First Love – Never Forgotten

As I write this, the date is Tuesday, February 2, 2021.  I received some news late yesterday afternoon that made me very sad.  But this morning – after a night with very little restful sleep – the grief and tears have arrived.  Once again, I am going to indulge in a very selfish expression in this public venue.  I hope you will bear with me and forgive my need to share these thoughts.  

I will start at the beginning.  While I was in high school and into my year at college, off and on I dated Dan and I grew to love him.  Yes, he was my first true love.  He was handsome, athletic, caring but very insecure (I will touch on that more later.)  

His family was extremely close because of circumstances I would never reveal (not my story to tell) – circumstances that resulted in a very codependent situation for his Mom, Val, and the three children.  Although I was drawn into their circle of love and caring I did have a hard time understanding (at that time) exactly what the dynamics were and how they affected not only their lives, but also mine – then and later. 

Mine and Dan’s relationship was a bit strange, because his younger sister – Sherrie – was one of my best friends, making me privy to a lot of information that I would never have known otherwise.  She and their Mom really did push for our relationship to succeed; but, Dan just was not up for a deep relationship at that point.  So, I eventually realized I had to move on with my life, and did.

Fast forward to 1998 when I divorced after 31+ years of marriage.  After a few months I had this deep yearning to reach out to a lot of friends from my past – some that I had lost touch with over the years (one being Sherrie.)  I had no idea where she was living at that point or what her last name was (I knew she had divorced her first husband.)  I spent weeks calling information in different cities where I had heard over the years she had lived.  I finally reached someone that knew of the family and told me where Val lived, so I managed to get her phone number and reached out to her.

Val was so excited to hear from me after so many years and we talked for a very long time, then she gave me the phone number for Sherrie.  When I was wrapping up our conversation, she told me that Dan lived in the same town as her but was temporarily living in another city for his job.  She wanted to give me his phone number where he was staying and urged me to call him.  (She made a point of mentioning that he was long divorced and single.)  I was hesitant thinking it probably was not the best idea, but “he loves to hear from old friends” she said – I jotted down the number.     

I called Sherrie and we talked, catching up on our lost years of history.  I mentioned to her that her Mom had given me Dan’s phone number and thought I should call him – of course, she enthusiastically agreed.  I still was uncertain about it, so I called my daughter and told her all about the conversations with Val and Sherrie and how they thought I should call Dan.  She told me that she thought I should do just that.

I sat for a while thinking about it and finally thought, why not?  (I have to admit that I had grown really curious.)  So I called him.  After the initial shock of hearing from me, this guy that had been a man of few words that did not like to talk on the telephone when we were younger, talked a blue streak telling me all about his life and asking about mine.  It was a good conversation and then we hung up.

Over the next few months Sherrie kept asking me to come visit her – she said she would drive over to meet me at her Mom’s and that we could stay there.  I finally decided to make the drive out to Eastern New Mexico to see them.  It was a wonderful reunion – the three of us ate, talked and laughed like silly teenage girls.  Later someone came walking in the front door – it was Dan – he had driven down because they had told him I was going to be there.  Yes, he had changed – lost a lot of his beautiful hair – and like us all had aged some.  But it was wonderful to see him.  

I cannot remember if it was that same night or the next night but he asked me if I wanted to go out dancing – we had both LOVED dancing when we were in high school and were really good together.  Sherrie had a bad cold and said she did not feel up to going, but wanted us to go on.  So we did.  As we ran into people he knew,  he totally shocked me by introducing me as “my first love.”  When he took me back to his Mom’s that night we sat out in the driveway talking for at least a couple of hours.  Our long ago connection was still there.  We went to church together on Sunday and he asked me to stay in town for another day or two.  I did.

So now…we are off and running with a long-distance relationship.  At one point he mentioned to me that one reason he struggled in high school and was not able to retain his football scholarship at college was because he was dyslexic.  This is probably the primary reason for a lot of the insecurity he had.  Little was known back then about dyslexia and because of  the learning struggles he had because of the disorder, some people viewed him as less than intelligent at times.  I was unfamiliar with dyslexia, so I decided to study up on it.  When we were taking a trip to Ruidoso one weekend, I read to him while he was driving, about the disorder.  The book talked about many very well-known people (both dead and living) that were dyslexic and how many such people are actually very smart and very creative.  I wanted to encourage him and help him to feel more confident.  I think it helped, at least a little.

Things were progressing very well and it seemed to be heading toward a long-term relationship.  We saw each other about every 6 weeks – some there, some here and some at locations in between.  But after about a year things started shifting and I recognized that he was still not truly ready for a deep relationship.  Complications with his family seemed to get in the way; and, as a result, I finally realized that I likely would never have the place in his life that a wife should have; and, I recognized that I could just let things go on as they were with no real commitment from him and a long-distance relationship, or move on with my life.  I once again decided that I needed to move on.

We stayed in touch for a while, talking on the phone every now and then.  But, eventually things started to break down and it just ended.  I have not seen nor spoken to him in many years.  I did reach out to him when Sherrie died last year but he did not return my calls.  I guess for him there was just too much water under the bridge – but now I so wish I had kept pursuing it and been able to speak to him again.

Dan had a lot of very difficult issues to deal with the last few years – issues that have resulted in wearing him down physically and emotionally.  A few days ago he was diagnosed with COVID and admitted to the hospital with the related pneumonia.  From what I have been told, they apparently thought he was going to be okay, but it apparently ended with his heart just giving out.

So today, I remember a generous, kind Christian man that adored his family and would do anything he could for them and for his friends – sometimes even to his own detriment.  A man that helped me to learn how to slow down and enjoy life with more patience.  A man that gave me back my self-confidence at a critical point in my life.  A man that gave of himself until it got the best of him.  A man that I will never forget.  A man that I will never truly stop loving.  Rest in peace Dan. 

“You have left this world of sorrow, and are free from pain and harm, and now rest in peace and comfort, in the blessed Savior’s arms.”  (Author unknown) 

Written by Karran Martin – February 2, 2021

8 thoughts on “First Love – Never Forgotten

  1. Karen, a touching story! I was so sorry to hear about Dan. I never knew y’all had dated back in High School. Keep writing, you are so talented.

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  2. I married into the Barry family in 1960 we moved to Muleshoe in a few months I watched all Dan’s football games and I watched all the families ups and downs I was very close to them Sherrie and I had our babies at the same time one day apart, Dan was always my favorite because I thought he never had a chance our son had dyslexia the one that’s Michelle‘s age we took him to Lubbock for 2 1/2 years to a special school he now runs four businesses and Levelland has made quite a life for himself but it’s dad and I searched and searched for help for our child and we found it through the grace of God I love that family I really love Dan Karen you made a beautiful statement thank you!!❤️

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  3. This was so special to read. I remember Dan from high school and just as you described – handsome, athletic. I didn’t know either Sherrie or Dan well. I know your heart is hurting, but I’m sure your life is fuller because of your relationship with him and his family. I’m glad you rekindled your love for him as it made your heart grow bigger. Love you, girl!

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    1. Thank you Marsha. They really were a very special family with so much love to share. They talk about how people come into your lives at just the right time for special reasons & I believe that when he reentered my life after my divorce, he was just what I needed to help with my healing & personal growth.

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