Updated: Jan 26, 2019
In 1977, I went to work for LaMancha, my dad's real estate company. He decided Tampa held more development possibilities than Dallas and that fall he moved us all to Florida. Lynne and I arrived late one afternoon at the Sandpiper hotel on Clearwater beach, all our wordly belongings stowed in my trusty Dodge van.
After dinner we walked arm in arm along a massive pier than ran out over the ocean. We stopped about halfway down to smoke a joint, then noticed a commotion at the far end. A small crowd had gathered around a fisherman. As we drew closer, we could see his fishing pole was almost doubled in two over the railing and he was hanging on for dear life.
From just a few paces away we both looked over that same railing. Fifty feet below us an arc light shone on his nylon line as it described small tight circles in the ocean waves.
We were in a state of stoned wonder, having no idea what could be caught on the other end of that line. Breathless moments went by, our anticipation growing. When a manta ray finally broke the surface, grey finned back glistening in the light, it was a more incredible sight than anything we could have imagined.
That huge flattened fish floated across the surface long enough for us to see it's massive fins undulate twice in slow motion, then it disappeared beneath the waves again. We watched his fruitless struggle until finally the man gave up, cut his line, and the crowd dispersed.
Filled with new sights and new experiences, that was our first night in Florida. It seemed a promise of more magic to come.
What happened after that?
Maybe, once we got to Florida, I decided the future was more important than the present. Dad was in the middle of a string of real estate development successes, most of the kids were working for him, and I wanted to do my part. I went to night school to begin working toward a real estate degree. Always one to make us walk before we ran, dad was paying me just $900 a month, so a part time job at Florsheim shoes in the mall helped make ends meet. This money became even more important after Lynne lost her dental assistant position. I don’t believe she ever liked the work and it took her a long time to find something else to do.
Maybe, it was something as stupid as the fact that IUDs had proven painful to her, so Lynne started taking the pill just before we moved to Florida. It caused weight gain and skin issues for her. Thinking back on everything, I don’t believe Lynne ever really thought she was very pretty. I know she never liked having her picture taken. Today, I can imagine how a young woman, almost still a teenager, might be filled with self-doubt by negative physical changes and come to believe her man saw her the same way.
Back then, I was sadly clueless.
If I had been a little more perceptive, there were plenty of things I could of done to reassure Lynne how much I really loved her but maybe I played foosball too many times when I should have been dancing with her. Lynne was well, always, just there in my mind. That assumption was the biggest mistake I've ever made.
We moved from our first apartment into a small duplex. I was working day and night, going to college, and coming home completely worn out. We started arguing about a lot of stupid, inconsequential things. When we got our tax return Lynne wanted a stereo. My demand for a better TV was the tipping point for her. She told me she wanted a divorce.
Turns out Bill, who was a good friend of ours at the apartment complex, had been entertaining Lynne during the day, while I worked. Lynne moved out of our new place and back into our old apartment complex with him.
I realized I had lost her and fell into a long, deep depression. I got out of that very haunted duplex and found an apartment on the ocean. It had concrete racquetball courts. I started playing four or five hours a day, trying to lose myself in the intense competition.
I got my real estate degree, but work suffered. Paul got so worried about my state of mind, he even moved to Florida to be my roommate again. A few times Lynne got to really missing me. She would come over, but the lovemaking was sweet and sad, and she would always leave again.
Lynne missed her parents while we were in Texas. Even more so in Florida. After a quick divorce I had no interest in contesting, Bill offered to help move her back to Chicago. I never saw Lynne again.
Lynne and Bill eventually got married. I know she had two girls, because she kept in touch with my mom at Christmas for many years. I saw one picture of her when she was about forty. She still looked like an angel to me.
Anger and guilt never learn. They only fester. The many turns my road took, as I made my way back to a happy, productive life, are detailed in "A Week of Years", but everything I learned can be summed up by a single phrase, “Life is good!”. When anyone hears me say that, it is me reminding myself of a truth hard won against the demon, Despair. Life is the only thing 100% crucial to happiness.
When I think of Lynne nowadays, I understand the emotional strings that bound us unraveled too rapidly for our younger selves to handle. It was no one’s fault. That’s why the last poem in “Tuesday’s Lost Love” is my personal favorite. It simply and cleanly relates how love really ends.
I am one of the lucky ones. I experienced a love so powerful it will warm (and sometimes pain) my heart for the rest of my days.
I’ve been having the same few dreams about Lynne for decades, but I had a new one about her early this morning:
I was watching Lynne get ready. She already had a pink dress on. She pulled a long-sleeved blue sweater top over her head. Then, she cinched a big white belt around her waist. She finished by placing a pink bow in her long, curling blonde hair. She was looking slightly away from me, as though at a mirror. I was telling her, as she donned each, how that article of clothing made her look even more beautiful. She was focused on getting dressed, but I could tell my compliments pleased her.
All the love I once felt for her was real and powerful again. When I awoke, I was still wrapped in the warm glow of that love. Those emotions took some moments to gently fade into the background of my life where they now belong. I don’t know what the dream means, but digging around in the past has turned out to be quite the emotional journey.
End of Part IV