Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Love of My Life

When I was 13, my friend and I knew we’d celebrate our high school graduations spending a month on Waikiki Beach. I’d party my brains out in Hawaii as I’d been doing at home behind my parents’ backs. My mother divorced a second time that year and I took it upon myself to punish her by becoming an obstinate, fiercely head-strong, drinking, cigarette and marijuana-smoking, foul-mouthed bully. With the help of an even stronger friend down the street, at least all smoking stopped after a couple months.
 In June of 1978, I graduated high school with a straight-D grade point average and a bottle of booze buried in the dirt under my folding graduation chair. On the football field I passed the illegal beverage back and forth to my “cool friends” while the attending parents glowed with pride at our scholarly accomplishments. I was a full-fledged adult now, on my way to making a positive impact on the world. I had the world by the balls believing there was nothing I couldn’t do.
As planned the past five years, my Hawaiian Island vacation became a reality. A girlfriend and I met there for a month’s vacation. We partied as planned as the legal drinking is 18 ~ not that a State’s higher legal drinking age could stop me. We met plenty of boys, even some my mother would never allow in our home. Somehow, the photo of our unknown admirer’s best friend, and his missing teeth, is not in my photo album. I have a thing for great teeth, however, by the looks of this photo, my radar was obviously ignored.

Rhonda, Unknown Admirer, Me, 1978,
Fort DeRussy Beach, Waikiki

The following day, Rhonda and I went sight-seeing, flirted with more boys and headed back to our favorite spot at Fort DeRussy’s Army beach in Waikiki. It was there Rhonda met a man and they were talking. I left them alone so they could become acquainted with each other.
Grateful for a moment’s rest, I sat down on a low rock wall and gazed at the water’s edge. I noticed an effeminate man bothering a handsome young man who was walking out of the water with his surf board. The surfer noticed me sitting alone calmly, quietly and peacefully with my toes curled into the warm sand. He pointed at me and said to the gay man, “See that? She’s mine.” The surfer walked over, smiled with perfectly straight white teeth and said, “Hi, I’m John.” I instantly knew he was someone my mother would allow into our home and into our hearts.
Unbeknownst to John and me, at that moment our lives would forever be changed. All I needed to know about devotion, passion, security, tenderness, comfort, adoration and an indescribable longing, I would learn from him. I was 18, when we walked into each other’s arms to experience an unconditional love our hearts and souls will remember until we die.
Unfortunately, the following day Rhonda’s money was stolen and she returned to the Mainland. I spent the remaining three weeks bliss-filled with my new beau. He was a 20-year-old Army soldier who spent his days working and evenings with me. From the moment we met, only his military duties could pry us apart.
On our first date the next evening, the handsome soldier picked me up at the YWCA where I was staying. We walked around Waikiki taking in the sites, had a bite to eat and then he returned me to the YWCA. There on the hood of his car he kissed me and I said, “Finally!” We kissed into the wee morning hours until he left and reported to duty.
He arrived the next evening at the YWCA and again we kissed for half an hour while I sat on the hood of his car. We drove to the North Shore of the Island, kissing while he drove. We stopped at a store and purchased a bottle of wine, some crackers and an awful canned cheese.
We continued the drive to Lanikea, our destination, and set down a blanket at the ocean’s front. He remembers wearing Ocean Pacific shorts and a white table cloth cotton shirt. I wore powder blue jeans and a tube top. It was after all still the 70s.
We talked, laughed and drank wine with our cheese and crackers. It was a hot summer’s night therefore, he removed his Hawaiian-style shirt. The light-hearted laughter came to an end when I ran my index finger up and down the scar on his left shoulder. From there, we kissed and caressed for hours into the night.
Our innocent playfulness stopped abruptly when we looked into each other’s eyes and I asked what would become of us. My love used the title line from a Bob Seger tune, “We’ve Got Tonight.” It was then we expressed those amazing words, “I love you.” The sun came up and we drove back to town. The next couple of days we spent as much time together as possible, eating, kissing and treasuring each other. We were young virgins deeply in love by now. Sadly, however, my month-long summer vacation was over. With our hearts aching, I left my first love and returned to the Mainland.
We wrote and called each other frequently. He’d get tons of quarters for the pay phone and we’d talk for an hour. Our young love was in full bloom by this time. He made plans to visit at my parent’s home in Redding, California.
