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Long Distance Relationship
Every so often in life we are reminded that some of the most beautiful and meaningful occurrences and people come to us quite unexpectedly, and at precisely the necessary time. Such is the case with my fiance-in-waiting and myself. We actually started out in the most "platonic" way possible over 15 years ago, as long-distance pen pals. It was 1988, before the PC, the Internet, instant messaging and e-mail were a fact of everyday life. Outside of the telephone there was no means of instant communication, and so letters were the other method of sharing one's life and its tribulations. Having a strong inclination toward writing myself, and in a quest to meet new friends, I had placed a small classified ad in the pen pal section of a teen magazine that summer.
I remember receiving her first letter within a group of a few other respondents sometime in August of that year, a simple one page teenage summary of her life that was almost a template for a pen pal introduction. That letter and my reply to her from what I recall were pretty representative of the crucial issues to us at that point: what music we listened to, our favorite tv/ movie actors and actresses, and what we were up to in high school. We passed our initial "test" of writing back and forth multiple times, and by virtue of that and what seemed like a very natural compatibility personality-wise, our friendship and trust grew incrementally with each exchange. We shared family issues, stories of losing loved ones, likes and dislikes about life, in essence we made up for not being within a close proximity (she was in Chicago, I was in Miami) by opening our hearts slowly but surely. We even took that major step in pen pal relationships, the telephone! I first called her on her birthday a few months after we started writing out of the blue, and we enjoyed a handful of conversations after that as well.
Before we knew it, our correspondence had carried us through two-plus years in what seemed like no time at all. The letters had seen me through my senior year in high school and through my first full year of college. She herself was getting ready to enter her senior year in high school in the late summer of 1990 when our literary comet seemed to flame out. In retrospect, a new circle of friends locally for me and life just seeming to get busier and busier appeared to take its toll. Thirteen years later, the exact details of our separation seem quite hazy. Suffice to say however, by early 1991 our previously strong connection had completely fallen silent and it appeared that a chapter had closed in our respective lives.
Save for a phone call from her to me around Christmas 1995, one which came at a time when I was engaged to be married the following year and leading a very busy life, we did not have any contact whatsoever. We had truly gone our separate ways in life, and it appeared that we'd fall into that enormous category of temporary and fleeting friendships that all of us have experienced before.
I married in 1996 and had two children over the next 5 years. In late 2001 however, an event transpired which looking back on it served as a catalyst to a chain of rather extraordinary occurrences leading to our reunion. I found out that my wife at the time was having an affair with a close friend, and she ended up separating from me and leaving our home with the children. I certainly was devasted, and although I tried dating after some time passed, I was still not prepared on an emotional level for any type of sustained commitment. Eventually, the situation became even more complex as my now ex-wife's "relationship" ended and I ended up allowing her to move back in to my home and attempting a reconciliation. That predictably also fell apart but she remained in my home for several months due to a variety of reasons, mainly related to our children and her lack of finances.
From late 2001 through the end of 2002 I truly suffered through the most trying times of my life on both a financial and emotional level. I made a commitment at the beginning of 2003 that I would surround myself with people that were important to me and who offered genuine friendship. As part of my quest to do this, I decided to take advantage of the vast resources of the Internet one evening in early summer and attempted a search on several old friends. I had thought of Letty on and off throughout the years, and had been on business in Chicago earlier in the year and tried looking her up in the phone book with no luck. So her name was the obviously the first that I found myself typing. As fate would have it, it would also be the only name I located that night that actually had a valid e-mail > address. I went ahead and decided to shoot her a quick note halfway expecting a failed delivery or perhaps no response at all. I had written her from work right before departing that evening, and had a reply waiting for me by the time I got home! I remember getting the same feeling that I had long forgotten, the excitement of seeing her name in print on a correspondence addressed to me.
Our modern-day e-mail exchanges were accelerated counterparts to our old "snail mail" communications. We began to write each other without fail daily, and this was especially easy given the fact that there was over a decade to catch up on. We had seemed to retain a beautiful blueprint of the smoothness and genuineness of our friendship in spite of the vast amount of time that had passed. As we shared our current living situations and relationship status, we amazingly began to realize we were in situations that had eerie parallels. Essentially, we were both living in arrangements without love or emotional companionship, simply biding time until the situations reached a termination. She had tried to make the best out of an unexpected pregnancy three years prior, and had endured difficult personal times attempting to forge a family unit together without a willing partner. By the time we had begun to write and speak again, she knew she would be leaving and was simply waiting for the right opportunity to purchase an affordable home for her and her daughter.
