We met at the beginning of my senior year in 1966. I was a government major at Cornell focusing on South East Asia and China. The more war protests Vic and I attended and the more sunsets we shared, the more I fell in love. He hesitated–repeatedly. Every few weeks, I returned from classes to find my books and clothes packed by his front door.
“I can’t commit. I’m afraid I’ll hurt you,” he said as he piled my bags in the back of his VW. I forced back tears on the drive up the hill to the apartment where I still had a room. They erupted when I was alone.
Around 3:00 AM, the phone rang.
“Let me come and get you,” he pleaded. “I want to be with you. I’m sorry I’m a scared jerk. Please come back.” I hid the hurt, dried my tears, and went.
One night after he took me home, he didn’t call. I forced myself to go to the library the next morning. He found me in a room overlooking Cayuga Lake where I liked to study.
“Please come to my apartment. I need to talk to you,” he said in a hushed voice.
“No, Vic,” I said looking up at him with fat tears rolling down my face. This time I didn’t hide my feelings. “I can’t do this anymore. I have to study or I’ll flunk my classes.”
“Something important happened,” he said. “I have to tell you.” I can’t say why, but I gathered my books and walked down library slope with him to his apartment on Seneca Street in downtown Ithaca. I had never been a doormat. I had never allowed men to fool me.
“This morning I got a letter saying NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) will pay for me to go to a conference in Germany this summer,” he said.
“You’re going to Berkeley. Let’s live together until I leave for Europe and you go to California. After that we’ll figure out what to do.”
These were the words of a man who wanted sex with no commitment. Right? I was stupid to fall for it. Right? I knew he cared about me and was afraid, but hearing from NASA on that day felt like a sign. It gave us another chance.
“Yes,” I whispered through tears. “Yes.”
I moved into his apartment. He stopped packing my belongings when I was at class. We studied during the day and made love all night. It was April. Departure day was June 1. I delayed my trip once and then again until just before his flight in July.
Those last summer days, we kissed and held each other, but we wept instead of making love. He broke into the choked sobs of a man who had long ago buried his vulnerability. In July, I wiped his tears and he wiped mine as I boarded a bus. He was leaving the next day for Germany. I made my way to California, distraught and abandoned.
“Come back to Ithaca,” Vic said when he returned from Europe six weeks later. “Please come back.”
“Only if you commit to talking everything through instead of running. You have to commit that much.”
“Yes,” he said. His voice was wet and choked on the long distance line.
“You taught me how to love,” he said for the next forty years.
I owe our marriage to my naked feelings. I owe it to honesty about the raw pain of being sent away. I owe it to the risks I took for love.
“I don’t mind your tears,” Vic always said. “They show me what you value. They show me what you love.”
Do you hide or repress tears and feelings? Did you learn that from your family, other kids, or your school? After Vic’s death, I wept every day for three years and learned that he was right. My tears often tell me what I value. They tell me what I love. For other articles about falling in love in the 1960s, see My Hippie Wedding: May 18, 1968 or Make Love, Not War: 1967.