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Forty Years Later
Dedicated to Tommy
Submitted by Barbara
Tommy found out that I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines by reading our alumni newspaper. I'd been featured in an article because hundreds of alumni of our New Jersey high school had sent me thousands of books to distribute to the schools where I was teaching English.
I'd seen Tommy at three class reunions. He'd married the prettiest girl in our class and started a rug cleaning business. We'd been sweethearts for two years in high school. Then he went in the army. He came home and asked me to marry him and I'd said no. He wanted to settle down in the town where he'd lived all his life. I knew he'd done that. I wanted to see the world. I did that.
So there I was on a torrid day in Laoag City, Luzon, Philippines reading my mail. Tommy wrote that his wife had died. He said he'd thought of me every day of his life and wondered if I had any vacation time. "We could meet in Hawaii," he wrote. "I've never been to Hawaii. You probably have. You've been everywhere."
This wasn't exactly true. I'd been a lot of places in my job as an English teaching consultant, mostly to developing countries. I'd never been to Hawaii, although I was planning to go in December. It was the halfway point of my two year stint in the Peace Corps.
I hadn't thought of Tommy every day of my life, but I'd thought of him often. I was glad I didn't marry him. It wouldn't have lasted. I was not the stay-at-home type. But I was now getting ready to settle down somewhere after a life of travel and this amazing cross cultural Peace Corps experience.
I penned a carefully written letter to Tommy. He'd signed his letter "Always, Tom." Of course, he'd be called Tom now. We were both sixty years old. He'd called me Rosie in high school, and he wrote Rosie in his letter. I'd not been called Rosie since high school. I was Rose to everyone who knew me. Somehow, though, I thought it was fine for Tommy to call me Rosie again.
We met in Maui. He was there when I got off the plane, and he rushed to me and hugged me. I felt like a teenager. He looked a little craggy around the eyes, but he was still the sweetheart I knew forty years ago.