Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A parable

The first few months of Eddie's mission were tough. He was miserable in the Missionary Training Center, and I spent a lot of time worrying about him. Would he stay? Would he be okay? Would we be okay? Gradually, over the course of the first year, we settled into a routine. He wrote me every week, and I wrote him every other day and sent packages at least once a month. And yes, I was heartbroken the first Christmas when he said he didn't think it would be a good idea for us to talk on the phone, but in general, I felt like I knew what to expect-- a letter once a week, some funny pictures every once in a while, and no promises for the future.

The second summer he was gone, I went to Belgium. I'd planned the trip as a safeguard for our relationship-- if I had it to look forward to the first year he was gone, I wouldn't go off and do anything stupid like throwing myself at some new, available guy. Then, by the time I got home, there'd only be eight months until he came home too, and if I'd already waited sixteen months, I could wait eight more. I took the cultural-sensitivity classes, I got hooked up with a job at a grocery store bakery, I got a room in a student apartment.

Then I got to Belgium and the job was horrible, all the students living in the apartment had moved home for the summer, and I didn't speak French nearly as well as I thought I did when I was back in Provo. I'd go to work in the day, come home to an empty house at night, and feel sorry for myself.

And then there was Eddie. We were closer together, physically, than we'd ever been. I could hop on a train and be in Ukraine in 24 hours, if I'd been more of the rule-breaking type. But he'd gone silent. I'd been getting letters every week, and once I got to Belgium, they stopped entirely. He was writing to me via the missionaries in our branch, and when two weeks passed without a letter, I accused them of hiding them from me. When three weeks passed, I started writing him hysterical letters, wondering why he hadn't had the good decency to tell me if he'd had a change of heart. I woke up every day feeling hopeless about hearing from him, and whenever the missionaries showed up at the grocery store (which was pretty much every day), I'd inevitably have to ask them, and they'd inevitably tell me that they hadn't gotten anything.

This went on for a month, maybe even forty days. I started to mentally write Eddie off. At this point, I'd invested two years of my life in him and had every intention of marrying him and spending the rest of forever with him, but his silence made it seem that he didn't feel the same way.

I'd given up hope when the missionaries finally showed up at the store one day, smiles on their faces, both holding something behind their backs. They held it out to me-- six fat envelopes and a package containing a tape. I don't know what happened, why the mail was held up (is there no reliable postal service between Belgium and Ukraine?) but I do know that when the mail finally showed, when I thought we were over and I'd have to come home from Belgium both chubby from cheese and chocolate and boyfriendless, it was one of the best moments of my entire life. I savored those six, fat letters as I rode the bus back to the house, and then the next morning, I sat in the bathtub and listened to the tape, crying at the sweetness of his voice. You see, during the time that I was having a crisis that he might not want me any more, he was starting to realize how much I did love him, and that I was not going to break his heart, that I was going to wait. That tape was the first time he mentioned marriage (a foregone conclusion in my mind) as something he saw in our future.

So while I wait for this letter saying that Rose is officially, immutably ours, while I whine and complain and disbelieve that the letter will ever come, I feel just as hopeless and impatient as I did that summer when I waited for Eddie's letters. But I also believe, because I've seen it come true in my own life back in that summer of 1995, that I will be happier on the day it comes than I am irritable and sad during the wait.

P.S. One of those Elders did ask me out once we were both back at BYU that fall, so maybe he did hold the mail on purpose.


Michelle said...

this made me cry.

copied. pasted. emailed it to Mary.

ellen said...

Sweet story.