You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by
And when two lovers woo
They still say, “I love you”
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by
Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date
Hearts full of passion
Jealousy and hate
Woman needs man
And man must have his mate
That no one can deny
it’s still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by.
These are the lyrics of the theme song of one of my favorite movies of all time, Casablanca. It was made in 1942 with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the lead roles. The movie won 3 Academy Awards. It was a common love story. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they separate, and by chance meet again with the girl loving another, and the noble guy gives her up and they give each other the look, and part ways for good, everything is ok. He says when she shows up at his bar “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”.
The other night I was searching for something interesting on TV, and the movie La La Land was just starting. I must have been the only person in the world not to have seen it, and wasn’t particularly interested because of the title and that it was a musical. Although I say I don’t care for musicals, I have never seen one that I didn’t really like. My eyes never left the screen, except to go get tissues for when I cried. What a great movie. It won 7 Academy awards and well deserved. Strangely enough, it had a very common theme. Boy meets girls, they fall in love, they separate, and by chance meet again with the girl loving another, and they give each other the look, and part ways for good, everything is ok. (In his bar). What sets this movie apart from Casablanca is the way they project their might have been future, which was extremely well done. In Casablanca, you had to fill it in yourself.
Before I had kids, I always liked to sit in the window seat in airplanes so I could look out at the stars, clouds, and especially the cities at night. They hog that seat now. There have been countless times in my life I have been alone, or in a relationship I knew wasn’t right. At those times, I would look down at all the lights of the houses and cars below, and imagine there must be someone down there in that city for me. A chance meeting, a new life, a fresh start. Within minutes, the lights would be gone, I would still be alone, and on it went. The loneliness would set in, and I would keep searching for a light, of any kind, a farmhouse, a lone car, anything to give me hope. Then the next city would come and go. It was hard to travel alone then.
This week I got a surprise message from a friend I haven’t seen for over 40 years. We had gone on one of those once in a lifetime trips to Key West in the 70’s together. He brought up memories I had either forgotten or had purposely buried to protect my emotions. On that trip, I had met a girl and lived with her for several years. It was a chance encounter involving a boat and a bar but changed the direction of my life. At the time I went on that trip, I was dating a girl back home, her name was Julie, and because of the circumstances that developed, I have never seen nor spoken to her again, even though it was a kiss and see you in two weeks goodbye. I wonder how she is doing.
I have thought a lot about the could have beens/should have beens in my life. A wrong word, a funny look, a mood, a mistake have caused many of my relationships to fail. And I feel really bad about that. Each one of them carried a future. I can project in my mind (just like in La La Land) how that future might have played out. It’s tough to think about. And that is just about the chance relationships I have had, which pales in comparison to the chance relationships I could or might have had. My heart breaks over each and every love I have ever had. And there have been many.
I had been dating, and very much in love with, a girl from California named Marie (My second girlfriend). We had our problems, like everyone, and I started also seeing a girl named Pam. This was going on for several months. I worked at my parent’s farm and lived in a small trailer right next door. One day, during the summer, I took my motorcycle into town, about 4 miles, to get something to eat during a lunch break at the farm. My two girlfriends decided to pay me a visit that same day. There was a fork in the road going to either the farm or my house, and as I came back from town, both girls were walking either on the farm or house road waving and smiling at me. They couldn’t see each other because of some trees and bushes. I pulled up and stopped at the fork, with each girl about 50 feet from me, coming from different directions, and did the only wise choice a guy would do in this instance. Turned around and left.
How the story turned out. They kept walking and met, compared notes, and both dumped me (with good reason). They became very good friends and especially hated that I gave them both the same presents for their birthdays. I had a future with both girls. I often wonder about that. I have never spoken to either since. Hope they are doing ok.
How many strangers have you looked in the eye, a casual glance, a word or two, a thought about them? Each one of them carries the potential for a future. That answer, of course, is limitless. Let me tell you another story. I have never told it to anyone else before, and quite frankly forgot about it until just right now.
