MENDING A BROKEN HEART – editor’s letter jul 2010

Editor’s Note: Following is a page from my spiritual journal.

 

MENDING A BROKEN HEART

 “…That’s’ not half the story! I also burned all my letters from Tim.” Wendy tossed her blond curls as she collected our writers’ edits on her moving teenage story of first love, “Old Boyfriends Part II.” 

Stunned, I sat dumbly among writer friends as her words catapulted me back a half-century.

 Despite summer’s warmth, that midnight had wrapped me in a cold veil of sadness. I was twenty- one, had graduated from University of Florida, but I had struggled with my first teaching job in the Sun-shine State. During weekly phone calls Mother had heard something that triggered her rescuing side. She had driven down from Indiana and convinced me I was having a nervous breakdown. She coaxed, “Come home! We’ll help you.”

 I cried at nothing and was overwhelmed at work — I was in trouble. I resigned and escaped to Indiana to lick my wounds. However, after four months, I was sinking deeper. I’m lost!  Where are you, Bob?

Tangled in my sheets, I pounded the pillow and cried for my first love.  … Oh, Bob! Save me!  But tears brought no release. Weary, I staggered to the kitchen, determined to use my parents’ solution to life’s troubles — Jim Beam. I tipped three glurks of amber liquid into a kitchen glass and stood at the sink.  I gulped and shuddered waiting for relief. None came. My troubles began when I was seventeen and my romance with Bob suddenly ended.

 I drifted back to happier teenage days in love with Bob. By one o’clock I was steeped in wistful memories but more miserable than before. Trying to shake off longing like a wet dog shakes off water, I murmured, I’ve got to get rid of those memories!

My sweetheart wasn’t much of a writer, but I had stacks of smiling snapshots. Maybe the memories and pain will stop if I get rid of the photographs. 

Silently, I padded to the hall closet and slid boxes of photos from the shelf, carrying them to the front room. I plunked down on the sculptured green carpet in front of our red brick fireplace and began sorting.  Beginning with images of my fourteen-year-old pony-tailed self, I pulled out Bob-and-Fritzie summer photos. Sadly, I piled them together, taking one last look.  There we are sitting on the back of his vintage wooden Chris Craft speedboat… Here we pose on the diving board at a swimming pool. My toes…  They arch in a ‘c” Electricity surged when Bob touched me.  Here we are standing on a sea wall… the sun’s too bright for our eyes to be completely open, but my bare toes are curled again. 

          I was fourteen the summer I met Bob. My folks had rented a cottage at a lake south of Goshen, my home town. I had been sun-bathing on the pier when he rumbled by in his boat. We dis-covered Bob’s dad was originally from Goshen and our folks knew each other. His family lived in Arizona but summered at Lake Wawasee. 

During my fifteenth summer my folks again rented the lake cottage. Bob didn’t yet have a car, but we had occasional “boat dates.” The season I was sixteen, my folks rented the cottage a third year and Bob returned, driving his white El Camino. On frequent dates, Bob and I talked about “after high school.”  At summer’s end, I sent him back to Arizona with my deceased grandmother’s gold ring on his little finger and a Presbyterian cross around his neck.

The smiling photos ended that summer. 

During the following winter, stories of Bob’s rowdy Arizona escapades reached my father in Goshen. Livid, Daddy forbade me to see my sweetheart. But like Star Trek’s tractor beam, passion pulled me to him. Defying my father, we meet secretly. We stayed at the lake again that summer I was seventeen. From there, I drove to the WOWO Wednesday Night disc jockey dance I’d attended previous years. No-thing unusual about that. But Bob met me there and we stole away for an hour or so of steaming up his car’s windshield. One evening he said, “Let’s drive to Kentucky and get married.”

 Married?  I haven’t finished high school!  

Romance lit a fire in me, but the thought of marriage doused the flame.  How would we earn a living?  I’d probably get pregnant immediately… Not a baby!   

   At home, I agonized while trying to “look normal” for my parents. Uncertain what to do, one tearful evening, I knocked on my friend Georgia’s door. She knew about life from watching her older sister.  Georgia will know what to do! 

         Shocked by my near hysteria that evening, she had made me coffee.  As we sat in her kitchen, I unfolded my deception, woe and questions about running away. Softly she said, “Oh Fritzie!” and patted my arm. But in the end, she slowly shook her head.  She had no more idea what to do than I did. 

The situation exploded when my folks heard I’d been meeting Bob. It was WOWO Wednesday. When my parents came home from work, I was thinking about meeting Bob and starting dinner. Strangely silent, Mother and Daddy wore straight faces. Oh-oh!  My stomach sank. My father unleashed a cold fury I’d never seen. I looked to Mother — who usually played mediator between us. But she stood firmly behind my dad.

With eyes of steel he ordered, “Get me your driver’s license.” 

I slid the photostat out of my picture-filled billfold holding just three dollars. He tore up the black and white ticket to drive.  As it fell to the floor he said, “You can go with that bum, but leave the car and take only what you have bought with your own money.” 

Nail polish?  Bathing suit? 

“As long as you live in my house, you’ll abide by my rules. No driving, no phone calls. No visitors.  And, you’ll not get another penny from me.” 

Bob lived miles away. Ice in the pit of my stomach, I retreated to my room and waited.  When I don’t show up at the dance, he’ll find me…

But, he didn’t come. The next day was Thursday and summer school where I’d been trying to improve my hunt-and-peck typing. I had no job. I earned gas and lipstick money washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning for my parents. 

Under “house arrest,” I rode into Goshen with my folks when they drove to work. Weekdays they dropped me at school. After class, I walked two miles downtown and reported in at the bank where they worked. Afternoons, I sat in the break room every afternoon, writing letters I never mailed. At five o’clock we all returned to the lake. Weekends, I stayed home and played solitaire.

After a week “in jail” and no word from Bob, I gave up hoping to be rescued and faced reality. Bob  was gone. I was an unemployed, uneducated teenage girl, completely dependent on her parents.

I pushed pride and hope down and held them there, like drowning an unwanted kitty.  After promising my father I would not see or talk to my sweetheart, I put on a happy mask and pretended to be “just fine.” However, eventually drown bodies float and when I was twenty-one, up came those decayed, stinking feelings.

I have to get rid of this sadness!   Puffy-eyed from crying, I twisted newspapers and laid them together in the cold iron grate. Satisfied there’d be enough for a strong burn, I reached up into the chimney and pulled open the flue.  I looked at the stack of happy photos and collapsed into more sobs. Be strong! Burn the link to Bob and end your misery!               

I struck a kitchen match and ignited a paper clump. Orange flames ate into it and other wads caught. One by one I added Bob-and-Fritzie images from the stack of photos at my side. The smiling faces turned as black as I felt. No turning back! Relentless, I added negatives that melted into a glob. 

 Fifty years later, I’m waiting to hear Wendy’s next Old Boyfriends story. I hope that burning Tim’s mementos healed her. 

It didn’t work for me. However, in my forties, I talked with Bob at some length.  Though he answered questions from my seventeenth summer, the remains of whatever drove all my passion and angst still bobs up. 

But this time, writing the Bob-and-Fritzie story produced a glimmer of hope. While it didn’t “cure” my touch of sadness, it made me realize I can’t kill love.

The toe-curling physical passion is gone. Perhaps I will find another use for this energy.  

          Frances Fri

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