I’m publishing this blog on the anniversary of my wife’s birth. I’ve been fortunate to have several loves in my life, but none more significant than the first and the last. I was no longer a young man when, at 37, I stumbled across the love of my life. I met Becky, and my future was sealed.
Becky and I share similar values, an important quality. Importantly, she has the capacity to put up with characteristics typical of a Virgo. Virgos prefer their ducks in a row and will go to great lengths to make sure they stay that way. Becky puts up with these tendencies, but somehow still loves me deeply. She supports and defends me to a fault. Becky is a gorgeous and caring woman, as much so now as she was when I met her 34 years ago. I am hers forever.
This narrative will return to Becky, but now I will take you back more than half a century to introduce you to my first true love.
It was early in 1965 when I met “Gloria.” We were both members of the University Chapel Choir at Pennsylvania State University where I was then a sophomore. It didn’t take long before I fell head over heels for this beautiful godsend of a girl from out of nowhere. This story would have ended there except that, for some inexplicable reason, she liked me too. And so it happened that we necked and petted our way through the spring of 1965 in my parents’ 1960 Oldsmobile. (Do teenagers these days even know what “petting” is? It seems to me that it has become a lost art.)
During this period of romance, I met Gloria’s parents, and we became ever closer. We told each other that we loved one another. There was a minor hiccup when, following the end of the school year, two weeks into my summer job with the Weather Bureau, I was diagnosed with mononucleosis (the “kissing” disease) that, together with hepatitis, landed me in the hospital in isolation. That didn’t stop Gloria, who was there when I was sent home. Reasoning that her antibodies might help with my cure, we continued the very activity that got me into that predicament in the first place.
But, THEN IT HAPPENED! Two-thirds of the way through the summer, Gloria informed me that she didn’t see much future in our relationship. SAY WHAT? Back at my summer job in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, (having survived the kissing disease), with this heartbreaking news I immediately drove across the state to convince Gloria that she had somehow lost her mind. My mission ended in failure.
Summer evolved into fall, and I returned to Penn State for my junior year. Because Gloria had returned to campus as well, I made frequent attempts to get our romance back on track, but made no headway. What to do? Having grown up in the Lutheran Church, and recognizing that God could solve all problems, I consulted a minister at our campus ministry, explaining my dilemma. I suggested that I pray to God, asking him to send Gloria back to me. AND, I wouldn’t stop praying until that happened. This minister then made what was a thoughtful recommendation. He agreed that my approach had merit, but that I should put a time limit on my efforts. Made sense. I forget now whether it was one, two, or three months, but I commenced praying, and I took this mandate seriously. I spent every waking moment in prayer. I prayed on the way to class, I prayed before, during, and after meals, and went daily to the campus chapel where I figured my plea had the best chance of getting through to higher-ups.
Whatever that length of time was, the agreed-to time period ended, and I had nothing to show for it. It had been an excruciating period because I would occasionally run into Gloria on campus where I searched for any sign that God had made some effort on my behalf.
Basically, that’s the end of my story. I never got Gloria back, but slowly, with time, I accepted that reality. Looking back, after these many years, I’ve come to some noteworthy conclusions:
Number One: Even if our relationship had continued, it likely would have been problematic. We were opposites in many ways. That had been obvious during our dating.
Number Two: Praying to God is a natural human instinct. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a first choice in seeking a solution to a problem.
Number Three: Falling in love makes you crazy.
But most importantly, Number Four: Gloria was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I know that she’s a significant reason for what I’ve become today. She told me that I was smart, that I was good-looking—and that she loved me! (It was probably just a coincidence that, for the spring term of 1965, I achieved my first 4.0 GPA.)
There is one final deduction that, even with all my past naivety, I can also affirm. Had it not been for Gloria, on Friday, February 11, 1983, some 18 years later, I doubt that I’d have had the self-esteem and confidence to walk across that room in the Hilton Hotel, in Monterey, California, and introduce myself to a stranger. Becky turned out to be my soul mate—and the love of my life! And I thank Gloria who, I’m convinced, made that all possible.
Footnote: I am the most sentimental person I know. I treasure memories and mementos (I still have my baby rattle, for goodness sake!). But, if I haven’t already convinced you that I am nuts, I still possess one memento from the story above. If you rummage through my drawers at home, you’ll find an old unwashed handkerchief which, when you unfold it, reveals a reddish stain whose color has mellowed through the years. You’ve probably guessed it. On that handkerchief is the lipstick that I rubbed from my lips some fifty-two years ago—when Gloria and I stood in the doorway of her dormitory, and I kissed her for the last time. I keep that handkerchief as a reminder that, without Gloria, I wouldn’t have my Becky today.
This post was written by paulmarktag