" I see a 17 year-old kid falling in love and spending a magical time with the girl he’ll never forget. And for a while...time stood still."
Joe M. Young
Winter 2001/Winter 2008
Time stood still for me when I was 17. It was a magical time. And when it changed, the magic dropped faster than a twenty-nine cents pair of socks. But I have to say that before it became a heartbreak, it became love. For that I am grateful that my friend Dave and I decided to stop on the way back to his house to play pool in his garage.
It all started at an ice skating rink in Anaheim, California where I grew up. The rink was called Glacier Falls. I suppose it had been around long enough for several generations of teenagers to find value in the place. Not just for skating but for doing what teenagers do best...meeting other teenagers. Usually the opposite sex kind. Strangely, that is not what brought me to Glacier Falls that evening. But it was the purpose of my best friend at the time...Dave. Always looking for an involved relationship where he hoped he would finally lose his virginity. Me? I was just along for the ride.
Since we were out cruising around together and he wanted to stop at Glacier Falls, I had no problem with it. Little did I know what the evening would ignite. I had recently come to the end of relationship that had been my first heartbreak. And given all of roller coaster ride of emotions I had been feeling for the previous two years, I was not looking to get into a relationship. I would have been happy just to hang out with my friends and shoot pool, go to the beach and take an much needed holiday from romance. So I guess you could say that I was just chugging along in life and never saw love coming. Jeanne was sitting with a friend at a booth if memory serves. Dave was quite taken with Jeanne's friend, and I couldn't see the friend because I was almost hypnotized by Jeanne's looks. From the first word between Jeanne and me, I could see she was the goods. Very, very pretty and to me, she was very easy to talk to. She also had a very "up" type personality which make her smile easily. I got her number and called her. Then went to her house and we started going out.
Our first real date was on September 4, 1970. I took Jeanne to a Led Zepplin concert at the Forum. I got lost several times but we finally made it there. Our seats were the worst possible seats in the house and even though Led Zepplin had been my favorite band since they first debuted, they absolutely sucked out loud live. At least what I saw of them. But I thought the evening was a success after all. It was the first time I’d ever driven into that section of the Southland with a girl on a date. I had driven that distance before with a girl but not on a formal date and I had taken a girl to a concert before but we were 14 years old and mom drove us there and back. By the time I got Jeanne home, I felt like we were seasoned boyfriend and girlfriend. And I was happy just to be the guy holding her hand and kissing her. And from our first date we were pretty much inseparable.
We used to go down to Newport Beach both day and night, but more at night. It was such an easy time to be with her. I guess I really didn’t know how much I loved her until one day my friends couldn’t stand it anymore. During a game of pool, another good friend Bob asked me, "what is it with you lately? You're always happy and joking around. Nothing bothers you. What's your secret?" I said, "well first of all Bob, I'm generally a happy person anyway. You know that. You and I went through the same heartbreak bullshit at the same time with our ex-girlfriends so you know why I was not the life of the party then. But this is the old me. Same one I always was." He looked at Dave and the both said, "Okay sure Joe." at the same time. But in my head, I knew what they were talking about. It was true that the world around me was a very good place lately. In fact, pretty much everything was coming up Jeanne. So I knew what was driving my happiness, but I already knew it since I lived it everyday. Yes, no doubt about it. Even though I was still young, I was in love. By all of the time honored criteria that still stands today. When I hear the song Kind Woman by the Buffalo Springfield I can instantly go back to those balmy nights at the beach. I can smell the ocean air and feel Jeanne’s hand in mine. I can almost feel the excitement I felt then everytime we hugged. Everytime I thought about her and why she was so good for me. It was perfect. She was perfect.
I really admired her family. And she had a great one. My father was involved with us kids very little over the years and mom worked to keep us in whatever amenities we did have. Today they would call it a dysfunctional family. Jeanne’s family was whole and wholesome. They were all great. My mom and sister Judy were the only ones old enough in my family to know anything about Jeanne but they really liked her. For years my mom would ask if I had heard anything from Jeanne and how was she doing. There is actually a funny story stemming from that. Well, it was uneasy back then, but looking back on it, I see a degree of humor in it I suppose. A couple of months after Jeanne and I broke up, I started dating a girl named Debi whom I first met when she was my friend Bob's girlfriend. I actually wound up marrying her. And in retrospect Debi was overall the best thing that has ever happened to my life. But Debi did not take too much to my family. They were polite to her but there was no love lost. Physically, Jeanne and Debi were very similar and when my mom would talk to Debi, she would call her Jeanne. Debi would grit her teeth, look upward and say “I’m Debi”. To that my mom would say, “Oh did I do that again? Honey, I'm sorry. I don’t know why I do that.” Then turn to me sometimes in front of Debi and say, “Jeanne was such a sweet girl. I wonder how she’s doing?”
