I will never forget the day I met her. My buddy, Lewis, wanted to hitchhike from Boston to an ocean beach down in Connecticut. He said we should invite his friend, Deb. I do believe he had a crush on her but I had never seen Lewis with a girl throughout our college time together. And I felt that he was probably not going to go out with this one.
So the day arrived for our adventure and we went over to her apartment near Northeastern University, knocked on the door and she opened it. She smiled.
And I felt as if all the angels in the world had just decided to sing to us. It was one of those moments you never forget. We were picked up by a young, hippie couple on the access rode to the highway and headed for the ocean. On the way there we smoked a few joints and enjoyed the adventure. We were all very young and high on life, among other things. Deb had an amazing smile and she was clearly enjoying the day. There was something very magical about her and I was not surprised when we reached the beach and large swaths of it were tinted a dark red by the presence of some sort of tiny sea creature. I was already half in love as we swam together in the warm,dark ocean waters.
It was 1972 and we lived in Boston, a cauldron of revolutionary ideas. Months earlier I had emerged from the subway on Boston Commons during an antiwar riot. Police cars were being set on fire and shop windows smashed. Everyone was running around as I walked to the next subway entrance and decided it was best to stay underground. Timothy Leary had conducted his LSD experiments a few years earlier on our Boston University campus at the Marsh Chapel. Many of my professors abandoned normal grading practices and gave us passing grades so that we could spend less time studying and more time doing what was important, protesting against the war.
For someone who had grown up in the sedate 1950’s it was all radically different and while I would never do any hard drugs I enjoyed an occasional joint or even LSD, its older cousin. Deb and I were inseparable after our first meeting as we tried to make sense out of our relationship in the context of the times and the culture that was all around us. She was an artist, a dancing student at the Boston Conservatory. I was an English major at BU. I thought I might like to be a writer. We were not thinking about having a family and all that this might entail. We were free spirits in a world that seemed to have gone mad.
We decided to get married and found an apartment on Peterborough Street near Fenway Park under the gaze of the Prudential Center. We were both still attending classes and enjoying our young lives. Lewis was still around and we spent time with him. But we really didn’t have a life plan. I can remember one time we took LSD together and went out in our bare feet, laughing and dancing, around the park. The next day I noticed that there was broken glass all over the sidewalk and realized, because our feet were uncut that we had never gone out. On another LSD trip Deb, sitting in front of me, became a goddess. Her eyes were transformed into deep pools of bliss.
We did LSD a few times, probably less than ten, until I realized we were clearly not on the right road if we wanted to have an enduring, married relationship. I found a job after graduating but it was not a good job. Jobs were very scarce in those days. It was a lot like it is now and in a place like Boston, particularly, you were competing with a lot of other young folks.
I loved to watch Deb dance at her school. She was an elfin spirit on stage. And then one day she came home and told me she had dropped out. Her father was paying her tuition and I didn’t understand why she had done this. We hadn’t discussed it. Looking back, I realize that this was the way we were . . . we had a child, a beautiful little girl, Jena. But we never discussed this either. We were caught up in the moment and, eventually, we faltered. We lost our way and a few years later divorced.
Last week, on Valentine’s Day, Deb passed away. It has been 35 years since we were together and she has been in poor health for quite some time. I was out walking this morning when I suddenly felt her presence. We were young again and walking on the beach, laughing and enjoying the sun and the wind. It was as if all the intervening years had never happened. She was here! Beautiful and laughing. Her magic on display.
This happened as I walked up a hill. On the other side is a creek that Deb played in as a child. It is one of the truly amazing coincidences of this life that she lived within a mile as a child from where Betsy and I live now in Virginia. There is no rational reason why this should be. It’s a big country.
It just happens to be true. And I realized that her pain is gone and we are friends again. She wanted me to know this.
There are a few people in our lives who change them, forever. They go with us to heaven, hell and every place in between. Deb and I had that kind of relationship. I’m so relieved now to know that we finally got back to the place where we started. And we can enjoy our ethereal relationship without the constraints of this world. We don’t need to plan any more, Deb.
We can simply be free.
In Memory of
Deborah Slesinger Whealton
February 25, 1952 – February 14, 2014
On February 14, 2014 our beloved wife, mother, sister, and grandmother, Deborah Slesinger Whealton departed this life to go to her heavenly home. She is survived by her husband of 35 years John Whealton, her brother David Slesinger, her children Jena Jordan and her husband Michael, Jeremy Thomas and his wife Sarah, Katie Myer and her husband Chris, Benjamin Whealton and Jacob Whealton, 8 grandchildren; Jordan, Jillian, Charlie, Joya, Kate, Raleigh, Molly, and Elliot.
A memorial Service to celebrate her life will be held at 2:00pm on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at Tikvat Israel Synagogue, located at 2715 Grove Ave. Richmond, VA