Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's announcement that release of the American hostages may be two months away has left many of their relatives numbered and angered.
"We're quite disappointed," Margaret Lauterbach of Dayton, Ohio, said yesterday after Khomeini said a decision on whether the hostages are freed may have to await an April meeting of the Iranian parliament. Lauterbach, who said she was too upset to say much more, is the mother of Steven Lauterbach, a 28-year-old administrative employe at the American embassy in Tehran.
Four months after militants seized the embassy and captured its workers, the hostages' American families said their day are mixed with moments of false hopes and periodic despair.
"I heard them say April on the news. April is a long time." said Mary Jane Engquist, of Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. Her sister Kathryn L. Koob was the Iran-American Society's director in Tehran.
"It's been really, really hard. We've had so many ups and downs," Enquist said yesterday, "The news was very disappointing after all this time. But I'm not surprised at anything. I took the news like everything else. When I heard, I thought 'On again?' It's something that goes on and on. It's hard to believe anything."
Relatives said sometimes the wait is almost unbearable. Many said they leap to answer their telephones and sometimes they find sleep dificult, knowing that while they are asleep it is daytime in Iran.
"I depend on my faith, my other activities to keep me going and the kids have tried to keep their lives as normal as possible and not to try to anticipate anything before it happens, said Louisa Kennedy of Washington, wife of an embassy economic and commercial officer Moorhead C. Kennedy Jr.
"I go out with friends a great deal, I spend a lot of time with my husband's family," Kennedy said. "The only way we can get throught this is to stay normal and not to overreact."
The key to remaining calm, according to many hostage relatives, is to stay busy, and in moments of weakness, which come often, to talk to other hostage relatives who are experiencing the same ordeal.
"It took my daughter to point out to me the pointing, the whispering, the nudging among people who know what we [are a hostage family]," said Mary Lopez of Globe, Ariz., mother of Marine Sgt. James Michael Lopez, an embassy guard. "My daughter said it's hard to go anywhere. When I go to the grocery store, I get the same thing. People I don't know who recognize me come up, and it's nice to know that they care.
"I try to be gracious, but sometimes when I leave I am on the verge of tears," Lopez said. "It's hard to talk about it sometimes. People hear news of this or that and they get excited and come to me. We've had to many ups and downs that I don't get excited. People can't understand that.
"We try not to let our hopes get too high, or drop too low," Lopez said. "My hope isn't gone but I try not to overreach. There is a sort of numbness there after a while, and I go from hour to hour, day to day."
Silver Spring resident Pearl Golacinski, mother of hostage Alan Bruce Golacinski, a State Department security officer, said: "All you can do is wait and hope. There is hope ... this waiting ... you get up in the morning and you wonder.
"Like this morning, when I woke up I could hardly wait to read my newspaper and when I saw [the ayatollah's statement] I got real upset," Golacinski said. "I'm real upset now. I can't talk about it anymore."
Pat Lee of Falls Church, wife of Gary E. Lee, a State Department senior general services officer, said "You pray a lot and take each day one at a time.
"Most of us [hostage families and relatives] have children that depend on us," Lee said. "We've got to make sure that their lives aren't any more disruptive than it has to be."
Lopez said that the waiting has been difficult for her children as well.
"Things are so bad sometimes, it's hard to describe how I feel," she said. "It's not that I've given up hope, but at moments it feels so hopeless that you wonder why you keep going. At moments like that, I cry and pray a lot in that order, but I don't stay like that too long.
"The children look up to me and see how I am doing. It's been harder for them to go to school. "My son said it's hard to feel bad inside and see other people enjoying life," Lopez said.
"My daughter said it's hard to pretend that everything is okay, that she's having fun.She calls that putting on a mask."
"People tell me, I don't know how you are able to do so well," Lopez said with a sigh. "I may look like I am taking it so well, but on the inside I'm in shreds."