Adventures in Dating: Helen – Part IX

Helen’s First Love

After my divorce and enduring my set-ups, life was crazy. Talk about mass confusion all of the time. How in the hell was I supposed to remember how to date, let alone what a guy wanted? The whole idea of the dating scene and all of the horror stories you hear now in our society is enough to make any woman run to a convent and beg them to take her in. I was pretty much to that point, but knew deep down, I would either end up breaking my vows after meeting some great parishoner or falling in love with a priest.

Alas, I knew then and I have always known, that I was not born to live the life of a nun. Some days, however, it feels as if I was born to live the life of someone who yearns for love, but isn’t meant to have it. It seems as if I am looking in through a window on happy couples everywhere, with no one beside me. How very cruel it all feels sometimes, and how ironic life can be. The irony in this chapter is, that I feel that I had a very wonderful man in my life at one time whom I just threw away. The truth of the matter is, he came into my life at the wrong time. I was too young to appreciate what was right in front of me. On the other hand, perhaps it was the right time because maybe God had always planned for Andrew to play that role in my life. Perhaps he knew that something wouldn‘t quite work out between us, and that Andrew instead, could play the most important role of my life, as the man who introduced me to love.

Whichever way it was supposed to be with Andrew, I will choose to believe the latter. Why not put a positive spin on it all? I certainly can’t be like the guy from my favorite show, Quantum Leap and go back and fix it all.

What happened is now history and despite my confusion and chaos with set ups, horrible dates and trying to get over my ex-husband, only one thing is certain. My past was haunting me as often as my heart was beating, each time I thought about Andrew. There were many reasons I thought about him so frequently. Primarily, the mind can forget many things; but once something is in someone‘s heart, it is unforgettable. For this reason, nothing is as indelible as a first love is to a heart. It is like permanent ink that can never be erased.

Thus, even while I was happily married to my husband, I would think about Andrew from time to time. That said, please know that even though I thought about him, I would have never acted on it. No, I had committed my life to someone and would have stayed with him until my very last breath. However, thinking about Andrew from time to time was not a sin, so although I felt guilty about it, I knew it was only natural.

Andrew was a man who is like none other that my heart has ever held. He will always have a piece of it, despite whomever the future intends to let into my life. As someone once told me, “No one can compete with a first love, Helen. They shouldn’t even try.” I do have many funny stories that will make you laugh until you cry about him and I will share some of those. Perhaps that is why he is so dear to me and always will be. I could type out a laundry list of the things that I loved about him, but all attributes aside, he was my first love.

When I returned back to my home town with my son Gideon after my divorce, my intention was to stay. However, as luck would have it, I couldn’t find a teaching job there and things just never worked out to accommodate my wish of staying in the quaint little farm town in which I was raised. It would have been lovely to be able to move closer to my family. As an added bonus to living in the area, Andrew was also still there and still single. How silly, to think after ten years that someone would still feel the same way I felt. However, with each beat of my heart, my hope grew that maybe Andrew would still want to see if perhaps destiny could lead us back together. Maybe this time, we would be ready. “Maybe“… I would tell myself and tack on a new, hopeful ending to my daydreams, as my thoughts drifted off lazily each time I had a second to think back on my time with Andrew….

We met as adults the day before my graduation party at a cousin’s wedding. The reason why I say it this way is because our families had known each other for a long, long time. He was the nephew of my uncle who married my aunt. Yes, I realize that sounds disturbing, but play it again in your head and know that there is no blood relation. We grew up playing alongside each other at neighboring cottages up north in the summers.