I was scheduled to be in Chicago again on business in mid-August, which already marked almost 2 months of our Internet and telephone-based reunion. We made arrangements to meet up on my first day there when I had some free time. After all of the years of initially having "met" and then all of the years in between communications, we would finally see each other face-to-face. Our day and evening went as naturally and smoothly as our friendship had always been. I found her beautiful and a joy to be with and wanted to say it outright, but feared making her a tad uncomfortable. I felt good vibes from her too but couldn't be sure. One thing that was definite was that our friendship had now entered a new era, and I felt closer to her than ever before.
We were to meet again a second time on that trip of mine, but it never came to fruition due to an unexpected incident, one that would actually be extremely significant in the big picture down the line. Apparently the late hours she kept the night we had gone out had irritated her daughter's father to the point where she was asked to leave the house the next day for good. She moved herself and her daughter to her brother's home, and remained there for the next month and a half.
As she searched for a home of her own to purchase after this incident, she and I began to speak on an even closer level than before. She expressed her fears over the uncertainty of what the future would bring, whether she could make it on her own as a homeowner, how she would handle the lonliness, etc. I found myself wanting to reassure her more and more and desiring to be at her side to comfort her personally. Something extraordinary was indeed happening, namely that my already deep feelings of friendship for her were beautifully merging with the first signs of romantic longing. She apparently began to develop the same wavelength as I, and our conversations began to reflect this through a more flirtatious tone.
Business in Chicago beckoned again in mid-October for me, and the timing of my journey would prove to be quite interesting. We had pretty much opened up to each other that we liked each other as more than friends, or at least that we were starting to become congniscent of this idea. All of the credit definitely went to her for bringing the issue to the forefront in one of our conversations, when she came out and stated that our talks were becoming very reminiscent of two people who were quite "sweet" on each other. The ten or so nights prior to my October visit usually found us on the telephone until the wee hours talking about our interactions, our feelings for each other, our interesting history and what we hoped for ourselves in the future. We proceeded however, with a bit of apprehension and even confusion, as it was going to be difficult to ignore the fact that we were quite a distance apart.
She graciously invited me to stay with her during my visit, even though I obviously also had hotel accomodations that had been arranged by my employer. I had been telling her in our recent conversations that I would have something important to reveal regarding my intentions towards her once we were face-to-face. I did just that the first night, letting her know that I was willing to try a long-distance relationship. I almost went into a panic-filled regret after saying it, fearing that I had taken too bold a step and that the proposition was too soon for her after what she'd been through for the previous few years. However, she did accept the idea of such an arrangement, somewhat to my surprise and relief. The date was October 10th, 2003, one that I firmly believe will serve as the landmark in my life where I finally found that ultimate bliss that sometimes seems so evasive, the perfect life partner.
As I write this, November 3rd, 2003, Letty and I are officially 21 days into our relationship. I have been back to see her once already, right after my birthday. She went through a great deal of trouble to commemorate the day for me, which is quite typical of the open and generous heart she has that has so attracted me to her. We have a host of plans over the coming months that we hope will allow us to see each other once a month minimum. Because the very foundation of our relationship was dialogue and friendship, and we are both communicators by nature, we have certainly talked out a great deal of our feelings for each other, our goals for our relationship, the fact that we would love nothing more than to spend the rest of our lives together and our fears and concerns over possible future obstacles. On her end, she has set a one year timeframe (which I agree with) as a good "observation period" for both of us to let certain things play out before considering the next step, such as if our relationship and attraction remains as strong as it is now, how our kids will interact with each other when they meet and how she likes Miami when she visits. Nothing is assumed by either party as to how or exactly when something will occur regarding us marrying and residing together, but we certainly both feel like this is what we would want more than anything else in our lives.
We keep each other in our respective hearts by constant e-mails and telephone calls, and I personally think about my next chance to hold and see her constantly. It is an emotional challenge for both of us without question, but one that we have chosen to undertake given the value that we see in each other as individuals, and in what we can create together.
Juan, Miami, USA
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