He was a gentle soul. Much too dependable and settled in his ways for me. I was looking for the adventures I was sure were going to be my life. He would be there, he said, waiting for me to get over this feeling of worldliness, then return, marry him, and begin life on the farm and raise a large family as was the way of his heritage.
“Go,” he said. “I will be here when you come back and you will be back.”
And so I left him. I found my world of fabulous adventures and never had a regret. It was a wonderful, successful ride.
Now after fifty years I was back just as he had predicted. His family farm was gone, and an upscale subdivision stood in its place. Only the wealthy entrepreneurs could afford to live here now. Where had he gone, and what did he do with no farm to inherit? Had he married and raised the large family he so wanted? I sincerely hoped life had given him what he desired. He deserved more than I could have given him.
I was invited to the golf club for lunch with my granddaughter who was receiving an award. Why she found this area so pleasing was a mystery. It was not in her background, and I had never told her of my life before her. It had offered nothing to me, or so I thought.
I saw him across the room. Isn’t that the way it goes in the stories you read? You make eye contact across a crowded room, and so it begins. Except, here I was, seventy-four years old, and he looked to be in his mid-twenties. How could that be? This, I could not comprehend.
He appeared slender and taller than I remembered, but then I had shrunk an inch or two and had gained more than a pound or two. I was grateful for my recent chic wedge hairstyle and that I had chosen to wear a long-sleeve turtleneck that hid the wrinkles of time.
His hair was still black with no hint of gray at the temples, and that strand of hair that defied a comb still fell across his forehead. I yearned to push it back as I used to do. He might again look down at me with love in his amber eyes and give that endearing smile.
He spied me and seemed to display that same wonderment of recognition. Years rolled away. The crowd in the room blurred, and their conversations buzzed. Through an echo chamber, I heard, I’ll wait till you come back.
My mind stripped him of his casual leisurewear, and I saw him in his worn farm coveralls, flannel plaid shirt, and rubber boots with clinging manure. The barn smell permeated the room. I embraced it.
He cut short his conversation, and keeping our eye contact, he started toward me. His easy gait with a slight turn of his shoulders as he moved had not changed. All seemed in slow motion as I stood hypnotized. My heart raced. I was not sure if I should wait or make a fast exit, but that was not possible as fast was not a gear my body understood anymore.
As he made his way through the crowd, his eyes cried out, Wait please, I need to get some answers.
I had forgotten how gracious and giving he had been. My hand rose to my throat to caress the teardrop necklace I had worn on this day for reasons I hadn’t understood at the time. Without acknowledging it, I now knew he had been in the back of my mind when I put it on and fastened it in place.
“Stay with me,” he whispered when he encircled my neck on Christmas Day, 1971. “I need you with me so much. We’ll sort this out.”
“Yes,” I had agreed. “I want to stay, but you know I need to see what’s on the other side of the mountain, and if I don’t go, I’ll always wonder and blame you for not letting me find out.”
I placed my hand on his cheek. He closed his eyes and gave a slight nod.
“You’re right, I know, I’ll be back someday. If you don’t want to wait for me, I’ll understand.”
He stopped short of me, and his long-ago farm appearance and that odor were replaced with his leisurewear and cologne.
I turned my head and searched the room, giving a not-so-convincing attempt at appearing nonchalant. When I looked at him once more, I realized my myopic stare had misread his gaze.
His overwhelming love at first sight, was directed slightly to my left and completely focused on the eyes of my granddaughter.
“Hello,” he smiled, as he visually searched every inch of her face. “I feel as if I know you. My grandfather has some old pictures of his first love. You look very much like her. Could that be coincidence, or is it fate?”
She breathlessly held his gaze.