To Tell the Truth Challenge — Episode 4

The Haunting: Ghosts in My Life
By Marilyn Myerson

“Do you believe in second chances?” he asked with a winsome quiver in his voice. Would I risk another roller coaster romance with Mr. Jonathon?  This was early 2001, we had just run into each other, twenty years since our first go-round.

Tall, slim, with tousled dirty blonde hair, wearing John Lennon eyeglasses and preppy clothes, he was the most gorgeous man I had even been with. He merited yet another distinction: my only lousy lover. Ever.  Complete contrast with William, my most recent playmate.

“Sure, second chances”, I recklessly agreed, gambling that his lackluster sexuality could only have benefitted from the passage of time.

Couldn’t you easily predict that I would lose that bet? Jonathon’s sexuality remained steadfastly underwhelming. It was an obstacle to a fulfilling romance. That and the ghost that haunted us, the ghost of girlfriend past. Literally.  Erin, fiancée actually, had died in a freak accident the previous year. Jonathon assured me ours wasn’t a rebound relationship. I let myself be assured. Deceived, more like it, considered through the awesome power of hindsight.

"I tried to be my most gracious self, a sympathetic listener. 
Then her freaking ghost showed up…."

In his self-professed post-grief, Jonathon talked about Erin readily enough. Too readily, truth be told. Too readily, too frequently, and without needing any prompting from me.  We swing lazily in the hammock on his porch, transfixed by the unerring beauty of a June nightfall: liquid purple melts through luminescent pink and peach. “Erin loved sunsets”. The water in the ginger-scented bubble bath is just the right temperature. “Erin loved to take baths.”

I tried to be my most gracious self, a sympathetic listener. Then her freaking ghost showed up….

In the beginning, Jonathon and I had made the titillating decision to date for a few weeks before swooning in sexual embrace. “No pressure”, just getting re-acquainted, disporting ourselves like carefree kids. It was a delightful and sweet interlude.  Jonathon knew I adored my hometown poet, Leonard Cohen, so he conceived the brilliant idea to reproduce the line from Cohen’s ballad, “Suzanne”.  He took me “down to [a] place near the river’’, Davis Island to be exact, and fed me “tea and oranges that come all the way from China”. Caught up in the whimsy, I missed the foreshadowing of the earlier line, “and you know that [he’s] half-crazy…”

We made out cautiously in his classic old European car. We dined on appetizers at Mise-en-Place and mock-argued about where we would spend Xmas, half a year hence. In this pre-text age, we sent each other charming love letters, and spoke late into the night every night. “No, you hang up.” When we were together, he treated me with twinkling eyes, beckoning smiles, and tender stolen kisses.

The first night we did have sex started out just fine. Merlot in my good wine goblets, candle wicks trimmed to avoid sputtering, condoms on the nightstand. We danced to a slow and sensuous song from the Holmes Brothers’ album, “Speaking in Tongues”: “…and we shall be forever bound.” Eventually we gravitated to my bedchamber, disrobing, Jonathon casting his red plaid boxer shorts by the wayside.

"I had a startling, vivid flash of Erin. 
In no uncertain terms, she admonished me to take good care of her man."

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment Erin joined us. Our lovemaking had been perfunctory. I want to delude myself that it is first time jitters, as our heads seek our respective pillows. But now we are three: I had a startling, vivid flash of Erin. In no uncertain terms, she admonished me to take good care of her man. Shaken up, I couldn’t find breath to reply before she vacated the room.

Some days later, Jonathon and I went to the Florida Orchestra, to perch in their luxurious season’s box. I have amused myself by dressing to the nines: a sleeveless silky black blouse reveals my toned arms and hints at an ample bosom. A burgundy and gold sash anchors my swishy black harem pants. I graciously acknowledge the glances directed my way as we glide up the stairs; even the usher smiles knowingly at me.  I am going to have a great time.

The bird’s-eye view of the enormous hall was exciting, and I was duly careful not to lean over the railing, lest I tumble into the vast open space.  The last cough is silenced, patrons hushed, all eyes on the conductor as his baton deftly signals the opening chords of the magnificent Beethoven sonata. Next thing I knew, Erin was casually floating beside us.  No words this time, just palpable feeling: “I’m still around.”

She was not kidding.

Soon thereafter, Jonathon threw a dinner party for a group of their old friends. As folks gathered, he neglected to introduce me as his date. I was just “Marilyn, who teaches at USF”, just another one of the assembled guests. It was Erin who had pride of place beside Jonathon at the head of the table. He toasted her and made her the centerpiece of the festivities. I had been relegated to a place setting by total strangers. I did my best to engage in their faux-sophisticated banter, while I reeled and seethed inside. I felt like I was the ghost: insubstantial, invisible, a figment of imagination.

Jonathon and I didn’t see much of each other after that hideous night. He went into a funk and became ever more despondent and withdrawn.

