Sunday, December 11, 2005

Love of My Life #5

This post is long and complicated, but so was the relationship. Hang in there.

I met Jason on the last day of tenth grade in the parking lot of my school. He went to a different school, but he had come to pick up some friends of mine in his Porsche 914 convertible. I noticed the car first, then the guy driving it. He was tall, had bright blue eyes and a smile that wouldn’t quit. A week or so later, Jason called and asked me out. I couldn’t believe it. A guy I sort of liked sort of liked me back? Unprecedented. We went to see “The Believers,” a horrible movie about Satan worship. Later that night at his house, he kissed me. It was a real kiss – the kind you see in the movies (just not Satan worship movies.) I went home and stayed up most of the night writing “I LOVE JASON” in tiny letters all over the front and back of a piece of paper. I was a goner. I fell completely in 16-year-old love with Jason that night, and to be honest, I never fell all the way back out.

That was a perfect summer. We rode all over the place in that little Porche. I remember the smell of Polo (he always wore too much), sweat and Porsche exhaust. We had so much fun together. We laughed all the time – to the point of tears – over silly jokes that were just between us. We would ride for hours up and down Dowlen Road, which was Beaumont’s main drag. We spent cozy evenings in front of the fireplace watching movies in his living room. He didn’t have a curfew like I did and many nights, I would be in bed when I’d hear a car drive by and honk three times. That was Jason. The honks meant “I love you.” Sometimes he would park down the street and walk up to the house. I would stand on my toilet, open the bathroom window and we would kiss through the window. Once, unbeknownst to my parents, he picked me up on a borrowed Harley and we rode all over town on that thing – my arms tight around his waist and my hair blowing in the wind. That night is still one of my favorite high school memories.

The flip side of the fun was the fact that Jason and I fought. A lot. The yelling, screaming kind of fighting that has no place in a relationship in which two people are supposed to love and respect each other. Also, Jason seemed to be a compulsive liar. That meant I couldn’t trust him, which turned me into an insecure control freak. I wanted to know where he was and who he was with around the clock. He was also very insecure. When it was just the two of us, he was sweet and warm and funny and fun to be around. But around other people, he tried so hard to be liked that he came across as being obnoxious. He embarrassed me a lot.

But I was hooked. My life revolved around Jason. My first thought every morning was “How soon can I see Jason?” I lived for hearing his voice on the phone or his car in my driveway. He’d pick me up from school on Fridays and we’d stay together until my curfew late that night. When it was time for him to bring me home, it was still too soon. Please, just a few more minutes with this guy I was so crazy about. We came to be known as a couple. People would say our names like “DeanaandJason,” like it was one word. I loved that. I loved belonging to someone. It made me feel like a whole person. There’s a picture of me lying on my bed, smiling and talking on my princess phone (to Jason, I’m sure). His letter jacket is hanging on a chair, and you can see his class ring on my finger. I was Jason’s girlfriend – that’s all I wanted to be. He became part of our family – having dinner with us almost every night. My dad baptized him at the beginning of our senior year.

If things were fine between us, I was deliriously happy. If they weren’t, I sat brooding in my room for hours. My poor parents. What a joy I must have been to live with back then.

I didn’t know our relationship was codependent and unhealthy. I just thought this was what it was like when you were really in love with someone. But there was a problem. I knew there was no future for us. I never seriously entertained the thought of marrying him. He was too unreliable. He couldn’t keep a job. He had a learning disability that was going to cause him to graduate from high school a year late. I was headed to college. He obviously wasn’t. Toward the end of my senior year, I knew I had to end it. It was awful. He couldn’t live without me, he said. I didn’t think I could live without him, either. I tried to stay away, but our relationship wasn’t completely over for another couple of years.

The last time I talked to Jason was a month before my wedding in 1993. He knew I was getting married. He called to wish me well. I told him I only had good memories of our time together. What a peaceful closure to a tumultuous relationship that had dominated four years of my life.

Two years later, right after Chad and I had moved from Abilene to College Station for him to do graduate work, my parents called me one morning. “Jason’s been in an accident…” my mom said. She didn’t need to finish. I knew they wouldn’t be calling me about Jason unless something awful had happened. I couldn’t speak or even breathe. My parents just sat there and listened to me sob on the phone.

