I find myself constantly in awe of the stories I hear from my loves. The wisdom and experience they share are immeasurable, and I sincerely feel honored to have the opportunity to learn from them every day. Most intriguing, however, are the stories that seem to truly stay with them forever.. the ones they carry with them their entire lives, regardless of circumstance or cognition. Unfortunately, these aren’t always the fairy tales or happy endings – sometimes, they crush you.
The above is a widely circulated quote by author Beau Taplin, whose Instagram page boasts over 400,000 followers. I’ve always found it to be depressing, but in a way that was relative to my short 28 years of life (or, even more narrowly, to my ~10 years of “real” relationships). After some more recent conversations, though, it’s taken on an entirely different, insanely powerful, heart shattering meaning.
It blows me away what my loves not only hold on to, but what they so effortlessly reveal after decades of self-imposed suppression. A traditional, super conservative nonna in our dementia unit recently divulged to her children that she’d come extremely close to marrying a different man prior to their father (who, btw, is still living and had no idea of his predecessor’s existence). It was their families who kept them apart, being that they were of different social classes and therefore held to certain marital expectations. While it’s apparent she loves her husband and she speaks so fondly of their life together, it’s obvious she’s carried this with her forever: a passion that’s subsided, but never died.. a haunting memory of young love lost against her will.
Even more f’ing heart wrenching was a narrative shared with me directly. A widowed nonna, lonesome and depressed, spoke regretfully of her first love. A very motivated young woman, she wished to focus on a career before taking the plunge and getting married. Her boyfriend begged her, but she stood firm; their passion for each other coupled with unwavering (& very different) life goals resulted in a many-years-long tumultuous relationship. As much fun as they had together, they’d also blow up at one another – he’d storm out, she’d yell to never speak to her again… but like clockwork, he always would:
This went on for years until they both began dating other people, her relationship more serious than his. Her soon-to-be husband was a good, safe bet when she was finally ready to settle down (at almost 30 mind you, my kinda girl <3). When nonno #1 got word of their engagement, however, he simply wouldn’t accept it:
Despite his threats and her movie-like daydreams (cue the Life is Beautiful scene where horse-riding Roberto Benigni “rescues” Nicoletta Braschi from her boring fiancé), N1 let them be; if she was truly happy, he was happy for her. Over the next several years, he wrote tirelessly to his love, each letter addressed to Miss Nonna MaidenName, as he refused to acknowledge the fact that she was married. She eventually answered, and a few times they even met up (relax, she assured me there was “no monkey business”). He married three times, blaming her for his restless heart, while she was with nonno #2 for nearly 70 years.. a marriage that was, in more or less words, nice, comfortable, mediocre:
At this point, I wasn’t just moved by her words – I was sobbing. Several years ago, relentless N1 arranged for his Miss Nonna MaidenName to be looked after by a local family member (he himself had settled down south decades prior). In 2014, on a day she was particularly preoccupied with thoughts of her first love, she decided to call hm. The very next day, he passed away.
There is no comparison between that which is simply taught and those lessons learned through experience. Scrolling Beau Taplin’s feed can’t hold a candle to the wisdom gained from such conversations. It is these interactions I’m perhaps most thankful for – these opportunities to seek their guidance, these narratives so drenched with insight. One day, the stories will be ours to tell. I pray mine is laced with passion, fun, and confident choices.. rid of pride, regret, and mis-labeled letters.