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A blast from the past: Wife’s old boyfriend gets back in touch

Wink and Fred Bruning in the 1960s.

Wink and Fred Bruning in the 1960s. Credit: Bruning family album

Reminiscing becomes more addictive than cellphone Scrabble as life goes along, doesn’t it? We all love to remember what we did, who said what, and exactly where we were when the Dodgers won the 1955 World Series, or occurrence of equally earthshaking importance.

In excess, trips to yesteryear can be a waste of time and tedious for those in less daunting age brackets. Notice how quickly loved ones head for the refrigerator or Xbox One controls if you begin too many sentences with, “Now, when I was young . . . ”

But, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, cinnamon buns and Five Guys French fries, nostalgia, taken in moderation, can be delicious even if, at times, a little risky.

The uncertain aspect of reverie occurred to me recently when, just before dinner at a favorite Italian joint, I — not exactly sure why — asked my wife, Wink, about an old boyfriend whose real name isn’t Buzzy, but very close.

“Where do you suppose you’d be tonight if things had worked out with, you know, Buzzy?”

Wink grew up in the Jersey suburbs. I was from working-class Brooklyn. We met at college in a far-off Western state, both of us itching to see the world.

A little while before Wink and I discovered each other in the cafeteria one evening, she received a letter from Buzzy, a good-looking, athletic and entirely decent fellow whom any girl in 1960 might have found dreamy.

Buzzy wanted breathing space. With such a big distance between us, he said, maybe we should try seeing other people for a while? At 17, you may recall, it is difficult to grapple earnestly with the concept of permanence.

For Wink, this was not so hot. She was hurt and glum. For me, however, it was the break of a lifetime. Off the bench I came and ready for a tryout.

At the restaurant, Wink pondered my question.

“I would be in the warm left coast city where Buzzy lives and not here shivering my way into springtime,” she said.

“You’d also be rich,” I said. One way or another, we had learned through the years that Wink’s former beau had done well. “Buzzy’s a big-time lawyer.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You’d have a yacht. You’d play golf. Terrific vacations. Tan. The works.”

Wink is the world’s sweetest person, no kidding. “Don’t want any of that,” she said. “I want my whole-wheat pizza.” She touched my hand.

You take your chances when stumbling, haphazardly, into the past, but, phew, I escaped without damage. Wink did not begin muttering, “Buzzy, Buzzy,” in her sleep, nor book the next flight to his sultry coastal city, though I haven’t checked our American Express account lately.

Still, you wonder, don’t you, how things might have gone if life had lurched an inch in one direction and not the other — if that letter hadn’t come from back East, or you, ever hungry, always broke, hadn’t been scavenging for unopened milk cartons and leftover chocolate cupcakes in the college cafeteria.

When we got home from the pizzeria, Wink and I consulted the Internet for Buzzy updates and found an entry.

Long ago, I had met him. “Wow,” I said, checking his photo, “still a terrific-looking guy.”

“Uh-huh,” said Wink.

“And still working, too, hauling in the bucks.”

“Sure is.”

“And, heh-heh, whaddaya know, he remarried.”

“Right.”

Still, I said, bet he thinks of you, from time to time.

Probably not, said Wink.

Who knows? But a few years ago, he did.

One day, Wink called me from her office.

“Guess who I just heard from,” she said. “Buzzy.”

He had been recently divorced, Buzzy told Wink after finding her work number online, and was thinking of high school days. He wondered, well, you know, are you still, um — married?

“To the max,” said Wink. “Same guy.”

Buzzy said the equivalent of “oh, nuts,” and politely retreated.

One thing, though, he said, before getting off the phone.

“Back then, all those years ago, you — you dropped me, right?”

Now wasn’t that something? Buzzy had the story completely backward. As a kid, he broke someone’s heart as kids are apt to do and, a half-century later, thought she broke his.

“Not exactly,” said Wink. “Hey, good talking to you.”

As it turns out, remembering life is not reliving it. You may not get things exactly straight. At this point, the only thing I know for absolutely sure is that Winky’s with me on the East Coast and the Dodgers won in ’55.

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