Lover's Key, Florida

Lover's Key, Florida

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Saturday, October 22, 2011


It was homecoming weekend at what was then called Northern Michigan College.  It was the first semester of my senior year.  I was struggling through classes like shorthand, having just switched my major from business administration to business education.  Rather than preparing to be a captain of industry, the availability of National Defense Education Act loans helped me decide to make a difference by being a teacher--a decision I have never regretted.  Gwen was also a business major; she was a scholarship student, and also worked as a student assistant at the campus health center, that may account for her decision later in life to complete her college education and earn a bachelor's degree in nursing.  She was way better at shorthand than I would ever be; in fact she was better at all the courses in the business curriculum than I.

On a clear, crisp October evening some fraternity brothers and I decided to visit the place where the sorority to which Gwen belonged was building their homecoming float.  Ostensibly we there to offer some technical support and help out a little, but everyone knew we were there to "check  out the girls." Part of the construction of the float involved stuffing paper napkins through chicken wire, and I remember seeing Gwen there as part of the work crew.  She looked familiar; the year before I had served as president of the campus Newman Club, and I had seen her sitting in the front row at a meeting I conducted; looking all cute, petite and full of life and energy.  But, I had never been formally introduced to her.

When work on the float was competed for the night,  some of the girls, Gwen included, asked for a ride back to their dormitory.  My friend, Smitty, in whose car I had ridden over, offered to transport some of them.  I got into the back seat of the car, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history:

MENDING A BROKEN HEART, October 22, 1961

There I was,
minding my own business,
tending to the broken heart
left behind by a girl named Betty Jo.

Out of nowhere she crawled into
the back seat of the car
sat herself on my lap
put her arms around my neck
and told me that her name was Gwen.
I told her that was a pretty name
for a pretty girl.
She never minced words from the start—
“that sounds like a line,” she said.

My heart began to mend that day
when, sassy as could be, she put herself
in the middle of my life—
then became my life—
“always and forever,” she said,
and we both liked it that way.

A year later, we called it our first anniversary.

We looked forward to many firsts,
never dreaming of this one—
the first time we are apart on this earth,
on our anniversary.   

 Now the heart she mended
is once again broken.
I can’t find a line that fits the situation,

John A. Bayerl, October 22, 2011

How fortunate we were, Dear, to have found each other on that fall evening.  Not much later we discovered that we shared the same beliefs about faith, marriage, children, life in general--we could talk about anything with each other.  And, we did.

1 comment:

Susie Hemingway said...

A lovely verse "Mending a Broken Heart" full of pain and joy then pain again. But think of it another way, you are the strong one John - God works in mysterious ways, although we question we never understand but he knew that you would survive until you meet with Gwen once again. If it had been the other way round ? I know you would never have wanted Gwen to be alone or go through the pain you have in the last months. I was the strong one that has to wait also but I will make my way until i see his dear face once more.
Blessings and peace.