Do you remember your first love? I sure do. I was 15, he was 17—he worked for my dad. He was tall and awkward and everything a first love should be. He wrote me poetry that was actually good. We spent summer evenings on a hill overlooking a polo field, watching the fireflies. He was grateful that I loved him.
He preceded me to college, and when I got there, he had turned into this crazy pre-med. Yeah, I was one too, but I’m not kidding–the only way I could see him was to study with him. Part of me understood, part of me was incredibly lonely. It didn’t last past that first year of college.
The last time I remember seeing him was at medical school. He was 2 years my senior, so he was already doing rotations at the hospital while I sat in classes. His dad, whom I love, was a physiology teacher at the school. My old beau was very hurt, because in the intervening years since our breakup, I had married. He didn’t get it; how could I jeopardize my education by being distracted with a relationship?
Every so often over the years, I’ve googled him. He did a fellowship in cardiology in VA and became a well loved professor of cardiology there. He took new procedures to China, earned multiple teaching awards and all kinds of praise for being kind and patient and good. (Guess my instincts were good as a young woman, yes?)
I bring all this up because tonight I received my alumni magazine and flipped through it just for fun. At the back are alumni news, including obits. There, to my astonishment, was my old love’s obit. He died a year ago, after a decade of cancer.
Now, I’m way too young for anyone I know to be dying. I’m especially too young for my first love to no longer be on this earth. I haven’t seen him in several decades, and he was married for 30 years, but still…..it just doesn’t feel right. Isn’t it normal for us to get nostalgic every so often for those far off days, our first love, the old poetry? In my “box of important stuff”, I still have a locket he gave me when he went away to college. I want to still have those memories, but now I have to also know that he’s no longer around.
I think I’ll focus on the fact that as professionals, we likely would not have seen eye to eye; he sounds pretty conventional and would likely have thought I jumped off a cliff long ago. But I will also choose to remember the descriptions of him as being kind and focused on his patients. That’s the loving part of him that I remember. That makes it easier to accept that he died so young.