by Bonnie Lass
Memories of a Lost Love
At physical therapy today, a woman pulled up in a pale blue Benz. She wore an A-lined, sleeveless summer dress with pale blue flowers on a white background. Her straw bag had a piece of blue ribbon that matched her dress perfectly, along with splendid sandals. She was tallish and thin, and she was blonde. The woman looked very familiar to me and I finally had the thought that could have been Harry’s wife. That could have been me. A TV program came on with another woman and the thought struck me again. Today in a shop, one of the clerks looked up from her work and said Hello Princess, how are you today. Dallas in the news tonight and a picture of Colorado from a friend. Harry is everywhere all of the time.|
Of course, while I was trying very hard to finish this, there was a Hurricane named Harry in Texas. He and I would care about the lost lives and the devastation, but I do not believe the irony would have been lost on either of us. At that time, the news was talking about DFW and that brought him to mind again. I prayed and still do, that his family and friends are safe and always will be.
It took a long time to stop crying since the day I realized Harry was gone. Sometimes, the tears still come, unexpectedly. The loss and the grief were brand new for me because it took so long to find out he had passed. While the pain has eased, I will always grieve for him. I will always grieve for a world that no longer has Harry living in it. And I realize only recently that I am reliving Harry and at the end, I will have to let him go. Again. I never got over him and never will. I will never stop loving him. It feels like he has been ripped out of my life again, but he can never be ripped from my heart. He was not only one of the best men, but one of the best people I have ever known. I have never loved or been loved as we loved. Our time together was magical for us both. I was convinced that someday, somehow, we would talk again. It hurts that we did not. I tried very hard to convince myself that I did not love him completely. The truth of the matter is I fell so much in love with him, that there were times I could scarcely breathe. It was dizzying like a bad case of vertigo. But I knew those big arms would catch me if I stumbled.
These words come from journals I kept back then. I am glad I have them, although I don’t keep a journal any longer. I have gone back over this too many times to count. There have been many edits to ensure the accuracy and make sure the expressions were clear. There have been many times I was convinced the story was complete. But scraps of paper and missed pages would appear. There were countless rewrites diligently trying to be totally accurate with words, memories, and feelings. Hopefully, I have succeeded in painting a vivid picture of Harry and our own personal Camelot.
Harry was a true Renaissance man. He was brilliant and excelled at everything he did. His countenance was almost as brilliant as his mind. He was well bred, educated, literate and articulate. He expressed his feelings well and with ease. He dressed sharply and wore money well. But he was never pompous. He was down to earth. He never put on airs. Always a gentleman, he showed respect, kindness and compassion to all he met. Harry Alexander never met a stranger. He had a wry sense of humor. Mine was a bit more direct. But I got him and he got me. He was a big powerful man who could and would intimidate someone if given good reason. But Harry did not like confrontation. It would take a great deal to get him angry enough for a fight. There is no doubt if it came to that, the other guy would regret it. He did not show or express fear. Ever. And if he had doubts, they were well hidden. He was steady and sure. Gosh he was good looking. Confident and self-assured, he was never cocky. He loved art and music, and he was romantic, sensitive, and tender. He was also a very good teacher and had a good sense of subtlety. He was ambitious and motivated but not one of those that would do whatever it took to get to the top. He would never step on toes, stab someone in the back or betray a friend to move ahead. He believed in a clean, fair game. And he believed that nice guys could finish first. I so miss the good man that he was. Even now. Harry was larger than life, too good to be true. In a word, he was urbane. He was the proverbial one that got away.
The back story will offer insight into me and my upbringing so you will know the person Harry knew and loved, so you will understand the dynamics between us. Some parts of the story will need the clarification. We were Italian Catholics living in an area that for the most part was Italian/Hispanic. We weren’t welcomed in other parts of town. Our parents were grateful to be in this country and believed strongly in education and honored the educators of the world. We stood for the flag and pledged allegiance. Daddy insisted I become a dentist one day and only marry an Italian. He told me that if I spoke well and had a good vocabulary I would be able to communicate with princes and paupers alike. That translated to me spending every day after school in my room, door closed, studying the dictionary for at least an hour. Daddy insisted, and it turns out, he was correct; the end justified the means. I was reading the newspaper before I started school. Daddy was quite wealthy. He owned parcels of property and was silent partner in many businesses. He invested in stocks and bonds. We were very well respected. When I was nine, Daddy passed away and the world, as we knew it, ended with a loud thump. One minute he was rocking in his chair, the next moment he was dead. Gone without a word. He disappeared from our lives in the blink of an eye. My father had been too old-fashioned for his own good and ours. He left everything to his trusted friends and business associates to ensure our needs would be met, believing they would take great care of us. They stole every dime. Poor Mama had to work three jobs to support us. I think it led to her early death. Still there was never enough money. They, on the other hand ordered matching Caddies every year and flew to exotic places. They never went hungry as we did.
I was left to care for two younger sisters. There was no food, so I learned to go without. If there was anything to eat, it went to the girls. Mom could not afford sweaters or jackets so I learned to tolerate the cold. By the time I was twelve, I was cleaning houses and baby-sitting. And I became a great shoplifter. The girls got sweaters. And I could sell some items for cash. Ironically, to the same children that made fun of us, the kids with holes in our shoes. I learned to cook, which I still love to do. I learned to do without and how to survive. I defended and protected my sisters and Mama when needed, as best I could, learning how to fight and how to stand firm. Nobody lent us a hand. They laughed at us, poked fun at us. We stood tall during the taunts and the humiliation. It bred an over- abundance of stubborn pride, and taught me to depend on myself and nobody else. And that pride would cause me to act like my belly was full and that I did not notice the sting of winter cold. I was a stubborn, hard-headed kid and I resented Daddy for trusting those men. Those guys that must have known how much I hated them. I vowed never to let anybody judge skills, abilities or intelligence based on my gender. And I would never let a man bully or patronize me.
The sisters were exceptionally pretty and got many comments and compliments. I was a little jealous and became very self-conscious of my looks, or lack thereof. I read in Ann Landers that if you aren’t pretty, you should work on your personality, character and knowledge. That is what I made up my mind to do. I am still an avid reader, and I still love learning.
I met a man named Ralph who was slightly older than I. He told me he loved me and asked my mother for my hand in marriage as soon as I was old enough. Oddly enough, he made a comment or two about my looks that were not flattering. I suddenly stopped hearing from him. Not a word. Gone without a trace. Again. Somebody leaving without a word became my nemesis and still possesses me to this day. It is the worst offense and the worst betrayal. It is cruel and cowardly. I was told he had married another, a very pretty girl. Her name was Julie. She called me often to hurt and harass me. An extreme distaste for them both developed and festered.
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