He Carried a Torch
I married her because she was the closest thing to the One Who Got Away, but of course, she wasn’t the same girl at all. I probably should have married someone who was the total opposite, so I wouldn’t have constantly been reminded of what I was missing.
The reality, of course, was that I had no idea what I was missing, or even if I were missing anything good.
I idealized her insanely; nobody could reach that impossible standard. As you might imagine, this caused a lot of resentment and pain, because try as you might, you can’t hide those kinds of feelings. They permeate everything; leave a stink on you that nothing washes off. No matter how hard you try hide the fact that deep down inside you’re just not feeling it, the evidence always is right there in your eyes for someone who bothers to look And my wife always bothered to look.
She deserved to see it, too. But I was stupid and never gave myself to her fully. I was holding back a part of myself for a phantom. I refused to let go of this fantasy of a missed lifetime of perfect love based on a few hormonal months when I was 17.
My wife didn’t know any of this. She just thought there was a piece missing from my soul; that I was crippled and unable to trust. I let her believe it. She was patient and loved me anyway, always hoping that someday I would let it all go; that she would be there to take all the love I’d been holding back. During the occasional discussions about my inability to embrace intimacy, I let her believe that was the issue while steering her away from “the truth.” Of course, looking back, it’s obvious that she was right the whole time. I was the one who didn’t understand the issue.
I never cheated. I was good and kind to her. I treated her well. I genuinely liked her and didn’t want to hurt her. She loved me and was good to me; she believed in me and was there for me whenever I needed her. And I really did appreciate all that. But still, I refused to give her my heart.
And stupid me, after she died, when I was in my late 70s, I actually made a serious effort to find my lost love, as if it was my last chance to finally have what I’d been missing my entire life.
I never found her. (I know now that she died in her 20s. Oh, the irony of that!)
I lived my entire life chasing some imagined love out there when all the while, all I had to do was turn to my wife, (when she was alive of course), and look at her and really see her. If I had done that just once, everything after that might have been different.
I thought I was worshiping love, keeping it holy, when in fact I was avoiding it. Perhaps it’s the same thing.
There are a lot of kinds of love, and one type is not necessarily better or worse than another. Most people are lucky to have even one kind of love in their life. To have more than one is to be truly blessed.
I was blessed, but I didn’t know it.
I should have trusted her with my heart. She would have taken gentle and good care of it.