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Pushed Together for 48 Days, Then Pulled Apart for 49

More pre-written emails from him would come once a week, every Wednesday. Although I cherished and reread his words, loneliness and insecurity crept in. Five weeks had passed without any real-time communication. As I poured my heart out every night, I became increasingly aware that his words had been scheduled in advance. Had his feelings changed? Had he changed? I had no idea.

All I could do was keep writing letters every night, so I did. I dug into the history of our relationship, from the early days to our quarantine, from our young, nervous love to the fights we seemed to start and resolve in the span of a Sunday. When I couldn’t think of a memory, I started writing about the future: the puppy we would adopt, the children we would have, the four years we would most likely spend apart and the promisingly long after-period when we would be together.

I worried I would run out of things to say. We were young and in love, but what if that wasn’t enough? We had only been dating six months.

While my biggest struggle was overcoming my worry, he was doing pull-ups until he passed out, threw up or broke something. He was taking the first step in the long journey of understanding how to be responsible for other service members’ lives — and if it came to it, how to tell a loved one about a fellow soldier’s ultimate sacrifice. He was learning to understand the gravity of what it would mean to make that sacrifice himself.

Still, I couldn’t stop my mind from occasionally translating his silence into anger, or worse, apathy. Despite his love notes, emails and surprises, I wanted to ask, “Do you still love me?”

I kept at it. By letter 35, I knew I could make it to 49.

Two weeks later, when he finally graduated and was able to call me for the first time — an hourslong conversation in which he recounted everything he had been through — I would learn that he hadn’t gotten most of my letters until the end, when it was over. But I didn’t care. For me, it was more about the discipline of writing despite my doubts.

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