I NEVER FOUND HIM

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

“Lsmiles” blinked into my e-mail and I grinned. My friend, Linda, always had news of mutual hometown friends and high school classmates.

But happiness fled when I read, “…I found out last week John Chandler passed away, I think some time this summer, of lung cancer…’

I stopped reading. I never found him.

Goshen High School Class Reunion organizers could not locate John in 1992, 1997, 2002 or 2007. Rumors circulated that he was living out West, or in Mexico.

During the last ten years, I lent an anonymous hand in the search. When in Goshen, I drove slowly past the big stone Chandler homestead on Fifth Street, and looked for signs of life. Once, I scotch-taped a message to the back door, and later stuck a note between the front screen and wood doors. I even mailed John a card there.

My old boyfriend appears in my book, so before I published it in August 2012, I again tried to find him. I wanted permission to use his name in a study hall story. I computer-checked White Pages.com and Peoplefinders.  I looked in Facebook.com, too.  There were six “John D. Chandler.”  I squinted at the tiny photos, and sent one a query, but got no reply.  Eventually, I gave up and changed the name of the study hall tease to “John Dale.”

JohnJohn cuts up at my 1962 high school graduation party.

In September this year, I was in Goshen for my 50th class reunion and stopped to see my friend Muffin.  She, her husband, and I attended the same elementary, junior high and high schools. Sitting in her living room, the three of us traded news.   When John’s name came up, Doug said, “I saw him in Walgreen’s last spring.”

“Really?” I asked, eyes wide.  “What did he say?”

“Nothing. I recognized him. He looked at me … like, ‘Hello.’ He was checking out. I didn’t say anything, just nodded, ‘Hi’ and he left.”

Muffin chimed in, “Doug never told me until later.” She gave an exasperated sigh.  “I missed him!”

 Me, too!

I thought back to elementary school where I met John.  Dark-eyed and brown-haired, he was my boyfriend in fifth and sixth grades.  Back in the late 1950’s, we didn’t kiss.  I doubt we even held hands.  I just “liked” him. “Liking” included walking a ways toward home together after school and exchanging looks across the classroom.  At first, “liking” was kind of a secret. But word got out.

John’s dad was a surgeon who had operated on my father.  One night at the dinner table Daddy said, “I saw Doc Chandler today.”

Mother asked, “What did he have to say?”

“He says I’m doing fine.”

 Oh-oh! I sipped my milk but I glanced up when Daddy paused. He was looking at me. “Doc says his boy, John, thinks Fritzie is cute.”

I swallowed my milk. Hard. My face felt hot. Daddy just smiled.

Mother gave me a, “What-is-this-about?” look.   My secret is out!

She asked, “So! Tell us about John Chandler!”

I looked down. “He’s cute.”

Silence followed. When I peeked at my parents, Daddy was sipping his coffee, and mother was smiling at him.

I don’t remember much about “us” back then, just one “date.” I invited John to “The Farm.” It was spring of our sixth grade year and our family’s Easter gathering was at my grandparents’ farm.  Family holidays were b-o-r-i-n-g. My local cousins were too young to play with.  John would be “company” for me.

Following the 1:00 PM meal, he and I followed a set of dirt tire tracks from the farm, half a mile to the Elkhart River. John and I walked opposite sides of the wheel path and my folks followed. Reaching the riverbank just below the dam, we stopped. Water rushed over it and splashed with a roar.

 

Cute John

Cute John

 

His back to me, John stared at the dam.  I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed the opposite way. Single file, Mother and Daddy led us on a dirt path beside a slow-moving mill race.

Below the dam,a man-made canal ran straight while the river curved away.  Soon we reached a narrow place, where two wood planks made a kind of bridge to the land my grandparents owned between the race and the river.

Daddy crossed first. He held his hand out to me. I held my breath. Below, the race was deep, cold and dark. I teetered as I inched across the boards.  When I touched Daddy’s hand, I let my breath out.  Behind me, John crossed and Mother followed.

She knew the land and led us along a path I could barely see. The place was thick with tall thin trees. No sun shone. The ground was swampy and covered with plants and vines. Spooky.

It was the last adventure John and I shared as a pair.

After being pudgy most of Fifth and Sixth Grades, I grew taller. Suddenly, John was shorter than me. Not cool. By Seventh Grade, he was “too short” to be my boyfriend anymore.  Too bad. He was still cute.

 

I miss you, John. Sorry I never found you again. May The Universe bless your soul.

Frances Fritzie

 

3 comments to I NEVER FOUND HIM

  • Connie Slyby

    What a shame that he is gone. It is also strange that he ended up back in Goshen after being “missing” for so many years.

  • Rob Ulery

    sorry to hear this; I just was clearing off my desk and found your newsletter again
    and thought I would check the website; thank you for the memory

  • caroline farney

    I enjoyed the story about cute John;like my school days in 5th and 6th days when we had a boyfriend. I never saw mine except at school and never saw him after graduation!

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