In all relationships both platonic or romantic, we leave bits of our love behind.
Then those bits echo forward as time inevitably passes.
I remain cordial, if not friendly, with just about every man I have dated. On occasion I have even kept in contact with some of their families.
I have this one ex, however, who comes from a particularly lovely family. I trust that no matter who I ultimately end up with, I will never love a man’s mother as much as I love Marla.
From the moment I met her, I loved her. Her salt of the earth Midwestern ways were disarming and warm. She taught me just about everything I know about a golf swing. We laughed together. We cooked, spending hours in the kitchen just the two of us. We shopped and learned we both loved shoes and things that sparkle, but ultimately that we both hinged on the side of tomboy. Without a doubt, she and I built a friendship.
While our friendship flourished, my relationship with her son changed. And for a multitude of reasons he and I parted ways. It was over a decade ago now, but I know that scars remain.
But I kept in random contact. I reached out when I was reminded of her or of him or of their playful pooch Jezebel or of some other random lovely memory we all shared.
And we found a tenuous peace.
Years later I would find myself on walking along a street in San Francisco on a cool fall evening with my then fiancé when I would receive a message from Marla. It didn’t contain many words but reminded me that her son still hurt because of our decision to part.
And as I read the message my fiancé saw the hurt in my eyes…
And his guilty conscience went into overdrive, “I swear it wasn’t as bad as you think.”
But that isn’t the point of this story. The point is that by the very grace of God, Marla revealed a fracture in my relationship and ultimately saved me from a life that lacked luster and magic and honesty.
An echo of that love I left behind was loud enough that I heard it. I followed that echo away from that marriage and out into the wild unknown.
A year and a half later she helped me attempt to contact her son. You see, as chance would have it, over all those years he and I had both found our way to lives in Denver.
I wrote him a letter at Christmas. It was both a peace offering and an echo of our once tangible love.
But I never heard back.
And then I accepted a job that would take me across the Atlantic to Europe.
Just weeks before I left the U.S., the breeze blew one of those echoes into his heart. It stirred him to tear open that card that had started to collect dust on his nightstand and then he gave me a call.
We met. We had dinner. And we talked enough for him to finally close the book on the hurt from the end of our youthful love. Another echo.
Then I boarded a 747, bound for a brand new life in Frankfurt.
Marla said to me once after I had gone that she would always wonder if my “gypsy ways” might be risking both of our chances at simple happiness together.
She said all those years later I had remained the one he loved.
And I won’t lie: when she said those words, I wondered too.
And I felt guilty for if in chasing and catching my own dreams, I sacrificed his one path to love and happiness.
I’ve been gone now many moons and this week heard another echo. As a result I know that guilt I felt and those fears I had were unfounded.
He is happy now, and clearly in love.
And I have found my own measure of happiness.
And in part because of the beautiful woman he calls mother. And I call Marla.
In life, there will always be love we leave behind. But that love echoes forever.
And for us—that echo saved me. And, in turn, it saved him.
And now moves forward as just a whisper on the wind.
May we all be listening close enough to hear the echoes of the love we leave behind and trust the wisdom they contain.
Author: Jessica Chardoulias
Image: Unsplash/Brooke Cagle
Editor: Renee Picard