Young Mormon men typically receive their calls at 19, but back then, guys like me got them when we were a year older. These days, we don't get them at all.
I was the first in my family to serve a mission. The Korean War had blown the old man's chances, and I was the eldest son. So there was no family protocol in how to handle a call once it finally arrived.
During the three weeks we waited, we discussed what to do. My mom was all for waiting to open it until dinner, when most of the family would be there. There was some talk of getting Grandma on the phone to listen in.
The old man didn't care how we opened the call as long as when we finally did, it would say I was going someplace inexpensive, emotionally punishing and far away. He refused to help pay for a mission within hitchhiking range of home.
Another kid in the ward got his call at the same time. His family jumped in the car and drove six hours so they could open it in the presence of some beloved cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and pets.
When the son of one of my mom's friends got his call, the family gathered in a circle, put the unopened envelope in the middle and prayed over it at length. They probably needed the comfort of the spirit when they discovered he was going to Idaho.
There are no real rules. Some open theirs at the temple. Others go alone to a favorite spot. A few have been known to throw huge parties and open their calls. The weirdest one I ever heard was a guy who wouldn't open his until he had his car up to 100 mph.
More recently, the son of a family friend got his call while he was off camping with friends. The envelope sat around the house unopened until he finally came home three days later. His mom was a wreck by then.
Not my family. Had I not been there to open it, the first person to come across it would have. But I was alone when I pulled it out of the post-office box.
Addled by the enormity of it all, I immediately read "Uruguay" as "Uranus" and thought I was going to one of the church's first missions in outer space. All things considered, I wasn't that far off the mark.
My mom cried. My dad cheered. My friends said I'd be back in a week. None of us had a clue.
A month later, I was gone.
It's your call. Open it however you want. It's the last completely free choice you'll be making for two years.
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.