Which One?-part 12 (Image:”American Hometown Warrior”))

A day or two later I wrote another letter. This one was just newsy—talking about things I was doing—my passionate involvement in photography and other interests—the kids—a few little anecdotal observations on our lives and inquiries about her life and family.

About a week after sending that I got a letter back from her. It was such an incredible experience to see my name and address and her return address on the envelope written in the exact same hand-writing as all those life-preserving letters I so looked forward to when I was in the military. It felt a bit like time-travel as I stood by the mailbox staring at the envelope.

Her letter arrived on a Saturday.  It mostly concerned itself with the quandary she found herself in. She essentially was saying she was interested in getting back with me but there were so many people who would be effected, concerned and apprehensive for her. And there were people would simply be hurt if Joanie were to take any sort of big step. But the part of the letter I focused on—like that night under the canopy when I heard what I wanted to hear—was where Joanie asked me what she should do. She was asking me if she should pursue a relationship with me or not. That was a bit like asking the fox if he wanted to guard the henhouse.

I decided to call her. Chris had given me her cell phone number so after reading the letter I immediately began dialing it. Before I had dialed four numbers there was some sort of click and bleep and Joanie was on the other end. Joanie had dialed me at the same time I dialed her—literally within the same space of 3 or 4 seconds.

After we got over the surprise of that curious event we began discussing her quandary. I told her there really wasn’t any decision to make—whether to get on board with this or not. I said as far as I was concerned—that train had already left the station. There really wasn’t much to discuss on that issue. Joanie inferred she thought I was right but uncertainty and ambiguity colored the tone of her comments. We talked about her family—especially her children and grandchildren–and some events involving other family and friends.

It was a warm chat—and I was now definitely conversing with my Joanie—not Mrs. Brown. After all the years I again felt the warmth and devotion I remembered from decades ago—there were moments when I actually felt like we were teen-agers again. In back of the friendly conversation however, we were both thinking the same thing—asking the same question. “What next?—what do we do now?

Yes—the train had left but now seemed stuck.

Something was missing on Joanie’s end—certainty–that first big step into the future.

I had committed myself. In my manifesto I had made it abundantly clear I wanted to plunge in—take it to the next level. But her situation and mine were almost complete opposites. I was single and living alone with almost nothing in the way of family dynamics to contend with. The only people my moving into a committed relationship would affect were my two kids—the inevitable adjustments that they would have to go through as they did with my ex-wife’s new husband. Joanie was certainly involved with me but things on her end were complicated—a fiancé’ who no doubt had every intention of building a new life with her and two families—people she loved—whose futures would be deeply effected by Joanie’s choices. I had put her in an unenviable situation. It would be one of the hardest, farthest-reaching decisions she had ever made.

There was one more emotionally ambiguous letter from her then silence. In it she said she might call. I waited—I didn’t want to impose myself or seem needy. Nearly two weeks went by with nothing. Then one Saturday afternoon as I was getting ready to go out to lunch with my son, the phone rang—I was expecting a call from someone interested in purchasing a photograph. It was Joanie—her voice was a bit strained.

“Orion?—it’s Joanie,” she said, “this is Joanie.”

“Oh hi Joanie,” I replied, “I wasn’t expecting to hear your voice—are you OK?—is everything al…”

Before I could complete the word, “alright,”  she blurted out, “I love you Orion–I love you.”

End part 12

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