November 20, 2013

The One Who Didn’t Get Away.

Recently, my 83 year old boss shared that one of his most memorable babysitters was Elizabeth Custer a.k.a. Mrs. George Armstrong Custer.

Granted, she was elderly at the time, he was a baby who didn’t remember her and she only watched him for a few minutes while his parents were across the street visiting a neighbor but still, it isn’t everyone who can claim such an encounter.

A history buff, he mentioned that Mrs. Custer was a friend of his grandmother and per her, she used to wax nostalgically about her late husband.

Apparently, while friends would smile and nod, many were remembering the times when he was alive. As they recall, they did not have a happy marriage. She complained about him a lot and he had a bit of a reputation as a jerk, but in death, all that was forgotten and in her mind, he became  something of a saint.

She’s hardly alone.

Granted, while few will ever lose a spouse like she did, it’s common for those to have lost a spouse or a partner and remember only the good things about them, whether real or not.

Sometimes, it doesn’t even take death to have this happen.

Years ago, during my senior year in college, I briefly dated a man I was later convinced was the one that got away. Even though we were only together for a brief period of time and really did not know each other that well, he became the de facto “one who got away” each time a relationship ended.

I (jokingly) called him my “Mr. Big” in reference to the character in Sex in the City. There certainly were parallels: both were achingly attractive, successful and both were largely unattainable for Carrie Bradshaw and me, respectively.

After many years of being out of contact, the two of us suddenly reconnected. Our reunion was every bit as exciting, nerve-wrecking and yes, passionate as one might imagine.

However, once those feelings subsided, I was forced to ‘fess up to the truth: we were never compatible for a long-term relationship. All of a sudden, the doubts and worries I had during the short time we were together came flooding back.

How could I have forgotten these things so easily?

After all, these weren’t little things, but major compatibly issues. It became painfully clear that in the months, years, etc. that we spent apart, this man had become the perfect tabula rasa to reflect all my hopes, dreams, desire and unrequited love. Through no fault of his, I had made him into the perfect man. It’s little wonder that no one else I encountered could measure up to the impossible standard I created, and which was not even based on reality. Like Mr. Big, he had become a fictional character and I was unable to see the real man behind the myth I created.

As it turns out, he was not the one who got away and ironically, I could only realize this once he reappeared, albeit briefly, in my life.

Many people never get this opportunity and instead spend a lot of time pining for the one who got away.

My late grandmother was an example of such a person. Forced into an unhappy marriage to my grandfather, she reflected on several ones “who got away.” In fact, towards the end of her life, she spoke more about those “what ifs” than she did about her actual life and relationships.

While part of me could not blame her and thought it would be cruel to challenge her belief that these would-be relationships would have given the happiness she obviously craved, I did wonder if her life could have been happier if she had focused more on the relationships she actually had.

It’s something I sometimes ask myself.

Unlike the fictional Carrie Bradshaw and her beau, my Mr. Big and I did not end up together once we reunited. However, we were lucky enough to remain friends and more importantly, I was able to appreciate him for what he actually was vs. what I wanted him to be.

It may not be a Hollywood ending, but a happy ending nonetheless.


Like elephant love & relationships on Facebook.

Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Wikimedia Commons.}

Read 4 Comments and Reply

Read 4 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Kimberly Lo  |  Contribution: 55,675