i didn’t really think about marrying michael often, because it seemed so far away – i was planning to be living out of the country for almost two years. and i certainly couldn’t plan a wedding from 8000 miles away.
but, our relationship didn’t seem to be slowing. quite the contrary. i went to purdue almost every weekend in september and early october, usually hitching a ride with michael’s best friend andy. that was the year of 9/11 which left us stunned and afraid. michael and his buddies, one of whom is a marine, talked about enlisting or being drafted. like any serious girlfriend or wife, i hated the idea, but what could i do? i breathed a sigh of relief when these conversations became less frequent.
we went camping with michael’s family in early october and i had a great time – my first introduction to his family’s concept of camping. we sat beside the fire after his parents and sister went to sleep and stared at the stars. my impending move hurled toward us and i began to realize i wasn’t ready to leave this man. but, i had made a commitment to go. besides, michael still had two years left of school. marriage wasn’t a thought.
michael, too, was beginning to realize how serious our relationship had gotten, without either of us intending it to happen. he knew that if he allowed our relationship to continue as i moved, he would be moving our relationship toward marriage, though he wouldn’t have told me that. though we were both in love, he wasn’t sure he was ready to commit to marry me.
and so, one friday night about two weeks before i was schedule to board a plane and leave everything i knew, i rode with andy to purdue for the weekend. andy was going to drop me off and michael was going to bring me home on sunday.
i knew something was bothering michael from the moment i saw him that afternoon. he kept denying that anything was wrong. we had dinner in the dorm cafeteria and then went to the navigator rally, but only stayed for a few minutes before michael grabbed my hand. let’s go, he said.
we walked out to the middle of campus, where it was dead quiet on a friday night. i don’t remember the words he said as he told me he wouldn’t write or call me when i left, but i do remember the instant grief and sadness i felt. and the aloneness. i didn’t even know where i was on campus or how to get back to our friends. i remember asking if that meant we were over. and then, through tears, i said, please take me back to the rally.
i really felt as if i’d been hit by a two-by-four. it was so out of the blue. i was stunned. and grieved. immediately back at the rally, i found one of the staffers, laura, and asked her to pray with me. i couldn’t see straight. and, i didn’t know what to do. so, i told andy not to leave without me that night.
julie took me back to her room where i’d left all my things and i gathered them up. while i waited for andy, i sat in the lobby of michael’s dorm and played the only piano song i knew from memory, be thou my vision.
i remember michael coming to see me before i left and looking at him through teary eyes. i’ll be okay, i said, more to reassure myself than him. and then, with andy waiting in the car, i turned my back on the man i thought i’d marry and i walked away.
when andy and i got back to indianapolis, i still had a thirty-minute drive to my parents’ home. i’m not sure how i made it in one piece – i could hardly see i’d been crying so much. it was late and my parents hadn’t been expecting me, so i knew i had to wake them.
mom, i said from the doorway of their room, before she was really awake. he broke up with me.
and then, like moms are supposed to do, she held me for the next hour while i cried.