Friday, May 13, 2005

The Tryst of a Lifetime

Rebecca is excited about her upcoming trip to Kansas City, where she will be able to sit in front of the 8-foot Great Kuan Yin in the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, she will massage her sister Deborah’s head, and most importantly she will have the “tryst of a lifetime,” as she puts it.

When she was a student of 19 at the Kansas City School of Art known as Becky, she worked for Don, a man in his 30s at the time. (His claim to fame is that he is and has always been the inker for Doonesbury.) They became great friends. Over the years they often wrote to each other weekly, on real stationary with envelopes and stamps. They told each other everything. They saw each other for the last time in 1993 before Rebecca was initiated into Feri. Over all these years, there has only been one kiss and well maybe he held her hand once. But all in all she respected the fact that he was a married man with three children and they were simply best friends.

Recently their friendship resumed as Rebecca left her Feri practice behind and once again joined the rest of humanity. They decided just once to give in to what is obviously a wonderful love for each other. They have planned the most romantic reunion while she is in Kansas City. But then they will put romance behind and just resume their friendship because Don is still married after 40+ years. Rebecca sees it as a precursor to the next love of her life here in Washington, with someone who isn’t encumbered by marriage, maybe a man, maybe a woman, who knows?

When I first heard this fairy-tale plan, it sounded bizarre to me. How could you consummate a relationship and then just walk away from it?

But then I realized that I had had a similar experience just prior to starting to date David. Since my summer in Math Camp at FSU in 1966, I had been best friends with Duke Miles, an older college boy at the time who helped keep us high-schoolers in line. Duke was not the most attractive person I have ever met, but he was incredibly witty, smart, and just plain fun. We too exchanged real letters, almost every week. He came to Panama City to visit me several times, often bringing friends who went out with my friends. He bought me my first bottle of vodka, since I was not 21 yet. We stayed in close contact until he decided to get married to Maxine (otherwise known as Max) at age 21. I was in their wedding and wished them well. I visited them in Atlanta with various and sundry male companions over the years. Duke snapped one picture which he always jokingly threatened to blackmail me with. Then his marriage to Max broke up and Duke was flailing around looking for someone to give his broken heart to. He came to visit me in Washington during that time. Just this once, my best friend and I had more than a friendship and it was sweet, tender, and intimate. Then he went back to Atlanta and soon thereafter found Melinda, his second wife and the mother of his two children. Within a month of Duke’s visit, I was dating David, to become married and forever happily monogamous.

So maybe there is something to this concept of a one-time “tryst of a lifetime” that launches us into our next romantic involvement.

My friend Duke remained married to Melinda until his untimely death at age 53 of a massive stroke. It happened on the very day when my daughter Rachel and I were on our way to visit him and his family at their lake house outside of Atlanta. I will forever miss him.

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