A few years ago I reconnected with my high school sweet heart. Let me back up a few years (30 to be more precise.) This is the guy whose promise ring (remember promise rings?) I wore in high school. We started all the high school dances and my year book has notes all though it saying “good luck with Erick.” We were an item no one doubted that we would marry once I turned 18.
We dated for close to two years before he joined the Marines. Knowing that I would talk him out of enlisting, he didn’t tell me until it was done – frankly, I am not sure he had given much forethought about becoming a Marine. Erick accompanied a friend to the recruiters office, the friend enlisted, the recruiter was pretty good sales guy and, well, before he (or I) knew it, Erick was on his way to becoming a US Marine.
I was furious but there was nothing I could do, the papers were signed. For a few months I sent letters every day, then they dwindled to weekly and then he eventually got that letter that no military man ever wants to receive…
Twenty-two years later I received an email. It began “Is this the same Lynda Smith…” It was the same Lynda Smith. He had stumbled across my name on Classmates.com. We had unfinished business and we both knew it. He asked what I was doing and it all boiled down to I was leaving a bad job and a bad relationship. He asked “Why don’t you come up to Alaska?” So I did.
He met me at the Anchorage International Airport at 9:20pm with 22 read and pink roses) one for each year we had been apart) and a fur coat. He had a video camera to film my arrival but as soon as he saw me he dropped his arm and got a great shot of the people behind him upside down and the only thing heard beyond the hustle and bustle of people arriving and departing and greeting their loved ones was Erick saying “Oh my God.”
We embraced in the center of the isle. We kissed our first kiss in 22 years. The airport melted away, the people melted away, a lifetime melted away. All the relationships between then and now melted away. We might as well have been in high school again. When we came to the security/TSA officer was asking us to step out of the isle, we were blocking traffic or causing a scene or something. I am not sure what he said but it meant “move.” we stepped to the side and held each other and the fire of 22 years rekindled and in an instant burned as wildly as it had in our teens.
I learned that after 6 years he was medically discharged from the Marines with a bad hip. His brother had been sending him photos of Alaska and he moved there once discharged. He had been in Alaska for 13 years. He had married Connie Calhoun, a glorious woman whose smile would light a room and a contagious laugh that captured his heart.
They shared 13 years together and she was then diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was 163 days from diagnosis to death. I never got to meet Connie and it was probably best. But I will say that I knew him before her and after and I approve. I am convinced she was a great lady and am glad he got the time he did with her.
It was early December and though it was not that cold by Alaska standards (probably 10-15 degrees), but based on my thin-blood San Diego standards, it was quite chilly. I was happy to have the fur as the light weight leather jacket that I brought was not going to be adequate. We walked arm in arm to his Land Rover. Using a remote starter, unbeknownst to me, he had already started the truck. It was already running and warm.
He opened the door for me and I got in. He walked around and got in the truck and then it happened. My left hand lay waiting on the tan leather padded console between the leather captain’s chairs, he reached over as we had done at least a thousand times in high school and took my hand. This time the whole world stopped. It was as though every hand I had ever held had been compared to that hand and finally, my hand had found where it belonged. He too felt it. It literally took both of our breath away. We gasped. Several moments later together we exhaled and smiled and kissed and asked each other – “did you feel that?” Yes, through labored breath, we confirmed we both felt it.
And so began our reconnection, and our road trip in 2004, from Anchorage Alaska to San Diego, via Key West.