[The post that follows may or may not be what I really wanted it to be, because at this moment I am having to rewrite my thoughts completely, and this was probably all better the first time. In the process of inserting a photo into this post, the program, without my permission let alone intent, overwrote everything I had written up to that point, and automatically saved the draft such that I could not undo the error or recapture my text. This was not my fault at all, but I suppose I owe myself an apology for the whole incredibly annoying WordPress experience today, which has only added to my emotional discomfort. So there.]
I typically feel more emotional than usual this time of year. Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about family. My siblings and extended family are all out of state, and I am more susceptible to ups and downs around the holidays due to that separation. I am dealing with it in my own way, which is to say, I don’t know how I’m dealing with it or if I am dealing with it at all. 😉 I sound like Jim Harbaugh trying to describe his starting quarterback situation: confusing.
For added fun, the latest segment of my roller coaster ride includes a side-trip into the Deep Dark Tunnel of Confronting Human Mortality. Yippee! A couple of things happened recently that punched my ticket.
The first event was the reception of the news that a college friend (same age as me) passed away this month. I do not have a great deal of experience in losing friends or acquaintances of similar age with whom I had at least at some point been close. In fact, I can’t think of anyone. Numerous relatives, including both my parents, have passed away, so I think I am to a degree prepared for handling this type of grief. I understand that the loss of a friend can differ in nuance from the passing of a family member. The emotional gamut depends on the nature of the relationship and the emotional baggage carried away from it. I don’t presume to think my friend had such baggage, but as was my habit during my schooling, I probably could have used extra porters and two cabs to help me with mine.
Because in no way do I wish to make light of the anyone’s death, I am hereby announcing a major shift in tone away from sarcasm and (attempted) humor toward heavy seriousness for the balance of this paragraph, starting NOW… Mary Beth was 49 years old. The obituary does not mention the cause of death. It does state that memorial donations may be made to Hospice of Northwest Ohio (she was a Toledo native), so she may have suffered from a somewhat drawn-out illness such as cancer. She was a classmate of mine in the Honors Program at the University of Dayton from 1981-85. We became closer friends during junior and senior year in part due to studying German together. She was a gifted, intelligent, and loving person. I know she will be greatly missed by her family. The obituary mentioned her “former husband”, so it’s especially sad to think of the impact on her 3 kids.
I heard the bad news from a mutual friend and U.D. alumna who was a year ahead of us and was a classmate of Mary Beth’s for a couple of years. Neither of us had kept in touch with her. I had not seen or heard from Mary Beth in many, many years. The passage of time certainly does heal wounds and smooth over rough patches, and so I can honestly say I do not feel a dramatic sense of grief about her, just what I would say is a “normal” amount of loss, whatever that is, and as I suggested earlier, a sense of confrontation with my own mortality.
Having said all that, now I will make my “big confession” as to why Mary Beth’s passing jolted me. (I don’t think this will be disrespectful to the deceased, because the intent of this story is to be a fond memory; I will not be revealing any personal info about her nor saying anything negative.) As anyone who knows me well knows that one of my major character flaws is that I fall too easily for females of the opposite gender. I am not even embarrassed to admit it — not to my wife or anyone. Furthermore, anyone who knew Mary Beth even remotely could understand why not only me but many, many guys fell for her. Here is the only exhibit needed:
I mean, please, she was simply and impossibly cute! As a dual threat, she had one of those bubbly personalities to go with the face. On top of that, she was a genuinely nice person.
In short, I had a major crush on her. I would say it lasted about a year, over parts of junior year and part of senior year. It did not really occur to me to have a crush on her before then, because she was dating a mutual friend (taller and far more handsome than I, trust me) in our Honors Program from sometime during freshman year through, if I recall correctly, sophomore year and maybe into junior year. But they broke up! Which was bad for me, because it gave me foolish hope. But it doesn’t really matter. It never amounted to anything. To the best of my knowledge (although one can never be certain about these things), my romantic feelings were in no way shared by her. At some point before we graduated, she started dating another guy who I believe was the guy she eventually married. For whatever reason, we didn’t keep in touch after graduation. That’s just the way it goes. As a side note, I could not help but notice that she named her boy Robert! On the other hand, that first guy she dated at U.D. was named “Bob”, so obviously I was not the only Robert in her life; can’t read anything into that. (Or can we? Ha ha, kidding.)
Don’t get the wrong idea. She was in no way a “lost love” or “the love of my life”. My puppy love was truly no big deal, if only because there were quite a few girls I had crushes on, and more seriously than I felt about Mary Beth. I think it’s as simple as, with a face (and personality) like that, who could ever really forget her. But in all seriousness now, she was taken at far too young an age, to be sure. The passing of any college friend would have an impact, but the fact that at least I got to know her and share some laughs and good times with Mary Beth made it all the more shocking to learn she is not around anymore. It makes me all the more grateful for the friends I still have….
This post is running long. The other story I want to tell, one that also forced me to think about mortality, will have to wait for Part 2. At least it has a happy ending!