An ex-boyfriend just posted this picture of his Harvard/Michigan Law/Bass Weejuns/short pants self on Facebook [above] -- from 1965, the year I met him. I had recently posted my own picture from around that same time, ironically, sitting next to his younger brother. A picture that my former bf had taken, as a matter of fact.
What I find so interesting from the vantage of 45 years in the future is that, aside from looking so different now from those halcyon days of yesteryear, the lives we might have predicted for ourselves bear no resemblance whatsoever to the lives the three of us have actually lived.
The former bf and I did have a discussion once about where our children would get their education -- he was all for sending them away to prep school [his experience]. I assured him that my children would not be leaving home until college [my experience]. So we would have had to sort that one out. Turns out his kids went to public school after all.
Regardless, we didn't get married, as much as I thought I wanted to. Marriage wasn't my prediction for us; it was a wish, one he didn't share. My prediction was hazier -- more like smog -- we'd be together, he'd be a lawyer, I'd be his wife. We'd be living comfortably someplace around Chicago, have some kids, go to the opera and the symphony, haunt museums. Nothing out of upper middle class ordinary.
Oddly it was something that happened when my mother died that made me realize I couldn't marry him. My mother's death at 50 was something I never could have predicted. Both her parents lived to 95. The bf freaked when I asked him to be a substitute pall bearer at the last minute. When I needed him, he wasn't there, even though he finally agreed to help out.
But, even though I knew he would no longer be the man of my future, we still had the present. So we kept on dating. After a pregnancy scare a year or so later, I became absolutely, positively sure there was no way we could ever get married. By that time, the idea of marriage itself had started to bother me. More than marrying him. The institution began to feel like a prison to my emerging feminist self.
During the pregnancy scare, he and I even went to the marriage bureau to get a license. When I had told him I thought I was p.g., he had announced, "Well, then, we have to get married." That was as close as anything got to a proposal.
But on the way to the Daley Center with the man I once thought I loved, I began to have a panic attack, which gained momentum at the bureau of vital statistics, as I surveyed the bilious green walls and Diane Arbus people waiting in line ahead of us. Finally, I said to him, "I don't care if I'm pregnant, I don't want to get married." And we left.
Finally, after four years of dating, and no more false alarms, we just faded away. I wanted to have children, so I married someone else. But we've stayed in touch, because that's what he does -- stay in touch with all his old girlfriends. I've met a few of them. I even met a couple of them while we were dating. His wife, now his ex, and I even became friends.
Having a long friendship with an old boyfriends cause people to ask if I would like to rekindle that old flame. That answer is "no" on both sides. Not because we're so different. But because our bad habits are so much alike. Kiss of death. The good news is I'm often told we have the same sense of humor. Perhaps that is our one saving grace.
I am sure neither one of us had plans to be living the single life when we got old. Back then, I could not imagine what it would be like to be 67. He's over 70 now. Those numbers are impossible to contemplate in your twenties. The way 19 seems so far away when you're 11.
At 25 I remember realizing I would be 57 when 1999 became 2000. That seemed like such an advanced, useless, sexless, functionless, meaningless age to be on such an auspicious occasion. So conjuring up myself as old as I am now -- 67 -- was pretty much out of the question. When midnight arrived in 2000, announcing the arrival of a new millennium, I remember thinking, "Well, here you are at 57, at a really nice party, watching the next century about to ratchet into place. At least your hair looks good." As historic moments go, not particularly earthshaking .
As earthshaking moments go, the most unpredictable one affected the third person in this story -- my boyfriend's younger brother -- the young man in the picture with me. What happened to his life had the greatest, and most profound, impact on my old boyfriend. Like many brothers, they were best friends and confidants, even though one lived in Chicago and the other in New York. Shockingly, when he was 26, not long after the picture was taken, his brother was murdered. Working for ABC at the time, and living in NYC, he was shot by the disgruntled former husband of the woman he was dating. She was having a small dinner party and the ex broke into the apartment and killed everyone at the table, leaving two children sleeping in the bedroom.
At the time, I was married and nursing a brand new baby. I got the call about his death from a mutual friend. "You've got to come to the funeral," she begged. With a husband who was not comfortable with me having any relationship with a former bf, especially that particular one, I knew my presence wasn't possible. "I can't; I've got a new baby." True, but not the whole truth. She pleaded with me to be there. I didn't go. I didn't call either. I did sent a telegram to their father. But, all these years later, I still wonder whether my old boyfriend felt I let him down in his time of need. In the end there was no excuse. His brother's death was so shocking, I should have been there. I wasn't.
Now, forty-five years later, the two of us continue on, posting on Facebook, emailing, iPhoning, blogging and MACbooking. Who could have predicted that? He's got grandkids. I've got grand-dogs. It is what it is.