After one such incident, and having gone through a long argument with Debi over the issue once again, I asked my mom if she did that on purpose and she said, “No. Why would I do that?” But mom sometimes had a twinkle in her eye when she was being a stinker and I saw it in her with that answer. This went on for years. I think it shows how much my family liked the idea of Jeanne being around. Indeed, my mom once told me that she had sort of taken it for granted that Jeanne would be family someday.
Sounds like a perfect situation with the perfect girl doesn't it? Yes it was. So why am I not writing today about how I met my wife at Glacier Falls instead of this? I didn’t know how to take care of a love like Jeanne’s and I wound up breaking up with her on what I thought would just be a temporary basis. I know that at my age now, if I read that line, I'd be thinking, "what kind of bullshit excuse is that?" It's a long, long story but let's just remember that I was just 17 and had been in a very perfect world for months and chalk it up to the ignorance of youth. I for sure never dreamed of hurting Jeanne. But it broke her heart. Seeing her with a broken heart brought me around to a reality I had not foreseen. And the fact that I was so sad knowing that, is further testament that my love for Jeanne was real. My mom did not raise us to mistreat people and Jeanne was the last person in the world I would have let anyone hurt. Yet it turned out that I hurt her. I tried to turn it around but I was ashamed. I really couldn’t look her in the face and tell her how much I really loved her. I couldn’t tell her how no one else mattered. Because by that time, I knew she felt that I had betrayed her. As much as I really loved her, I knew I was not what she needed. She needed someone who would keep her happy...not sad. So I said goodbye to the girl who had brought my life back from the lowest place my mind had ever been for any length of time. The girl that proved to me that many times just when you think all is lost, your life can not only be better but better than it had been before the depression started.
Looking back, it was probably too much thinking. But at 17 I tried to put it together the best I could. It didn’t work and I lost her forever. That is the bad part. I didn’t know how to deal with that. But she was so good to me and for me. And when I didn’t have her anymore I once again decided I didn't want to be in a relationship any time soon. It was just too much to worry about losing someone you loved. And I did stay out of relationships for probably two months. Then, Bob broke up with Debi and Dave put us together and we stayed together for the next 38 years
Where Jeanne is concerned, we all know how the saying goes, "the ride was worth the fall" and I'm glad we stopped by Glacier Falls that night. There are good parts of me today that I am because of Jeanne. And even though the hurt can sometimes be very painful, I believe it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Knowing and loving Jeanne could never be a bad thing. I hope she did well in life. She really did deserve it. I hope she married the best guy, had the best kids, and got everything she wanted and deserved. It would make me very happy if I were to find that all the good things came her way. And maybe it was fate because I wound up falling in love with Debi and spent 40 years married to someone who not only was the best thing that ever happened to me, but someone who caused so many good changes in me that I know would not have taken place without her.
However, memories and loves aside, life goes on. They tore the old place down in 1983 to make way for something someone figured was needed more than an old memory churn like Glacier Falls. But like thousands of other teenagers over the years, I don't need to see an old ice skating rink to bring back old memories. It was such a powerfully positive event in my life, the memories are very clear to me. Anytime I want to I can close my eyes and replay those scenes as only Jeanne and I could since we were the only ones that were there for the whole thing. And aside from the smiles and deep feelings I get from those memories, when I look back on those times, I see a 17 year-old kid falling in love and spending a magical time with the girl he’ll never forget. And for a while...time stood still.
[Update February 2008]
Through a coincidence that most people would never believe, and over a span of about 2000 miles I met up with Jeanne's youngest sister whom I had not seen since she was about ten or so. She moved years ago to Texas and after a lot of communication with me, she flew back for Christmas in 2007 to be with her sisters Kathy and Jeanne. She had told Jeanne that she was in touch with me and Jeanne and her husband Mike invited me to come along with Sharon to spend Christmas Eve with all the family.
Wow! I don't need to worry anymore about how Jeanne did. She did marry the best guy, had the best kids, lives a very nice, comfortable life which is exactly what I always had hoped would be the case with her. I spent a very enjoyable evening with them all. And that included going to a Christmas service at a nearby church where Kathy's son is a minister. In every way, I finished that evening feeling so good about everything, and I knew as I did back then that I had done the right thing knowing she needed someone who had not hurt her and she found him. I really like Mike and it seemed as though he got along well with me. And just when I was beginning to believe that happily ever afters only happened in the movies. I have never been so happy about being wrong.