deep love of caring for one person to the exclusion of others. I'm glad you found that love at last.

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