They had to tell me the details three times before I could understand. A Mack truck – of all things – was trying to make a yellow light when Jason’s light turned green and he pulled out into the intersection. Jason was thrown out and ended up under the truck. He died instantly. His friend died at the hospital, and his friend’s seven-year-old son, seated between them, miraculously survived with no permanent injuries.

How many husbands would take their grief-stricken wives to the funeral of an old high school flame? My husband did. He tried so hard to understand and really couldn’t, but he still let me cry on him all I needed to. What a blessing from God Chad is to me.

It took me a long time to get a grip on Jason’s death. I still struggle with a sense of “survivor’s guilt.” I have enjoyed so many blessings in my life – a happy marriage, two wonderful children, a rewarding career. Jason didn’t get to have any of that. Instead, he was dragged to death under a Mack truck at 24. We all have thoughts we have to fight to keep out of our heads. That’s one of mine.

In the last five years, I’ve been in touch with Jason’s mom. I think it’s made us both feel better to have that connection. We visited his grave together a few years ago.

Like most people, I’m such a different person than I was at 16. I’m consumed with being a mommy, a minister’s wife, a writer, and – because of my newspaper column – something of a celebrity in our little town. I can go for weeks without thinking of Jason at all. But sometimes, I’ll be driving alone when some song like “Angel” by Aerosmith comes on, and there I am. Sixteen again. Too much Polo on a muggy summer night. I can almost feel him sitting next to me.

Would you believe I still shed tears over that boy?


  • At Sun Dec 11, 06:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yes I can. God is so good... you're a great minister's wife who understands & remembers how it feels to love a teenage boy. I think Jason is happy for you.

    Chad is a wonderful man. It takes a mature, loving, Christian to do what he did. Like I said, God is so good.

    Now stop making me cry! On to another love! :-)

  • At Sun Dec 11, 07:01:00 PM, Blogger SG said…

    I love my life and my husband. My high school "love" is also happily married with three kids and a wonderful Christian wife who I think the world of! He is in the military. Every time I hear of a deployment I worry about it being him. I have cried thnking he would be killed or hurt. I think we always feel for those first loves! Loosing yours so tragically had to be, and still at times has to be hard.

  • At Sun Dec 11, 07:16:00 PM, Blogger Melanie Morales said…

    When someone profoundly touches your life - especially with a young impressionable heart - they stay with you in your heart though they may be gone - either just out of your life - or physically gone from this earth.

    I think we were designed by The Great Architect to carry the love with us as fuel for our journey - even if it's a separate journey from the one we once loved.

    Merry Christmas!

  • At Mon Dec 12, 05:27:00 AM, Blogger That Girl said…

    How tragic. I've made peace with the one I loved so much. I guess you always love the one that would never have worked.

  • At Mon Dec 12, 06:28:00 AM, Blogger Angela said…

    The love of my life when I was 16 was Allen. We dated for much of my sophomore year and then I moved, with my family, to Baytown. I was miserable, hated Baytown and Lee High School, and refused to be happy. I lived for the times he would come to visit me in Baytown or when I could return to Arkansas to visit with him. I was really hanging on to him, had a "promise ring" and everything, but I knew that ultimately I couldn't marry a Catholic man. And for Pete's sake...we were only teenagers! At the beginning of my Senior year I broke up with him and he was furious and unkind. He treated my so badly that I hated the thought of him...until I fell in love again! Once I was in a healthy, committed relationship, I was able to forgive Allen and remember our time together fondly. Throughout my 16 years of marriage everytime I've heard Chicago's "Your the Inspiration" I've looked over my shoulder for that long-ago love. Now I've returned to live in the town where Allen and I lived and dated nearly 20 years ago. He doesn't live here anymore but I thought I spotted him the other day and my heart did a flipflop and I checked my hair! I don't think my first love will ever completely fade.

