My First Love, The End
All first loves end sooner or later. Lorna’s ended when she was 13 and he was in his early 60s.
I didn’t mean to break his heart. For a long time, I didn’t even realize I broke it. Something happened to me when I turned 13–something
Up to that point, I was curious about males in a “would-you-be-my-father?” way. Sometime during my 13th year, my curiosity about males shifted. They were still a mystery to me, but a tempting one. I wanted them to notice and like me in a way very different from I wanted Pépé to notice and like me. I started paying attention to boys on TV and in school. I hoped the TV and school boys would notice me, too. It was all quite exciting to contemplate.
My “baby fat” began redistributing itself in very interesting ways. I grew taller, so my once pudgy limbs looked longer and more shapely. My one round belly flattened into two perfectly rounded breasts–regulation cleavage-producing breasts. Combined with my blonde hair and blue eyes, I was a
hard-on-producing lovely site for boys at school (the boys on TV apparently had poor reception on their end and couldn’t see me). Upper-classmen started hanging around me. The ones who played on sports teams. I went from Nobody to Some Body.
Still, I was shy and unschooled in the ways of boys, so I kept a safe distance. They must have thought I was playing hard-to-get; I was hard-to-get, but I wasn’t playing.
My attentions at home turned to make-up, clothing, watching romantic TV shows and listening to The Monkeys, the best boy-band then. I didn’t care about the dump or hanging out with Pépé. I didn’t want my freshly washed hair to smell all smokey if a real or TV boy dropped by the trailer. Pépé’s fart jokes seemed juvenile to my maturing sensibilities. Plus, hanging around with an old man just didn’t look good for my “new” image as a “hotty.”
I never saw anything bother Pépé. He seemed to take everything in stride. How was I supposed to know he would feel hurt when his trusty side-kick dumped him for younger pickings? I never thought about him being lonely; I was too busy thinking about me finding a new kind of side-kick.
I tried to keep my first “boyfriend” a secret from Pépé and Mémé because I figured they wouldn’t approve. He was a junior and I was a
virgin freshman. But how could I hide my dreamy eyes from them? They knew. They’d watch at night when I’d get dropped off at the end of the driveway, never daring to let him drive in or get out of the car under their surveillance. I only dated him for a little while when he quit school to join the Navy–he failed a couple of grades, so I knew he wasn’t the quickest bunny in the forest, but that guy could kiss! I wrote him letters everyday that I put in our mailbox at home. For my birthday that year, Pépé and Mémé gave me a cheap letter opener. They always gave nice gifts. That letter opener was a sinister message from the Grandparent Mob. I’m surprised it didn’t have blood on it.
My relationship with Pépé was never the same. Even when I tried to pal around with him for old time’s sake, he rebuffed me. I thought he was in a bad mood or really didn’t need my help. It wasn’t until years later, when I had a few experiences being dumped or betrayed by people who I thought I could count on “forever,” did I finally realize what I did to my precious Pépé. By then, however, it was too late for either of us. He died at the age of 69 of emphysema.
Pépé didn’t believe in hospitals as places for curing; they were places for dying. He waited until his symptoms were so bad that he could barely breathe and he had to be hospitalized. Thus, his belief became fact. He died in the hospital. I visited him several times during the month or so he was there. Those visits were hard for both of us, but if I had to say who they were harder on, I’d say it was him. He watched me walk away. I got to walk away.
I was surprised to see the funeral home packed with people at his “calling hours.” Most attendees were relatives and friends of Tina’s and my boyfriends, plus some of my father’s relatives. Maybe a few people Pépé knew. If Fat Dump Guy came, I’ve blocked it from my memory. Mémé insisted on an open casket, something I wish she hadn’t. My last memory of my first love is him–this man who loved to laugh and talk with anybody who would spend time with him–with his jaw wired shut, lying stock-still in the corner of a room full of people laughing and talking. The irony of it lingers and weighs heavy on my heart.
His funeral was a much smaller affair–just immediate family. The day was cloudless and unusually still. As the women in his life were standing in a semi-circle around the hole in the ground with his coffin still exposed, and while the priest was reciting his incantations, a strong wind nearly blew us over. Mémé had to hang on to her hat to keep it from blowing off; the priest stopped and held the pages of his Bible. As quickly as the gust of wind materialized, it disappeared and all was still again. We all looked at each other and silently verified that, yes, we all felt it.
Maybe Pépé got his say…
Lorna’s relationship with Pépé dissolved but her bond with Mémé improved exponentially.