by Maria Mize
Snipets of life on the road, doing good deeds and finding your way home...
|ESCAPE TO THE STREET
My sister, Tawny, and I had been at the Dayton Mall – an hour’s drive from Monroe, Ohio, where we both still lived at home. It was 1977; and while I graduated in 1976, she was a junior in High School. I was working a good secretarial job and spending money. I bought a sporty suede jacket and probably a few other things. I’m not sure whether Tawny bought anything, whether I bought anything for her, or whether she was just along for the ride. We were always looking for a chance to get out of the house, sneak a smoke and listen to music without restraint.
It was cold and drizzling as we began our trek home in my 1977 silver Camaro with eight-track player and CB radio. We were "hot," or so we thought.
As we made our way toward the highway, we saw two girls, a bit younger than us, walking in the rain without an umbrella. We asked if we could give them a lift, and they accepted. They were running away from home. We could relate since things were not always “perfect” at our house either. We chatted and then let them off when it was time.
After they got out, we began to wonder why we picked them up --- they could have been thieves with a gun. We could have been robbed or killed. But guided by our conscience, we were no worse for wear and had done a good deed. While they were with us, we tried to convince them it wasn’t so bad at home, whereas without cash flow, hitch-hiking could be a dangerous game. We couldn’t let them continue on their course in the rain, at least until we reached our exit.
There was another time I stopped to pickup a lady walking along the highway in business clothes, just a few years ago. It seemed her car was defunct and while her husband was a City bus driver, this wasn’t his route. I took her back and forth to work for a couple of days as I found her walking along my route. It felt good.
Another time, there was a pregnant lady begging for handouts at the entrance to a mall. I stopped and asked if I could take her to a pay phone. Having worked briefly at a home for unwed mothers, I knew there were charities available to help her. She refused. Apparently, she had a boyfriend and wanted to stay with him. She preferred pan-handling with a boyfriend over a warm place to live with her unborn child. Ain't love grand.
A few years back my aging parents invited my maternal grandmother to live with them, their third attempt at making life just a little more pleasant for her. My grandma is a trouble-maker and has never liked my dad; so, she did little things to needle him, leave him out, making him feel like an outcast in his own home. He retired as head of security at the Armco Steel General Offices in Middletown, and it was his pension that was carrying he, my mother and grandmother. One day my grandmother crossed the line for the last time, and my dad blasted her with unretractable words, drawing back his fist as if to punch her, without following through. She called the cops; my dad grabbed a gun and left. He walked from Alabama to Pensacola, fully ready to spend the rest of his days on the street rather than go back home where we felt unwanted.
After a few days on the street, with the support of few kind policemen, he walked back to Alabama and spent about a week with my youngest sister and her family. In the meantime, my mother moved her mother to an assisted living facility, while pining over my dad, his whereabouts and health. When he took the gun, she was sure he might kill himself though he only pawned the gun to spend a few nights in a motel and shower before journeying back. He honestly told us that he was prepared to spend the rest of his days as a vagabond rather than living in the turmoil to which he had been subjected.
Now, all is well. My grandma is in a nursing home in Ohio where her son, my uncle, checks in on her every day. She can be very thoughtful with cards and gifts but also has a very obvious mean streak. Whenever a little wackiness is demonstrated by my mother, sisters, me or our children, we attribute it to genetics from my grandma's side of the family.
Over the years, though I don't condone life on the street, I've learned to be a little more compassionate to those who find it their only option. I admit there have been times I've thought about giving it all up and living under a bridge to escape from the cares of this world, just for a reprieve, but please don't feel sorry for me, I'm just a pilgrim passing through...