Thursday, March 04, 2004

My Martuni Love Story

When I first came to Martuni back in 1995, my friend Edik Baghdasaryan (the now well known journalist) guided our driver Vartan to Saribek Mardirosyan’s house.

We pulled up to find that Saribek’s widow Lilia was at work and found 4 of his 5 children home.

Edik was greeted with hugs and kisses from the children, while I stood off to one side with my hands behind my back and a serious look on my face, wearing my army green tee shirt and kaki pants, which were tucked into my combat boots.

We left Edik and Alec (another friend) and agreed that we would meet up in Mardakert later that night.

The next time I found myself in Martuni was in the summer of 1996, this time I came with Seta Melkonian (Monte Melkonian’s widow), where Seta and I would become the Godparents to 100 children in a mass baptism that took place on June 12th, the day that Monte and Saribek were killed in battle 3 years earlier.

Seta and the women stayed at Saribek’s in-laws house (the present day Mayor of Martuni’s parents house) while the men stayed at the military hospital.

My next trip would be later that summer, where I stayed where Seta and the women had stayed and was very quickly adopted by Saribek’s children as their big brother.

The following summer we once again had a mass baptism where 40 people were baptized, one of who was Saribek’s widow Lilia.

Seta and I had a nice long talk about Lilia, her children and their family situation in regards to the challenges they are facing. Many people were concerned with the future of their youngest child who was the only boy and Saribek’s friends who had been enriching his life since Saribek was killed. Unfortunately, they were not teaching him good manors and Lilia was quite concerned. Seta said that one thing that especially concerns her is this stupid Artsakh mentality of now that the father is dead, the son becomes the man of the house and the son was not dealing well with this as he was only 6 years old. Seta added that if I was going to be a part of their lives, I needed to do everything I could to provide them with a stable environment.

The following year, I moved to Martuni and before I moved into my own house, I lived at Lilia’s house. Lilia was the Judge for the Martuni region and for the most part we didn’t see much of her at home. Because of this, I would not only be big brother, but would also for the most part be mom and dad to the kids. By this time, the oldest sister went off to study in Yerevan, so my responsibility to her was providing a monthly allowance and occasional visits.

The years flew by and in that time, I attended many birthdays parties, trips to Yerevan to go clothes shopping for school, 3 weddings for the 3 oldest girls and many heart to heart talks to solve problems kids face.

The problematic son, who lost his father to a war that he himself almost lost his own life to at the age of 4, has turned into what his teachers call a man with a capital M. You can’t imagine how proud I feel when I hear these things and know who he takes after. When I see him interacting with others, I notice many things I showed him that have become a part of who he is today.

So what makes this a love story?

The love story comes from one of Lilia’s daughters who I immediately recognized as someone very special. Special in a way that she was the most angelic of Lilia’s children and someone who didn’t have a mean bone in her body.

Of the 4 children that I helped raise, I never had a reason to discipline this little angel (her name just so happens to be Angela). I mean 2 of the 3 other children, I use to physically spank to get them to behave, they were that bad.

I always thought that Angela would make a good wife to some lucky guy, if not me, but also decided that it was very important that even if that was to happen, she first had to grow up without presure from me in regards to getting married and only after that time would I decide if in fact she is what I would want in a wife. I also decided that if she for any reason was not interested in me, I would not pressure her.

Well the years passed and at one point it looked like I was not going to have my chance to find out if Angela would become my wife or not.

When Angela turned 17, she decided that she wanted to become a translator and would attempt to be admitted into Yerevan State University. She tried, but due to the problem we face with corruption, she didn’t get in and was so discussed with Armenia that she packed her bags, went to visit her oldest sister in Moscow and then with the help of her sister who got marred and moved to Europe, was going to join that sister.

To say the least I was very upset, but for the most part understood what she was feeling. I also knew from one of her sisters that Angela had feeling for me, but knew that I was not leaving Armenia, so she was no longer interested in me.

I had at that time decided that if Angela made it to Europe, all hell was going to break loose in Armenia and those that were responsible for her discontent of the country that her father gave his life for to make not what it had turned into, but what it should be, would pay for with their lives, since I knew my attachment to her was inseparable and even if I did get married to someone else, it would be very hard that the love would be what I needed to be happy. To say the least I was very pissed.

During this time and my trying to accept the fact that she will make it to Europe and when she does, it will be years before she has the right to come visit us, my general manager was introducing me to girls that I could maybe marry. As hard as I tried, none of them were even sparking a little fire in me. Yes they were good girls who would take good care of me, but I just could not get Angela out of my mind.

I did a lot of praying and asking God what I had done or not done to deserve this and if she did not return, I know I will never get married and will grow old alone. I told God that I have never asked for anything from him, but just this one time, please help me.

Fortunately for those responsible for her leaving, following September 11th and all the problems with illegal immigration, it became more difficult for 17 year single girls to get tourist visas and after living in Moscow for 3 months, Angela got a taste for the big city, which didn’t taste all that good. She decided that she would return to Armenia.

When she first returned, I was not sure if this was a return for good, or just to regroup and try again. Her sister in Europe was missing her family and to bring Angela to her side would be a welcome relief to her homesickness. For almost a year, I kept my distance and only after she committed to study in Yerevan, did I start to poke around and see if Angela was the person I was hoping she would grow up to be.

During the years, Angela had a couple of boyfriends, but their expectations of a wife and her expectations of a husband didn’t seem to correspond. In their minds, a woman’s place is in the home and for her, it is important to have a good education and possibly a carrier.

After 8 years of waiting, the wait ended. I figured out that Angela had turned into who I thought she would. The big question was if she was interested in me as much as I was in her (her sister answered question last December)? I popped the question a few weeks ago and of course since this is a love story, she accepted my offer to marry me.

This summer when her sisters come to visit, we will get engaged and then on June 25th, 2005 we will be married.

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