A girl blew me off recently and it just didn’t compute. Not close. Still, even at 60, post-romantic stress disorder has a three day shelf life. Progress, (as they say), not perfection.

Nothing, but nothing compares to the first time I had it broken off on me. If I only knew then what I’ve somewhat learned now: how not to hurt.

It was 1972, Ft. Polk, Louisiana. I was the token Jew serving Uncle Sam in a sea of duck-hunting southerners, (some of whom were not yet convinced The Civil War had ended). My fiancé—also my first girlfriend ever— was left to mind the store (and the blue & white Plymouth Duster) in Columbus.

An eight week Basic Training began January 3, yet by the Ides Of March the drip of her letters had stopped. There was no internet, of course, nor cell phone. You’d wait long lines to use payphones…and I would. By St. Patrick’s Day she wasn’t picking up. There were no answering machines either—just ringing and ringing. Fact was, the lady ignored not only telephone rings but diamond rings. Our engagement, (shall we say?) didn’t take.

Was I the only guy my generation to get a “Dear John” letter? Hardly, (although I can’t name another). Truth be known though, I was a physical and emotional virgin, newly-arrived at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, and devastated.

The call to my Dad found Harriet.
“Oh, Bruce…I’m so sorry.”
“Where’s my father?”
“I’ll find him.”

What a support system I had, even then! Remember: no texting, no paging. Still, she’d “find him.”

Back to the barracks…to sleep. Waking up I found the note taped to my bunk. “Report to CQ.” Being summoned to Company Quarters was like being sent to the principal’s office. No good could come of it. (Or so I thought).

“Your father called, Troup…“ the uniform spoketh. “He’ll be here Saturday.” Disdain in his eyes, my Drill Instructor clearly saw me as a pampered “college kid”; just as succinctly I read him to be a redneck anti-Semite. (We were both right).

Days later the cavalry arrived. Pastel short-sleeved dress shirt, tie and cigarette, Al Bogart entered San Antonio as Sherman had Georgia. Oddly, all he did was smile. Even more bizarrely, he took me to the zoo. There we spent an afternoon walking, talking, calming…

“Some day you’ll look back at this and laugh.”
“I doubt it…”
We joked a bit. He recalled the Vicki fiasco, then Marilyn’s sister. I’d survived each crisis.
“This too will pass, little boy.”

He hugged me, yet the prisms of his eyes even more than his words renewed me. My smile was coming; I was turning the corner.

“What about the car? I mumbled.
“It’s insured, “ he counseled. “Forget about it.”
Then, using the old man’s vernacular I asked him:
“What if she winds up in a tree?”
“Then I’ll call you,” he said, adding “You’re not that lucky!”
(We laughed together with that one, and I knew then that the old man, too, was hurt).

Decades passed before my heart again broke. Father gone, nine years post-divorce, I was licking wounds but mending faster.

“B,” you know what your problem is?” offered Bob. “You’ve never had a girlfriend before. Breaking up is just part of it.” Correct he was—but who was I to know? I’m looking for Hollywood endings.

Alan says I have “a soft spot for Bobby” and he’s right. It’s for things like that. Bob knows what I don’t, or close enough. Perception is reality.

And now…in recent weeks—that twinge again. Not the 70s’ pain of course, but a dull sense of rejection tempered more by wisdom than knowledge. My cup, though, remains half-full. Grateful I can still feel, I’m thankful that the first cut is indeed the deepest…

Three days to rebound? I can handle that anytime. All and all it’s just another brick in the wall.


  1. anonymous says:

    I’m speechless…

  2. Rolo says:

    Well done! You are good.

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