OK, I've finally started a blog! It's something I've been thinking about for some time anyway, but additionally I've had a few encouraging comments from newly-found blog friends who think it would be nice to share one particular story - how I met my boyfriend. Just bear with me while I find my feet on this site though - I'm somewhat technologically challenged & I envisage that it'll take me some time to get it looking how I want it to look (especially as I've no idea what I'm doing!). But in the interests of not procrastinating forever more, I decided to just get started. So here goes!
The Early Days:
In November 2009 I joined a small web-based, military support group. The aim of its members was to boost the morale of deployed servicemembers by sending them letters & care packages. I was assigned a penpal randomly when I joined - I had no idea who I’d end up with, but played the numbers game & assumed it would be a “youngster” since the 20s age group seems to comprise a large proportion of our Armed Forces these days. So I thought I’d be playing big sister to someone who was maybe away from home for the first time.
I was immediately given M’s contact details. All I knew was his name & address, & that he was a soldier in Iraq. I was asked to try to write weekly & send care packages occasionally, & not to expect to hear back much, but to continue writing anyway.
I remember starting my first letter on a Monday evening, November 9th to be exact, just a couple of days after receiving his details - I was working my volunteer shift at USO & it was quiet in the office so I decided to make some headway while I had the opportunity. I don’t usually have any problem writing letters, but it was really odd writing to someone so random - especially since I literally knew nothing more than his name & location! But I managed to ramble on for a while & pretty soon something resembling a first letter was ready for mailing.
A little later that month, on Thanksgiving evening in fact, I received my first (& unexpected) correspondence from M. I’d included my email address in his letter, & I remember being very excited seeing his name appear in my email inbox that night! I was having a quiet Thanksgiving evening, sitting in a hotel room in Portsmouth, NH where I was spending the holiday, & it really made my night reading his note - I hadn’t been expecting to hear from him, & even now I remember being struck by how sweet it was for him to reply & thank me for writing to him, as well as to wish me a “Happy Turkey Day”.
Over the coming months I continued writing weekly. I discovered that M was 34 years old & that although he had moved around a lot growing up, he considered himself a Midwesterner, having spent much of his younger years growing up predominantly in IL. In addition to writing, I began sending care packages each month too. Initially I didn’t know what to put in those either, but pretty soon I realized that 99% of the fun was in simply receiving & opening something while deployed. So it became easier each time. And I’d often have a theme to work with - December’s was filled with Christmas gifts, February’s contained Valentine’s goodies, a St Patrick’s Day theme in March....and so on. As the months went on, I joked with M that writing to him was like writing a diary, since all my messages ended up being a little day by day account of my weekly doings.
Facebook & Photographs:
In January I received a random Friend Request from M when he first joined Facebook. Around this time I also decided on a whim to attach a handful of photographs to an email one weekend. I’m a hobby photographer, & am always out with my camera these days, whatever the weather. That particular weekend I’d caught some lovely blue skies and snow scenes, & decided to send them on, hoping he might enjoy sharing in my hobby.
As it turned out, they were in fact a huge hit. I remember in my early months I often wondered what he thought of my rambling emails. And I remember being heartened in one email when he commented how he particularly liked my emails that included commentaries of my weekly events, as well as my photos. And he even asked for more photos! It was nice to hear that - the positive affirmation was very meaningful for me, & additionally it gave me something to work with for future emails.
Although M had joined Facebook a few months earlier, he never used it initially. Then suddenly in May, as he managed to carve out a little more personal time for himself, I began to see him signing in occasionally. One day his chat box suddenly appeared on my computer screen, & soon we were “chatting” realtime, rather than by email. This became a regular habit whenever he was able to sign in, & one which we both enjoyed - especially over World Cup Soccer time when we’d be watching some of the games at the same time before his shift started.
It’s Good To Talk:
After a couple of months chatting by instant messaging, M suddenly asked me one day in mid July if he could have my phone number - he claimed he wanted to put some of the phone cards that I’d recently sent him to good use. I jokingly asked if he was going to phone me from the desert - he replied “yes”, & actually called me about an hour later!
Unbelievably we spoke for about 3 hours that first time, & only stopped chatting when my phone battery died. He called again two days later though, & our long conversation continued for a few more hours. It was very easy conversation. I loved that very much. After this second call, he began calling me daily.
A Man Of His Word:
After about of week of calls, I started wondering. I was reaching the 10 Day Watershed - this is how I describe the time after first getting to know guys in the dating arena. Typically the overwhelming majority of men have “evaporated” sometime between 1-2 weeks. Or they’d behave inappropriately & be dismissed by me! I was now wondering whether at some point soon, M would disappear. This wasn’t due to negative thinking, but more because that was just the way it had always been with the majority of flaky people that I’d met over the years.
M was clearly proving himself to be very different, however, & I liked that. I liked that a lot. I was tired of “more of the same” when it came to men. I wanted someone different. Over the coming weeks, he just continued to demonstrate himself as someone who was consistent, interested in me, & reliable. I couldn’t have been more refreshed by my good fortune.
I think in the time between his first call, & his homecoming at the end of September, there were literally only a handful of days when we never spoke - and on one occasion he suddenly told me “I have to go, I’ll speak to you soon.” I discovered the following day that his base had been under rocket attack - so that was a first for me, to have someone disappear mid-conversation due to rocket fire. I hope never to experience that again though!
Our daily conversations were something that I came to treasure very quickly. I was quite fortunate because M worked the night shift, so his down-time coincided with my evenings. We both seemed to greatly enjoy our phone dates, and we never seemed to tire of things to talk about. Priceless.
Our conversations quickly progressed from those between two friends, to those of two people dating. I remember most things very clearly from our writing & phone calls, but for some reason, I don’t really recall how exactly we moved from “friendly” to “dating” by phone! But it definitely happened. I do remember sometime in August though, when he told me about the Army Formal - a military ball for his unit, to be held in mid November. I was very excited when he invited me to accompany him!
Additionally I do remember when he asked whether I’d like to be involved in his homecoming. Naturally I said yes, but later worried that it might be odd being there - I’d be meeting him for the first time with his family there too, & I thought that might be a lot of pressure on him trying to effectively deal with them & me at the same time. So I decided I’d wait & instead visit him shortly after his homecoming, once the family fun had died down.
As it happened though, his family were unable to make it to the homecoming. When I discovered this I went into red alert. There was no way I was going to let him come home to nobody after a year in Iraq! And so began my arrangements for a late September trip to Columbus, GA!
Hurry Up And Wait:
I’ve often heard this phrase as applied to the Military, but this was the first time I’d ever experienced it first hand myself. I was given one homecoming date to work with - this didn’t change over a period of a few weeks, so 10 days beforehand I booked a flight, hotel, & rental car. Then 3 days later it changed! The new homecoming date was to be the day that I was due to fly back home, as per my original flight arrangements! So I went through the cancelations & started the whole thing over again.
Thankfully things didn’t change this time!