Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Want To Hold Your Hand

Today was special. We had a visit from Flip's first girlfriend ever, when he was 14 and she was 13. They hadn't seen each other since they were in their mid-teens, but she found me on Facebook and we began a correspondence. She wanted to thank Flip for showing her in her first relationship that boys could be kind and caring, gentle, respectful and funny. He is still all those things, and more. Lori said that he introduced her to music, which would become a very important part of her life, and to photography as he always had a camera with him and chronicled their young teen life, mostly in pictures of an adorable smiling Lori, who is now a professional photographer.

I warned her that I didn't know how he'd react to her visit as his behavior can be unpredictable, but it couldn't have been better. He was sleeping when she arrived so we went to eat, and when we returned his lunch had been delivered. I woke him up to feed him, and told him who she was. She showed him snapshots he had taken of her at age 13 and remarked that she is much older and larger now, but it didn't matter. He recognized her and smiled. She told him about her life, and that she never forgot him even though they went different ways because they didn't live in the same town and neither was old enough to drive.

She reminisced about strolling in Los Angeles parks and on beaches, hand in hand, singing Beatles songs - it didn't hurt that Flip looked a lot like George Harrison -  and talking on the phone for hours as soon as they got to their own homes. It sounds like the most perfect teen romance. She gave me a stack of photographs, all of them precious. I especially love that he wrote on the back of one:

I have pictures of you plastered all over the darkroom walls, so it's almost impossible for me to forget what you look like - (which is fairly hard to do anyway.)
Truly yours, sincerely, love, forever, cordially, Phil.

It charms me that he sneaked "love" in there, surrounded by several less serious words, because he wanted her to know and also shyly hoped she wouldn't notice. Children are so brave but life doesn't often encourage them to stay that way. I feel honored to have glimpsed an important part of my husband's life long before I knew him. His taste in girls was impeccable as Lori is now a wonderful, kind, sensitive and giving woman who must have been an absolute delight then. There was magic in having his first love and his last together at his bedside, and I think Flip was aware of the symmetry. After she left, I asked him if he remembered her although it seemed obvious that he did. He said, "Oh yeah." I believe her visit helped him to reconnect with who he was then and still is now, despite the fogginess of dementia, and I am grateful to Lori for giving him back a piece of himself. Some days God smiles.


Cro Magnon said...

That's a very cute story, and of course he wisely chose YOU.

the walking man said...

That is a beautiful account of what must have been a wonderful break in the overcast days. So I guess we learned today that California teenagers back in the day were just the same as everywhere else eh?

Maria said...

I can feel him in those words he wrote as well. Wanting her to know, but not daring to be too bold. I like Flip and I don't even know him just from those words.

Jo said...

Oh, Susan, that is so beautiful. You have always talked about what a sweet man Flip is, and I could see that in the lovely message he wrote when he was only 14! My heart did a little pitter patter when I read it.

His first girlfriend sounds lovely, and Flip's taste in women has not wavered. Save the best for last? :-)

Anonymous said...

I am big pile of goo over here, watery eyes. Ugh. This is beautiful.

I admired, enjoyed, loved, was captivated by this story.

nick said...

That's very moving that they reconnected again after so many years - and that he actually recognised her without any trouble. That suggests they had a very deep and loving relationship.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Cro magnon,

Awwww, thank you so much!


"I wish they all could be California girls..."


I have no doubt that you and Flip would like each other.


Lori is indeed lovely! I have made a new friend who feels like an old one.

Today, a young volunteer from hospice who visits us said to me, "You're so amazing." I replied, "No, I'm not. I just love him." And Flip said very clearly, "I love you, too." He still understands so much more than it seems because he is rarely able to verbalize intelligibly, but he couldn't have said anything better.


Flip is incredibly special, and I am really lucky to be able to share even this new aspect of our life with him.


I'm sure they did. Romeo and Juliet were about that age, and I remember writing passionate poetry for a boyfriend as a young teen. Lori's visit was lovely for all of us.

mischief said...

You got me all teary. I'm so happy that he remembered her, and so happy that you are the kindest most generous wife in the world to have made the effort to give him -and her- the gift of this special reunion.

It sounds like he was always the tenderhearted man you fell in love with. And I do not believe his illness changes it in the future either.

I am so glad you and he had a happy day together, and wish you many many more of those. Love.

CiCi said...

Did you get a picture of Flip and Lori during this visit? It sounds like the chance to actually remember something was good for Flip. That was a kind and generous gesture on Lori's part. Flip must have been shown by example by someone how to be kind and loving when he was a boy.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It was indeed very special. I have learned that love does not have to be hoarded - there is always enough for everybody.

Flip is still in there, even though he can't express it any longer. I played an Eric Clapton CD for him the other day and remarked, "The boy's not bad. With some practice, he might be almost as good as you." And Flip laughed.

Yesterday, a volunteer who visits said "You're amazing" to me. "No I'm not," I replied. "I just love him." Flip immediately said, very clearly, "I love you too." We both heard him.

I could not stand to be incapable of speaking intelligibly. He must be a saint or an angel.


I snapped several pictures of Lori and Flip and emailed them to her. I will print them and show him, too.

He did have a wonderful example, his father, whom he adored. He died before we met but everyone who knew him says that Flip is exactly like him. And that is no accident.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this amazing moment with us. I am glad Flip had this moment with his first and last loves. I can only hope to be so fortunate.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I hope you are so fortunate, too, but also that your circumstances are more fortunate than Flip's are now.

Ian Lidster said...

What a genuinely touching story and so beautifully expressed my dear friend.
And what a wonderful thing for her to do and the entire scenario speaks so well of all three of you.

Molly said...

I'm glad you had such a cheerful day!
And that you are bighearted enough not to hesitate to bring someone back into Flip's life whom he loved before you and he ever met! You're so right about there being enough love for everyone!

Secret Agent Woman said...

That is a beautiful story. And I often feel some gratitude to my partners' early loves, who helped shape them and hold them untilI came along.

Jocelyn said...

What a beautiful experience, for each of you. I'd say, in fact, this reunion defines the word "tender."

What a gift.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It was lovely. I think we all benefited from Lori's visit.


I might not feel quite as charitable toward Flip's first wife, who hurt him. But this encounter was really a celebration of young love and its lasting effect in our lives.


I'm sure your partners are able to appreciate you more for all the ones who came before. And sometimes it's good to let someone else do the training.


"Tender" expresses it perfectly. In fact, I'm sure the word was invented for just this occasion.

Lex said...

Oh how beautiful and how gloriously beautiful and loving of you to give him that day. Just wow!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You're so sweet, but it wasn't mine to give or withhold. I was just very happy to be a part of it.