In this book by Sheldon Van Auken, he speaks of a network of strings, or instances of love that held him and his true love together. That’s like our connection: a thousand memories, letters, words, thoughts, feelings, yearnings that bind us together and makes what we have strong. We are weaving an incredible bond that holds us together. Who taught us to do this? Create what we have? I know it comes from the heart. What better tutor could we have?
Loving Parke was easy and carefree. My previous relationships induced something frustrating or left wanting. By my early twenties, I’d checked practically every flavor of cute boy off of my dating list. There was Dave, the cute shy guy that I was constantly pushing to make the moves. Graham, the cute comedian who’s kisses left me lukewarm. Jimmy was the cute guy-next-door, who would never progress from working the checkout at the local grocery store. Nash was the cute athletic guy who excelled at every sport he touched, but had a wandering eye. Chris, the cute flirt, just didn’t have a strong enough testimony. Then there was Rob, the cute nerdy guy, who would make me millions of dollars, but would never, ever take me to a Metallica concert. Gavin was the cute rebel guy but he would surely lead me to an early death. Bryan was the heavy metal-butt rockin’-mullet wearin’ cutie, but he was a heavy metal-butt rockin’-mullet wearer (And it wasn’t in the 1980’s). Enough said.
Loving Parke freed me from the silent criticism that accompanied my past relationships. He freed me from thinking that love had to be something to labor over or agonize about. Love came natural for us. Love is able to flow and grow when there aren’t rocks of disapproval in the way. Parke had all of the great qualities in previous boyfriends minus the bad habits and irritating characteristics. He was funny, but not clamorous. He was sporty, but wasn’t consumed with watching sports on TV all day and knowing every statistic. He was ambitious and hard-working, but knew how to have fun; he would definitely take me to Metallica. He was spontaneous, but careful and protective. He had longer hair, but it was definitely not a mullet.
Now that we were engaged I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Parke was my man!
We called my parents first. They were ecstatic and gushed their approval. Their only daughter was the ripe old age of 22 and they wanted grandchildren doggonitt! However, in Parke’s family another response unfolded. Although they liked me a lot and approved of our match, they felt Parke was too young to get married. The Fischer children were indoctrinated to follow the structured timeline: At 14: you get your Eagle Scout. A 16: you drive. At 18: you go to BYU. At 19: you go on a mission. At 25: you get married. After 3 years of marriage: you have 2.3 kids. All of the Fischer children were good obedient children, each of them following the timeline with exactness and honor. Until Parke. At age 22, Parke announced that he was getting married. There was quiet resistance and pressure put on Parke to wait. It was unthinkable that Parke could get married before age 25, and before his older brother. Parke hid the backlash from me.
We enthusiastically shared the news with our friends and school mates. However, there was one friend that I hadn’t told and I wasn’t looking forward to it.
It had been six months since I said goodbye to Chris. Since he was living in Arizona he didn’t know that I was dating, let alone engaged to the love of my life. Chris still thought that he was the love of my life. His emails became more frequent and probing since there was no response from me. I knew it was time to tell him about Parke. I owed him that.
Parke knew that I was going to break the news to Chris and he concerned about me. He asked if I’d like him to be there when I called him. “No”, I admitted, “but can you be on-call?”
Did I really want to open up Pandora’s box? I had loved Chris deeply and it had only been six months our relationship ended. The wounds were only recently patched. However, I knew I couldn’t keep ignoring his calls.
Luckily, Chris answered the on my first try.
“Hey Darlin’!” Oh, why did he have to call me that?
He knew something was afoot since I hadn’t answered his emails for phone messages for a couple of months. “I’ve been worried about you, girl. I was about to hop in my car and search for you”.
“Don’t do that!” I blurted out. I cursed my mouth for blurting without permission.
He continued teasing “What’s going on? You’re either completely absorbed in school or a boy. Which is it now?”
He knew me so well.
“A boy….” I whispered.
There was a long pause. Too long. In fact, it me that spoke again. “Chris, are you OK? Did you hear me? I’m so sorry”
When he finally spoke I could tell that he was covering his emotions by sounding interested and concerned. “Well, tell me all about him”.
And I did. Chris was still one of my best friends and it felt good to share my happiness with him. I carefully told him about how we met, what Parke was like and some things we had done. I could tell that each word was a dagger to Chris by the inflections in his voice. When he finally said more than two words, it came out in an impassioned tirade.
“Why have you given up on us? I’ve never given up. I still have our picture in my wallet. This isn’t right. You’re making a mistake, Ashley. You’ll come back. You always do.”
He was stung and I was raw. After honestly answering that, yes, I was in love and yes, I was happy, and no, I wasn’t coming back this time, I was emotionally spent. I couldn’t take any more. I left out one very important detail: the engagement. I decided that just telling him that I was in love with another man was sufficient misery for this phone call. I would let the wedding announcement deliver the crushing blow. I couldn’t; it was too painful.
After the phone call, Parke was there to hold me. I cried. I cried because I mourned Chris like losing a loved one to death. But it was strange because Chris was still there, living, on this earth. We’d been together for years, and we’d simply run our course. We’d run out of gas. Parke held me without jealousy interfering. He was assured of my commitment with him. And likewise, never once during the conversation did I doubt my decision of choosing Parke over Chris. It just hurt to be the deliverer of heartbreak.
A week went by and although I felt a pit in my stomach when I thought of the phone call with Chris, Parke filled every minute with joy. And there was more than enough joy to sweep out the sorrow.
One day I came home from clinical at the hospital and jumped into the shower. It was Friday night, Parke and I were going out that night and I wanted to look gorgeous for him. I had just put the finishing touches on my make-up when the doorbell rang. Hmmm. Parke’s early. I thought he had class until 6pm.
When I opened the door, I gasped softly. A different face smiled back at me.