They say there are 2 loves in your life—your first and your last.
This weekend, going through old pictures, I came face to face with my first.
David E. Lane II. He wore starched shirts, bow ties (before they were cool), pressed khaki’s, round spectacles and a signet ring. Pre-med. A reserve in the United States Marine Corps. He was the most handsome man I’ve ever seen. I was intimidated to the core. For weeks, I’d rush back to the dorm before the class I shared with him. I’d dress up in my cutest outfits, freshen up my make-up and tease out my hair—don’t judge—it was the late 80’s/early 90’s. And by cute outfits I meant denim shorts with a fold down waist, a belt created from a bandana complete with beads. All my outfits had matching bows, yes, bows and I wore cute while socks on my loafer clad feet. Once I wore black ballet flats with gross grain ribbons that tied up the ankles. Oh I thought I was cute in those shoes. The only issue is that it began raining on my way over there. The rain caused the ink in the ribbon to bleed in rivulets down my ankles and across my feet. It was horrendous. These were pre-cell phone days. I ducked into a building, used a pay phone to call my cousin. “Hurry!” I screamed into the phone. “and bring a wet washcloth.” He must have heard the sheer panic in my voice because he came right away, with a washcloth. No telling where he managed to find that. I can guarantee you it wasn’t in his dorm room!
He was cool. He was different. The starched shirts when everyone else was in t-shirts were a by-product of his Marine training. He wasn’t a Jr…he was a II. He drove a car like I’d never seen before. He wasn’t a young kid straight from high school living the college life of kegs and all night parties. He’s completed basic training. He was a trained solider. He appreciated education and all it had to offer. He didn’t want to know how many skips you were allowed before you failed. He was taking theatre classes to fulfill a fine arts requirement. He loved to learn, he was smart and he had a goal that a good education would make possible.
I was cast in my very first college show with him. It was a horrible show! To this day I don’t understand what Woyzeck was about or what my character had to do with anything. But I had a part…and so did he. For that reason and that reason ALONE I will always remember that show with the fondest of hearts. I would take the stage, again in my cutesy little outfits. Peach short suit with silver trim. Pleated skort and fuzzy read sweater or red pants with suspenders and a jaunty black and white shirt. I might have been terrified and shy but I looked good. Hahaha I was so tongue tied I could barely mumble my words in the scene we shared. Hour after hour, night after night, I gazed at him wishing I were smarter, prettier, braver or more interesting so I could talk to him. He tried to start a few conversations but I was a total introvert and couldn’t….just couldn’t…converse.
One on horrible, stormy afternoon he pulled up the door of the Stone Center where I stood shivering in under the door jamb. My dorm was a mile away. Literally. He pulled up in his Isuzu Impulse and told me to get it. I lied and told him I had a ride. I wanted to get in that car but I was so shy that I couldn’t. Later he told me he followed me home, in the rain.
One night at a cast party that my friend Beth MADE ME GO TO things changed. I walked into the room and saw him sitting there in jeans, a collared shirt and his round glasses. I can still feel the way my heart pounded in my chest. Especially when he crooked a finger and beckoned me over. “Sit down and put your arm around me. We are going to talk.” So I did. And we talked and talked and talked and talked. The party ended and we walked around campus. For hours. It was the night before parent’s night so in the wee hours of the morning he walked me home. Outside the dorm he said, “What’s our real name?” I answered Elizabeth. “That’s what I am going to call you.”
My favorite television show as Little House in the Prairie . This was a total little house on the Prairie moment!!!!
From that moment on he never called me anything else. I thought it was the most romantic gesture ever.
The play, as weird as it was, and it was WEIRD. I think it was written by a German man suffering from syphilis. UGH. As odd and strange as it we were invited to perform at the Alabama Shakespeare festival in Montgomery, Alabama. As an actress, quite a feat. As a young girl with a crush performing there paled only in comparison to David saying, “Come ride with us,” as we were all getting in cars to travel. The car was full. I told him so. He patted his lap. My heart stopped, my breath caught and I panicked. In the end I rode from Jacksonville, Al to Montgomery, Al in a compact car sitting in his lap. This was a pre-seat belt era.
And so it began…my first love, my first romance. And it was everything I’d ever dreamed about. He was romantic, thoughtful, confident and smart. He was a marine and one weekend per month donned his uniform and oooo-laaaaa-la. A confident man in a uniform. Instant love. There were love letters, sweet dates, flowers and spontaneous trips. It was the romance I’d always dreamed of.
Eventually I brought him home to meet my parents. More and more he traveled home with me. We were building our lake house so there were often friends of my parents or aunts and uncles there to help. It was those friends who nicknamed him G. For gnat. “You ae just like gnat…always flying around, pesky and irritating,” they teased. So he became G to them from that moment forward.
My world came crashing down when he was placed on active duty and was sent to California to prepare for deployment. In a grand, romantic (but stupid) gesture he snuck away from his platoon and flew home to spend New Year’s with me. Kissing my solider at midnight before he left for war. It was the magic found on the big screen. It was the plot of every romantic movie I’d ever seen. Only it was real and he was the hero and I was the heroine. He was Tom Hanks and I was Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail.
