I remember so well what I was doing 22 years ago on January 19th. We were cooking Greek food in preparation for our wedding luncheon. I suppose I should explain how we got to that point though. It really is a pretty neat story.
April 1989 Catania Italy. There was a district conference and the members from Messina (where Giovanni lived and was serving as 1st counselor in the branch presidency) and the members from Reggio Calabria (where I was serving as a missionary) chartered a bus to go to the conference. On the way home Giovanni ended up sitting next to me. My companion was on the seat behind us laying down, she wasn't feeling well. My missionary tag was on my sweater, which I had taken off because it was so hot on the April day.
Giovanni and I started talking and after a few minutes he realized that I was a "sister missionary". We still continued to have a really nice chat for the 1 1/2 hrs bus ride back to Messina, where we would then catch the ferry boat to take us back to Reggio Calabria. I though Gio was a nice guy, but kinda different. We really did have a nice conversation though and ended it on friendly terms. He said if we ever needed anything in Messina to let him know and I gave him my address in America..like he would ever come to America, yeah, right!
I ended up being transferred a few days later to Siracusa. (Long story as to why...never the less, there I was.) I started having some health issues and didn't know what to do. The mission president said to talk to the members and find if there was a doctor that I could go see. I called Giovanni since he was going to the University in Messina. He gave me a few suggestions and names of people to contact. For the two months that I was there we talked on the phone a few times, but I really didn't think anything of it. After all, I was a sister missionary, and he knew it.
I was transferred to Palermo for the last 5 weeks of my mission. Deathly sick and not really knowing what to do. I was seeing different doctors and trying to medicate myself. I spoke with Giovanni several times and we would sometimes go off on another topic besides my health. But, I really didn't think to much about it.
When it was time for me to finish my mission, he actually came to the mission home to see me. He brought his cousin Carmen, 18 yr old member. We walked about Catania for a few hours. We went to a park, took a few pictures, talked...but that was all. I was so sad about leaving Italy and my mission. The next day we, the missionaries, boarded our plane to return home. I remember looking down at Sicily and thinking to myself, "who knows when I'll ever come back to this wonderful place?" There was a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
When I arrived home I had about 7-8 letters from Gio waiting for me. My mother had put them in my room. Before going to bed that first night I opened up the first letter and read about half of it. I couldn't read anymore. I felt sick to my stomach. I realized that he was hoping for something more than the friendship that we had established. After a month or so I called him and we began to talk on the phone...a lot! The phone bill was terrible. I'm sure my mother was going crazy every time the bill came. At one point Gio asked me to marry him, over the phone. I said okay...then realized what I had done, and called him back and said no, that I couldn't do that.
This went on from August until the end of October when he came to visit. I told him that he could stay with my family, but I had not intention of marrying him and moving back to Italy...yeah, right...my mom knew better. Gio arrived on Oct 23. He kissed me that night and that was it. Two days later he went to the temple for the first time. It was an incredible experience...and that night we decided that we were getting married. It was a glorious 6 weeks! By the time he left to return to Italy we had settled on a date. The following August. I was going to go to Italy in June and meet his family we would then return to Utah, get married and then go back to Italy to live. We had taken our engagement photos...Oh my....what was I thinking??
Gio went home on Dec 1, and within about 10 days we realized that we wouldn't make it until June or August. I called the temple and changed the date to January 20, 1990. It was a cold crisp winter day, but the sun was shinning and it was lovely outside. None of Gio's family came for the wedding. It was sad to not have them there for something so special and important. But they would not have been able to enter the temple and also, to be honest, they weren't thrilled with the idea. If you know the Italian culture then you will understand why...we went against every thing that is "normal and expected" in Italy.
We had a lovely reception and so many friends and family came. It was a fairytale and a mini mission reunion as well.
We were married on a Saturday and by Tuesday morning we were on an airplane back to Italy. Elders who were in my MTC group were finishing their missions and came to our home with their families for dinner and to visit. Six months after my mission I was married and living in Italy! Only crazy people do that!!
So many of my friends made comments and shared their opinions saying it wouldn't last. That I didn't know what I was getting myself into it. What if Gio and his family turned out to be freaks or mafioso...etc...what would I do? I really wasn't sure what I would do...but I did know that it was the right thing to do...I was suppose to marry him.
We have been blessed with two wonderful sons who are our pride and joy. As the years have past our love for one another has grown by leaps and bounds. We were young then...and with age and maturity we have grown to respect one another and we are best friends.
We have changed a lot over the years, and not just physically. Yes, we have put on pounds, lost some hair, have more grey hairs...but also our testimonies have grown. We understand so much better now what it means to be an eternal family. The sealing in the Provo Temple that day was just the beginning of something...every day we are working towards eternity.
Thank you Giovanni for 22 wonderful years. Thank you for laughing with me, and even at me sometimes. Thank you for your kindness, patience, and understanding. Thank you for loving me for better or worse, richer, poorer, sickness and in health...and for staying with me and loving me more and more every day. I am counting everyday...and feel blessed to spend eternity with you.
Ti amo amore mio. Grazie per tutto quello che fai e per la felicita' e gioai che mi porti ogni giorno. Non posso imaginare la vita senza di te!