However, now, as adults, things were different. Yes, he was still five years older than me, but maturity and time morph lanky little kids into beautiful adults; beautiful adults that could have grown up playing alongside each other, not noticing any beauty, but unable as adults, to ignore the beauty only age can bring. I was eighteen, beautiful, slim, and tan. I had hair down to my waist that was curly and I was happy with no worries in the world. I was going off to college in the fall and vowed that I wasn’t going to date anyone because I wanted to go to college single. Instead, I met Andrew. He was tall, built like a toned farm boy, tan dark haired and handsome. (Yes, I realize this is sounding like a harlequin romance novel. Lol)

That night, we both went with our families to a mutual cousin’s wedding. It was a serendipitous moment for us to meet; as everyone at my table had gone off to dance, leaving me alone. I had been staring at him off and on all night because I had had a crush on him since I was a little girl. There I sat, in my yellow dress, looking around as I sat awkwardly at the table for a couple minutes (but what seemed like an eternity). Not knowing what else to do and not yet old enough to feel confident in my own skin to appreciate the hilarity of my grandmother out on the dance floor doing the electric slide, I got up to go to the bathroom.

I had to go anywhere but there, just so I didn‘t feel like everyone was looking at me. Just then, however, as I got up to push my chair in, I saw him heading toward my table. It was almost as if we had planned for him to ask me to dance, and I was simply getting up to come to him and follow him to the dance floor. From then on, we were inseparable. Yes, I worried about the awkwardness of it all, about dating him and our family history together, but that was a mere afterthought. The sparks flew in the air like fireworks on the fourth of July. I hadn’t followed my plan of staying single because he seemed to be the man of my dreams.

He was the manly type who grew up working on a farm and knew what to do when my car broke down. He was a gentleman who opened up doors and treated me with great respect. He was dashingly handsome and the type that looked like he could have been a Roman King. We had so much fun together that we convinced ourselves that despite our age, despite our geographical challenge in the upcoming years, we would end up together.

Weeks after our meeting, we went off to separate areas of the state to go to college. With a tearful goodbye, Andrew and I vowed to each other that we would make things work. The year progressed and many trips were made back and forth to our home town to see one another. Phone calls, emails, packages, visits, and love kept our relationship alive. However, it wasn’t enough.

The geographical distance and our pains of growing into adults began to wear on us. Truthfully, I was content with being “The girl who had a boyfriend out of town”, but I was also jealous of the girls who were going to formals and having fun on dates. Our relationship began to suffer and it seemed that we were either always on the brink of breaking up or getting married. Of course, when we were together, we wanted to get married. However, when we were apart, we would argue and communication would be lost between us. I felt as if I were living in two different worlds: my world at school and my world with Andrew at home. I loved them both, but didn’t know if it were possible to fully enjoy them both at the same time.

When we were together, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. Our family members would tease us because we were the couple who would give each other kisses even in between hands while playing cards. I wasn’t ever afraid to tell everyone how much I loved him, nor was he afraid to profess his love for me. When one looked at us from the outside, I am sure that we made a few people envious. Looking back, what we had was what they call puppy love and boy, was it great.

There were many times when we were “consummating our love to one another” that we either got caught or were nearly caught. Whether it was in his old farm truck, lying in the bed of the truck with blankets and looking at the stars or making out like bandits on our parents’ couches, we always seemed to be interrupted. My most favorite memory, one that still makes me laugh to this day until I get tears in my eyes, was when my parents had gone to a wedding. Andrew and I were in the heat of it all and heard the front door open and close. My parents’ voices jovially rang through the air, as he and I stopped dead and looked at each other.

‘“Run!” I told him, panicking. We were both sitting, naked as the day we were born, there in my parents’ living room.

“What? Run where? Helen, my clothes! Your clothes!” Andrew whispered in a panic stricken voice, as we both glanced at socks lying in one part of the room, shirts in another, with no sign of pants anywhere.

“Just go to my room, fast! I have some of my brother’s sweat pants and things you can put on. Just GO!”.

We nearly made it to my bedroom and began ransacking my dresser drawers for clothing. I quickly found something to throw on. However, as luck would have it, we couldn’t find a thing for poor Andrew. As we began arguing in hushed tones about what to do, I heard my parents’ voices just around the corner of my room.

“Holy shit, Helen! What if your parents walk in and see me standing stark naked in your room? Your dad is going to KILL me!” Andrew whispered furiously.

