It may not seem like it, but I like to think of myself as lucky. Leaving Michigan didn’t turned out like I thought it was going to, and finding myself on the cold side of a door wasn’t exactly good fortune. But luck was still on my side as I waited for Jonathan to pick me up.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, in that moment the only thing I had to my name was a suitcase full of clothes and a few keepsakes, a couple of dollars and a phone number of a stranger I had met just hours earlier.
That stranger pulled up and opened the car door and said to hop in. It was 1978 in the Mid-West and yeah, I had hitch hiked before, but this was different. Hitch hiking always scared me, but I didn’t feel worried when I got into that car.
Luck was truly on my side because Jonathan turned out to be one of the kindest people I have known. I had a safe place to stay, food to eat, and a friendship that would last for decades. He listened to all of my stories about growing up in a large family.
One time we were sitting at a diner and after learning I was from Michigan he sang every verse of The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald to me. Right there, sitting at the bar, singing for all of us to hear. Every time I hear that song, I think of those few weeks we shared.
He was only in Springfield for a gig that soon would be up. He was moving on to another city in another state. I had to figure out where I was going next and it seemed to me my only option was to go back home to Hart.
Telling Jonathan, he sensed that I wasn’t happy about that choice. He reminded me of my stories about all my brothers and asked if they all live in Michigan. When I told him my oldest brother lived in Bend, Oregon, he encouraged me to give him a call to see if I could stay there.
Charles was getting a divorce and had custody of his girls, so he was happy to have his 18-year-old sister come help out. He sent me a Greyhound bus ticket and after saying goodbye to Jonathan and promising to always write, I was off to Oregon.
I had been across the country before with family, but traveling by Greyhound was an experience I wasn’t prepared for. Most of the people on the bus were men that seemed to stare at me too long.
It took 48 hours to arrive in Bend and I didn’t sleep one wink on that bus. I was too nervous to fall asleep. By the time I arrived I was disoriented and truly afraid I had made the wrong decision.
Stepping off the bus, I saw my brother. He always had a twinkle in his eyes and a big smile on his face. He gave me a bear hug and said, “Come on sis, there’s a shower and a warm place to sleep for you. Everything is fine now”.
And it was.