A Hughes Air West Banana Plane brought us back together on a Friday evening in September. I picked him up at the airport and we were so happy to see each other, we didn’t let go for half an hour. We drove to my parent’s home, where he met my mother, stepfather and Ross, my brother. My mother was completely at ease with him and they bonded immediately. I introduced him to several of my closest friends and together, we relived many of my childhood memories. He and Ross shared the guest house, however, my love and I joined each other after my family was asleep.
At the time, I was beginning a new job in Chico and we drove there for my training. My mother was understandably distressed about our sleeping arrangements therefore, I told her we’d stay in separate hotel rooms. Naturally, this wasn’t the case. We shared a bed and tender moments. We were awkward at first, however, maintained our innocence. We were embarrassed about being virgins, however, expressed our passion safely and tenderly. By this time, our trust reached full capacity. It was on a trip to Shasta Dam, we promised we’d wait for the perfect time to end our virginity.
Before we could blink, it was time for my love to return to Hawaii. He, Ross, my mother and stepfather were very close by the week’s end and they, too, were sad to see him leave. My knowing and trusting mother emptied the house so we could be alone. Taking my love by the hand, I led him to my bedroom where we hugged and kissed until we thought we’d burst into flames. We undressed each other and kissed and caressed for what seemed an eternity.
By now, our body’s wants, needs and desires were second nature to us. If my mother came home that afternoon unexpectedly, she would have been mortified by the noises coming from her daughter. Time, however, was out for us again. We dressed and I brought him to the airport. The Hughes Air West Banana plane took my love away from me. Watching the airplane fly away, I knew I’d never recover from his absence.
Although he was sad at our separation, he perked up when Oahu was once again in sight. We continued exchanging letters and phone calls, promising to maintain our ties. The next month, I told my family I was moving to Hawaii and left four days later. The wave of destruction this caused haunts me to this day, however, nothing in the world could keep me from my love a moment longer.
In late October after returning from surfing, a friend knocked on my soldier’s barracks door and said, "Some chick named Debbie is on the phone for you." My soldier rushed to the phone where we began talking and laughing. About 10 minutes into our conversation, I mentioned our rock wall in Waikiki where we met and his eyes lit up. I told him to meet me there.
He hopped into his car and sped down the highway finally pulling into the Fort Derussy parking lot.  He ran as fast as he could and found me sitting on our wall, a specific symbol of our great young love. He thought I looked beautiful wearing my lei. We hugged and kissed for an hour and then went for a bite to eat. We went to my hotel room and made love still with our virginity in tact. We spent hours devouring each other until the sun came up. I loved this more than words can express. Our intimate closeness was special and I instinctively knew I could trust him to protect me from harm.
Soon, I began a job and moved into an apartment with two friends. My love and I spent as much time as we could together laughing, loving and sleeping like angels. We visited our wall at every opportunity. Our romance was intense, however, it seemed we were doomed again for separation when he received word his military unit would deploy to Korea for four months. The sorrow we felt was indescribable, however, my soldier again reminded me, “We’ve Got Tonight.” I said I’d wait for his return, knowing we were bonded for life. This brought him great comfort.
On an early November morning in 1978, his first sergeant pointed at him and barked, "You, in my office now!" The sergeant looked angry and was abrupt. He threw a copy of new orders down on his desk and remarked, "If I had my way, this would not happen.”
My soldier knew then it was time for his deployment to Korea and with a sinking heart, looked at the paperwork. He glanced over the orders and then read them again. Surprisingly, instead they contained lifeguard orders for the remainder of his military time located at - our wall in Waikiki! The first sergeant sternly looked at him and said, "Soldier, pack your stuff and get out of here.” Then, his sergeant had a change of heart and said, "Go enjoy yourself, soldier!"
After thanking his sergeant, my soldier drove to my apartment still dressed in his olive drab battle uniform. He was now the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the lifeguard squad. Non-commissioned officers usually obtain their position of authority by promotion through the enlisted ranks. He knocked on my door and surprised me. Picking me up, he relayed the news of his new orders at Fort DeRussy Beach Park. We hugged and kissed and I remarked how cute he looked in his Army uniform. Truly, someone was guiding our lives, making sure we remained together as hoped. We slept together every night as it was impossible being separated.
