It was his grave on which I left a plant when I went to Kingman on my Arizona trip. That had been his home town when I knew him and also later. His name was Charles, although he was always "Dusty" to me, one of only two non-Jim guys that were evcr truly important in my life. I have cut his last name out on the photo I will post here for his kids' privacy should they care. That is the mum I found and liked because the color was rather unusual. It felt right for my tribute to leave. I know he is not there, only the shell he left, but it is all symbolic.
|Dusty, summer 1965|
I'm not sure why we were attracted to each other; there are no easy answers to the way that strange magic works. At the time he was legally separated from his wife but that does not really mean single. My parents had a fit, of course. His semi-ex was Catholic and fighting him tooth and nail, using their young son as her main weapon for he very much wanted custody of the boy. For months all we did was talk, usually with him standing by a car or truck and me on one of my horses or mules, an arm's length or more apart. We developed a deep mutual respect and regard over those months. Eventually it advanced past that point after nearly a year. Every hour we could spend together was precious.
I won't even attempt to go into all the adventures and misadventures of those years but simply say I kept in touch when he was moved elsewhere with his crew by Santa Fe and he came to see me when he could. I promised I would wait "forever" if necessary until he got his life straightened out and was fully free. I meant it, too, and I stuck with that vow for a long time. Then he got crosswise with higher echelons and ended up fired by Santa Fe. He left the area and worked in other places and industries He was a good carpenter and cabinet maker. I had meanwhile finally left home and started to college in Flagstaff, AZ. We still always had a phone number or other contact for each other but at times months went by without a word. Yes, I dated others casually and did not live in a convent, even had a fairly normal collage social life but no relationship ever became truly serious for I still waited.
Finally around the first of the year in 1971 he called and said he was about to get things squared away and hoped he'd be able to see me soon. Then as fate had it, I met the recently widowed man who lived next door to me in Bisbee where I had moved not long after leaving Flagstaff to take my first job at Fort Huachuca. When Dusty finally did call, around the end of May, I was taken by surprised and blurted that I had started seeing someone else. I heard a few seconds of silence and then, "Oh." I really can't remember what else either of us said but the damage was done. Yes, I did have regrets and second thoughts. I always have and will but it was too late and I had already basically made my choice.
I know now he later married a woman near his age and I think was with her when he died. I truly hope she made him happy for he deserved it. I tried to locate him after my husband had passed away and finally learned I was ten years too late. For the last thirteen years, I have often asked myself, "What if?" In this life I shall not know although I did write Relative Dangers to give us the happy ending that was not to be. I may also write other fiction versions of our story.
I do believe things happen for a reason and as they are supposed to but that does not erase the regret of knowing I hurt someone for whom I always cared a great deal. It could have ended better, even if I still chose to wed Jim as I ended up doing. It would have been kinder to explain in person at least, which I did not do. There was never a goodbye or go in peace; there should have been.
Ever since I learned Dusty was buried in Kingman I wanted to go and see for myself where he'd been laid to rest, leave something in symbolic farewell. I have now done so and something inside me rests a little bit easier . I feel very sure we will meet again and perhaps I can then atone for breaking my promise, rashly and naively made perhaps, but heart-meant and kept for almost seven years. I just gave up too soon, perhaps...
I had not seen Dusty since the summer of 1967 and a dozen or so phone calls over those years, mostly hard years to me for various reasons, were not enough to sustain me. At that time, I had trouble standing on my own. When another man appeared who seemed able to support me emotionally and also needed me, I made a choice. Yet that was not without collateral damage, which I truly do regret.
And now a verse trying to express my feelings that morning in Kingman:
On a Lover’s Grave
I know you are not here,
For only the shell remains
In which I cannot hear the sea
Or find solace for these pains.
I never truly said goodbye
Or had time to apologize
For the pain I caused you,
But I believe love never dies.
Perhaps you can so testify
Who have gone beyond ere me.
I know I will always love you
Wherever you or I may be.
But this is the only place
That I can come to kneel
While I try to say farewell
And find closure for all I feel.
GMW (c) Nov 2015