“Okay honey, don’t panic. Here, put these red sweat pants on… at least you will be covered.” I said as I threw a pair of my old, red sweat pants at him, forgetting that they were an extra small size and no longer even fit me. As he put on the sweatpants, I saw something that will never leave my mind because it was one of the most hilarious things I will ever see. There stood poor Andrew, looking as frazzled and panicked as I had ever seen him, looking piteously at me with those red sweatpants on. They wouldn’t have been so bad had they been the appropriate size. However, they looked as though they were stretch, capri pants on him and only came down to the top of his shins. To top it all off, they had the word “Espirit” (the brand name of the pants) emblazoned down the left leg of the pants in big, white letters.

Although I could hear my parents’ voices booming around the corner and thoughts of the door flying open to my enraged parents finding us teased its way into my mind, all I could do was practically collapse into fits of laughter. Seriously. I was useless. I had to hold myself up using the dresser just to remain standing. It was the funniest, most desperate sight of someone not wanting to get caught having sex. Oh, poor Andrew. All he could do was look at me, and furiously scream in his whispery voice to find him something else and to stop laughing.

We didn’t get caught that night, miraculously. Although our clothes were strewn about my parents’ living room and they walked right by “The scene of the crime”, the liquor they had consumed at the wedding they had gone to must have either clouded their judgement or made them not notice it at all.

Even though we were nearly caught, it didn’t stop us from attempting it over and over again. I just couldn’t help it with him. Some people, you just have that particular magnetism with, and I very much did with Andrew. Also, I thought that I was going to marry him, so, as they say, “No harm was done in the making of these scenes of Helen‘s story”.

Despite our physical connection, it alone was not enough to keep us together. As I said, I felt as if I was torn between two worlds and I would only have that particular time to experience my world at college. However, if it were meant to be, I would have the rest of my life to experience my world at home with Andrew. How naïve and narcissistic youth can make a person to think another person will always be there waiting for them in the end. However, had I not lived my life in college and fully embraced that “world”, I think I may have always regretted that, too.

So, as the story goes, we eventually broke up. Actually, we broke up and got back together many times. It was easy to get back together because I tend to only remember the good things about that person and how they made me feel during our happy times.

But then, I would experience his fiery temper and his immaturity and the fact that I felt somewhat trapped back in that small farm town. I felt as if he wanted to live back in our hometown forever and was ready to get started on living there as soon as he was done with school, which would have been my sophomore year of college. In my eyes, life was full of adventure and the world was meant to be traveled, not just dreamt about. My forever, I felt, was not yet ready to be written and given yet to that small town in which I grew up.

At the time, my freshman year of college, I couldn’t get away fast enough from our little hometown. I felt as if I would never get out and see the world, if I didn‘t escape then. Its quaint, loving environment would consume me and I would never leave. Now, at the age of thirty-one, I can’t get back to that little, innocent farm town quickly enough. I would love to raise my son in that kind of environment and know that although the world is a lovely and grand place, my home town is the only one town in which I yearn to live. Again, timing has never been in my favor.

Our very last break up was one for the books. It was straight out of a movie scene, as the sun set and he came to my parents’ house to pick me up for a date. This was going to be a very special date. I just knew it. I had a feeling he might propose to me. However, I will never know now.

I was now in my second year of college and Andrew had moved back to our home town. We had talked about marriage many times before it and it seemed inevitable with us. He had just bought a house that we both looked at. And old lady had owned the home previously and it needed a lot of work, but overall, it was a nice place. Over the next few months, I helped him as much as I could to fix the place up (Though he and his family did most of the work while I was away at school). We built many memories in that house and more than I could write about. However, my favorite one was when we were re-modeling the downstairs bathroom and cleaning under the antiqued, claw-footed tub.

We were both on our hands and knees and all of the sudden, we spotted them. The beige “old lady shoes” the orthopedic kind that can only be bought by being ordered out of a catalogue. As he pulled them out from underneath the tub, we both screamed as he dropped the shoes like they were hot coals.

