It was the same every time, and I honestly believe that if it changed then my entire world would come crashing down. He would leave, come back for a while, leave again, but most importantly he would tell me to stay. I hated it when he told me to stay. You see, he was supposed to be my role model, the one person I could always come back to and depend on, but when I tell him things he laughs, when I ask where Mom is he pulls a beer out of the fridge, but he’s my role model.
Now I’m old, I’m grown – not really, I just decided to not stay. He left in his usual way, packed his duffel, put the top down on the car, grabbed a couple beers from the fridge, told me to stay and walked out of the house.
I watched him pull out of the driveway before I left. I packed my duffel, looked up bus times, robbed my piggy bank of its insides, emptied all of the beer into the sink and walked out of the house.
I walked to the bus station and waited for the bus and thought about what it was I had done.
See, the thing about Dad is he had money; he can up and leave if he wants to, but I didn’t. Sure, I had some in the bank, but most of my money had been in my piggy bank, of course I’d been saving for a while, but what I acquired still didn’t amount to much, but it was enough.
I caught the bus that day, I took my seat with fear and trepidation, and, trembling, I exited the bus when it got to where I was going, of course I didn’t know that was where I was going until I realized the bus had left without me and abandoned me in a small town in Maine.
It wasn’t what I expecting, I had thought that world would fall at my feet. That if I just stepped out and took a chance then this amazing feeling of freedom would empower me. I thought I would be invincible. I suppose I should have known that it wasn’t going to be like that, but I’d spent so long dreaming that it was hard to give up.
Reality bared her yellow-stained teeth in a frightening snarl and brought me clambering back to reality. I was left in a small town in Maine with almost no money and nowhere to stay. My dream of living in the untamed West was definitely over.
I spent the first few days living on the beach. I watched the tide roll in at morning, and sink into the horizon at night. One day it all changed.
I was sitting where I always sat when a lady approached me. She sat down beside me and I felt sure that she was some sort of community watch person about to tell me that I had to leave, but her words were much different than that.
“I’ve seen you here for the past three days, always the same spot,” She paused waiting for a response, but I just looked at her. “I know you’re not from here, because I’ve been living here my whole life and this is the first that I’ve seen you,” another pause, “Look, Sweetie, I don’t know your story, what I do know is that sleeping in the sand is awful and you can only buy so much food after combing the beach for change, so what I’m suggesting is that you come home with me and have shower, and bite of food.”
“Okay,” my response seem to catch her off guard because she jumped a bit at hearing my voice, to be honest I jumped a bit too. I hadn’t expected it to sound so ragged, but you can only buy so much water after combing the beach for change.
She and I stood up and I followed her to car that was parked by the beach entrance. She drove me to her house, handed me a towel and pointed me to the bathroom. I never expected that the first shower I took in Maine to be in some stranger’s home, but I was really in the position to decline.
After my shower she gave me some clothes to wear, explaining that they belonged to her daughter who was in college. She led me to the kitchen and we sat down to a satisfying meal of burgers and beans, and she asked me to tell her, so I did.
I told her about my dad and his drinking, I told her about my mom and her leaving, I told her that one day I decided I just didn’t want to stay, so I left. She asked me how old I was; I told her that I was eighteen.
“Where did you leave from?”
“Florida, I’d wanted to go west, honestly I’m not sure how I got Maine, but I got left in Maine.”
“Must’ve been angels brought you to us,” was her reply, at that time I really only had the ability to nod after a statement like that, so I did.
If there was one thing I knew then, it was that God didn’t seem to exist for me. All the crap that had happened to me seemed to prove it, but I didn’t want to disrespect her in her own home.
We’d finished our dinner by the time her husband and son came home. She explained who I was.
“Hi Honey, this is Jenny, she’s staying with us tonight.” I’d braced myself for a response that would tell how unhappy he was that I was there, what he said I did not see coming.
“Hi, Jenny it’s a pleasure to have you with us,” he said before engulfing me in a hug, “This is our son, Mattie.”
“Hey, Jenny, how are you?”
“Fine thanks, you?” My Southern drawl made a reappearance like it always did when I was nervous.
“You sure do talk funny,” was all he said to me.
A year later found me still living in their house and in college, it wasn’t like I didn’t value my education in Florida; it was one of the only outlets I had that I knew I could excel in. Mattie and I both attended the local state university that was an hour away. We’d take off in the morning and drive home at night. One particular night owned a conversation that strikes me to this day.
We were sitting eating dinner when they said, “We sure are glad you made it to Maine, Jen, you’ve been such a blessing to us.”
Not a very terrorizing sentence I know, but it was the first time anyone had described me as anything other than useless.
“I’ll never know how I got here, but I sure am grateful to you all.”
“Must’ve been angels brought you to us.”
It was the same thing she’d said to me that first night.
“I reckon it was something, that’s for sure,” I replied and continued to eat my dinner of, wouldn’t ya know, burgers and beans.
“I reckon you know who it was, Jenny-Penny, but you just don’t want to admit it,” Mattie said to me.
“Some things are hard to let go of, Mattie.”
“Don’t let it hold you back, you know how and who sent you here.”
“I reckon so, but I'm not ready yet.”
“We won’t force you, Jenny,” they interjected, “but we will pray for you.”
Several years after that found me where I am now moved out, done with school, and making my own way in the world. I’d finished my degree in business and managed to take all of those trips that I’d always wanted to take. But right now, at this moment, I found myself somewhere I never thought I’d go back to – my Dad’s.
I rang the doorbell, but he still hadn’t fixed it, so I pulled open the screen door and knocked on the wooden one behind. It took awhile, but eventually I heard footsteps and the door swung open.
“Whaddya want,” he exclaimed before he really looked at me, “Jenny?” The first thing I did was hug my dad, the second thing I did was hand him a Bible and told him to read it.
“It’ll change your life, Dad, it’ll change it as much as it changed mine when I decided not to stay all those years ago.”
We went inside, and we talked. We talked about the past and the future, we talked about him and we talked bout me.
“I reckon angels were watching out for you, Kiddo.”
“I reckon so, I know so.”
“So who’s the special someone,” he asked pointing to the ring on my finger.
“Someday I’d like to meet this young man.”
“Someday I’d like you to meet him. Preferably a someday before the big day.”
“I reckon I gotta go up North, then.”
“Yeah, Dad, I reckon so.”
“Alright, Kiddo, just tell me when.”
“Right now, Dad, pack your bags.”