Death Of First Love
|Young Dessie around the time I met him (I've always had a "thing for cute nerdy guys in glasses)|
"Do you play pinochle?" I looked up from where I was lying in my bunk, while reading a book in the Army barracks at Fort George G. Meade circa 1991 to see the spectacled cute face of fellow soldier.
From 1960 to 1963 I was stationed at Ft. Meade in Laurel Maryland working at the National Security Agency. My questioner had recently arrived from a one year tour of duty at Shemya,, Alaska; the closest United States location to Russia. His name was Dessie. We both were in the Army Security Agency whose purpose was communication intercept of foreign powers.
I told him that I didn't play pinochle but I was willing to learn. He asked me to join him as a partner for a pinochle game with two other of our Army comrades who were in the barracks that evening. Thus began a regular occurrence, playing pinochle several times a week to pass the time by.
We were both eighteen years old. He was from Georgia, I from Pennsylvania.
After several evenings of playing pinochle, Dessie would indicate by leaning his bare Bermuda clad leg against mine when he had a good hand. It was our personal signal. However, whenever he leaned his leg against mine, I got a little more from his "signal" than what he intended that he had a good pinochle hand. In fact, I began to look forward to our pinochle games more than just winning games. I enjoyed being with him. I enjoyed watching his mischievous smile.
Eventually I asked him to return home with me on some weekends. I only lived two and a half hours away from Ft. Meade and could go home on weekends. Dessie was from Georgia and lived too far away to go to his home on the weekend.
|Dessie an me (bottom row from left to right) - 1962 at Chesapeake City, MD|
Now I have to make clear, I had a crush on Dessie, he didn't have one on me. He was totally straight. But being on Shemya for a year, without the option of dating women for a year, he found other outlets for his sexual needs (use your imagination). I must have given myself away by my attraction to him, because he expected me to comply. Well, at that time of my life, even though I knew I was gay, I didn't know what the hell two men did together. I had heard but I knew I didn't do THOSE things. But I did "explore" a bit, which was my very FIRST time. Up until that time all my sexual fantasies were just that, fantasies. You see I was from a small town and back in the late Forties and Fifties there was no Internet, and only Willie the Worm puppet on TV, what did I know about sex and THAT thing? But I did enjoy his company. In fact I practically lived for his companionship. He was funny, smart, intelligent and kind. However, eventually, he tired of my friendship after about a year and distanced himself from me. I developed new crushes but never got to the "exploratory" stages like I did with Dessie. My remaining tour of duty with the Army (three years), my sex life was all fantasy and wishful thinking.
I remember how hurt I was when he cut me off from his friendship. I thought I would never get over it but as is the case with all first loves, one does survive and I did. But I never forgot him. Over the years I've often wondered what happened to him and what kind of life he had. A few times I even sent him a Christmas card but never got a response.
Then today, I casually put his name in my iPhone and I found his obituary. Dessie died January 11th of this year, the day before I found Bill collapsed on the floor of our kitchen. Ironically Bill is also originally from Georgia. What a coincidence, I lost my first love from Georgia but I found my lifetime love from Georgia.
I read Dessie's obituary and found that he was married for fifty-four years. He and his wife had two sons and he has one grandchild. From the video of photos of his life posted on his funeral home site, it appears that he had a successful happy, and straight life in Georgia. I'm happy for him and the family that he has left behind as his legacy. I was saddened to read one comment on his memorial page that said he is no longer suffering pain. Thank God Bill, as his health declines, is not in pain.
So many of my friends, former co-workers, relatives, and Army buddies have passed on. I try not to dwell on how many have passed, many of whom were no longer in my life for years anyway. I am thankful for my new friends like Pat, and Glenn and my old friends like Larry and Don who continue to live as I do. But the day will come when I am no longer here. As my brother John says "Ronnie, we all get our turn" and indeed we do.
Than you Dessie for your friendship during that very formative time in my life. I will always remember you for your kindness and generosity and humor. .
Rest in peace Dessie.