Midnight in Laytonville. Twenty dollars in my pocket and ten miles worth of gas left in the tank. The gas station was closed. Only a credit card would get me home.
That’s when I decided I need one again. I can’t be trusted with them. But then, apparently, I can’t be trusted without them. Luckily, a trusting motorist with a card took my money and gave me the gas. I made it home with 20 miles of gas to spare.
The following Monday, I went to the bank to share my optimism and ask to borrow their money. My horse, “Super-glue” in the fifth race, would be coming in, I would tell them. A one-thousand dollar credit-line for me would be great in the meantime. They wouldn’t be sorry.
The bank lady typed in my information and said her computer was considering my offer. It pondered in silence for what seemed like hours. Then it came back with a “counter-offer,” to use her affirmation. The offer: “No way.”
Actually, she said the bank would give me a $1500 credit line if I gave them the money up-front first. In other words, if I gave them the cash first, they would loan it back to me. They just wanted me to walk away with a sense of hope and satisfaction. Cash, no. Pride, yes.
They later sent me a note saying I had been “selected” for their program, a flashy debit card as long as I paid up front. In other words, I had been selected for rejection.
Truth be told, I don’t mind being on a “no-fly” list for a credit card. Nor do I mind being stuck in Laytonville at midnight with no gas. It’s part of life’s adventure. And I can’t wait for the next turn in the road.
There is something to be said for not knowing where the next mile is coming from, just as it is not being sure of your next heartbeat. I know about both. Initially, I freaked out when I learned that my every heartbeat would be regulated by a pacemaker. I wouldn’t survive without it.
That has sensitized me to the value of every breath and how important it is to use them wisely. That’s why I get cranky when other people do not approach life with the same sense of urgency.
Driving home from Laytonville that night, I savored every mile—every tree, every road sign. I also thought about loved ones waiting for me, my cat crying and purring at the kitchen door. It made arriving home all the more special.
I now feel the same about life, especially its darkest times. I look back at my last year in wonderment. I had depended on so much to make me happy, teaching college, a TV job and of course Nina, all painfully and suddenly ripped away, leaving me to fend for myself, stranded in a metaphoric Laytonville. And yet I am still here.
I find great comfort in that and pass it on to anyone who has wondered where misfortune comes from—why we lose people of great value like Father Eric Freed. And there is no answer—not that we would understand. By the same token, we’re still here, and that’s no accident.
If anything, I am what I drive, a battered old Lincoln with dents in the side, a broken tail-light and low on gas. That’s me. And yet, every morning, the engine starts and the gears engage. It is ready to take me to a new place. And I am ready to go.