Wednesday, August 06, 2014
The Mission :: The First Six Months
August 26, 2014 will mark the sixth month that the Big Iggy, aka the #lithuaniaexpress, aka Uncle Willie, aka, my brother, aka Elder Petersen has been a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He has been in Lithuania since the very end of April/beginning of May and about two weeks ago, went to his second city and is now with his second companion.
When he left, I really thought that I would write more about his mission and experiences on this blog. But the mission rules are pretty tight about sharing information about Lithuanians on any form of social media and they just got tighter. Elder Petersen isn't allowed to, as of a couple of weeks ago, share any pictures, even with his family, of any of the members or people he is working with. He can only send us pictures of him, the scenery, and I think his companions and the other missionaries. That, combined with the fact that my sister and I have a private blog (invited readers only) where we share his weekly letters and some of the pictures that he sends us has left this space void of his presence.
But, our lives are anything but void of his presence.
We seem to have developed, the boys and I, our daily, "uncle willie rituals", and they are helping us get through the days that we miss him.
When he first left, and was at the MTC in Provo, we sent him pictures and drawings and letters and photos and packages weekly. He was there for almost 9 weeks and even though we didn't get to see him, we were really in close contact with him, because he send us pictures and letters a couple times a week, too. Once he hit Lithuania however, we were reduced to one day a week of contact - Monday mornings and that has to get us through the week.
Luckily, my brother is an amazing writer and he knows that with three mothers at home (well, one real one anyway) that we want details so he humors us by answering our silly questions about his sleep, his zits, his shoes, the dryness of his socks, how his pants are holding up, and whether or not he really is getting enough to eat. He also fills our spiritual cup so to speak with wonderful messages of faith and devotion to the literal "mission" he has been called to. He is doing a great job and we are all so proud of him.
At home? We talk about Willie every single day. We check the weather in Lithuania and acknowledge the time difference (about 8 hours) multiple times a day. Willie goes to bed when we pick Elliott up from school and sometimes in the car we say, "good night, Willie" on our way home. Okay, I do it in my head nearly every day because my boys think I'm a dork, but still, it's done. Every prayer that is said in our home, that uncle of ours is the first blessing asked for. (The second, if you want to know, is for Great Grandpa, that he can be happy in his house.) "Bless Willie in Lithuania that he will be a good missionary," say the boys every night before they go to bed. We put a daily sticker on our countdown chart (he's been gone around 160 days so far), have his pictures all over our house, and wonder if he gets the chance to play basketball or football. And at least, oh, 7 times a week, someone is on my lap or next to me, looking at all the pictures and videos Willie has uploaded to all of our shared Drop box folders so we can see what he is doing.
On Sunday nights we write our letters. Elliott sends an e-mail every couple of weeks, with Wyatt as a contributing editor. I take dictation for the boys and do all the typing. There is always talk of school and sports, questions about the mission, and talk about poop. The boys and their uncle always talk about poop and farts and all the things that keep boys, boys. Apparently it is what binds them together.
Two weeks ago, Willie asked in a letter that we sit down and write down all of our favorite things about him BEFORE he was a missionary so that when he comes home, he can read them and remember how to be normal again. I read that part of the letter to the boys and immediately they wanted to sit down and make lists. So, we did. The three of us made elaborate lists of all our favorite "Willie things" and folded them up and sealed them in an envelope to be opened by him upon his return in the early winter of 2016. Man that sounds so far away.
Anyway, we miss him. And we love him. He is still our fun uncle. This summer has been particularly challenging because summer has always meant Uncle Willie. It's been hard not to have the Big Iggy on our couch, in our pantry, mooching lunch, swimming with us, going on adventures and taking the boys for Slurpees. Not to mention all the tai chi and yoga and other crazy things that he would always be teaching the boys. Oh, and the Squatch hunting. They miss the squatch hunting, too.
As he was flying to Europe, he called me from Chicago. I had been having a particularly rough morning, and had been hoping for a phone call from the goof ball all morning. Right when we pulled into the drive way coming home from preschool, I got a call from an unknown number and knew it was him. Of course I answered and the boy on the other end was so alive. So happy. So full of the spirit of God and life and all that was good in the world. It made my day to talk to him for those 20 minutes and over the last few months, I've reflected back on that conversation several times and how much of a blessing my big little brother is in my life, and the lives of my boys.
So, here's to nearly six months down. Only 18 more to go.
(Side note: If you are a reader of this blog, and you'd like to read Willie's letters, make a comment or send me an e-mail and I can send you an invitation)