Ah, June 27. A baring of one’s soul.
Happy anniversary baby.
Got you on my mind. 
— Little River Band
Riff-raff: people, or a group of people, regarded as disreputable or worthless
As the date approaches each year, decade after decade, memories flood back. The good, and the not so good. The joys. The pain. Then the date itself: the crescendo. Eventually, the waves break. 
Since the car crash and brain injury I’m still prone to extraordinary periods of insomnia … and lingering headaches. I try mediation and acceptance, which now seem to be the only treatments worth attempting. This often drifts off to periods of contemplation, and almost as often drift further to what I call “Existential Contemplation.”
One consequence of this contemplation is that I have replayed much of my life in greater detail than ever before. I’ve made a long list, dragging up instances of gratitude not shown, apologies not given, friends lost to the winds of fate whom I’ve lost contact with. I’ve directly attempted to fix a lot of this. Often I’ve succeeded.
Another consequence: the summers of 1981 and ’82 come back more clearly, more joyously, — and sometimes more painfully — than before. The summer of ’82 consisted mostly of the courtship of the wonderful Miss Audrey. Success! We wed the next summer.
With absolutely no lack of respect or admiration for my wife … The summer of ’81 started for me on June 27, when the most remarkable and dazzingly beautiful young lady who ever spent more than one minute in conversation with me (in my life as a single man) fell out of heaven and — quite literally — into my lap.
Of course I noticed the wedding ring she sported from a distance; I noticed it well before we chatted that one minute. Men don’t have to be taught to look for details like that.
As chit-chat turned to flirtation (why did she fixate on “ME?”) I asked about the ring. She said: “Oh, that’s my grandmother’s. I wear it to keep the riff-raff away.” Then she pantomimed “oops” with her mouth and shoulders, while simultaneously, deftly moving the ring over to her right hand.
After a simply wonderful hot summer that went suddenly very cool, as I recall, right around Labor Day  — out of respect I will spare you the details; perhaps teasers in a later essay — well, it didn’t work out.
Thanks to two goddesses — one a healing therapist, the other my patient wife — I’ve finally after 36 years come to a reasonable peace with that long-ago wonderful adventure of ’81. The adventure that ended awkwardly and a bit painfully. Last night, again thanks to them, I worked up the courage to find – and go through – some old cards and letters. These were items I knew that I had kept — somewhere — fearing to touch, or even search for, these many decades.
I’m so glad I did. Although the collection is clearly incomplete (for example, I have no copies of what I sent her; only her references to them), it shows that I treated her better than the lies my recollection was telling me. I really was a good person. What a relief. Certainly not perfect; I admit to missing some growth opportunities.
Here is what I’ve learned, about matters of love and the heart. What I would share with any and every searching young single person. Some things that no one, not my parents, not anyone, ever told me explicitly.
Sometimes the man does not get the woman. But, he can always deserve to win her. 
In relationships, timing is critical. Even the “perfect” match might not work out if party XX is not quite yet ready for party XY. There’s no shame for either XX or XY.
These matters are subject to many unexplainable vagaries of the universe. That implies pain … which leads to 4 and 5:
Forgive yourself and your potential mate. To do this:
Focus on on what you’ve both done right, not the outcome.
[of course XX/XY and man/woman can be plugged into each slot].
Epilogue 1. I looked up Miss Summer of ’81 and reached out to her. She was difficult to locate; maintains a very low internet profile. [Updated: 7/18/2017]. We are now in light email contact. I call this a “repair.” 
Epilogue 2. Last year my wife asked me if she could join her grandmother’s wedding ring to the one I slipped onto her finger back in wonderful 1983. Of course she could. Most certainly.
Her grandmother’s wedding ring is on her left hand ring finger.
I am not riff-raff. Never, ever was.
Joe Girard © 2017
(1) “Happy Anniversary, Baby” is a wistful song by Little River Band about a lost love that can’t be forgotten. Feelings well up on their anniversary… probably the anniversary of the breakup, unlike this short bio story, which is on the beginning.
(2) I do not contend that I am the only one who suffered pain. Nor that I did not cause pain … through my neglect and thoughtfulness.
(4) I do not contend that I “deserved” Miss ’81. Only that I tried to. Sometimes seems like the harder you try, the more you fail. <Sigh>
(5) Since connecting I’ve re-learned that she is a good woman. Devoted mother and wife. Still dazzling. Absolutely no surprise there. The aforementioned wedding ring has been on her right hand pretty much ever since I met her. Until spring, 2017. That ring was then given to her daughter and sent to a jeweler. It is now joined with Miss ’81’s mom’s ring for the occasion of her daughter’s wedding (September, 2017) — both integrated together into one wedding ring — to adorn her left hand ring finger for many decades.