“She’s dead!” Andrew screamed as they thumped to the floor.

“I know! Oh my gosh! We found her shoes! I will never, ever see that kind of shoe again and not think of this moment!” I screamed in horror as we both sat, looking at the shoes.

We ran out of the bathroom and stood back, looking into the bathroom at the shoes.

“What do we do with them?” I asked Andrew, knowing that we had to remove them from the house so we didn’t feel so creepy.

“Get me the broom and dust pan,” he said, with a serious look on his face as though he were a surgeon about to perform a brain operation.

I took him the broom and dustpan, and Andrew carefully swept them onto the dustpan, as though just touching them would also kill us.

We took them out to the garbage can outside and ran inside the house. “We have to check for more evidence. This is creeping me out. I feel like she is right here with us,” Andrew continued as we ran back inside.

“I know. I mean, she died here. I get that. It’s creepy enough, but finding her shoes. Ugh. It’s almost too much to bear. Let’s do a thorough search of the house and make sure everything else is gone,” I said. That night was hilarious, as we searched the house as though we were Sherlock Holmes and Watson looking for clues. We ended up collapsing in laughter, as we fell into bed that night at how funny it all ended up being.

Moments like that will live forever in my mind, and replay as though I hadn’t lived them, but am watching them on a movie. This was going to be our house together and I loved it, but I was also panicking at the same time. Although we had fun times like that, I still wasn’t sure what to do and it was as if my two worlds were finally colliding, yelling at me to choose which one I wanted to live in.

Finally, it was time. I chose. It was a Saturday and Andrew and I were supposed to go out on a date. He had told me to get dressed up and that we were going to go somewhere special. However, since I knew what I had to do, I couldn’t let myself go through my Saturday ritual of spending all day to get ready. I stayed in my pajamas and waited. I waited, nervous as hell and scared with everything that I had in me.

Bottom line, I knew that I had to break up with Andrew, to be fair to us both. With the house and his getting a job eventually, I felt like I was on a train that was beginning its decent from the station and I either had to stay on or jump off. I felt as if I chose to stay on the train (or stay with Andrew), I would continue onto what would probably be a happy life, but I’d be saying goodbye to part of my young adulthood that I would never get back. I was afraid that I wouldn’t finish college and I’d just move back home. I had looked forward to going to college my whole life and thought it was imperative to the formation of my character.

I didn’t yet know how I was going to get up the gumption to break up with him, as I was not the person I now am, who could do it in a second with ease. No, then, I was the type of girl who was very conscientious of what people thought and I was very timid. I also loved Andrew and the very thought of possibly hurting him pained me.

As he came to the door that night, I was terrified, but I knew I couldn’t let myself down. I had to go and live life at college, date and have the opportunity to study abroad if I wanted. That night, Andrew came to the door looking excited and full of life. However, as he looked at me, standing in my pajamas with a depressed look upon my face, he didn’t need words to explain to him what was going to happen.

I don’t remember what we talked about as he sat inside my parents’ house with me for a short time. All I remember is the moment that he began to leave, after he realized that we wouldn‘t be going out on our date that night. I didn’t have the words that I thought would just come to me when I needed to break up with him. Instead, what I did, spoke louder than words. I was silent.

Dead silence rang through the air as he looked at me while he stood next to his car and asked, “Helen, do you want to break up with me? Are you doing this because you don’t know how else to do it?” Soft mist sprinkled down on us and looked almost magical as it danced through the cascading light from the overhead lanterns in my parents’ yard. All I could do, as time stood frozen, was look at him and nod silently as tears slid down my cheeks.

Although many words were running through my head and I wanted to cry out to him to not leave and just take me in his arms and tell me that we could make everything work, no words would form on my lips. Instead, I stood there in my parents’ driveway, crying as the mist danced down on my face, taking my tears and my heart along with them to the ground as Andrew drove away.

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