Dear Mrs. Bluth,
There is just no explanation to the absurdities in my life, only that there is an abundance of coincidences, accidents and occurrences that happen to me just when I think I finally found myself on solid ground and headed for some well-earned happiness in this life. From my earliest memory, my life has been a struggle filled with a double portion of misfortune.
My mother died while giving birth to me, leaving my grandparents to raise me and my older two brothers and my father left us for good when I was one year old. My brothers never let me forget that I was the cause of my mother’s demise and also for our father’s leaving. Life was a constant barrage of blows to the head from my grandfather and short-tempered grandmother, never letting me forget for one moment that I was the family curse. In yeshiva, the rebbes were always making me the class example and the boys took out their frustrations on me. On top of everything else, I stuttered and chose to speak as little as possible which often caused me to become fodder for the school bullies. This was my normal until I turned fifteen and took my first summer job helping out in a food market, bagging groceries.
It was nice having the customers compliment me on how neat and carefully I packed their bags and the owner was very pleased with my work and took me under his wing making me feel a joy I had never felt before and even helped me learn to get rid of my stuttering. He became like a father to me.
One day, I was helping a lady to her car when she introduced me to her granddaughter who was two years younger than me. She was very shy and when her grandmother admonished her for not saying ‘hello’ to me explained apologetically that the girl stutters so she does not often speak. Instantly, I felt such pity for her and said directly to the girl that I, too, once stuttered and that I would be happy to teach her how to manage it, as I have. Thus began the most wonderful part of my life.
I met Ettie in the park every day after work and we spent two hours wherein I slowly realized I loved her and lived for the times we spent together. To my joyous surprise, she felt the same way, but she would soon be leaving for seminary in England, now that she felt confident to speak without stuttering. My heart broke at the news, but I didn’t let it show because I didn’t want to diminish her joy and excitement. She promised to call me every other day if she could and that we would be together when she came back home. I told her I would wait for her and when that time came, we would never be apart again. She was eighteen then and I was almost twenty. And of course, it didn’t turn out that way.
Fast forward almost two years later, after the phone calls and letters dwindled and stopped. One day, Ettie’s grandmother came into the grocery that I now managed after the owner took a fall, and told me that Ettie was engaged to a fine young man from England where she will live after the wedding. It took every ounce of strength not to show how absolutely devastated I was and said my mazel tov and ran to the office in back of the store and wept. As if this was not enough, my stuttering started to return.
Time passed and my grandparents, with whom I still lived and took care of as they were now elderly, insisted that I go out on every date that every shadchan brought me. My heart wasn’t in it because my heart belonged to Ettie still, even when it was shattered to bits. So I really applied myself in the effort to find a girl I could learn to love even though I stilled pined after Ettie. So finally, at age twenty-six, I became a choson to Dina, and a vort was planned. Dina is a sweet and smart girl who made me laugh and showed me how to be confident and believe in myself and I truly did learn to love her during our courtship, because she was in so many ways like Ettie. But she wasn’t Ettie.
Dina was so excited about the vort, she told me her family from Israel and abroad were coming in for the wedding and she couldn’t wait to show me off to them. The night of the vort there was a blizzard and we thought we wouldn’t have a great showing, but people came and the night was filled with introductions, well-wishers and family and just when I thought everything was finally going right, Dina grabbed my arm and dragged me to meet her best friend from seminary who sadly had just gotten a divorce. And I came face to face with Ettie. I don’t remember much because I blacked out and had to be brought into another room where I came to. Dina told everyone it was just over excitement and that I was fine. But I wasn’t! And I’m still not fine three days after the vort!
My heart is torn wanting to be with Ettie and not wanting to hurt Dina. The last thing I saw was the look in Ettie’s eyes when she realized her best friend was getting engaged to the guy she never forgot. She was able to maintain her composure while I lost mine. I am sure she feels the same way I do, so what am I supposed to do now? Is my life forever going to throw me curve balls just when I think I finally got it right?
Oy vavVoy! Talk about trying to avoid getting hit by a car while falling off a cliff!! This is indeed a sad state of affairs and I’m afraid it will take the wisdom of a mind far greater that mine to advise you and give you the right tools for a successful outcome to this conundrum. But I’ll give it my best shot.
From your history, I visualize a young child who had very little love if at all, and love is the foundation upon which the earliest growth processes are dependent. All through your young childhood and early teen years, you were denied love, encouragement and strong self-esteem values that left you with a sense of complete dependency on others to help or hurt you. Then at eighteen you had your first taste of loving care from your boss who took you under his wing and praised you and cared about you, even loved you, and this exhilarated you. After all those hard, dry, painful and depleting youthful years, you were like a parched and thirsty man in a desert who suddenly came upon an oasis, from which you drank your fill and grew to term. You fell in love with Ettie, seeing in her much of yourself, a lonely, stuttering girl living with her grandmother and your heart went out to her. But even though she enjoyed your company and you did help her overcome her stuttering so she could pursue a social life and attend seminary abroad, the emotional scales between you and Ettie might still be vastly unbalanced. You waited for her as you promised, but did she wait for you? She found someone else while you held off doing so until, years later, you finally met Dina who “reminded you a lot of Ettie.” But you are right… she wasn’t Ettie, she is Dina who has no clue that she’s playing second fiddle in your orchestra!
After giving it some heavy thought, I’m not so sure you would be doing the right thing breaking your engagement to Dina on the assumption that Ettie still has feelings for you. She is newly divorced and her heart needs time to sort out her feelings about all the people in her life. You are not twenty years old anymore when first love was a new and mind blowing experience, think this through very carefully and see if it’s worth chancing to lose a sure thing by betting on something that’s iffy. Stay in the here and now. Ettie is yesterday, Dina is today and every day for the rest of your lives. I would put my money on the second fiddle, where the music seems sweeter.