In October of 1997 Jack Calhoun’s then wife moved out of their house and into apartment down the street. Essentially, he said, his marriage ended after seven years and two young children.
“I’m a guy, and to feel that things in my life were out of control was unsettling,” Calhoun said during The Vine Story Hour at the Avenue A Teen and Community Center in Antrim.
He said the move turned his world upside down and he was terrified.
One weekend, in an attempt to keep busy, he signed up for a conference about history and community engagement at Franklin Pierce University.
“It was a beautiful sunny day in a big sunny room and I sat down and there was this tall, attractive looking woman there wearing an Irish cable-knit sweater, white whale corduroy slacks, and sensible shoes,” Calhoun said.
The two introduced themselves to one another, her name was Beth, and the two made small talk throughout the day and went their separate ways at the end of the conference.
Time passed and things started to stabilize in Calhoun’s life. His friends set him up on dates and persuaded him to join an online dating site, an experience he called “weird” and “mostly uncomfortable.”
Instead, Calhoun said, he poured himself into work and cherished moments with his kids. He got a new job working to develop rural communities.
The job required submitting grant applications and one day his phone rang. The woman on the other end said her name was Beth and that she thought the two had met at a FPU conference about five years ago. She was reviewing a grant proposal Calhoun had submitted. They talked, and a couple of weeks later he found out that the grant had been approved.
In the fall of 2002, an organization that he was a part of hosted its annual social dinner.
“It was sort of a couples thing and I thought, ‘I don’t really feel like going to this thing by myself, I wonder if that woman from the foundation, Beth, would like to go?’” he said.
Calhoun knew Beth lived in Dublin, but didn’t know her last name and didn’t have the internet at the time in his rural home in Harrisville.
“I did have time and I did have motive though,” he said.
He pulled out a phone book for the Monadnock region and began working the columns.
“A third of the way through I came to a name that said “E” and I said, ‘hmm … that could be Elizabeth, it could be Beth. So I dialed the number,” Calhoun said.
A woman answered.
“There was no going back,” he said of that moment.
He asked if she was Beth from the foundation, and she said “yes.” Calhoun explained why he was calling, and she said the invitation sounded great, but was out of town and unable to go.
Two weeks later she called and invited him to a different event, but he had his kids that weekend and couldn’t attend.
A year passed and finally the two went went to a concert at the Nelson Town Hall.
“Nine years to the day that I sat down in that sun filled room in Franklin Pierce, I stood in the midst shrouded field on a hillside in Harrisville and Beth and I got married in front of 150 of our closest friends and family,” Calhoun said. “And I knew her last name.”
A grandmother’s love
Dan Edwards spent much of his childhood outdoors, swimming in Lake Winnipesaukee. One summer Edwards’ uncle taught him how to catch crayfish using a metal bucket with holes that he used to dive under the surface and scoop the crustaceans from the lake floor. He would then throw the catch up into the air and watch as a small mouth bass swam from the dark, depths of the water and leapt out to snatch the meal.
“I would do this for hours,” Edwards said during the storytelling event.
One particular day, Edwards said, he was out in the water all afternoon feeding the bass when his grandmother started calling him up to the house for dinner.
“I knew she was (calling me),” Edwards said. “I saw her walk down to the dock, but I pretended I didn’t see her.”
Every time she called he would plunge below the surface.
“My grandmother, just to put her in context, was second generation English, very proper,” Edwards said. “Thanksgiving at her house was like forks and spoons and sitting and standing. There was just like stuff we had to know.”
That day he knew if he didn’t respond, there would be Hell to pay, but even still, he didn’t respond to her calls.
“Finally I was like, ‘OK, I have to go in,’” Edwards said. “So I paddled back and I got up and I was just blue lipped, shivering like you would not believe.”
He said his grandmother had been standing in the spot for about 20 minutes. He said her lips were pursed and he assumed he was in big trouble.
“When I got up onto the dock she got down onto her knees and she pulled me in and she dried off my hair and she told me in my ear, she said, ‘when you want to dry off really quick, you dry your hair first,’” Edwards said. “That was like real love to me, I felt it in that moment.”
Now, Edwards has a son of his own who likes to swim in Norway Pond until he is blue-lipped and shaking uncontrollably, just like he did all those years ago.
“I’ve done this with him (my son) and everytime I do, I think of my grandmother, I think of that moment, that love,” Edwards said.
Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.