Despite the frequent moves during my childhood, for several years we stayed in the Western PA and Eastern OH area. During that time, my mom found a friend at church—another woman named Joann. This friendship led Mom to enroll me in the church’s grade school, where Joann’s son, David, was in the same grade as me. David was the baby of his family and he was very smart, very quiet, and had a dry sense of humor. He was unprepared for the hot mess I was—with my non-stop talking and my fiercely competitive nature. The first time I bested him on an assignment kicked off a rivalry that developed into a friendship. You see, we were the only two students in the fifth grade in the one-room school we attended, and this meant we did everything together. I know I drove him nuts at times, and he surely made me crazy, too! Luckily, I’d always been a girl who enjoyed hanging out with guys more than girls, and I had all that experience trying to be a good “son” for my father, which had taught me how to talk to guys. David didn’t quite know how to react to a girl who excelled in math and science class and was willing to talk about Star Trek with him! Somehow we created an odd but committed friendship that would endure our move to California the next year and be just as strong when I returned for the seventh grade. Emerging hormones gradually created a strong case of what everyone called “puppy love”; we were the best of friends and pretty much inseparable.
We spent a whole year studying together in a small room, just off of the main classroom. We were barely supervised, as no one worried about these two kids who studied so hard, competing for the best grades. In all that time, do you think David tried to steal even a single kiss? Nope—not one. He never even tried to hold my hand! Just what is a newly-hormonal 12-year-old girl to think when the guy she has a crush on looks at her with love, but talks to her like she’s one of his buddies? Confusion filled my heart and mind. When we moved to Houston the next summer, I moved on, chalking it up to something that just wasn’t meant to be.
But David always had a little piece of my heart. Our moms continued their friendship, mostly through letters and occasional cards, and I would search his mom’s letters for any mention of him. I would find out years later that he did the same with the letters my mom wrote. Both of us felt drawn to each other, but neither of us realized the other person felt the same way.
My mom had let Joann know that I would be visiting my dad during the summer, and an invitation to visit their home was extended. On the next-to-last weekend of my month-long visit to Daddy’s house, we headed over to join the Brewers for lunch and enjoy a swim in their pool. My brother and I drove there after church, so I was still in a dress and heels. David was sitting on the porch in jeans and an old army fatigue shirt with the sleeves torn off—his rifle and dog at his side.
I can remember everything about that walk up the driveway to the porch: the summer humidity, the smell of the flowers, my brother’s teasing voice, and the sight of David watching me walk toward him. We could not have been more different—or more attracted to one another.
That visit was wonderful in so many ways. Lunch was delicious and the pool was refreshing in the August heat. And the chemistry between us was palpable to both of us. It surprised me that the attraction was so immediate. We shared our first kiss that evening, as we said goodnight, and I left his home smiling with happiness. On the drive back to Daddy’s house the thought hit me that I was only in Ohio for 8 more days—we didn’t have any time to waste!
For the next seven days, we saw each other pretty much every day. He came along for my birthday trip to Lake Geauga. I visited his house. We went out on our first solo date that week—a trip to the movie theater to see “The Star Chamber”. The movie wasn’t great, but the date was perfect. When he drove me home that night, he pulled over to the side of the road to “talk”. My heart sank as I wondered if he was like every other guy I had dated in the past six years. I also worried about my ability to make good decisions, because my track record wasn’t all that impressive.
We talked. Yes, he held my hand and leaned forward to gently kiss me during the time we sat there. But that was all. I had never experienced that kind of respect and tenderness in a man in all my life. I didn’t know how to react to being treated this way. I began to wonder if I was good enough for him.
On Saturday, Jim and I returned to David’s house to hang out and swim. That afternoon, while we were alone in the pool, I decided to tell him all of the reasons I was all wrong for him. I shared the risks of being with someone whose parents were divorced; I shared the story of my abuse with him; I told him about some of the mistakes I’d made in the past. I tried my best to scare him away by explaining just what kind of risk he was taking by even considering dating me.
He looked me in the eye and said, “Is that everything? Have you got it all out now? Because, none of that matters to me. I love you.”
That might be the first time in my life that I didn’t know what to say. I’m pretty sure he kissed me that time. I was still reeling at the thought of being loved just the way I was. I couldn’t believe that I was good enough; he didn’t ask me to do anything to prove that I loved him.
And then the thoughts of unworthiness flooded my heart, filling it with the song of doubt. I didn’t deserve a guy like David! If he couldn’t see the danger he was in, I would have to protect him. As we said good-bye that night, I told him we’d had a nice summer fling, but that was all it was. I was headed back to Washington and he would still be across the country in Pennsylvania. It had been great fun, but we were so different from each other—this would never work out as a long-term relationship. He disagreed with me, but I told him this was good-bye and there was no need for him to come to the airport in the morning. I was as cool as I could be and he just stood there looking at me.
The next morning, as I waited for my flight, I looked over my shoulder again and again. I was sure he would disregard my instructions and show up to see me off. He didn’t.
I walked onto that plane, found my seat, and spent the next five hours thinking about the time we had spent together, the way he had treated me, and the incredibly stupid way I had ended things. All because I was sure I wasn’t good enough for him.
The song of doubt had just cost me the one man who loved me just the way I was.