Category Archives: life story

The Journey

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Christmas arrived quickly for me and on what was supposed to be one of the most wonderful times of the year; I was worried sick about the journey that awaited me. The planning and all of the little details involved took weeks to finalize, and as my relatives and friends learned about my plan I gained wide spread support especially after everyone learned the true about who Becky’s father really was and how he treated her.

On Christmas morning my parents drove me to the airport, gave me hugs and kisses, and watched me board the plane. And as I traversed the terminal I mentally went through every last detail of my trip and prepared myself emotionally for what it would be like once Becky and I would finally be together as husband and wife.

It had now weeks since we had spent real time together and yet I could still remember what it felt like to hold her hand in mine, to smell the scent of her hair as she sat next to me, to look into her eyes and have her know my desire for her without saying it. It was those things about her that kept me going during the long weeks that had passed since we were last separated. and it was every other thing about her that made me hunger to return to her once again.

The plane ride to Portland, Oregon only, lasted a couple of hours and before I knew it, I was searching for the next gate where I would sit and wait once again before boarding another small airplane that would take me to a small county airport in La Grande, Oregon, which was very close to Becky’s home.

I felt like a spy on a secret mission to retrieve a priceless jewel from my enemy.

I was on a long journey to an unfamiliar city where I had to navigate my way in the dead of winter through snow and ice to rescue my wife from her vengeful father. By 3 p.m. the next plane was ready for me and the other passengers. We boarded the plane and sat there for a few minutes before the pilots voice announced on the intercom that our plane would be delayed for one hour because of snow and ice. We would stay on the plane and wait it out, hoping that the plane wouldn’t be grounded for the night. I began to grow nervous.

We waited on the plane until 4 p.m. when the pilot announced that the weather had cleared and he’d been given go ahead to fly. I began to relax and wondered about what I would have for dinner that night.

The plane took off. It felt like it was flying smoothly for a few minutes when it began to shake and the pilot advised us to buckle up due to turbulence.

“Shit!” One of the passengers next to me said.

I started to freak out and pictured the plane crashing into a small field, with my parents learning about it the next morning from an early phone call from the F.A.A.

“This can’t be happening!” I thought as the plane was tossed back and forth like a flimsy trashcan.

The other passengers on the plane were also visibly shaken and holding hands. Some were even saying prayers when the pilot’s voice came on the intercom again.

“Folks, as you can see, we’ve hit some bad weather this afternoon and will have to divert to Washington for the night.”

“No shit!” Said the passenger sitting next to me.

“Please keep your seat belts buckled because we will be landing in a few minutes.”

Washington?

After more shaking and rolling, the plane finally touched down in Washington. We exited the plane and were greeted by a heavy snowstorm that blanketed the area with snow and ice. I walked inside the terminal with the other passengers and stopped to look out of the windows facing the runway. There were dozens of other planes that were grounded by the heavy winter storm. When the pilots and flight attendants walked into the terminal I went over to ask them if they thought we would be able to fly to Oregon the next day.

“I don’t think so, sir. The weather report is saying that this is the worst winter storm up here in 20 years.”

“We might be grounded tomorrow,” The pilot said.

My plans were falling apart, again.


Feeling depressed, I went to look for my bags unsure of my next move. Airports were typically happy places for me, full of people eagerly coming and going to different destinations and cities but on that afternoon, the airport in Washington was full of displaced people who all had a glazed-over look in their eyes as they sat around waiting for welcomed news of departures. After searching and grabbing for my bags I found a corner of the airport and decided to lie down and rest. It was going to be a long night. So I accepted my fate and fell asleep.

I slept for a few minutes when someone started to shake me awake. “Son, you better get up.”

I opened my eyes and was greeted by an elderly looking cowboy who was holding his hand out to help me up.

“The airlines chartered a bus to take everyone to the hotel up the street where we can stay for the night,” He said.

I got up, rubbed my eyes and remembered that it wasn’t a dream, and that I was really one 1,000 away from home in the middle of nowhere.

“You look like a man on a mission,” The man said.

“You’re right.” I said.

“I can always judge a man by the look in his eyes,” he said.

“My name’s Angel Johnson,” he said as he positioned his hand for a handshake.

“My mother named me Angel in the hopes that I would stay out of trouble as a kid, he said, laughing.

Angel looked like the classic 1970’s T.V. character, “McCloud”. He was dressed in faded blue jeans, rough-looking boots, a long winter jacket, and a cowboy hat.

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“Let me help you with your bags,” Angel said.

“Thank you,” I said, feeling at ease.

“Where you heading?” Angel asked.

“Lostine, Oregon. My plane was supposed to land in an airport in La Grande, Oregon, but it was diverted here because of this winter storm,” I said.

“You have family in Lostine?” Angel asked.

“Yes,” I said.

What I didn’t tell him was that I was on a secret mission to save my wife from the hands of her psycho parents who forced her to accompany them.

“So you’re far away from home?” Angel asked.

“Yes. I’m from California.” I said.

“How about you?” I asked.

“I’m from La Grande, Oregon.”

