"As we rushed into the winter semester, something alarming happened to me. I realized that my emotional involvement in this Texan was way deeper than a casual fling; I had gotten to the point that disentangling my life from his would be painful. In short, even as I had promised myself not to get committed or develop a serious relationship, I had fallen in love with Jacob.
Love is such a slippery thing. How can one even begin to define it? How do people fall in love-- and even more mind boggling to me, how do people fall out of love? My love for Jacob at this point meant that I liked who I was when I was with him. I felt like he helped me to be a better person and I felt like I could be myself around him. We had so much in common and enjoyed sharing those things. But at the same time, I felt like he completed me-- his strengths were my weaknesses.
This revelation terrified me, especially because I had no idea how Jacob felt. Often I had the impression that he loved me too-- he certainly acted like he did, but I could not be sure. I did not want to be the first one to express my feelings, so I waited. And waited. And waited. I think that Jacob knew what I was waiting for-- that I was antsy for him to say it first. A few weeks into February we were snuggling on the couch in his apartment building and watching a movie with one of his roommates. I had my head leaning against his chest and was listening to his heartbeat.
‘I can hear your heartbeat,’ I whispered to him.
He replied, ‘Well maybe it will tell you what I can not.’
That did it. In that moment I knew it was silly to wait for him to tell me how he felt-- if I loved him, I could say it. So I leaned up close to his ear and said, ‘I love you, Jacob.’
‘I know,’ he responded, pulling me close.
And in that moment, the tension I felt was gone.
The next day when we were walking together in the snow, Jacob admitted, ‘I love you too, Jennifer. I just did not want to say it.’ In a way we were both scared. We did not know what was going to happen in the Spring when I went home. Plus, Jacob had a long road of military training in front of him. Together we decided to not worry about the future, but to revel in the present-- and to be honest about how we were feeling, even if it was scary.
February, March and April flew past faster than either of us wanted. Our happiness, it seemed, had an expiration date. Even as we tried to ignore it, the future snuck up on us and we finally had to make a decision as to what to do. Jacob was going away in May to Army Basic Training and then to Advance Training. He would not be back until October and I would have no opportunity to see him. Although we were still very much in love, when the semester ended, we parted with each other’s addresses, but no promises of future commitment. It is true that both of us wanted something to work out, but I think for the first time we realized that we had been living in a bit of a dream. There was no telling what would happen while we were apart for so very long. Jacob knew that he would have no access to email and very limited access to a telephone. Any communication was going to have to happen through letter. He explained to me that he was an abysmal correspondent; I explained to him that I was not sure if I was going to date while he was away. It was a bitter parting with nothing sweet for either of us.
Jacob headed to South Carolina for his basic training and even though we were apart, I found it to be an incredibly romantic situation. After all, I could tell everybody that my boyfriend was in the army and going through boot camp and we could only communicate through written letters. It is extremely easy to fall madly in love with a person when you only need to love them for thirty minutes a day while you write and/or read a letter. I already loved him, but the absence helped me to romanticize every aspect of him. I wrote him Every. Single. Night. The letter would then be plastered with lipstick kisses and mailed off once a week. In return, there were very few nights that Jacob would go without writing me as well. I checked the mailbox every day and almost squealed each week when there was a letter in it for me. Soon, I created binders with plastic covers and filled them with the letters I was receiving so that I could read them over and over.
I still have that binder-- along with many others-- full of love letters. It is sitting in a box in my storage room. This spring I thought I would clean out the room for my spring cleaning. Knowing that I would come across pictures and letters, I thought I had prepared myself for finding them. When I pulled out the binder of all the letters he wrote in basic and I saw his beautiful script, line after line and page after page I realized that nothing could have prepared me for the flood of emotions. All I could do was sit there and cry. I cried because I had lost him. I cried because I remembered the days those letters came and I ran to my room in a tizzy and shut the door to pour over the latest news from South Carolina and felt my “heart breaking” because Jacob was so far away. Little did I know that eight years later I would be crying over the very same letters, for a very different reason. Nor did I know then what real heartbreak felt like.
