"I got a few things to tell you." Kenny called and began with the first thing. He told me Janet was now in Hospice care.
"Oh," I said.
Janet is his former sister-in law. She was my first girlfriend. It's sobering to hear your first love is in Hospice care.
I knew she'd been battling cancer for awhile. So has my sister and a number of other friends. But Janet's battle was apparently in the final phase.
It must be 45 years since I spoke with her, but I still recall our first date. I recall all the times Kenny and I went over to see Carol and Janet, the sisters we both took to our high school prom. We even joined the Catholic Youth Organization to go to the dances with them. A Jew and a Baptist would do anything to dance with the Borstner sisters.
But our relationships went in different directions. Kenny married Carol after she got pregnant, and I went on to college and Janet ended up with the football star and class president of a large Catholic school in the suburbs of L.A. They married. They had kids and he became a doctor where they began their lives together in central California. The dream turned into a nightmare for Janet when her husband became a philandering doctor and a divorce followed a decade later. She never remarried. I doubt she ever thought much of me too. We were only 16, but our little relationship had it's own kind of passion.
When you don't have access to a car, you double date. That we did. Often. The first time was with an older friend who got his sister's '59 Chevy Impala (white with red leather interior) for the evening. This good Catholic girl never hesitated in defying her parents warning not to go to a drive-in. I worried about the consequences of being found out and she made the first move. True Dat.
I want to do or say something before Janet departs this life, contacting her now, after all these years, might not be appropriate. So I can say it here.
Janet. I loved you in the way a kid struggling with his self-esteem and self-hatred would. I was always aware of trying to be the good kid your parents would approve of. The man I became can forgive all our awkward times together, all those meaningless phone conversations, all that needless worry and concern.
I know you deserved better in this lifetime. For that I am sad.
I want to thank you again for the surprise party you pulled off for my 16th birthday. Lost in all that attention directed toward me was that it was Kenny's birthday too. I never forgot that or that evening too.
Janet and I had a date to go to a football game the day of the Kennedy assassination. It all got cancelled. But her parents welcomed me along with a few other friends including Kenny that evening. We sat around all evening until curfew just trying to figure out the immediate future and what it all meant. Those things are unforgettable. Like a first love.