“I’m heading back from a yearly fishing trip that I go on with old friends,” Angel said.

We walked over to the bus that was waiting for us and were driven to the hotel that was conveniently right up the street from the airport. Once we arrived at the hotel I was feeling more exhausted than ever, and walked over to the front desk and paid for a room for the night. As I walked to my room, Angel came up behind me pulling his luggage and said, “Son, the hotel manager just informed everyone that the airline is going to make another attempt to fly to Bend tomorrow, so everyone is supposed to meet at the front desk by 7 a.m. for our 8 a.m. flight.”

“That’s great news!” I said.

“Just thought I’d let you know,” Angel said as he opened his door.

“See you tomorrow!” He said.

I found my room and once inside, called my parents to brief them on where I was and what had happened that day.

“What’s the weather like at home?” I asked as I looked out the window at the heavily falling snow landing outside.

“Santa Ana, It was 80 degrees in the shade today,” my dad said.

“Save some warm weather for me, okay?” I asked.

“You got it. See you soon, son,” my dad said.

I hung up the phone and wanted to go home that night, but instead, I stuck to my plan and kept assuring myself that it was going to work.

The next morning, I woke up early, showered, and ate breakfast in the hotel lobby. I went over the remaining details of the trip in my head.

Step 1 – Arrive in La Grande, Oregon.

Step 2 – Drive to Lostine, Oregon.

Step 3 – Arrange a meeting point with Becky.

Step 4 – Get Becky and drive like a madman back to the airport to wait for the flight back to San Diego.

“It’s going to work, it’s going to work,” I kept telling myself.

After I finished breakfast, I went over to the hotel lobby, checked out, and was greeted by my new friend, Angel.

“Mornin, I thought you might need this,” Angel said as he handed me a large cup of coffee to go from the hotels restaurant.

“You read my mind,” I said, smiling.

As we sat there talking, the other passengers from the night before began to walk up to the check out counter. Everyone waited anxiously for the bus to arrive and take us back to the airport. Angel and I chatted with ease like two old friends about everything, from bass fishing and country music, to politics and religion, when the bus arrived and we boarded it with the other passengers and to head back to the airport.

“Looks like were on our way now.” Angel said.

“Thank God,” I said in relief.

The bus quickly drove us through the deserted streets and made it back to the airport in minutes. I looked out at the town, wondering where everyone was.

“It’s Christmas day. Nobody will be out today especially in this weather.” Angel said.

“It sure is cold,” I said.

“Bet it’s not like this in San Diego,” he then said.

“How’d you know I’m from San Diego?” I asked, feeling like Angel knew everything about me.

Angel smiled and said, “We better get goin.”

We walked into the airport and were greeted by dozens of angry passengers who were shouting and screaming at airline officials.

“Damn! I’ve got a business meeting today at 3 p.m.,” a businessman said.

“I have to get home to feed my dog,” and elderly woman declared.

“You bastards are always screwing us around,” claimed a young snowboarder.

“Yeah, man, typical bullshit from the Man!” said another snowboarder.

“Screw it bro, let’s go find a bar and get drunk!” another  snowboarder said.

“Must have beer!” They all said in unison as they went looking for the airport lounge.

“I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen, but the airline has informed us that there won’t be any planes coming or going for the next few hours because of ice on the runway,” the airline official said. “For those of you who can’t wait, we have car rental facilities inside the airport that can rent you a car for anywhere you need to go. For those of you who are going to stay and wait you will find our facilities comfortable. We have a Starbucks and McDonald’s in the terminal.”

“When is the earliest that we can get in the air?” I asked the airline rep.

“Probably not until 3 p.m. today,” he said.

That would screw up my plans and I wouldn’t be able to get to Becky’s in time.

“But that’s hours from now!” I exclaimed.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he said as he squirmed out of my way.

“I’m never going to get to Oregon,” I said.

Suddenly, Angel appeared out of nowhere and said, “Looks like everyone is in the same boat.”

“No kidding,” I said.

“I got an idea. Why don’t you and me rent ourselves a car and you can drop me off in La Grande on your way to Lostine, Oregon. I’ve got plenty of cash and can pay for half of it,” He said.

I thought about it for a minute and once again, my overactive imagination pictured Angel murdering me and dumping me on the side of a country road.

I was prepared to say no, but realized that he was probably a lot older than my dad was and couldn’t possibly pull a fast one on me. Besides, I was out in the middle of nowhere, with no friends or family, and decided that having Angel, as my travel companion and guide on this trip was probably the best decision I could make.

“That sounds like a great idea to me,” gleefully.

“Good, because I sure don’t feel like hitch-hiking my way home today,” Angel said.

We walked over to the rental counter, rented a brand-new Ford Focus and quickly got on the road. During the first few minutes in the car, Angel instructed me on how to drive in the winter weather and navigate through the completely foreign weather conditions I had never driven through. Angel really was my guide that day and made me feel completely at ease behind the wheel, even though it was snowing again outside and we continued to pass cars that had gone off the road every few miles, reminding me how dangerous the driving conditions were.

