Saturday, June 2, 2012

What's inevitable?

I started watching a movie tonight, Taking Chance. I don't know why I thought I could get through it. Because Kevin Bacon is hot? Because Kevin Bacon wearing a military uniform and oak leaves -- even if it is a Marine uniform -- is even hotter? I didn't get through it. This definitely wasn't a night when I should have tried to watch that movie. After writing about Memorial Day Monday night, this wasn't even the week for watching that movie.

But I did start thinking, or wondering .... some things almost seem like fate, like they are going to happen no matter how unlikely, how improbable, they are.

That I would become an officer's wife was one of the most unlikely things that could have happened. When I was a little kid, I remember watching the bodies coming off the planes from Vietnam. It was horrifying and I couldn't look away. When I was a teenager, the military was the enemy. The draft. The long, unfair war. The lies that came out. Nobody I knew would have anything to do with the fucking military.

Except my first love, L,  the boy I fell in love with in high school. We were together for a while, and then we broke up. Sort of. We dated other people, and every once in a while we went out together just to stay in touch. He always said we would get married after he graduated from college and went into the Air Force to become an astronaut. He was 2 years older than I was, and he was on the track to becoming an Air Force officer. Class president, swing choir, football/wrestling/track star, National Honor Society. I don't know what else. I wasn't into guys like that, but I was into him. And I believed we would get married eventually. In the meantime, I was having too much fun being a bad girl to care about the future.

Even though we didn't go steady for long during high school .... even though he went steady with a cheerleader longer than we did ..... I felt a connection, a bond that seemed inevitable. Our dads went to school together. His dad was the fastest runner in the 8th grade. At the 8th-grade graduation from country school,  my grandma beat him in a race. And later he was my junior high principal and first basketball coach. My cousin married L's older brother.

The first time I got drunk I was with L, and I went to my first concert with him. I know you'll be curious so I'll tell you. We slept together, but we never went all the way. He was truly the first boy I loved, but more than that .... I felt that connection. I can't explain it.

L went away to college, joined ROTC. We got together sometimes when he came home, but we weren't "together." It was fine. We would get married when he graduated and went into the Air Force.

Except he didn't. I left home when I was 17 and moved to Iowa City. L would show up sometimes and surprise me. It caused problems with the guy I was dating, but I didn't care. L came first. We were going to be married. We were connected.

But then he got into drugs -- pot and other stuff too -- and he dropped out of ROTC and then college. He was driving a truck. The last few times I saw him, I was already living with LtColEx. L would drop in unexpectedly, sometimes in the middle of the night. The last time, LtColEx loaned him money. He was a mess for a while.

And the connection was broken. I felt it when it broke. It was there like a familiar, safe cord tying us together, and then it was gone.

 L got his shit together relatively quickly. He wasn't meant to be a burnt out loser. But it didn't matter. Something too big to get back had changed.

And the connection with LtColEx was there and it was even stronger. We got married when I was 18, which was a huge shock to everyone who knew us. (I was not pregnant.) L never talked to me again after he heard we were engaged. In fact, when we did end up in the same bar on the square in my hometown one night, he got up and left as soon as I walked in.

LtColEx never intended to go into the military. Never. When he told people he'd decided to go to officer training school, they were stunned. His dad tried to talk him out of it, but we'd already decided. We wanted out of Iowa, and he had a choice of managing a Color Tile, going back to the farm, or becoming an Air Force officer. We chose the Air Force.

L chose the family farm. And one of the things LtColEx and I said we would never do, no matter how much his grandfather begged, was go back to the family farm.

I have to wonder -- because Miss Serendipity does spend a lot of time fucking with my life -- if my marrying an Air Force officer was somehow inevitable. It certainly wasn't a lifestyle I dreamed of or even wanted. I was rebel. If ever there was a poor potential officer's wife, I was the one. I didn't know one damn thing about it when LtColEx dragged me out of my job tending bar to our first assignment. My learning curve was steep and painful. It wasn't a fit.

And yet ..... there was that connection, and it's still there. Now it's born of all those years as a military wife in a military family. But it seems it was there before. Why, I don't know.

If L had stayed in ROTC and gone into the Air Force would I have married him, and would I have a couple of blond, blue-eyed kids today? Who knows? We can't see alternate universes. But I think .... maybe ..... maybe, yes. I think so.

I haven't talked to L since the last time he showed up stoned and broke and sad in the middle of the night. I want to be clear: that was a detour for him. It wasn't who he was, but lots of people get lost for a while at that age. For years -- later -- he sat with my mom and her husband at hometown high school football games. My niece was friends with his daughter. Every time I go home I hope I'll run into him, but I haven't. In a town of 2000 or fewer people, I haven't.

My mom says I think too much, and it's probably true. But this week, after I wrote about what it's like to lose friends and to worry about being the next wife to watch that blue car pull into the driveway, I have to wonder: Is there such a thing as destiny?

Do you have any destiny stories? Has anything ever happened to you that was unlikely and yet inevitable?

I mean, seriously, I could have married Kevin Bacon, but he only plays a military officer in a movie. Not the same thing at all.

Mmmm. Bacon.

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