I tore up Jonathon’s love letters and arranged for a booty call with the aforementioned William. William was a work colleague, a good buddy, and on and off again lover. I had stopped playing around with him when Jonathon entered the picture.  William was fine-looking, with his soul-piercing eyes and deep, sensuous voice. He easily made my “top five lovers” list. We dallied again for a while, and then drifted our separate ways.

Several years later, William left this incarnation. He had accumulated illnesses and decided against a medicalized existence. He chose instead to end this life and take his chances on the next.

I hadn’t seen him for years, though in what I can only assume was the tidying up phase of his decision, he had sent me a sweet card months earlier, “Thinking of you with fondness”. I still think of him, now and then. He remains a wonderful fantasy object: his ghost smiles warmly, bearing witness to my pleasure.

Pet Cards and To Tell the Truth
By Diane Henrikson Russell

“Why do pets need cards? They can’t read!” I was bewildered. Our family did not have pets.

Why in the world would my dad want to create pet greeting cards with two of his co-workers at the Des Plaines Journal? In early 1965, my dad’s co-worker named Lydia wanted to express her concern for her friend’s ill dog with a greeting card. She brainstormed with co-workers Lois and my dad about creating greeting cards to send to pet owners when their pets were sick or when the holidays came around. She even mused that they could create a greeting card for pet owners asking that they remove their pets’ “deposits” from the yards of others.

Lydia and Lois wrote the verses, and my dad drew a variety of illustrations of a flop-eared, sad-eyed pup, a “big lovable mutt.” The co-workers even provided paw prints of their own dogs for my dad to use in his illustrations. The group named their company Lydloart Studios and copyrighted their cards.

 “A wish that’s regal from your favorite beagle. 
Have a royal holiday.”

Here are some examples of the verses:

Happy Birthday – “For sending this card, some may think I’m a nut, but happy birthday, you big, dumb mutt.”

Christmas – “A wish that’s regal from your favorite beagle. Have a royal holiday.”

Illness – “An operation? Thunderation! What will people think of next – to make a dog’s life more complex!”

Death of a pet – “Deepest sympathy on the loss of your beloved pet. I’m sorry.”

Cleaning up after your pet – “Say, neighbor, your dog mistakes our place for the bank…he just left another deposit. We’d appreciate it if you’d speak to him about it.”

Birth announcement – “Heard the mews? Little kittens have made their debuts. Kit’n caboodle reside at __.”

A year after the creation of the cards, the group applied to appear on To Tell the Truth. To the group’s amazement, the show invited Lois to appear on it in 1966! We took Polaroid photos of the black and white television set as Lois tried to fool the four panelists.

She may or may not have succeeded. What do you think?

Marilyn Myerson, PhD Philosophy, has learned to take nothing for granted and to have fun. She retired from USF after 38 years of teaching, learning and kicking up her heels in Women’s and Gender Studies. Marilyn was the first outside hire in W(G)S, starting in 1973, when the department was just one year old. She was an administrator at various departmental and dean’s levels, including a stint as W(G)S Chair before her retirement as Emeritus faculty in 2010. She shepherded the Human Sexual Behavior class through its many incarnations, developed the original women’s health classes, and taught feminist research methodology. She is currently in three writing groups, and happily involved with OLLI-USF, taking art and writing classes. She created and teaches  OLLI Imaginative Writing classes and facilitates writing groups.

Diane Russell

Diane Henrikson Russell joined OLLI in 2014. She has taken over 70 OLLI courses on leadership, radio, life story writing, Tai Chi, healthy aging, literature, science, politics, sociology, and humanities. Diane volunteers as a proofreader for the OLLI catalog and for OLLI Connects. Diane has been Co-chair of the Volunteer Management Committee since 2019.

13 Replies to “To Tell the Truth Challenge — Episode 4”

  1. Fun reading! I think Marilyn’s story is false. If it’s not I feel so sorry for her.
    Diane’s story may be true, but after a many year’s friendship, I don’t remember it being one she mentioned, so I think it’s false. She’s a good writer herself so she could have made up those card verses.

  2. Hmmm….a lively start to a Monday morning. I say no to Ghosts, and I was yes with Pets until the end….don’t think so.

  3. Diane, your story is charming, and fanciful, and comes around wonderfully with the TTTT theme, and as someone who is owned by a cat, I like the greeting card idea.
    However, and I am somewhat on the fence about this , but I’m going to vote that your story isn’t true.

  4. I admit, I bought cards from my four legged companions that were sent to my friends’ four legged companions … so, I say true for Diane’s story. I also believe Marilyn’s story is true.

  5. Both make good stories. I believe Marilyn’s story is true — somehow, I feel like I can relate. I don’t believe Diane’s story.


  7. You can’t handle the truth.
    Did Marilyn buy booze for Janice Joplin before her concert?
    🎼Dance me to the end of love 🎼

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