After the winter holidays Kurn was back at Dartmouth. Danny was at Duke with me. That gave Kurn only two chances to keep our relationship afloat – slim and none. I honestly don’t remember how I broke it off. It must have been in a letter, since we didn’t talk on the phone. Imagine that today. The only long distance calls I made were collect on Sundays to my family. He didn’t ever call me that I remember.
What I do remember is the letter he sent back to me asking me not to end it. It was beautiful and heartfelt, with only one problem. He described a beloved dog he had raised from a puppy to adulthood. How much he loved that pet and how many wonderful times they had together. He compared his relationship with me to how much he loved that dog.
Using a dog as a metaphor for watching me grow up and becoming what – his pet? – did not sit well. On the other hand, was he calling me a bitch? My nascent feminism reared its feisty young head. I knew his heart was breaking; I could see the tear stains on the letter. However, by now I had worked myself into such a cynical frenzy over the llama that I wouldn’t put it past him to drip water on the ink to create the effect of tears. Despite all that, he was clearly trying to hang on to me like someone drowning.
Once again I could have put it to him straight – told him why my own heart had grown cold. And I didn’t.
Finally Kurn stopped fighting for me. Danny and I also fizzled out. All the drama had ended. And so had a very important part of my life.
When my freshman year ended and I got home, I learned something from two of my girlfriends that assuaged any guilt I might have had over breaking up with Kurn.
The summer before I began college, when Kurn and I were dating every day, I went out of town for a week or so. He asked if he could take out my girlfriends while I was gone. I said, sure, thinking nothing of it. It turns out that he slept with one and tried to kiss the other. They both told me a year later. Very carefully.
Was I stunned? Was Martha Stewart surprised she was going to jail? You bet. How could he love me and do something like that? Times were changing,but there were men who still lived by another standard.
Two years after I graduated from college he wrote a long letter in a Christmas card to my parents. He was now a naval officer. Unfortunately, my mother had died three months before and to this day, I don’t know whether my father wrote to tell him. I know I didn’t want to. She loved him almost as much as I did. And the feeling was reciprocated, I'm sure.
More years passed. Marriage. Children. Divorce. I began working with a young woman who was a Dartmouth graduate. Out of curiosity, I asked her to look up an old boyfriend of mine in her alumni directory. She did and said she couldn’t find his name.
Odd, I thought, and let it go. A few years later I called the Dartmouth alumni office and asked them to tell me why Kurn wasn't in their directory. They were reluctant to check because I wasn’t an alum, until I just badgered them into it.
I was told that usually when alumni are no longer listed in the directory they are dead. But she said she would check the records.
He was dead. She didn’t know how or where or why. But he passed away in the early 80’s.
The air sucked out of the room. More years passed.
One day I googled Kurn. He showed up in an obituary for his father who was a professor emeritus and the former head of one of the science departments at Stanford. The obit mentioned Kurn’s sister, her husband and children, along with where they lived. I was able to find her address on the internet. But I didn't call.
Two more years have passed. I finally talked to her last week.
We talked for a very long time. It was a difficult conversation for her. She is the only member of her family still living. The first thing she said to me was “Oh, I wish he had married you.” She told me how sad he was when we broke up. She had never seen him cry like that before.
After getting out of the Navy he returned to the States. But he didn’t like the changes that were taking place. Especially Dartmouth going coed. So he lived in Europe and worked for the US Army as a liaison with foreign governments.
I smell CIA.
He ended up married to some not very nice or very attractive woman [according to his sister] and settled in Paris. When he left on a trip back to the US, she took everything they had and left him with an empty apartment on his return.
His last years were spent in Africa. Until he contracted malaria. His sister is real hazy about what he was doing there. I told her what he told me about being recruited by the CIA. I noticed she didn't confirm or deny that information.
Very sick, he went home to his parents house in California to recuperate, but suffered a massive seizure and died.
I asked where he was buried. At sea. So I can't visit his grave.
His parents watched as his ashes were scattered from a naval destroyer, while it passed under the Golden Gate Bridge.
First love. Lost love.
Good bye, Kurn.
Read about running into Danny from Duke after decades: http://mrslinklatersguidetotheuniverse.blogspot.com/2013/03/old-boyfriend-sighting.html
Read about my mystical Valentine's Day Dream about Kurn: