Laura & Richard, 1981
In order to tell the next part of my story I have to go back a bit in time. It may not make sense to you at first but stay with me. It will.
When I was back home with mom, Richard and I had an agreement. We would date other people, all the while knowing that when we were able, we would get back together. It worked out really well. He was like my best friend, boyfriend and confidant all rolled into one. After we had “been together” for a year, I knew that I was meant to be with him for the rest of my life. I planned to marry him someday, maybe after college. I wasn’t worried about it because I KNEW he was the one for me.
After two and a half years of this relationship, I met Dale. I was totally swept off my feet (and my moorings) by him and his religion. I turned my back on everyone who loved me and followed after Dale and his god completely. But I still had a special spot in my heart for Richard. He was my first love after all. Remember your first love? Most people do. Rarely does one forget their first true love. I sure didn’t.
Dale and I were engaged when one day we went to work at a craft fair in San Francisco for some friends of my moms. Richard happened to be there for his work. I hadn’t seen or talked to him for a while. I remember he came to the fair and met me. I took my lunch break and we went outside to talk, but not before I introduced him to Dale. They sized each other up as they shook hands.
Richard and I sat outside together and talked. He was worried about me. He cared so much for me. He didn’t want to see me throw away my dreams and plans like this. He took my hand in his and looked deeply into my eyes, “Just come with me right now. Fly back to L.A. with me. We can leave right now.” He was so worried about the path I was going down. He desperately wanted to do something to stop me.
I just looked at him and said, “I can’t”. And that was that. Many times over the years I wished I had gone with Richard. Many times I wished I had followed through with my plans and dreams. Instead, I followed a man and let his plans and dreams become mine.
In 1993, about ten years after seeing Richard at the craft fair, I was in my kitchen when the phone rang. I was living far away from my family and friends. We were out in the country on the farm. When I answered the phone, I was stunned to hear the voice of my first love. Richard! I knew it was him as soon as he said my name. He had found me on the Internet and was wondering how I was. He was happily married and doing well. I was pregnant with my seventh child at the time and told him I was doing well too. We exchanged pleasantries and he told me where he was working. Then he said if I ever needed anything or needed to get a hold of him, I could always call his work. I thanked him. We hung up. I sat. And thought. I took emotional inventory of myself at that moment. As a Christian wife and mother, I was surprised and pleased that talking to Richard didn’t make me a discontented, depressed and “miserable to be where I was” person. At least not at that moment, not even that day.
The next day, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about him and my life and what I could have done, been, seen, accomplished, experienced. It was a very difficult time for me. As I looked around at my falling down house where eight people lived with only one bathroom, a house in the throes of a never ending remodel, and me with my swollen ankles and swollen belly, I was very discontent. I wanted to be somewhere else. That somewhere else included Richard and I missed him fiercely.
It took me a few days to get over that but I finally did. During my 25 year marriage to Dale, I never could completely let go of Richard. I would dream about him and then wake up terribly disappointed that it wasn’t true and feeling guilty that I felt that way. I would think about him on my first born’s birthday…as it was his birthday also. I would console myself at times singing the special song to myself that was “our song”. And I loved to talk to our neighbor whose name was also Richard because then I could speak Richard’s name and not feel guilty. I loved how it felt on my tongue.
In my heart, I knew I should have married Richard but now I was a “mom of many” and a Christian and I shouldn’t even be thinking about these things!!! Sometimes I could guilt myself into not thinking about him…sometimes I couldn’t. As Dale became more and more distant, it became harder for me to turn the memories of Richard away when they came to mind. I was so empty and emotionally distraught. I felt awful that I would have dreams about Richard but yet I was comforted by them as well. I’d tell myself that I couldn’t control what I dreamed about anyway.
In January of 2007,I had been counseling with Glenn for about a year and a half. I was in my kitchen when again the phone rang. A man’s voice said, “Is this Laura Caplan?” “It used to be.” I replied. I knew who it was as soon as he spoke my name. It was Richard…my old boyfriend…my first love..the man I had thought I would marry one day. I couldn’t believe my ears!! I hadn’t heard from him in 10 years and here he was telling me a bad joke. (Celine Dion walks into a bar. The bartender says,”Hey, why the long face?”) It was so like him! Oh wait….he was asking me something..something about meeting him for lunch. I had a hard time focusing on what he was saying. The sound of his voice was almost intoxicating. I was so stunned! Now what was he saying?? Focus Laura! Oh yes, he was going to be in my area for work and wondered if we could meet for lunch? WOW! I paused and I said I would let him know. I had to ask Dale for permission but I didn’t tell Richard that. We agreed that we would email and I would tell him soon if I could meet him or not. I got off the phone with my heart racing and the flush in my cheeks quite noticeable, I am sure.
Now here I was, faced with the opportunity to see this man again after twenty something years. I wondered what he looked like, if his smile was still the same, if he still told bad jokes. I wondered if he had changed as much as I had. I was certainly a different person from the wild horse of a girl he used to know. I was excited and terrified to approach Dale about it. But I did it anyway.
I asked Dale if we could talk a minute in private. In our room, I said, “You’ll never guess who just called me!” He said, “I know who it was, it’s written all over your face. It was Richard.” I was shocked that he could tell. I mean, it could have been anyone but Dale knew that it was Richard. I charged on…I told Dale what Richard had proposed and asked if he thought it would be okay if I met him for lunch. Dale was getting ready to go back to Brazil for five weeks. I was in favor of his leaving this time because he seemed so lost and without purpose since his return from Brazil two years earlier. I wanted him to just figure out what he wanted to do and do it. He was going to see if he could find some way that we could minister as a family in Brazil. He would be out of the country the day that Richard and I would meet for lunch.
Dale really couldn’t have stopped me from going as he wouldn’t even be around. I really didn’t even need to tell him…. but being the dutiful, submissive Christian wife, I asked his permission. And held my breath. He said, ”I know how hard it is for you to let go of anyone and how you always like to keep in touch with people. So, if you don’t think it will cause you a problem….go ahead.” I am sure inside I clapped my hands with glee and squealed for joy. Outside, I thanked him and went about my business.
I emailed Richard and told him yes, I would meet him for lunch. The date was about 3 weeks away. Richard and I started emaling each other. At first it was “do you remember this?”, “remember when we did that” and those sorts of innocent exchanges that one would have with any old friend. Yet as time passed, the tone of our conversations changed. I was still being rejected and felt abandoned by Dale. I was still crying myself to sleep at night feeling like I was being punished by having to sleep alone. I was still crying out to a god who didn’t seem to hear me and my heart was so dry and withered. I felt so ugly, fat and unnecessary. Unloved and unwanted.
And here was a man, saying nice things…I was in trouble….
More from Laura: