Just for Preteens

Loving and Letting GoR6

Lisa Meadows

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

—Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan, Annie

"Brazil," Dan told me over the phone. "I'm going to Brazil next year." I can remember those words flashing through my mind. It's hard to say what my first reaction was. I think it was a combination of sadness, anger, and confusion. The only words I could say were, "That's cool," which came out in sort of a choking manner. Dan was so excited that he completely missed my response.

Dan continued to talk while I listened halfheartedly. I struggled desperately to gain control of my emotions. "You're leaving me," was the only thought that crossed my mind. Dan was the first boy I had ever loved, and I couldn't imagine life without him. I really wanted to be happy for Dan. I knew this was a dream; a dream that was actually going to come true for him. This was a chance of a lifetime, yet it was so unfair. After I hung up the phone, I went to my room and cried. As time passed I gradually accepted it, but there was always a little voice in the back of my mind that wanted to scream, "Don't go, please don't leave!"

Dan and I met when we were fourteen years old. The first night we met and slow danced, we could see eye to eye, but that didn't last for long. Since we lived in different towns and attended separate schools, we usually saw each other a couple of times per year. The funny thing was that we could go without seeing each other for months and immediately pick up where we left off. We were friends for a long time before we started dating. Dan was easy to hang out with because he was so smart, quick to laugh, and a good listener.

We lost touch for a year, but Dan popped up in the strangest of places. In my sophomore year, I attended the county finals for the cross-country team. Since I had been injured earlier in the season, my job was to play timekeeper for the team. After the race, as I walked towards the bus, I turned a tight corner and ran smack into a white racing jersey. I nearly dropped the clipboard as I tripped backwards. A big hand reached towards me and pulled me up. As I was apologizing for my klutziness I caught sight of the brightest blue eyes I had ever seen. Dan broke into a huge grin as he introduced himself to me again. I was stunned. This young handsome guy could not have been the chubby kid that I slow danced with so long ago.

Once again, we slipped into our easy pattern of hanging out and chatting like it was yesterday. Over the next year, Dan and I became close friends who hung out together at dances, school trips, each other's houses, and sporting events. We took refuge in each other when dealing with the stresses of school and home, with trying hard to fit in, figuring out our own identity, and dealing with our parents.

I remember the thrill of kissing Dan when we first decided to date in my junior year. He was taller and filled out—now I barely reached his shoulder—and his short spiked hair had grown into floppy red bangs. Our relationship was so easy because I didn't feel any pressure to hide my true personality. It wasn't unusual for us to play one minute and then go for a quiet walk around the neighborhood and stare at the stars the next.

Over that year, my love for Dan changed from romance to friendship. The depth of my feelings did not change, and I didn't love him any less, but the intensity and focus of that love had changed. Dan broke up with me in early spring. It wasn't a harsh breakup, but I was heartsick and cried as he hugged me to his chest.

That summer, I decided it was time for me to get a fresh start by working at a summer camp. I needed time to slowly distance myself from Dan before he left the country. Then, something funny happened—we decided to share letters of our misadventures at camp. These letters showed a new and deeper relationship developing. We were becoming best friends, laughing at our stupid mishaps while clinging to each other through the storms of growing up.

It was a warm August night when I returned from camp. Dan was having his going away party. I was shaking in fear wondering how Dan would react after seeing me again. I know it was foolish, but I had secretly hoped that maybe he would have forgotten me. When I turned the corner to his house, Dan scooped me up in a big bear hug. "Do you know how much I missed you?" he whispered in my ear and then tossed me over his shoulder.

The carefully crafted walls around my heart were smashed to bits that night when I realized I still loved Dan. It wasn't losing Dan that scared me; it was my fear of being hurt when I had to let him go.

One of the hardest days I ever faced was saying goodbye to Dan at the airport when he left for Brazil. My heart cracked in half as we said our goodbyes and I watched his blue eyes fill with tears before he turned and headed to the gate. As his plane took off, I knew our relationship would never be the same. I quietly understood the meaning of love that day  ... if you truly love someone, you want what is best for them, even if it means letting go.

Dan and I followed different paths in life after that year. I am forever thankful that Dan taught me about unconditional love. His lessons have had an extraordinary effect on my life and have helped me to form many rewarding friendships. Our lives still cross on occasion and we pick up our old rhythms of where we left off, sharing tales of adventures and many bad jokes.

(1013 words)