This was the Dessert Storm era. My love’s unit was activated and he was deployed. On tv I watched the shock and awe campaign. The highlight of my day was rushing to the student center to mail my letter and to check my mailbox. It was a petrifying time. I was a young girl, in love, watching a war unfold knowing my love was somewhere in it. To this day I can’t hear the Smithereens Baby Be Good song without remembering exactly how I felt sitting alone, in the dorm room, holding letters and watching CNN.
Months later I was there in a navy blue and gold short suit with a double-breasted jacket and gold trim the day he came home. Seeing him, hanging out of the bus sky light calling my name is still one of the singular best moments of my life. That first hug…oh that first hug…every girl should have a hug like that once in her life. In what seemed like a totally heart-stopping gesture he had Elizabeth tattooed on his hip when all of his Marine buddies were having total BA tattoos done when they were shipped back to friendlier lands. I used to wonder what he ended up going with that tattoo.
My family threw him a coming home party. I wore an American flag Laura Ashley style jumper with a red and white collar. Somewhere amidst the flags and the welcome home hugs the moonshine came out. I wasn’t there but I’ve heard stories that he asked my dad if he could marry me just before the moonshine kicked in with full force and passed out.
Days later he took the train from Alabama and proposed with a carat, round cut diamond ring.
Months later he looked at me and said, “I can’t. I just can’t.” And with my first love I had my first heart break. And as hard as I loved him I mourned losing him as equally hard. My grief overflowed and I found myself in an emotional tailspin. That is another blog for another day and a story I am not quite ready to tell. Suffice it to say…I was broken.
He graduated and went to Officer Candidate School. Weeks, months would go by and then I would get an unexpected call, from him, and the whole thing would start over again. Intense times of falling right back in love only to be told “I am sorry” again before he went away. Over and over it happened.
Like most memories only the good times remain. The fights. The temper he brought back from Iraq. The family issues he brought with them….those have faded with time. All that’s left is the memories of being loved the way I’d always dreamt of being loved. DEL II will forever be idolized as perfect in my mind.
It was during this time—this horrible, horrible time in my life that I met what I later thought would become my last love. He was my friend at a time when my life felt over. He had a crush on me at a time I never felt like I would be loved again. I was struggling to recover and he wanted more. But he waited. He kept trying. He wooed me with fur bunnies, letters and trips to the circus. I didn’t rush into anything with him. It developed over time. It developed as a friendship.
We met when I was given the leading role in a play. The lead actor had to drop out and he was suddenly there—dark and moody, my romantic lead. Art imitates life. Our lives took on the plot of the play we were in
There were 4 of us in that play that developed a close friendship. I graduated with them as my best friends. He and I had dabbled in dating but he always wanted more than I could give with my broken heart. He had a temper and could be quite childish when he didn’t get his way. I wouldn’t give him his way so he pouted and went away,
It was years and a failed marriage—on his part and mine—before we reconnected.
And so began what I thought was the last romance of my life. And that was okay. I’d had a passionate, emotional, stuff dreams were made of first love and I was going to end in a love built in history and friendship. It was like the best of both worlds.
And for a while it was just as I’d dreamed. We got married under a fiery orange and electric yellow tree in New Hampshire. We bought a house. He became a Poppy, an extra dad to my children. Soon he became a father to a daughter all his own.
But that didn’t go as planned either. And for the 2nd time in my life I watched love leave.
It’s still a question I ask. Why did David say “I can’t, I just can’t”? Why did the last make the choices he made knowing that it would lead to the end of us? And the questions don’t stop there
What about me makes me so hard to love? Why am I attracted to men who break my heart? Why is it easier to leave me then to love me? Why is the one thing I want—to love and to be loved—so unattainable for me? Is it over? Did I have my first love and my last love and now I just wait out my life alone? What do I have to change, to do to be in order to be part of a WE and not just a ME?
Sometime I ask these questions in sorrow. Sometimes I ask them in anger not understanding why I am where I am. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I am totally content being a mom and having a good job and my own little home. Sometimes I ask out of honest curiosity. Sometimes I wail out my questions in jealousy as I see lives all around me being lived out the way I wanted to live out mine.
I miss being loved. I’ve had it twice but lost it both times. I miss taking care of someone. I wasn’t always good at it and would love to have the chance to redeem myself. I miss making plans and having someone the help carry them out. I miss having a complete family. I didn’t have that with my first love but I had that with my last love. With my first love I’d dreamed of what it would be like to be a home, to be have children and to make a family. With my last love I’d given him a ready-made family and created a bigger, blended family. But it wasn’t enough.
I wish I had a crystal ball or a time machine. I’d go back and learn from my mistakes. I’d fall in love with a carefree heart but with a wiser mind. I’d know the flags so I could avoid the pitfalls. Would I make the same choices? Of course. No matter how much I’ve been let down or hurt I have 3 incredible, unique and amazing babies.
Maybe that’s my path. Not to be loved or to love a man but to focus all my love on my son and daughters. Maybe I shouldn’t be wasting my time wondering why and, instead, should focus my energy on wanting something else from life. Maybe….
Who knows? This weekend I walked down memory lane and stirred up some old hurts. But I also got to relive some incredible memories. I got the chance to remember my first love. I got to ponder on if I’ve had my last love. If I have then at least I’ve loved and even briefly, been loved.