I was living in Madison, Wisconsin while working on a piece of land that my parents and I were going to move our animals to from Minnesota. I was getting it ready for the move. I had a girlfriend in Minnesota and would drive back weekends to see her and her daughter. One night after work I was driving from the gym I worked out at, and at an intersection, I got behind a VW Beetle that was stalled. I sat as the driver tried to start the car through several light changes, then jumped out to ask if I could help. It turned out to be a girl about my age named Trish, and she readily accepted my offer. I jumped in, got the car started, I think it was flooded, and got the Beetle and my truck past the intersection. Talking a bit, she offered to buy me a beer. For some reason, I said yes, maybe because I was lonely, and followed her a short distance to a bar by her house. Very out of character for me. We had one beer, and she asked for my number, I gave it to her, and off we went. In the following weeks, we saw each other many times for dinner and drinks. She was kind of dating a guy, and I had a girlfriend 400 miles away. We both knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere but just liked each other’s company.
It so happened during this time that my girlfriend and I made a trip out East to visit Washington D.C. We brought my cousin and his wife along. I called Trish to tell her about the trip, and she informed me that she and her boyfriend were also going there about the same time we were. Wouldn’t it be funny if we ran into each other? (How absurd, it’s a big city). We both agreed that if we did (what’s the chance of that) that we would not say anything. Well, guess what, one day my cousins, girlfriend and I were walking down the sidewalk by the White House, and from the other direction comes Trish and her boyfriend. We see each other from about 20 feet away, both had sunglasses on, and as we passed within two feet of each other, slipped our sunglasses down our noses, looked into each other’s eyes, and smiled. A movie couldn’t have done it any better. In a country of millions, what are the chances?
I don’t know what happened to Trish. She moved away to California a few months after that, and we didn’t stay in touch. I often wonder how my life would have turned out had she been the one.
I know how my life has turned out up until now. And I am very happy with it. I don’t know how the rest will turn out. You see, every second counts in this life when it comes to opportunity, and your choice. Thinking about those poor people in Las Vegas, their choice led them there. Whether they turned right or left, or ran, or hid, or helped was their choice. Every second mattered. Every second of one decision changed a life. A result followed. Thank you to the many heroes who risked their own lives to help those in need. But let’s get back to love.
I envy those who have found someone to share their entire life with. How did they know? I suspect that they have had to give up a lot of could have beens too. It’s those could have beens that do the haunting.
Are you ever really over someone you shared a part of your life with? I don’t think so. You may hate them for something they did, become different people, don’t like the way they snore, or eat, or kiss. But if you have shared a time and place and a passion, then they are with you forever. You may have no wish to get back together with them, but that’s different than being over them. After all is said and done, there was a future with that person. And you might imagine it like in the movies, but you will never know the ending. That is part of being alive.
I have met my Soulmate. The one. I can’t reveal her name. We are not together, nor I suspect, will ever be. I am ok with that, and she is too. This current life of mine doesn’t have a place for her in it. Nor I in hers. Someday in a life in the future, we will be.
I am now more aware of the chances and choices. When I pass a stranger, what happens next might determine my future. Whether I say hi, or continue on my path, the future is determined. Being an introvert, I always err on the side of silence.
They say that when you die, your entire life flashes before your eyes. I wonder if all of the other possible combinations of life pass before you too.
When I got married for the first time, we had our honeymoon in the Bahamas. One night while having dinner, the theme song from “Casablanca” was played by the band. I don’t think my wife got the emotional connection that song had for me, but I saw it as a sign that everything was as it should be. Every time I hear it, I think of that dinner, and the promise that being a newlywed brings. This year I saw her for the first time in many, and I thought about the could have beens. I think she did too. She has a wonderful life, with a beautiful daughter and precious granddaughter. I know she wouldn’t want to change a thing. It would be great if we didn’t have to, yet have that alternate life of promise.
I often look at my Daughter, who is 14, and my Son, 10, and think of all the life that is ahead of them. The biggest question they will ever have is who is right for them. That is one that I can’t answer. Each of us has to live that joy and pain alone. That is a journey that can’t be planned. It is predetermined by chance. That I know.
The best example I can set for them is that I am happy.
The only thing I know as I have lived my life. You and you alone are faced with choices and decisions that change the course of your life. One choice excludes all others. A different choice excludes that one. You can’t have it all. Be happy with the choice you make, and if you want to look back, then do it with joy in your heart. Be happy you had a choice, to begin with.
I now look back and smile (or cry) ……..As time goes by.