I recently told a woman I loved her..and it wasn’t Linda.
Now don’t get concerned..Linda knows all about it and understands completely.
My conversation last week was with my very first love; Shirley Jensen.. who died on Good Friday after a three decade long painful fight with cancer. “I love you too,” she said knowing we’d never speak again.
Actually, we’d hardly spoken at all since that night over fifty years ago when..obviously realizing I was getting too serious about our high school relationship..she broke the news to me at a carnival in Brookings that she really..really liked me but was going to date others..starting with Tommy Westaby who graduated the year before and recently purchased a brand new green Mustang fastback.
The Jensen family moved to Volga from Arlington in about 1960. I got to know Larry Jensen first when we both started high school together. I remembered Larry well from when he starred on the basketball court for our hated rivals..the Arlington Cardinals. He used to clean our clock in grade school games..once actually kissing the ball before sending it toward the basket followed by the swishing sound of nothing but net. I hated that demonstration of confidence and arrogance mostly because it was my head the ball sailed over before going in. That led to an ass chewing by the coach who wondered in a very loud voice why I was too lazy to raise my arms when I’m supposed to be guarding someone.
Well, now, in 1961, Larry was a Cossack and in my class. I tried to hate him at first but anyone who knows Larry Jensen..with his friendly outgoing jovial personality..also knows it’s impossible to dislike..much less hate him.
I’m not exactly sure the first time I saw Larry’s sister, Shirley..but I do remember how the sight of her big smile and bright red hair set me reeling. Here was a double of actress Connie Stevens walking the halls of Volga High School and I was hopelessly smitten.
I was also painfully shy and..in spite of her coy flirting..couldn’t bring myself to just come right out and ask her on a date. That didn’t happen until after frustrating conversations with her friends; “I like her..do you think she likes me?” Ugh. Finally, we did manage to arrange a double date which led to a few more. With each one I was falling deeper. Shirley..not so much.
Throughout our high school years her popularity grew..a cheer leader..majorette and everybody’s best friend. She wasn’t anxious to settle-in with one guy..even though he played guitar and sang in a rock and roll band.
Then came that night at the carnival.
I was devastated..but, as is often the case with young romance, within a year, I’d fallen in love with the future mother of my daughters. Shirley married Tommy and had a son.
Eventually, our marriages failed and on the few occasions when our paths crossed, Shirley and I would talk about what might have been but always with a smile..realizing that it could never be and, after I met Linda, I no longer wanted it to.
But, Shirley was my first love and..you don’t forget your first love.
So, I’m glad we finally said the words over the phone last week..as friends who still care after half a century.
May God now bless her sweet soul in heaven.