Tales From Loon Lodge

ElizabethMcDonald DesignatedKnitter

ElizabethMcDonald DesignatedKnitter
Location
Wake Forest, North Carolina, US
Birthday
May 02
Bio
I am a proud mom of 2 wonderful boys, a computer geek and mathematician, a pianist, equestrian, and (as my name implies) an avid knitter. I'm addicted to books, yarn, techno gadgets and all things beautiful (my son's eyes and smile, classical music, sunsets, oceans, violins, cellos).

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Salon.com
JANUARY 24, 2009 10:45PM

"Yes, Eric..."

Rate: 17 Flag

"Yes, Eric." 

I saw those words in my inbox and drew in my breath.  I couldn't believe after all these years I had found him.  Even though I had been married for over 13 years, had 2 boys and was now well into my 40s, just seeing his name again had the same intoxicating effect that it had on me as a school girl.   

Eric was my first love in every sense of the word.  In many ways, I feel like he has been my only true love.  It had been nearly 15 years since I had talked to him. Ironically, at one point, we lived only 5 miles apart in the same town for three years even though we never knew it. My husband and he were in the same residency program together even though they didn't know each other.

I often wondered how he was and where he was.  However, it wasn't until the age of Google that it was possible to hunt him down like the dog that he was!  Fortunately, he had a fairly unusual name and was in academic medicine so published a fair amount.  As a result, I was able to track him down and eventually was able to get an email address for him through the university where he was working.

When I sent that first email to him, I was in the throes of a "midlife crisis".  As I told Eric, I really had the urge... the need to talk to him again since he had been around in my early 20s for my "beginning of life" crisis.  Eric had taught me so much about who I was and who I wanted to be at that time that I felt it only fair that I drag him along kicking and screaming for the next stage.  

Throughout the 90s, I had spent so much time wishing I could talk to him.  Our time together was so intense and so intimate.  I would not be who I am today without the hours and hours that Eric and I spent just talking about stuff back then.  And not having him in my life almost made me question whether what had happened back in college was real.  It was almost a Zen riddle along the lines of if a tree falls in the forest:  If a love affair and a friendship happened but that person is no longer in your life, did it really happen?  Did it really matter?  

And I needed for our relationship to have happened and to have mattered.  I needed for it to have been real.  Because if it wasn't, what did that say about the person I am now?  Am I really who I think I am?

All those years, I really wanted to know three things:

  1. Had Eric thought of me through the years?  Had he wanted to get in touch with me?  Had he missed me the same way I missed him?
  2. How did Eric regard me at this point?  Just an old friend?  A potential stalker?  His first and only real love?
  3. But most importantly, I wanted to know exactly what was it about me where he knew that he would never want to marry me?  I thought he really loved me and it had always bugged the hell out of me that I was good enough to go out with, to sleep with for years yet he always knew that when he graduated and he left college -- that would be that. 

The last night that we talked in 1989 and he told me that he was married, I felt like I had been kicked in the gut.  I guess while we were in college, I was in denial -- that we really loved each other and when the time came, things would work out.  After we graduated, he moved away and the long-distance thing didn't work out.  At that point, I could tell myself that it was because he was focused on getting through med school and didn't have time/energy for someone else in his life. 

But then when he told me that he had gotten married -- I had nothing left to do but question what there was about *ME* that made me "unlovable" and someone not worthy of being with for the long haul.... 

Yeah -- I know -- it had been 20 years.   Get over it already.  And maybe I would be if it hadn't been for my own husband trying to dump me two years earlier.  Eric and my husband were the only two men I have ever loved -- emotionally and physically. I guess I really started feeling like I'm ok up to a point -- until someone better comes along (especially after what happened a couple of years earlier with my husband).

And the thing is -- I have never felt the same "way" about my husband as I had felt about Eric.  I love my husband.  However, it has always been a different "kind" of love -- if that makes sense.  Kind of like the difference between flying willy-nilly out of control on the back of a horse hanging on for dear life as it jumps a fence (Eric) vs. the much more "controlled" (and safer) partnership that you think of with dressage (my husband).

Looking back to college, I know at this point that there were many aspects of our relationship that were pretty messed up.  But I still had that little lovesick girl inside of me that would think if I had been smarter, prettier, emotionally mature… then Eric wouldn't have "left me".

It has been over four years since I had that first email land in my inbox.  Eric and I have continued to email each other at least daily.  He has had two more children but his marriage has gradually devolved to misery.  My husband has had at least two more affairs.  However, Eric and I have maintained VERY STRICT “rules of engagement” for our current relationship because we both understand that as long as we are in our current marriages, our priority must be and will be to our current spouses. 

Our respective spouses have never liked the fact that Eric and I have become friends again (even if only “electronic friends” at that – we have never spoken on the phone).  Ironically, though, if it weren’t for each other, we both would probably have ended our respective marriages a long time ago.  We joke to each other that no good deed goes unpunished.

Eric and I are both very different people than we were in college. Yet, we both still know each other better than anyone else in this world.  We have a level of understanding for each other that we have never experienced with anyone else in our lives including our own parents, siblings, or spouses.  And there is this sense that we will always be a part of each other’s lives going forward – that that piece of ourselves that had been missing for so long has finally been found.  Having been found, we will not let it be lost ever again.

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Interesting post. I think there are certain people that we are just destined to be with forever. Many times that just means "in spirit". Long distance relationships are tough. I often wonder, though, if long distance relationships stand a better chance at succeeding now that there is email, IM and so other many ways to stay in touch.
Welcome back. You're so damn...honest. Wish I could be that way, and write that way. This resonates so much, it hurts. Wish I could write a post about it, but probably never will. Especially since tomorrow, actually today since it's past the midnight hour, is our Anniversary (and Rabbie Burns' 250th)! But what a great piece of writing. Thank you.

