Sean’s Journal: Wow! The Midwest is the place where you can set your car on cruise control and drive a straight line for 6-700 miles. I get a little sleepy. Thank goodness for music, apples, sunflower seeds, and a Pepsi or a Coke. A friend of mine once told me that he had the best steak dinner in his life in Davenport, Iowa. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I’m sure the locals will tell me which one it is. It must be the wholesome grain they feed the cattle on those Iowa farms. So, a steak in Davenport has been my first target for the day. I probably won’t do justice to Des Moines.
One short memorable incident: I have reminded myself to “do at least one good turn daily.” I saw an older couple on the side of the highway in their vintage Subaru Outback. The trunk was open with a spare tire leaned up against the bumper. It turns out that the old fellow knew what he was doing, but he had misplaced the hand crank for the jack. I looked under the carpet in a far corner of the rear compartment and found it for him. He went right to work and didn’t seem to have any other problems. His wife thanked me.
Vince, during the church services yesterday, I kept thinking about my Mom. It suddenly occurred to me that you’ve probably been wondering why I often refer to my dad, but I have not said very much about my mother. I think when we first met in the forest about ten days ago, we really didn’t discuss the true nature of my journey in much detail. You accepted my plan on good faith and I did the same about your involvement. I think we both agree that some cool conversation has occurred.
About my dear mother, we both remember the terrible wild fires that swept through the forests near Juniper and surrounding towns at the end of summer. Well, our family home was destroyed, and my mother and little brother were trapped inside and died. The firefighters couldn’t get to them in time. I guess I’m dealing with the great sadness I have felt by just moving on with life, including to do this cross-country journey.
So, I ended my day by finding a Motel 6 in a western suburb of Chicago. It’s way cheap and it’ll do for the night. I didn’t think it would be safe to camp in the city park I passed. There were lots of homeless people there. I’m sure they would have shared some colorful experiences, but, “tough guy” that I am (smile), I think I would have been just a little vulnerable. My high-tech camping gear would have been very conspicuous. My heart goes out to those who have so little. I struggle to know the appropriate way to help.
Vince, I hope to find a companion as loving and devoted as my mom. This is probably a good time to get back to my earlier question to you: How do I find the right one? I know you and Marie have been married for more than 50 years. You must have done something right.
Vince’s Response: You and I have been friends for just a matter of days. I even made some naive assumptions about how involved your journey would become or not. It’s turning out great. I feel that I know you, Sean, the kind of young man you are. I didn’t want to pry about your mom. I sort of figured that either something unfortunate had happened to her or, for some reason, your parents weren’t together. I am so sad to hear of her passing. During that wicked fire season, I was driving to and from the Juniper area, sometimes taking the long southerly way around to get to Juniper. From Interstate 15, I often saw red flames licking the skies from the mountain ridges in the distance. It was horrifying. I always hoped that no one died. At one point, the fires were raging about two miles south of our beloved Owl’s Nest. God bless you in the loss of your dear mom.
Sean, let me comment on just two things. First, your heading into Chicago reminds me of one of our grandest family adventures. When our six children were all under 12-years-old, we moved from our home in Massachusetts (where you’re eventually headed) back to Utah. We spent nearly three days on an Amtrak train with our kids as we traveled across the USA. I’ll tell you more tomorrow.
Secondly, about finding the right one…. I met Marie at a church youth activity. She was pretty and somewhat shy. I soon detected what a kind heart she had. Three days later at a college-sponsored dance, I fell in love with her. We knew very soon that our relationship was meant to be. The only way I could tell you that I knew for sure is that nothing ever seriously dissuaded me from loving her. Friends scoffed at our young age. I had a church mission yet to serve. She waited. We were married soon after I returned. We never doubted each other or the dreams we held for our future together.
Once when I was a teenager, I told my dear mother how I yearned to find an awesome girlfriend who would become my wife. She told me it was worthwhile to be patient and that she had a vision in her mind of a 5’5” brunette with a very sweet countenance who was waiting for me. I believed my mother and I recognized this young woman when we first met. Call it “love at first sight” or destiny or something that had its beginning earlier somehow. Let me take a familiar yet powerful excerpt from the poetry of William Wordsworth (1770-1850):
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar...
But trailing clouds of Glory do we come,
From God, who is our home....
Perhaps I knew Marie in that home. Obviously, this is not a checklist for finding the right one. It is a message of the spirit, because it is only your spirit that will know the right one when you meet her, not merely your palpitating heart or your mind’s eye will know. I’m sure you’ve asked your dear dad about falling in love with his angel.
Bookends: (1) Do a good turn daily. (2) Wildfires remind us that life is fragile. (3) Trailing clouds of Glory do we come.