I was proud and showed him off to everyone I knew. This made him feel very special. He was my soldier and protector, who wouldn’t let harm come to me. One of the civilian lifeguards constantly remarked how we were the ultimate All-American boy and girl. 
We enjoyed each other’s company on our date nights. He was my loving guide and I willingly followed his lead. We cared for each other, shared intimacy at every opportunity and were very content. On our date nights, we’d go to a movie or dine at Mama’s, our favorite Mexican restaurant.
 Our great young love was surrounded by his guidance and my faith in his capabilities. Ours was a very positive relationship. It succeeded beautifully, as we easily understood each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our trust in each other was high and our souls were in harmony. In intimacy we were natural with each other. He was my handsome, caring, leading man and I was his beautiful, sensitive, admiring woman. For us, it was heaven on earth.
 One evening, we went to see "The Deer Hunter.” This is a film about the impact of the Vietnam War and its effect on the brutally tortured soldiers. As we soon discovered, the main feature wasn’t as significant as the short film preceding. The short film was staged in New York City's Central Park, where a man sat on a bench, recalling a love affair he had as a young soldier while stationed in Europe. This relationship ended for reasons unknown to him. She was his true love and he never had the opportunity to tell her how grateful he was for this. The short film deeply saddened us.
That night our passion was extremely intense. I feared losing him to war and having him end up like one of the soldiers in Vietnam. We were deeply concerned about what happened to the young solider and his true love while he was stationed in Europe. We were so emotionally charged from these two films, we gave our hearts and souls to each other, vowing never to have them part - no matter what. We interrupted our sexual moments to discuss the two films in depth. We wondered how they could possibly affect our young lives. As I cried, my compassionate lover held me close and comforted me saying, “We’ve Got Tonight.”
Our young love is the greatest experience in our youth-filled years. With him as my trusted protector and me as his faithful naiveté, we were complete. Our intimate moments sealed this commitment. Although we were still virgins a year into our relationship, he vowed to prevent me from getting pregnant until the time was right. Openly and with love, we discussed having a family revolving around Spencer and Yancy, our two boys. This was the man I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with.
The day before my 19th birthday, my love visited me at my apartment. When I opened the door he saw a young woman in love, no longer an adolescent girl. That afternoon he had no control over me. For the first time in our intimacy, I was in control. We undressed each other, kissed, caressed and pleasured each other. With our hands joined, I said it was time for him to take me. He was gentle, loving and tender as we gave up our virginity for one another. Our eyes maintained contact during this life-altering transformation. We were never the same for our hearts now beat as one.
Most soldiers look forward to their End Term of Service and have on-going visions of celebration. This wasn’t the case for my soldier, who soon realized he was confused and felt insecure. He knew the mandatory requirements were to meet his “ETS” day with a smile, however, the emotional aspect was a challenge. His leadership role in our relationship was strained, pulled and crushed. A year of our solid togetherness passed before we knew it. The time arrived for my soldier’s military duty to end. The moment he wished, longed, prayed and pleaded for eventually came true. After four years, his dream of freedom from the Army was finally a reality.
He sat in his lifeguard tower looking at our wall, wondering what was to become of us. I looked to him for guidance and asked about our future. He didn’t have an answer therefore, I told him there was no reason for me to stay. The direction, motivation, purpose, stability and healthy lifestyle he provided were gone. The girl who partied from 13 to 18 and then became centered from a divinely-guided relationship, lost her most precious, vital force. 
For the first time in John’s life, he felt he failed and failed miserably.  Attempting to regain his footing, he went to his first sergeant, only to learn his superior had been replaced. John asked the replacement sergeant for an extension, however, was told to grow up and be a man. He could no longer use our security phrase, "We’ve Got Tonight.”
John completed his final days at Fort DeRussy Beach Park with a fake smile and cheers from his buddies. The “ETS” parties and fine camaraderie couldn’t mask his overwhelming sense of failure to me, his true love. It was then he went to his barracks bunk and privately cried in agony.
The requirements for his military departure were drawing near. With his imminent release, I returned to my parent’s home in Redding. I’d looked to him for support, leadership and protectiveness in my young adult life, however, he didn’t know what was to become of us. This ended our relationship, devastating us both.
John called his father for advice and was told he needed to complete his obligation to me, which would serve him well. With his chin up and a smile, the civilian man with new-found freedom flew to my parent’s home in Redding.