WOOF
I know what you mean about the long-distance thing. I have very detailed journals from the time when Eric and I were going out in college (we graduated in 1985) and there was soooo much time spent waiting around for phone calls. Didn't dare miss a phone call or you wouldn't be able to communicate and coordinate.

Now, you stay in touch with someone 24/7. In many ways, I feel like I keep in closer touch with Eric now even though we live 1000 miles apart. it seemed like in college, between our respective class schedules etc, we could go days without seeing each other or saying more than 10 words to each other. And never mind spring, summer, fall, and winter breaks when it was too expensive to call each other long distance and we had to rely on snail mail...
CCC,

Thanks so much for the warm welcome and sorry to bring back any ghosts of your own. In a way, Eric is the reason I came back. I've really felt compelled to "share it" somehow outside of the confines of the voices in my head ;-)

Happy anniversary! As the song goes... if you can't be with the one you love, love the one your with (do do do do do do do!)
Elizabeth - I have a few Erics in my life. I know just what you mean here. But you have said it so beautifully.
Do you think that part of the mystery, romance, connection is the very fact that it is perfect now because you don't meet? You have the power to keep it forever romantic.
Hi Lea,

Good question and actually something I've spent a fair amount of time asking myself. I suspect there may be something to that. However, it isn't like our relationship is "perfect" by any stretch. We still have arguments. We still have the ability to push each other's emotional buttons (and we do, just as with any relationship).

And the thing is - I would never have classified our first romantic relationship in college as perfect. Despite having been relatively carefree, we were both dealing with some pretty intense crap in our personal lives like a parent dying quickly from cancer, a mom who was diagnosed as an abusive alcoholic etc. In fact, reading through my journals, I was struck by how "imperfect" it really was.

However, despite the imperfections with then and now, we have the type of relationship where we can say virtually anything to each other. We call each other on our sh*t and help each other understand the role to which we contribute to our own problems "in real life".

Whether we would be able to do that 24x7 while raising children together, pursuing our careers together etc -- that is a tough experiment to run and I don't see it happening unless something were to change DRAMATICALLY.

However, given how we deal with each other and the way we are able to discuss our disappointments with each other (and not just our disappointments about our current spouses), I suspect we have a much higher likelihood of having better coping strategies than each of us is able to employ with our spouses.
I think you humans spend waaaay too much time overthinking this whole "love" thing. When Love happens, just accept it, have faith and move on. It really isn't that complicated.
Out of the mouths of dogs... Bruno -- you are wise beyound your dog years...
Friendships, in whatever form they take, however long they last, for whatever purpose they are there, are gifts. Hold your blessing with an open palm and thank whatever deity or lucky star or crazy circumstance that you believe in for it. And enjoy!
I have one of these from college as well. We have a pact that if something ever happens to my marriage (not planning on it), we'll be partners. I don't think/don't want it to ever happen but it's nice to know I have someone to rely upon.

Chin up, girl.
A few years ago, I got an email out of the blue from an old HS boyfriend. From Sophomore year. What a jolt it was... for weeks, and even months.

I did find a way to see him again one more time, and was struck by how much he resembled my current boyfriend.

As for your spouse: "Our respective spouses have never liked the fact that Eric and I have become friends again (even if only “electronic friends” at that – we have never spoken on the phone). " Where does your husband get off thinking that he even has any say about your online life... given his own history? Good grief!
KTM,

You are entirely correct... which is probably why I refuse to let him dictate who I do and do not communicate with.

Liz, I agree completely. I'm actually not one who makes friends easily. That makes my friendship with Eric all the more important to me...

PF -- we have no such pact. At this point, I do wonder what would happen if we ever saw each other again. Needless to say, we have both aged considerably. I find it hard to believe that there would still be the same level of attraction as college. But still always nice to dream about. If we ever were to get back together, i picture it more along the lines of Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda in "On Golden Pond"
Great post. I agree that sometimes we are just meant to be with some people in certain ways. Although ... do keep him in mind if things don't pan out for both of you.

And it's good to see you, by the way.
Thanks, OD. It is nice to be missed.

It is as if just about the time that I've decided I've been gone "too long" to come back to OS, I find another post in me and pop back in...

I guess that means OS is like the hotel california... you can check out any time you like but you can never leave!
I too, have a very close relationship with an old high school boyfriend that started up again after about 15 years. We talk often and we have become best friends. We have each other for those times when just complete open vulnerable honesty is needed. We're both very, very committed to our spouses but there is just something so special about our relationship. We know with absolute certainty that we will both always be that completely non-judgmental shoulder to lean on. And there is always that little extra love out there for those moments when the rest of your world has gone to shit.
Very well put, Katina... particularly about the "complete vulnerable honesty". There is no one else in this world that i can be that way with.

Thanks!
Thanks JK

When I first started emailing Eric, I used to tease him that since I was his "first", that somehow gave me the inalienable right to always be in his business as it were... somehow like giving birth to someone gives you the right to treat them like your child even when they grow up to be POTUS or SCOTUS or Wayne Gretsky!
Missed this one entirely the first time around.

More's the pity.

Bump.

My "Eric"--the friend who'll never truly go away--is my ex-husband. We don't talk or email every day. Intentionally.

I so grokked this post.
JK,

Didn't realize you were Canadian. It's a good thing I threw in the reference to Gretzky or you would have totally been in the dark. Personally, if I have the choice, I hope my kid grows up to be the next Gretzky rather than POTUS/SCOTUS. He'd make more money and his approval rating would be infinitely better!