Regardless of how much I have learned since then, that was not an easy summer for me. I missed Jacob. He had become my best friend and I missed his companionship. Being a very communicative person, I struggled not being able to actually speak with him and tell him the details of my days. The army did give him permission to use the phone; he had the ability to make one two minute phone call every Sunday. Because we were not married, he needed to call his mother and therefore I received one two minute phone call every other Sunday. In order to accommodate his call, I attended the young single adult ward; my parent’s ward had sacrament right in the middle of the time frame when he normally called me. I would wait at home by myself while my family was at church with the cordless phone right next to me. The two minutes I was on the phone with Jacob were the highlight of my week. In many ways, the calls catered to my dramatic nature. We would say ‘I love you’ as many times as we could and in as many ways as we could think of in two minutes while the whole time in the back ground I could hear his drill sergeant screaming ‘One minute left! Thirty seconds! Ten seconds left.’
Jacob’s birthday is in July and mine is in August. Somehow, Jacob got it into his head that for my birthday present he wanted to buy me a plane ticket to fly out to his basic training graduation at the end of July. For his birthday, he wanted to ask his parents (who were driving out to see him graduate) to pick me up at the airport, cart me around and let me stay in their hotel with them. Since we had been apart, one of the things I had realized was that I did not want to be apart. For the first time, I started letting myself consider long term. Although I did not linger on it, I realized that Jacob was bound to be a part of my life for a very long time. I wanted to see him graduate.
Jacob had two days that he could spend with family. I flew in the night before his first "free day" so as to get every possible second with him. I woke up in the morning all in knots-- I had barely slept. We drove to the base and all friends and family gathered in a large building, waiting for the soldiers to arrive. The sargents put on quite a show as they marched the soldiers in. The privates came jogging in their lines, shouting cadences as they entered. As much as I tried, I could not pick Jacob out of the crowd; all of the soldiers looked the same from far away. They were in fatigues, heads shaven-- their hair as short as possible. All privates with glasses, which included Jacob, wore identical ‘BCGs’ or ‘birth control glasses’ that were military issue. We sat sweltering in the building while too many people that no one cared about (drill sargents, captains, whomever) were introduced and given ‘honors.’ Finally, they told the crowds to exit the building and we could meet up with our soldiers outside. Just to show off, they made all the privates ‘drop and push’ or do push ups, and then they released them.
All of the sudden there was a massive rush of people and soldiers pushing and hugging and searching for one another and reunions all around. I started jumping up and down, trying to find Jacob over the heads of the crowd. At the time, I had a very tight perm in my hair. Jacob later said he could see my curly red hair bouncing up and down. He decided to sneak up from behind. One moment I was bobbing up and down, the next thing I knew, his arms were wrapped around me. My knees completely buckled as I collapsed into his chest. To this day, our reunion there is probably one of my favorite Jacob memories. Nothing felt better than being there with him and having him kiss me, even though we were surrounded by strangers, dripping with the heat of the day and being watched by his parents and his sister. I knew right then we needed to be together.
After I got off of my mission, I felt so much pressure to hurry and get engaged and marry Jacob. His parents were asking us for a wedding date before I had even been home for two weeks. I bucked against the pressure and refused to talk about weddings and getting married. If I did, I would say ‘Well maybe in six months or a year or so.’ I was whining to Chad about it one day, saying, ‘Why can’t they just leave me alone? Why do they want us to set a date so soon?’ Being ever wise, Chad asked me, ‘How long have you known you were going to marry Jacob? Just do it Jennifer. It has nothing to do with anyone else.’ The answer to his question? I knew that I was going to marry him since the summer of 2005-- the moment I felt myself in Jacob’s arms again at his Basic Training Graduation and I felt my heart stop and realized my life had been incomplete without this man."