His name was Brett Claytor. He was in third grade while I was in fourth. We were both students at the Arizona State School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson in the 1960’s. He played the piano, and I played the ukulele.
We decided to perform together in the school talent show. One of our favorite Three Dog Night songs was “Joy to the World.” After school while waiting for our parents to pick us up, we practiced in the second grade classroom which had a piano. I had a hard time playing this song on the ukulele so finally gave up and stood next to the piano and sang while he played and sang with me.
On the night of the talent show, I wore a long red dress Mother bought for me while he wore slacks and a shirt. Our performance was flawless, and we got rave reviews from parents and classmates.
Our relationship continued after that. He liked rockets, so I dreamed about us blasting off to a faraway planet to start a new life. We often went to each other’s houses where we listened to music.
A year later, he and his family moved to Oregon, and although we agreed to write, we lost touch until my freshman year in high school.
By this time, my family was living in Sheridan, Wyoming. One night at the dinner table, Dad said, “Honey, what ever happened to that boy you knew in Arizona?”
“You mean Brett?”
“Yeah, Brett, did you ever hear from him?”
“No,” I answered, and to my surprise, I found myself wishing I knew where he was.
“You wanted to marry him, didn’t you?” asked Mother.
“Yeah, and I still do,” I said, without thinking.
“Well, maybe we can find him,” said Dad. “I’ll bet he went to the school for the blind in Oregon. Let me make some calls.” This was in 1976.
Apparently, Dad was concerned that I didn’t have a boyfriend when other girls my age did. He wasn’t the old-fashioned parent who wouldn’t let his daughter date until she was thirty.
A couple of weeks later, again while we were eating dinner, the phone rang. Dad answered and after a moment said, “Abbie, it’s for you.”
“Who is it?” I asked, as I got up from my chair and walked to the phone in the hallway where Dad stood, holding the receiver. I didn’t get many calls.
“You’ll just have to find out,” said Dad, handing me the phone.
“Hi Abbie, it’s Brett Claytor,” said a male adolescent voice when I said hello.
Speechless, I turned to Dad who was already sitting at the dining room table with Mother and my younger brother Andy. They were all quiet.
I don’t remember much about our conversation except that we exchanged addresses and promised to send each other tapes of our music. Since our parting in Arizona years ago, I’d become proficient at accompanying myself on the piano, like him.
A few weeks later, his tape arrived. I listened, enthralled, as he talked about his life and played a lot of songs, some on piano, others on electronic keyboard. He even played a drum solo.
He didn’t sing, though, perhaps because his voice was changing, and he didn’t think it was any good. It didn’t matter. I still found his talent amazing.
I made him another tape with some of the songs I enjoyed singing, accompanying myself on the piano. At one point, I told him I still loved him and hoped he felt the same way about me.
Weeks went by and still no word from him. Dad said, “Maybe he’s waiting until he can learn more songs to play for you.”
After another month or so, it was clear I’d scared him off. Maybe he had another girlfriend. I was embarrassed. If only I’d kept my feelings to myself, we could have still been friends.
I don’t remember if I told my late husband Bill about Brett. If I did, Bill probably didn’t consider Brett a threat since I didn’t know where he was. Besides, he wasn’t the jealous type. You can read about how I met and married Bill and then cared for him after he suffered two strokes in my new memoir.
Who was your first love? If this person wasn’t your only love, do you still keep in touch?
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Click to hear an audio trailer.
Like me on Facebook.