My Love, My Life, My Forever Valentine
When I met this guy, I was only 15. He was stationed in South Korea, and his family had been a part of our community forever. I'll never forget my first memory of seeing him... In his dress greens... at church... unknown to me at the time. I was on the church organ. We were having a youth rally... I was checking out all the young men... And I saw him... I think I hit every wrong pedal and note on the organ that night. I'm pretty sure my pastor's wife, Sis. Barb, gave me several looks... like "get with it, Sister." If she had only known... My heart was flipping, and my fingers and feet were slipping...
My pastor, Rev. Larry Daugherty, encouraged us to write this soldier to encourage him. He had recently given his life to God, and he was so far from home. I happily obliged. I sent my first card - praying hands - and I was so careful to be so discreet... and Christian of course. He wrote me back. I needed nothing else for Christmas that year. I had Christmas... in a letter. He played along... was discreet as well. The letters started flowing. Handwritten letters mind you. Long... long letters of what was happening at home and what was happening in the land so far away. You couldn't have torn those letters from my hand though you killed me.
I fell in love immediately. But... still being discreet. Of course everybody in Alabama knew I was in love with the soldier so far away... But he didn't know... I don't think... I had not said it outloud or written it. I was still signing my letters, "In Christ..." "Through Christ..." "God Bless You..." Then a phone call came. Sis. Barb called me and said these words, "Sarah, he's coming home. Emergency leave. His dad is sick." Well that wasn't what I planned. I had to face him. Would he reject me? Were all those letters just letters of a bored soldier who would write anyone? Suddenly I became very sick. I could not eat. Believe it or not, I was very small at the time. I lost 10lbs that week. I could not eat anything.
It was Easter Sunday. I had returned with my mom from a trip to see my Great Aunt Janie. I walked into church a little late because we had gotten up early that morning and drove back from North Little Rock Arkansas. But I was there... he was there. My heart was flipping again. He barely shook my hand that morning. I left church feeling quite foolish. My head told me I had fallen in love with a dream. Then... the phone rang later that evening. We talked all evening, even though he had to call me back every 3 1/2 minutes due to the old phone system. I'm sure party members picked up several times. It seemed so easy to talk to him on the phone or write him a letter. But face-to-face... we had not figured that out just yet.
By this time I had reached the magical age of 16... appropriate dating age by most standards. My Mom invited him to come to our home after church that night. He said he would... she left me at the church assuming he would bring me. He left with the preacher, for she had asked our pastor and his wife to join us too. I remember riding to my home with Sis. Barb. Both of us were having a lot of feelings. She was furious that he left me at the church. I was again feeling like he wasn't interested in me, and I had made an utter fool of myself. But I faced him at Mama's.
And we ate with the family. They all moved into the living room. We stayed in the kitchen. Our eyes met. And we started talking again. And we talked... and talked... and talked... and Mama cleared her throat about 12:00 am letting him know it was time to go home. Still at the kitchen table. Still talking... and then something magical happened. He claims I did it. I think I had fallen asleep. But something truly amazing to the 16 year old happened. For a millisecond... our lips touched... And I've never been the same since that small little bitty unintended kiss.
It's been about 34 years since that happened. Ray and I will have our 32 anniversary on March 20. Our lives have been filled with those small little bitty unintended kisses. I truly found my soulmate. I am so thankful for every single day God has allowed us to spend together. Happy 33rd Valentine's Day, Ray Odom. I won't count the first one, since you were still being "discreet." I love you!