Monday, January 24, 2011

Donny and Marie, Agustin, and Me

Thirty-one years ago I traveled with some friends to Guadalajara, Mexico.

Our pal Kevin, a transplant from Wales, was the soccer coach for the University of Utah. Back then, kids in the good old U.S. of A. didn't even know soccer existed. The U decided to offer soccer as a club sport on campus, and Kevin recruited players, mostly from the Greek Row fraternities. I think he barely had enough players to field a team. (Times have changed dramatically since then.)

In an effort to show the team what soccer was really like in the rest of the civilized world, he arranged for them to participate in an invitational tournament, hosted by the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. Kevin recruited friends from his L.D.S. home ward to go along on the trip so he could book a charter flight and get group rates on hotel rooms.

We (those friends) all said something like, "Heck, yeah!"

So the bunch of us, a team made up of frat boys and a group of friends from Kevin's Mormon congregation, boarded a plane for a week together in Mexico. We were a motley crew (as opposed to a Motley Crue) and we all got along great—they drank their Dos Equis cervesas, we downed our Seven Ups and Frescas, and we toured the countryside and the city and watched soccer together.

Our group was assigned a tour guide by the Universidad Autonoma, a student from one of their English classes. His name was Agustin. When he'd heard that one of the teams was from Utah, he'd immediately volunteered. He liked America. He thought Donny and Marie were great, and he had a major crush on Marie. He knew all about the Osmonds: they were from Utah, they were Mormons. . . We were an opportunity for him to feel close to his favorite pop stars, and learn more about what they were like.

If you are rolling your eyes at the fact that he liked Donny and Marie, I will point out that they had a top-rated TV show at the time. They were at the peak of their young careers and they were hot hot hot. Think Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber hot. A little bit country and a little bit rock 'n roll hot.

Agustin was pretty cute and easy to be with. In fact, he kind of looked like a Mexican Donny Osmond—dark hair, dark eyes, big smile. He meshed well with our Seven Up and Fresca group. We exchanged addresses with him and wrote. We gave him a Book of Mormon. He even visited us in Salt Lake City a few months later.

Ultimately, though, I'm afraid I was not a very good friend. I stopped writing. I was young and inexperienced, and unsure how to deal with it all, especially with the language barrier. (This was before the days of e-mail and Facebook. You had to write a letter and send it snail mail with international postage attached.) I deferred to the members of our group who had served missions and spoke Spanish. Agustin actually called me to task on it. He wrote me one last time and told me he didn't expect any more letters from me, but that he was disappointed that I'd stopped being his friend.

I felt bad.

Wow, had I come up short.

Thirty years have now come and gone. All of us from the old home ward have moved on, married, lost touch. . .

Last week I was doing research on a project and needed to understand Spanish surname customs. On a whim, I thought I might understand the rules better if I saw them in action, and logged into new.familysearch (L.D.S. Church family history website for the uninitiated) so I could see an actual pedigree chart dealing with Spanish surnames. Again—on a whim—I decided to enter Agustin's surnames into the search engine. I wasn't expecting to find Agustin, however.

The name at the top of the search results jolted me. It had to be an ancestor related to Agustin! There were too many coincidences in the information. It included a contact e-mail address, but didn't include a contact name. I was pretty certain it was a chance to find Agustin after all these years, but I wasn't 100% certain. I wondered: do I write to this anonymous person, share the story and take a chance? After thirty years? I told my children about it; I asked my husband what he thought.

He said go for it.

So I did. Last Sunday night, I sent an e-mail to the anonymous contact, relating the story and finally asking, "Are you the Agustin who was with us in Guadalajara thirty years ago?"

Monday morning I had my answer. It was yes.

Agustin had been baptized. He served a mission. He married in the Mexico City temple. He has three daughters (who, by the way, are gorgeous enough to be movie stars), two of whom recently married in the Guadalajara temple. And my heart just about burst.

The Lord knows what we need and what we are looking for. He knew Agustin had a golden heart and was searching. The efforts of a young brother and sister act who were fresh and funny and good role models planted the first seeds. My friends and I, I believe, were sent to him to help those seeds grow a little more. After that, Agustin was able to continue on his journey of faith without us. But he was definitely not alone.

I am so grateful that my human failings—and failure—didn't deter him. I am grateful to have found a new, old friend, after thirty years of wondering.

Donny and Marie use to close their show singing this:

May tomorrow be a perfect day,
May you find love and laughter along the way,
May God keep you in His tender care,
Till He brings us together again.

Pretty appropriate, I'd say.

Life is good.