20 years ago this month... Greg left to serve a 2yr LDS mission in Cebu, Philippines.
At that point, we'd known each other 6 years, but we'd only been dating about 9 months. We had just finished our freshman year at Brigham Young University. And we'd known the mission was coming - looming far away on the horizon. Far, far away. So we both felt a little blind sighted when the final night inevitably arrived, standing in front of my house, struggling with exactly how we would say good bye.
We knew the odds. The horrible, horrible odds.
I remember feeling so sick that night. A rotten, gut-twisting sensation that made me want to curl inward and not move. I cried. Greg cried. We went on multiple walks down my dead-end street and back again, doing almost anything to delay the end. At one point I mustered up enough courage to stop crying and told him how much his friendship had meant to me the past year and that I was so grateful to have him as my friend - after which I promptly burst into tears again.
Greg was the stronger one. He kissed my forehead, got into his car and drove away.
My Dad is rarely home. Rarely. So it was a supreme tender mercy that after watching Greg drive away, I walked inside and ran right into my father. I pretty much crashed next to him and cried for hours. And I was surprised how much inner turmoil came tumbling out - how deep deep down, I was furious. I was completely supportive of Greg, but I was also bitter. Because Greg was going off to have these wonderful experiences, these spiritual highs.
I was staying behind.
I was envious of his potential for growth and perspective. I didn't want to stay stagnant. I didn't want to be the same person when he came back. And yet I was also terribly afraid I'd lose him. Thank heavens for my Dad - for his gentle reminders that night of my goals and what I had planned to accomplish in the coming years. He very wisely predicted that Greg and I would both change. Both of us would grow. And that the next 2 years would prove if our friendship could continue to support each other's growth.
When Greg came home, I was a walking time bomb of nerves. I didn't want to feel this sudden pressure to get married. I especially didn't want Greg to feel that pressure. And to be fair, I hadn't exactly stayed away from other relationships. But we'd written - consistently - every week. He'd followed me through several apartments, to Israel, to Washington D.C. and back. And I'd mapped out his islands, cities and success on the tack board that was above my bed wherever I went. Lots of stories behind the scenes.
I was standing next to his 2 sisters at the airport when Greg walked through the arrival gate. I didn't know it at the time, but his sisters were shocked at how 'weathered' Greg looked. But all I saw was this amazing, handsome man smiling across the room at me. One of his sisters asked me what I thought and the only answer that came to mind was I'd forgotten how good-looking he was. (True story - and they still laugh about it at family reunions)
But even better - he was still my friend.
We were apart for 2 years, and this month marks 17 years of marriage. Best rate of return I've ever received.