This is Part 2 of my vocation story. Be sure to read "The Story of Us" first so that you can 'jump right in'!
There's a country song (why is it ALWAYS a country song??;) that says "God bless the broken road that led me straight to you." Well, this is the second half about my better half. And how God brought us back together.
I must back up about a year before I left off. It was a beautiful September day. I was standing outside the Student Center with my 'friends' smoking a cig. before class. Out of the blue, a young man walked up to me, a mutual friend of Mike and I, a blast from the past of our high school dating circle. I had never seen him on campus before that day. I would never see him on campus after that day either. We exchanged small talk and scanty catch ups on the last 3 years. Then he leveled with me.
"Patty, have you heard about Mike's mom?"
I shook my head in stunned silence.
"She's been battling cancer for a little while now, she doesn't have much time left. I just thought you'd want to know in case you wanted to get a hold of Mike." My heart ached as I knew that was out of the question.
I got home that evening. There was a voice on the machine. Another blast from the past in a mutual friend who had called to let me know that Mike's mom had passed that day. He left the times for the wake and the funeral. Wished me well. Hung up. Punched me in the stomach from 40 miles away. I was reeling. What could I do? "God, you made it clear to me...You wanted him...Not me...Why did you do this now? And what can you possibly want me to do in this mess? Now?" I knew what I had to do.
I missed the wake. My mom sat with me and had a coffee that evening and noticed that I seemed 'tired'. You know that's Mom code for "what's really bothering you, my child?" I poured out all of it, and told her I just had to go to that funeral. She said that yes, I needed to go to that funeral.
I snuck into the funeral just before it started. My mom had come with me, and another friend from my past, of course mutual friends with Mike, sat with me and consoled me. I glanced up in the Church I had abandoned as I slunk to a pew and noticed I was sitting under the stained glass of the weeping women. I looked across the aisle about 4 pews in front of me to see about 20 seminarians there for Mike. Great, God. That's just great. I had to be strong. For what, I couldn't possibly know. Then the procession began. There was Mike's Dad, escorted in by his loving family. His sisters in the comforting arms of their husbands. His brother with his wife and son surrounding him. And then, there was Mike. Alone. So completely alone. "This is JUST NOT FAIR!!!" What I thought was already broken in me that day broke even more, and I could hardly stand for his sorrow. For his pain.
The funeral flew by. I could not really pay attention. I was so confused by it all. I mustered the courage to stand in the receiving line. I was bolstered by the warm reception I got from both of Mike's sisters. I needed that courage to approach the honor guard of seminarians surrounding Mike. My blasted red hair. They zoned right in on me and knew who I was. The devil child. I cautiously entered their sanctuary to where Mike was. He saw me, and broke down. We rushed to each other, and I couldn't let go. We were both sobbing, and judging from the frustration on his classmate's expressions, we all knew why.
It was a pleasant afternoon, but sadly it remained just one more piece of the puzzle, as I did not attempt to re-connect with him. I let him go. He back to his world. Me back to mine.
Fast forward to the vortex that sucked me in and spat me out, homeless, friendless, and having to rush back to the refuge of my mother's home. Depleted of everything I just wanted to die, to crawl under a rock to avoid the world's taunts as it continued to turn. We stopped for dinner on the way home from my apartment eviction, I couldn't eat a bite. I was so upset. My Dad had come with us, as he was in town for my sister's wedding which would be that coming weekend. Great. Yet another: Great.
We got home and I noticed there were about 12 hang up calls on my Mom's answering machine. During dinner, my Mom had complained how some kids were having a great time prank calling her house. Wanting to be proactive in disturbing someone, I took this on as my mission. "Mom! Tomorrow I'm calling the phone company and having it out!! Who leaves 12 hang ups on a machine??? Those kids are going to GET IT!!" It would wait as we all retired to bed. Just in time for the phone to ring. I jumped out of bed and in my most menacing voice said, "Hello?!?"
"Uh, hi Patty. Uh. It's me Mike. I was just wondering if you'd go with me for a cup of coffee."
"Tonight? Like right now? It's like 10 at night, Mike."
"I know. Well, there's got to be a good coffee shop near you? I'll come up that way."
(Pause. Pause. Pause. My mind just could not comprehend what was going on.)
"There's some stuff I need to talk to you about and I'd like to see you in person."
"That should be okay. There's a Denny's that's open 24 hours down the road. I need to borrow my Mom's car, but I should be able to get there." (Yeah, in addition to my drama, my car, fully loaded with all my stuff from my old apartment, had died in the parking lot on my getaway from the ex boyfriend. Ugh.)
"Thanks Patty, I'll be there as soon as I can."
I ran in my Mom's room and gently woke her. "Mom, Mike asked me to meet him at Denny's for coffee, can I borrow the car?"
She sat straight up, with a cucumber/avocado mask on and bloodshot eyes, she looked at me pointedly. Her only answer, in her mentally clear, sleep-drunken stupor was "I cannot afford another wedding at this time."
I knew that wasn't the answer. Mike had been tapped by the Bishop to head over to Rome to continue his Priestly studies. I knew this was about my final farewell, and we were going to tie up loose ends before he left. I casually got ready to go. Mike lived 45 minutes from the Denny's and I lived a mile. I had time. About 20 minutes later I headed out the door. In the garage, I saw my moving boxes. On the top of the pile was a journal I had been keeping for Mike of all my journeys since we broke up that fateful summer following my senior year of high school. He was leaving. I was giving it to him as my parting gift. It was only appropriate.
I showed up at Denny's 5 minutes later. He was there, waiting for me. We exchanged awkward 'hellos' and grabbed a booth towards the back of the restaurant. We started small talk and I told him the basics of school, not wanting to offload the day from hell that I had just lived through. I asked him how school was going.
"Well. Uh. You see. There's this ceremony that I have to attend in front of the Bishop. The one where I give my consent to continue my program of study, and I have to do it before heading to Rome."
I wasn't really paying attention. "Wow, that's great Mike. If you want me there, I'll do my best to get there."
"Well, I can't do it." At this point, Mike just stopped and looked at me.
"Oh! Well, is it in Italian? Maybe I can help you with the pronunciation? Or in Latin? I'd be happy to help you memorize your responses. It can't be too hard Mike."
"No, its not that."
"Well, it is Rome. The farthest you've ever been from home. I can understand why you're nervous."
"No, its nothing like that either."
"Well, for goodness sake Mike! What in the world is going on with you?!?"
"I can't go through with it...Because...Because I'm still in love with you."
There it was, for the first time in what felt like an eternity, something right broke within me. I felt those walls which I had so fastidiously worked to create for years crumble down, and the healing touch of love and grace and mercy come flooding over me. I was overwhelmed. I reached for him. It was a moment of great truth. A moment that could not be ruined by pretense.
"Mike. I don't know what to say. There's so much. So much. That you don't know. I've changed. I may not be the person you remember. I've done so many things. You may not want me for all that I have done. For the ways in which I have changed."
The love in his eyes begged to differ, and 10 years later this August, it's still there whenever Mike looks at me. God brought us back together, and we haven't been the same since. Which is such a great thing! Alas, I have yet to tell you my engagement story! LOL! But that will have to be another day. For this is the beginning of "the Story of Us":)