Happy Campers III (Part 2)

[Last of a two-part post]

“The laziest of days and I love it,” begins the Aug. 3, 1978, diary entry. “…I’ve been wandering around, watching volleyball games, playing piano, talking and listening to everyone.”ShamBeach78

I’d gotten into the habit that week of chatting with Chip’s girlfriend Kristie, especially about Debbie, who was also staying in her cabin. The annual camp banquet dinner was that night. Deann was hoping I’d go with her, but instead I asked Debbie, who said yes. Her friend Jeanne sat with us, along with Dean and Joni, Kelvin and Karen, Tom and Cecilia. After the dinner there was an awards ceremony with comedy by some guy named Chester and music by John Priestley and The Scribes.

One of the staffers, Rhonda, had injured her foot and was on crutches. Her pain was so bad that night that everyone helped get her to a hospital. Later there was a chapel service where Debbie, Jeanne, Kristie, Chip and I sat together.

“It was a quiet, starry night,” I later wrote, “Walked with Deb.”


Thirty years later, on Aug. 4, 2008, I responded to Dad’s email: “Thanks Pop … you’re telling me stuff I already know, but that’s okay. She’s a very special person and all the things you say. Love, Mike.”

AJ was heading up north to her annual college summer reunion, and I’d be on my own. I was beginning to feel on the periphery of her life, and she, I suspect, of mine. But I was convinced Dad was right—that I had found that “golden-haired brunette of my dreams” and that I shouldn’t “let her get away.”


The last full day of Camp Shamineau 1978 was Friday, Aug. 4. It was such a memorable day that I taped a special two-sided addendum in the diary. “The day began clear and warm,” the entry begins, “and everyone knew but rarely said, ‘Well, this is the last full day.’”

Rhonda returned to camp still on crutches, but feeling much better. A few of us helped her down to the lakefront, where I took some photos (above right). I was still having heart-to-heart talks with Kristie about Deb (pictured at left in yellow top with Jeanne). Kristie also read some poetry I’d brought to camp.

JeanneDebbieSham78After supper, chapel hour and canteen, there was a melodrama performed up at the playing field, where everyone brought blankets and stretched out in front of the stage. Deb and I sat with Chip and Kristie and Wade and Ann. “It was a very starry and beautiful night,” the diary states, “romantic […] during a scene change, Deb and I, close, kissed once.”

After a brief intermission, during which packs of peanuts were tossed out to us, the melodrama concluded and we all moved to a roaring campfire. It was “testimonial time,” something I was familiar with from the early evangelical days of The Family Project. I knew what was expected and—puffed up with puppy-love pride—stood to speak.

That’s where 1978 eerily collided with 2008:

“[I] got up and spoke about the unsaid love and kindness I saw during the week. Deb really believed in what I said, after I sat down. She grabbed my arm and really held me. I like her a lot.” [emphasis mine, 2013]

AJ and I stayed together for 9 more months, but grew distant as time went on. By fall, text messages went unreturned and, on Sept. 7, while she was with her family at her 40th birthday party, my father passed away. Eventually we broke off our relationship for good.

What haunts me is this lesson I can’t seem to learn: “If you’re talking about love, you’re probably talking about something else. But it becomes entirely different when it’s lived in practice and mutually held in witness. Between two people, love is ‘the third thing’—the thing bigger than just the two in the relationship.” In this case, the “something else” was ego. She admires me; I need that admiration, so I will find ways to fuel it.

But that’s not love. That’s manipulation. When you’re desperate to depend on external confirmation of inner-kept feelings, you’re leaning on the flimsiest of things—ego. From that position there’s no possible way to see the other person for who they really are, or allow them to see you for who you are. And there certainly are not three things here—not even two. Just one. One. Lonely. Thing.

Aug. 4, 2008: “They’re playing the Stones now at the Pig. So true; trite, but true…”

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday. “Who could hang a name on you? When you change with every new day…

“Still, I’m gonna miss you.”

~ by completelyinthedark on May 31, 2013.

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