May 18, 2009
I do not know what to say or really what to write in this story but I am going to try to tell you my feelings about Gerald. You see, Gerald was my first love back in the "good old days" as we all like to say. I began to date him in my senior year at S. D. Lee High School in 1968. We dated each other for four years. I was at "The W," and his parents sent him off to "Southern." He hitched a ride home most every weekend, and on those sad Sundays, I would take him over to Bob''s Place to catch his ride back down to Hattiesburg. I cried many a tear at his leaving.
However, with most first loves ours went south and just never found those first flutterings we initially had for each other. I wouldn''t say we didn''t love each other anymore (did we know what love was?), just, that we felt we had bigger fish to fry at our young ages. Oh, what it would be like to be 20 years old again and have those "thoughts" of such bright futures. Of course, by now, I can say that those futures were not so light-filled and things never turn out like you think they will.
Gerald had three brothers, one older and two younger. His sweet mother kept children in their home and his father was a long time educator here in Columbus. A fine family they were. On the weekends, Gerald would have to share a black Mustang with his older brother, one night for him and one night for Gerald. Of course, being a nice Southern belle, my mother would not allow me to use my car because "nice" girls did not use their car for dates.
Doing the math ( and I still can''t) that seems to have left Gerald and me with just one date night a weekend, and so we had that one night to discover what we liked and didn''t, what to eat or not and if we were going to dance at the Straight 8 or go to the Varsity for a good movie?
We lived through the draft lottery and saw the first steps taken on the moon on a black and white television. Together, we had five dollars to spend every week-end and no air-conditioning in our cars, but we felt we had it all, for awhile, anyway.
Gerald made me feel important. He liked me fat or not, too short hair or not and he heard every word I ever said, I just know. Of course, some of you might say that is why we parted but others know what I mean.
We saw the "light" at Mayhew together and I promise, I was not scared because I knew Gerald would get me home and on time. He didn''t seem too embarrassed about my dancing every time I heard the Temptations or singing at the top of my ability their song, "My Girl." I think, I am not sure, but Gerald thought I could have been America''s next "Idol."
But, like I said, things just sorta went south for us and we moved on to that greener pasture that we are all still looking for.
Forty years have passed, and I can say that Gerald set the standard high for my next great love. I expected my doors opened for me and my desperate phone calls answered. He never married but I did. I had a son, my only child, and he had none. I divorced and raised my child alone and Gerald was just down in Louisiana. If he could have read my mind he would have known he was not alone, then or even now. The years rocked on by, and yesterday came and then, today.
About a month ago, my BFF called to tell me that Gerald had been diagnosed with that dreaded disease, cancer. Boy, did I have a moment back in time. I thought, what if we had married; what if we had stayed in touch; what would we have done now? The only answer I could come up with was that I was going to see him. I would just go but like all good intentions, I didn''t.
I have heard that the road to heaven is paved with good intentions and I think I have paved that road, even four-laned it in my lifetime. I did get out an e-mail to all of our classmates asking for a card to be sent to Gerald, but I did not even get mine sent.
Up in the morning on Thursday, May 14, I got a phone call. Gerald had been found dead, alone in his home, in Louisiana. A friend had found him; he had come to take him to another doctor''s appointment. I guess we all feel at a time such as this one that if we could have just talked to him or her or if we could just have sat a spell with them we might could have turned things around, but that is just life and we can''t live with "might-have-beens."
I don''t know why I have written this or even if it will see the light of another day, but I try to do what my heart is feeling, and today it is heavy. I just wanted to remember that someone who turned a cloudy day into sunshine and the cold into a day in May.
When a first love is snatched away from us a little part of us goes too. At the least, I know Gerald will never hear "My Girl" again, but I will, and my memory of him will be with me, forever young.
Carol Littlejohn is an occasional contributor to The Dispatch. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org