Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Peter and Peace Corps

Tomorrow, I turn 48. Brave of me to fess up to that, huh, except that I'm not bothered by my age, nor about where I am at 48.
While I would never have thought this would be the life I lead, I must say, it's not really a surprise.
Sure, I'm not the person I was in high school, or the woman I was when I first met Peter, not even the woman who would marry him just a short two years from the time we met, a young naive co-ed non-committal in my relationship with a then, Peace Corps volunteer.
Peter turns 50 this year, the same 'age' Peace Corps will be. 50 years of existence - wow, what both of these beings have seen in the the past 50 years!
I'm particularly thankful for the Peace Corps, because I wouldn't be here, wouldn't have gone to Botswana, wouldn't be connected to the San women if not for Peter's volunteer assignment 27 years ago.
In 1984, I was failing out of Rider College - going nuts after a very strict upbringing and self imposed perfectionist ideal to perpetually please my parents.
Thankful to finally have a reason to focus and gain my life back, I embraced the relationship with Peter to keep me afloat, alive in a sea of drugs and drinking.
When we first met, we were ready to say good bye. He had just graduated from Villanova and was waiting for Peace Corps to come through. His first choice was Botswana.
He got his wish and we made the best of the summer ahead of us before he left in early September.
It was the best relationship I would ever have because neither of us had any expectations - we both knew that he was leaving. No ties. No strings attached. . . or so we thought.
By the time he boarded that plane for Washington DC, we were in love. We wrote to each other every day. His letter only left Botswana once a week, but every letter was as if we had spent them together.
When I met him, I admired the fact that he had joined the Peace Corps. Thinking he was altruistic, I put him on a pedestal only to have to take him down a few steps. He claimed he was going to Africa because he loved animals - which is still the case, but as I read (and today, re-read) his letters, it wasn't the lion, the elephant or snakes he would tell me about. It was and still is, the people of Botswana that kept Peter engaged and committed.
Peter would use his final PC check to buy me a ring. He had a long recovery from slipped discs jostled and twisted on the very same roads we would travel happily over with our family some 20 years leter. His time in Bots with PC was cut short, but had they not been, he believes he would never had returned or had he come home, he would not have needed to go back with me and the kids later on.
All carefully orchestrated moves by a force greater than ourselves. Peter and I can look back at our lives together and see how each movement and monumental moment made for a life of meaning - which is exactly what the Peace Corps, what President John F. Kennedy had in mind when he created the organization 50 years ago.
I'm glad I have lived through the 'me' generation so that I can face the 'we' generation with some substance, some meaning, some value to offer, for I don't ask what my country can do for me, I ask what I can do for my country, my fellow human beings, my world.
Here's to making this year better than perfect, let's make it an ELEVEN - you know, that's one more than 10!

1 comment:

MaryB said...

What a beautiful story! I'm so glad to know the whole story of you and Peter. You are a beautiful couple and I applaud all that you do.