29 August 2009

The Music Starts, Final Chapter

Aaron had been thinking about BYU a lot, and he'd decided it wasn't the place for him. In fact, he wasn't sure college was the place he needed to be right now. He was trying to figure out a lot of things in his life, and until he finished doing that, he didn't want to start on schooling that might end up taking him somewhere he didn't want to go.

Tim's heart sank.

They talked for quite a while. No, Aaron wasn't sure what he wanted to do yet, or where he wanted to go. But he wasn't going to stay in Idaho Falls much longer. No, Provo wasn't the place for him either, he knew that much. He just had to get out of his hometown, go somewhere and clear his thinking for a while. Of course he would miss Tim, terribly. But he also knew he had to find his own path, and he wasn't sure where that would be or how long it would take to figure out.

By now Tim was quite accomplished at hiding his true feelings. He stayed calm, told Aaron he understood, he knew Aaron was bright and could be successful at anything he put his mind to. But he also knew that wasn't enough, and if Aaron wasn't ready for the discipline of college, then it was probably best that he wait. Aaron assured Tim they would stay in touch as always. They each said "I love you", and the call was over.

And Tim cried again, for a long time.

He knew Aaron's phonecall meant the death of his dreams that they would be together. Tim had known his own career path since age 14 and was following it just as planned. He'd assumed someone as bright and capable as Aaron would have done something similar. It was now clear their last weekend that previous April had truly been their last weekend, and that Aaron still needed to learn some things about himself and where his life would go.

Tim knew that if you truly love someone, you respect their freedom to make their own choices. He couldn't force Aaron to come to BYU, and he was too far along in his own schooling by now to be able to stop and transfer anywhere else without losing significant time & money. His double major was already taking an extra year, and with parents footing half the bill, he couldn't just pull up stakes, follow Aaron who knows where, and start all over again.

This was worse than their parting in England. At least that day he knew they would be reunited in less than two years, and Aaron was there to cling to as they consoled each other. This time Tim was alone, and he didn't know where Aaron was going or how long they would be apart. Regardless, they weren't going to be together as he'd hoped. So the rest didn't matter.

Tim was grief-stricken for months, though he tried hard not to show it. He buried his feelings and buried himself in school work so no one would know how devastated he was. The ache and the sadness gnawed at him till he felt he had no more heart left to hurt, but at BYU it was not safe to say anything to anyone about it. He dared not risk any run-ins with the Honor Code secret police that might taint his plans for grad school. Aaron did keep in touch as promised, but the letters and calls gradually decreased as their lives became more independent over time. Tim eventually recovered, mostly. But never completely. He continued to date, finished his undergrad program, and started graduate school. Aaron had gone to California to work, and Tim eventually discerned from his infrequent letters and calls that Aaron had left the church and had lost most of the faith he once had.

While in graduate school Tim met a remarkably beautiful woman whom he developed some feelings for, and they married. After graduation, Tim took a job in England, of all places. He quickly became so busy with work and church assignments that he didn't think as much about Aaron as he used to, even though the places where they'd spent those happiest of months together were just a few hours' drive away. Tim avoided that area of the country; somehow he sensed he'd have problems if he didn't.

Tim and Aaron did continue keeping track of each other, though, and once when Tim was on a business trip in the States he and Aaron actually met again. Aaron was still unmarried (which made Tim really start to wonder), and had not finished college. He'd had a variety of jobs and remained the happy go lucky Bohemian trying to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up. By then Tim had morphed into the classic credentialed professional with business suit, leather portfolio, and an assistant making all his travel arrangements. But they greeted each other with smiles and hugs just like always, and enjoyed a long visit over dinner, catching up on their lives and adventures.

Soon afterward Tim and his wife moved back to the States, where their marriage did not survive. Things were brutal for Tim for a while, but he gradually recovered and realized the divorce was a tremendous blessing, because it had set him free. He finally recognized what he should have done years before. So he came out. Even to his two kids, who were still young enough to be untainted by prejudice. It made no difference to them, and Tim considered himself the luckiest of fathers to have such supportive children. After coming out he found a completely new life, new friends, a new family to add to his own, and was happier than he'd been in a long time.

There was only one loop left to close. So Tim called Aaron, wondering if there might still be a spark. They hadn't seen each other since that evening at dinner. Tim discovered that Aaron had moved back to Idaho, finished college, and had married. His wife was not a Christian, and Aaron had not associated with the church for years. As Tim and Aaron talked, laughed, caught up on each others' adventures, it became clear to Tim that their lives had taken paths so divergent that what had been before truly never could be again. The Aaron he talked with that night was not the Aaron he had known in England. They had wanted and chosen too many different things for too long. Their interests, perspectives, hopes and dreams had created totally separate lives. There was no overlap anymore. In fact, Aaron and his wife were soon going to move out of the United States and did not plan to return. The conversation was pleasant, but Tim could tell when there was nothing more to say. He wished Aaron luck, asked him to keep in touch, and they said their goodbyes.

Tim sat staring into space for a long time. The last tiny flame of hope in his heart, which had secretly glimmered for all those years, had just snuffed out.

Yet after a while, Tim was surprised to find that mixed with the pain and sadness of loss was also contentment and peace. For whatever reason, he and Aaron were not meant to be. Aaron's choices had ended up so different from Tim's that Tim wondered if things really would have worked for them after all. Gradually he realized that now he could look forward with no lingering doubts or what if's and, if he were lucky, he might find someone else he could love just as much as he'd loved Aaron. Much of his life still lay ahead, and he was sure it held the promise of wonderful adventures. If there was one thing Tim had learned from the divorce and from coming out, it was the value of looking forward, not back. So he got up from his chair with sadness but also a smile and peace in his heart. Life would go on. And so it did.

The rest of the story remains to be written. But no matter what course the rest of his life took, Tim would always remember and think himself blessed by the sudden surprise of delight, supreme sweetness, and the golden glowing happiness of the first time he fell in love. With a boy he once knew named Aaron.


- Yes, this is a true story which I have never until recently told to anyone. Names and places have been changed, but the events and people are all real. It has been wonderful and difficult to write. Wonderful to finally tell the whole thing from start to finish, and difficult because . . . well, just difficult. You know why. I will always carry some sadness. But I will also always be grateful that this miracle happened to me.

8 comments:

TGD said...

Thanks for sharing this story. I too had a very similar experience except I managed to never get married.

It was only a few years ago that I rekindled my lost love from my mission only to find out that our life's path had lead us to complete incompatibility.

Quinn said...

Wow... happy and sad story all mixed together.

How long ago did you serve in England?

GeckoMan said...

Alan,
Thanks for sharing a beautiful story. Go forward with faith, the road is wide open. Sometimes I wish I were in your shoes. I hope you find the love of your life.

Troy said...

Wonderful, yet sad.

El Genio said...

Alan,

Thank you so much for sharing something so personal. Just like in 500 Days of Summer, I think we have to hope for the next season.

Chris said...

The moving on part of this story struck me in a very strong way. I think we learn we only get one shot at a soul mate, at love, at a real connection. Only when we believe that is it true. Thank you so much for sharing :)

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

Wow, Alan--thank you for sharing this.

Bravone said...

Very touching on many personal levels. There will certainly be many more wonderful chapters to be filled as your continuing journey unfolds.

You have an awesome ability to put feelings into words. I love you Alan.