  • At Mon Dec 12, 06:59:00 AM, Blogger sarahdawn said…

    Thank you for sharing. You make me feel so normal about those random thoughts of BMY that float through my brain and heart on occaision. Last time I spoke to him was to get his address to send him a wedding invitation. He didn't come and I haven't seen or heard from him since. People talk about "the one that got away," but I think all these comments are more accurate. It's the one you love but know isn't the one that God meant for you that you never truly let go of in your heart. Your honsety and perspective are much appreciated!

  • At Mon Dec 12, 07:10:00 AM, Blogger elizabeth said…

    I still think of my high school love from time to time. I think about him on his birthday. He never married-I think I broke his heart!

    I knew it was time to move on when I was a sophomore in college and he had a hard time with it. It ended with him very upset and I still dream every now and then that he isn't mad at me and that we are friends.

    Strange, those first loves!

  • At Mon Dec 12, 09:08:00 AM, Blogger Amy said…

    I'm shedding tears over that boy - what a sweet heart you have. Your husband is a blessed man.

  • At Mon Dec 12, 01:36:00 PM, Blogger "Snapshot" said…

    When I think of the love I had in High School, I think of the Garth Brooks song "Unanswered Prayer". I gave my heart to someone who crushed me. Told me on a date that he was getting married (not to me). Had been seeing us both for over a year. Yikes! She married him anyway after finding out about me. Now she is the first in a line of 3 ex-wives. He has 4 children by these three women. Praise God I'm not one of those women.
    But, with all that said. I loved him and his family. It hurts me that he has let his life get so out of control. I pray for him and think of him often. It's true that when someone profoundly touches your young heart, it stays there.

  • At Tue Dec 13, 08:10:00 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    Lately I've been obsessing over women I've known in my past, more correctly, might have gotten to know but didn't and wished I had. I do this from time to time, especially around the holidays.

    I heard this song last night, Painting Pictures of Egypt by Sarah Groves. The words help me understand why the 'known' past can seem more attractive than the 'unknown' present....

    I don’t want to leave here
    I don’t want to stay
    It feels like pinching to me either way
    The places I long for the most
    Are the places where I’ve been
    They are calling after me like a long lost friend

    It’s not about losing faith
    It’s not about trust
    It’s all about comfortable
    When you move so much
    The place I was wasn’t perfect
    But I had found a way to live
    It wasn’t milk or honey
    But then neither is this

    I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
    Leaving out what it lacked
    The future seems so hard
    And I want to go back
    But the places that used to fit me
    Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
    And those roads closed off to me
    While my back was turned

    The past is so tangible I know it by heart
    Familiar things are never easy to discard
    I was dying for some freedom
    But now I hesitate to go
    Caught between the promise
    And the things I know

  • At Wed Dec 14, 07:24:00 AM, Blogger SJ said…

    I dated Dan for 3 years: my senior year of high school and the first 2 years of college. We were "promised". I still have that little ring somewhere. He was 2 years ahead of me and already in college, but he transferred to my college after my first semester. Long story short, he dumped me, got someone pregnant, married her and had another child and later divored. He called me after his divorce, but I was dating Mark (now my husband) by then. Two years ago I moved back to the town I went to college in. He is still here! He and his second wife have another child and she goes to school with my boys. Weird. "Unanswered Prayers" definitely fits.

  • At Fri Dec 16, 09:52:00 PM, Blogger Kyle said…

    Wow. These are great stories. I sometimes feel guilty that when I see the back of a girls head that looks like an ex, I get fluttery, wondering if it's her. This especially happens when I return to my college town, which is often because my wife is from there. Hearing these stories makes me realize that it's more common than I thought. I guess everyone has those relationships that went for too long. Just long enough to do some serious damage, but not too long that you weren't able to escape.

  • At Tue Apr 11, 07:58:00 AM, Blogger Jana said…

    What a sweet tribute, Deana. I love that you wrote this. And what a fabulous husband you have to understand what Jason meant to you.

  • At Mon Jun 01, 06:52:00 PM, Anonymous Shannon said…

    I am so glad I read this. I still think of him every time I go to Beaumont. Jason and I were good friends and I know how complicated he could be, but he touched all our lives for the better. :-)

    I loved that Porsche. How many times did I have to push that stupid car and pop the clutch to get it going.......I still have one of the Porsche decals from the wheel.


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