My family welcomed him again with open arms. Ross, my younger brother, enlisted in the Air Force and looked to my former soldier for direction. My mother discussed how we could stay together through this transition in our young lives, however, I’d already enrolled in college 12 hours away. With my severe learning disabilities, it was imperative I prove I was capable and knowledgeable even without my protector. I no longer had the direction of my loving guide therefore, I’d created a back-up plan. Upon hearing this, he returned to his parents’ home in New Jersey July 4th, 1979. John believed he’d flown out of my life forever. While there, however, he sent loving letters to me each week, always including messages to my family and our animals.
 While at his parent’s home, he gathered with his childhood buddies and enjoyed his freedom from the Army. He sent letters to me at my parent’s home indicating he no longer belonged in New Jersey and was searching for where he should begin his life as a civilian. He signed his letters, “I love you, Baby Doll.” Unbeknownst to John, I’d been seeing someone since arriving back at my parent’s home, however, hadn’t told him. After all, I thought our relationship ended.
In August, John let me know he’d begin deep-sea diving school close to my college in Southern California. He’d be there a month before I arrived and would be waiting for me. He’d begun creating a new path for us and our lives together. To punish John for ending our relationship, I refused his loving attempts at a new-found reconciliation. I’d returned to that obstinate, fiercely head-strong, partying, immature girl. John patiently waited for me to sow my wild oats while I ignorantly would reap what I was sowing.  We dated each other, however, not exclusively. I went to him when the other men left me feeling cold, empty and used. John flew to his parents’ home in New Jersey for Christmas and sent a letter letting me know his deepest, sincerest feelings, “I really miss you Babe, more and more each day. I love you more than anything. I want to marry you someday, so don’t meet anybody new, but if you do please let me know. I don’t want anyone else but you. I’m looking forward to March and seeing you, so don’t forget about me, OK? I love you, Deb. John.” Two years later, he proudly watched while I obtained my AA degree sitting with my mother, stepfather and my Grammy Lou.
After obtaining my AA degree in Southern California in 1981, I moved to the Bay Area telling John that’s now where I wanted to live and begin my fashion career. I left him to continue his deep-sea schooling. Once again, we began writing letters and in his, John expresses his deepest love and hopes we one day share a life together. He writes we’ve had so many reunions and separations, he can no longer count them all, however, says one day it will stop and we’ll finally be together again claiming, “That will be a very good day in the life of John Murray. All my love, John.” Meanwhile, I was seeing someone new ~ and again hadn’t told him.
John sent a letter saying our thoughts on the meaning of life are the same, however, the conflict is in our miles apart from each other. What I failed to communicate is I was running from him to teach punish him for ruining our future plans. What I failed to realize was the poison I’d made for John and also my mother was being poured into my mouth instead of theirs.
John let me know he’s finally leaving me for his vocation while I pursue mine. He writes, “I’m an adventurer, always looking for what pleases me and quenches my thirst for excitement, knowledge and total infatuation. I can move on the spur of the moment, some would call it flighty or instability – I call it freedom. The 9-5 jail sentence does not suit my life style or my needs. The only thing constant in my life is change. It is cruel to put a wild animal in a cage restricting his movements until he is insane. This is what so many people do to themselves. What a pity, for they do not know what they have missed. Happiness is the key to both physical and mental stability. Variety is truly the spice of life, everything in moderation. Do you know where I’m coming from? I have the world by the balls, to do what pleases me. You have so much to give. Find the right guy that will always be home, always be there, always-always. I love you very much. It hurts, but it is the truth. I’m just a rambling man, a rolling stone that gathers no moss. Good luck in your next job assignment. John.” It’s clear I’ve pushed him too far.
The following week John sent another letter responding to my question asking whether he has another woman. I know I still want him, however, not right now. I still want him to wait until I’m finished running around. He responds telling me he doesn’t want to get involved with anyone because the deep-sea diving work he does is very dangerous and time-consuming. He said it wouldn’t be fair to ask any woman to wait for him. He knows I have my work in Northern California and he wouldn’t ask me to give this up. Besides, he writes, “you wouldn’t anyway. I will always love you. John.”
He ended up moving to the Bay Area and lived near me again. For two years, we dated each other and others as well. In the spring of 1983, I left him again, this time returning to Oahu. I’d enrolled at the University of Hawaii to obtain my four-year degree. I flew to my parents’ home in Redding that Christmas where John and I reconnected there hoping a permanent reunion would take place. It appeared I’d calm down and a permanent reunion could finally take place.
