From Part VII…Then one day in November, I read my latest letter from Chuck and it was signed: Love, Chuck.
Love, Chuck? Now that was intriguing. He had never signed a letter with “love” before. Snow, classes and work were keeping me busy. Letters continued to pass in a flurry between Chuck and myself. We wrote so frequently they often crossed in the mail.
A few weeks later I stood in the airport, frozen with excitement and nerves. Today was the day. Chuck was coming to visit. I knew this reunion would be awkward. For one thing, last time we had seen each other, he was my team leader, and I was simply a teenager. The rules with Teen Missions were clear: no pairing off. And certainly no pairing off with your team leader. Last time we had been together, I had to ask Chuck’s permission to use the bathroom. Now we were about to meet face-to-face as two adults. Well, he was an adult anyway. At 23 he obviously had it all together. He had a real job and a real house and real bills. I still felt like an awkward teenager.
My palms were sweaty, my heart beating fast. A long line of weary travelers were filing off of the plane. I scanned each face, not wanting to appear over-eager. Finally, I saw a blonde head walking toward me. He was wearing glasses (unlike last time I saw him) and was a bit heavier. In his right hand he carried a small, lunch-sized cooler. I made eye contact and he gave me a small smile. He continued to walk toward me at a steady pace; I stood still. This was awkward. He wasn’t really smiling…the closer he got the more nervous I got. Suddenly he was right in front of me and kept on walking. Right past me.
It wasn’t Chuck.
I took a deep breath and scanned the crowd again. If that wasn’t Chuck, where was he? I turned around and saw the blonde man still walking around, obviously looking for someone. Wait…maybe it was Chuck. Shoot. I had no idea. Should I run up to him and say “hi”? Oh man…this was so weird. To not recognize each other after 5 months of writing long, personal letters? How awkward.
I stood frozen with indecision. Just then I saw Chuck stepping out of the walkway. There was no mistaking it this time. This was my Chuck. He was wearing green jacket and Levi jeans over a pair of black cowboy boots. His face broke into a huge grin when he saw me. His pace quickened and he walked over to me, said hi and gave me a big hug.
Back at the house, we said a quick hello to my grandma, then settled down on the couch to get caught up.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked.
Well that was weird. Of course I didn’t. If I had a boyfriend, I would have mentioned it long before then.
Chuck reached into his jacket pocket and presented me with a small, velvet jewelry box. I opened it up to find a pair of diamond earrings. It was late and we headed off to bed shortly after that.
The next morning we stood at my grandma’s kitchen counter, watching her make breakfast for us. As we joked back and forth, I felt Chuck’s foot under the counter, touching mine. Yep, he was playing footsie with me. Between the diamond earrings and the footsie playing, I knew we well on our way to being a couple.
We made plans to drive the three and half hours to my parents house. They, obviously wanted to meet the blonde Canadian who wrote me so many letters, and he (claimed) he wanted to see more of Alaska. “There’s just one thing,” I said. “I need to get the brakes shoes on my Jeep replaced“.
“I can do that for you” he said.
“Really? You can replace brake shoes? Seriously?”
I didn’t even realize people could do things like “change brake shoes”. I thought that was something just mechanics did. As if all automotive shops were filled with space age robots taking care of mysterious things like “changing brake shoes”.
The brake shoes were ordered and as soon as they arrived Chuck got to work. He had a bit of trouble getting them in, but with a little determination and Canadian monkey grease, those brake shoes were installed and we were on our way!
“The Jeep seems to be having a bit of trouble,” I told Chuck. “It kinda hard to drive”.
I didn’t want to make too big of a deal about the Jeep. First of all, I was trying to show him how mature and worldly I was. Drivin’ my Jeep Wagoneer, three hours away from the big city. But something wasn’t right. Eventually Chuck got behind the wheel of the Jeep and agreed something was off.
“I just don’t understand. I told the guy exactly what make and model the Jeep was. I’ve replaced brake shoes plenty of times. These seem really hot, though“.
And we kept on driving.