Monday, February 1, 2016

Love and Codependency (Question of the Month)



This month’s question is done in conjunction with the Lost & Found: Valentine’s Day Edition, hosted by Arlee Bird, Guilie Castro-Oriard, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Denise Covey, Yolanda Renee, and Elizabeth Seckman


So, after all that hoopla, here at long last is the question…

When have you lost or found love?

Now, them of you what follows this here blog know that Mary and I celebrated 38 years of wedded bliss last Thursday, and that I wrote about our first official encounter for Linda Hill’s Just Jot It January, which ended yesterday. (By the way, thank you, Linda!) Rather than just repost that and say, “here ya go,” here’s a story about the girl I met before Mary.


  • The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
  • This is a true story, and not an especially happy one. There will be places in this story where I’m not especially kind.
  • I’m not sure this fits the theme exactly, but it’s the story I have.

My second year of college was not an especially good one. (My third, in contrast, was great.) I nearly flunked out of Northwestern, I broke up with the girl I had been dating since freshman year to pursue another girl, who then broke up with me; when I tried to re-establish my relationship with the first girl, she said “no thanks.” (That was the gist of it, anyway; this is a family blog, so I won’t repeat exactly what she said other than to say it rhymed with “truck flu.”)

Into this void stepped “Jenny.” She and I worked at Carson’s: I was in the young men’s shop, she was in a “leased” department that sold food like Hickory Farms. We knew each other well enough to say hello and exchange other pleasantries, but that was about it.

At the beginning of March, a girl who worked with her told me that Jenny was interested in me, and wanted to know if I was interested. Now, I knew nothing about Jenny, but I knew she was cute and pleasant, and I also knew she was a few years older than I. Nothing like Forty Carats, but still, older. But I said to myself, well, I ain’t doing much else; sure, why not? So I told the girl that yes, I’d be interested.

That weekend, Jenny told me that she and a few people from work were going bowling, and asked if I wanted to join them. I agreed, provided she could give me a ride, because I didn’t have a driver’s license. And she agreed.

We had a good time bowling, and went out afterward with the group for a cup of coffee. We were the last to arrive, because we spent a good fifteen minutes in the car necking before we left the bowling alley. There was plenty more necking when she brought me home, and when I got back into the house, I was feeling something like love for Jenny. At least intense like. The next weekend, I took her out. We had dinner and went out dancing, and when she dropped me off at home (at about three in the morning) I was thinking that, while it probably wouldn’t be an eternal love situation, she was certainly good company and I could see spending some time with her.

The next night, Jenny called and told me she had to see me. I was exhausted from working all day after having gotten to bed after three, I had a long week ahead of me, and it was Sunday night, when people go to bed early, and I knew Mom and Tex wouldn’t appreciate having company. But, like a fool, I said yes.

She got to the house and we went to my room, where she started questioning why I had taken her out the night before. I told her it was because I liked her and wanted to show her a good time. We went back and forth with this for a while, whereupon she buried her face in her hands and became unresponsive, almost catatonic. I tried talking to her, tried reassuring her that yes, I liked her and no, I wasn’t expecting anything more than being happy with someone I really liked, but she just kept sitting there with her face in her hands. My mother finally called on our second line (the one my brothers and I used) and, after ascertaining everything was all right (that’s what I told her, although everything wasn’t all right), she suggested I send her home. When I got back to my room, she was putting on her coat and told me she had to go, and walked out without a goodbye kiss.

I thought, okay, she just had a bad night, and things would get better, or she was telling me it was over and that was that. They didn’t, and it wasn’t. Jenny insisted on spending every free moment with me, meaning we went on break together, to lunch together, and when summer arrived, every moment from the time we punched out at work to the wee hours of the morning together. I told her one night that I was tired and really wanted to take a night off, and she agreed, but called me that evening and kept me on the phone past the time I wanted to go to bed. She managed to horn in on every family occasion we had at the house, much to the chagrin of my mother. The people in her family hated me; they treat me with disrespect every time I saw them, after which Jenny would tell me what they had said about me. When she was angry at me, she would threaten to drive off and leave me where I was. I think I told her to go ahead once and called a taxi to take me home, and she got all apologetic and talked me out of taking it.

It took many years for me understand that she was probably bipolar, and although she was 25, she had the maturity of a fifteen-year-old. I had found myself in a codependent relationship (Webster says that’s “a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition”), though I didn’t know what that was at the time. All I knew was that, as many times as I tried to end the relationship, I never could; she would talk me out of it. I think about it now and realize she could play me like a fiddle.

I don’t think I actually broke up with her. That fall, I transferred to Loyola and moved into the dorm, and found a new job with Marshall Field’s. She called me at the dorm once on the phone in the suite. My suitemates, being the kind and understanding gentlemen they were, spent the whole time we were on the phone making crude remarks, until finally she said “Call me sometime when you’re alone.” I heard later that she asked my old manager if he had heard from me, and he let her know that he had, and that I was doing well and had gotten engaged.

I have no idea what happened to her after that. I did an Internet search for her a few years ago that told me she was still living at her parents’ house, although I’m sure they’ve passed on. I hope she’s not still waiting for me to call…

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

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