After returning to Hawaii a week later, we maintained contact, however, I resumed my heavy partying and seeing other men. Truly, the cards were stacked against us because my obstinate and flighty behaviors were still firmly in tact.  I mistakenly believed John should wait until I was darn good and ready to settle down. He flew to Hawaii in early 1984 to have a heart-to-heart conversation about our future. He was finally ready to settle down to begin a family and wanted to do this with me. I told him I needed to complete my four-year education and obtain my degree. It was then he actually did fly out of my life forever.
He married a year later and began a family shortly thereafter. My learning disabilities caused me to fail several courses and my four-year degree took seven years to obtain. John married on Valentine’s Day in 1985 and I eventually graduated in May of 1987. From there, I experienced another long string of failed relationships, married in 1996, gave birth to Spencer, my son, in 1997, divorcing five years later.
John and I gave each other the time of our young lives. I gave up the security of my parent’s home and trusted him to lead us the duration of our lives, however, it lasted only a year. During that year, we bonded our hearts and souls. Our young love shaped him for the rigors of the challenges presented to him later in his married life.
When we were together he took the lead in our lives, providing his “Baby Doll” complete protection. I was calm and secure, running to him when I needed help. We communicated in a congenial manner about our life together. We laughed hysterically, loved each other deeply and grew together immeasurably. I’m a blessed woman to have had this heavenly experience.
He reconnected with me through Facebook at the end of 2012 and we soon learned I have no memory of us. With each reminisce from him, I’d say, “I don’t remember that.” I have no recollection of this era in my life. I have dissociative amnesia caused by extreme emotional trauma. The only part of us I recollect is calling him early in 1984 letting him know I wanted to see him. He said he couldn’t because he was getting married. We know learning of his impending marriage caused my dissociative amnesia. He’d waited five years for my heart to return to his and when it didn’t, he moved on.
Although I’ve re-read the letters he wrote back when, it’s as if I’m reading them for the first time. I have photos of us and he looks familiar. I remember all our friends and his family members. He’s called and I know I’ve heard this sweet and caring voice somewhere in time. I’m in contact with his mother and sister. It’s as if no time passed, especially three decades. We met at the Portland, Oregon airport during my stop-over to Spokane. Seeing him brought no memories, feelings or emotions from me. I could have either been on a blind date or meeting a friend of a friend and nothing more.
At the end of January, 2013,  I learned why I’ve lost so much in my life and understand the wave of destruction I’ve caused since John and I first parted in June of 1979. The words to me were either a message from the Universe or my mother: “Your obstinate behavior since you were 13 years old caused the damage you’ve experienced. Stop your unnecessary, selfish, hard-headed destruction before it’s too late.”  I know now the reason for my reconnection with John. He didn’t fail me when he didn’t know what would become of us. A month later he had our lives figured out and came after me when he was only 21-years-old! Instead, I tossed my hair over my shoulder, turned and walked away ~ with my new, short-lived boyfriend. The obstinate girl’s attitude in me was much stronger than John’s romantic love for me. When he’d finally had enough and walked away from me to marry another, I was devastated.
I understand why the short film we saw years ago deeply saddened us. It foretold the painful ending of our own relationship. The young soldier in the short film and his true love were torn apart and he never had the opportunity to thank her. She was his true love and he never had the opportunity to tell her how grateful he was for this. The reconnection with my former soldier love was two-fold: so he could thank me for teaching him how to love and I could acknowledge someone once loved me unconditionally.
It’s taken nearly 53 years for me to grow up and comprehend what I had. By piecing John’s past letters together and finally being ready to receive a message about my ill-mannered behavior, I’ve become whole-some. Life turned out the way it was supposed to. I’ve raised Spencer, an extra-ordinary son, who understands my special learning needs and lends a gentle helping hand. I’m preparing to unite with a man who has loving, caring, moral, ethical, capable, handsome, healthy, humorous, family-oriented, similar background, spiritual, and patient qualities.
 Truly, John and I experienced an exquisite, heart-warming, passionate, breath-taking, earth-shattering, tender and romantic life together ~ if only for a year.  Although my mind doesn’t remember him, my heart and soul feel his presence, confirming he truly was the love of my life.

John & Me, 1978, 
Honolulu, Hawaii

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