After driving for a while, I started to relax.

“What kind of hobbies do you have, Son?” Angel asked.

“I’m an artist,” I said.

Even though I said it, I didn’t really feel like one because I hadn’t painted or made anything new in over a year because of my relationship with Becky and everything that came with it.

I just didn’t have the heart to touch my art supplies or create anything new.

“An artist, huh?” Angel grinned.

“What kind of work do you do?” He asked.

I told him about my love of modern, abstract art and artists like Picasso, Matisse and Braque and how some day, I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

“Sounds like you have a lot of talent, Son.” Angel said. “Have you produced anything lately?”

I sighed and said, “no”.

“Why not?” He asked.

This gave me a natural opening to talk about my story. I talked for over an hour with my new friend and told him everything about my relationship with Becky and why I was really in Oregon.

Angel sat quietly for a minute and finally said, “son, I got one question for you. Why the hell are you going after this girl after everything she’s done to you? Especially with all your of talents and gifts, it sounds like you can have any girl you want.

I thought it over and said, “I have to try and make it work one last time. All of my life I’ve given up on things when the going got rough and I don’t want to give up on my relationship with Becky, especially if there is any hope left,” I said.

“Well, I don’t envy you with the path you’re walking because you sound like you face a great deal of opposition from her parents and that’s not easy to deal with, especially now that you two are married. You know that what you want to do might not work out right?” He asked.

“I know,” I said.

“It might not work out,” had been one of the main topics of conversation in my family lately. Nobody wanted to see me fail and witness my hopes and dreams fall flat, even though at that particular time my dream seemed like just that: a dream.

“Can I give you a word of advice, Son?” Angel asked.

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what to expect.

“Don’t give up on your other hopes and dreams after your journey is over. Even if your plans with her don’t work out, don’t give up on your art when you get back home. God gave you those artistic gifts for a reason, and I don’t think he’d want you to waste them. Take it from a guy who’s walked in your shoes and seen it all, okay?” Angel said.

“I appreciate the advice, but I’ve got to see this journey through and give it my best shot.” I said.

“I know you do, I just don’t want you to come home a broken man if your plans here don’t work out,” he remarked.

“You sound like you’re speaking from experience,” I said.

“Son, it would take me a few days and lots of beer to tell you all of my stories. Unfortunately I can’t drink anymore and we don’t have a lot of time left together.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Look,” Angel said, pointing out the window to a sign that read, “Welcome to La Grande Oregon.”

I looked at the clock and realized that we had been on the road for hours. It was already 1 p.m. and time seemed to fly by quickly while we drove on the empty, icy roads.

“Why don’t you drop me off at the town hall? Then I can get you a map and show you how to get to Lostine,” Angel promised.

“That sounds great.”

“I can’t believe that we’ve been on the road for this long!” I said.

“Well, the Good Lord has been looking out for us,” Angel said.

Grande_Ronde_theater

La Grande Oregon

 

La Grande, Oregon, looked like Mayberry and with the prevalent snow-capped rooftops it looked inviting to a tired homesick traveler like me. Once we found the town hall, Angel and I got out of the car and entered the warm town hall building and were greeted by friendly, cordial faces.

“Welcome to La Grande!” A girl behind a nearby desk said to me.

“Ma’am, this young man needs a map of Oregon so he can route out his trip to Lostine to see his family.”

“Well, you’re in luck! I just happen to have one right here!” The girl said.

She opened her desk drawer and pulled out a well-worn map of Oregon. She then proceeded to highlight the easiest route into Lostine. Things were now going exceptionally well and I was developing confidence in my plans once again. While she highlighted, Angel stood calmly next to me and when she was done, we thanked her and walked back outside.

 

We outside looking at the snowy day for several minutes when Angel said, “Son I better get home because I’m dogged tired and, besides you got a long drive ahead of you.”

“You want to go get some lunch or something?” I asked.

“No. I appreciate the offer, but I think it’s time we get going,” Angel said.

Once again, the kind old cowboy and I shook hands like old friends.

“Son, it was great meeting you. Don’t forget what I said about not giving up on your goals or dreams if your plan doesn’t work out okay?”

“I promise,” I said.

“And if I’m ever back here, I promise that I will look you up and take you out for a steak,” I said.

Angel chuckled and said; “I’d take you up on your offer if my doctor would let me eat red meat. Those hippie doctors won’t let old folks like me touch that stuff anymore.”

We laughed and stood there for a few more seconds before Angel said, “You better get goin.”

I thanked him again and we parted ways. I walked back to the car while Angel started up the street towards the direction of an old hotel in town. I got into the car, rolled down the window, and looked up the street for him, but he was gone. “Thanks again Angel,” I said into the wind and continued on my way.

The drive into Oregon could have been a lot worse if I didn’t have an experienced traveler like Angel to guide me on the roads, and give comfort to me after I told him my story.

I was in La Grande, Oregon, only a few hours away from my wife, a few miles away from seeing her again. I was getting excited, so I raced along the snowy roads anticipating our reunion.

En route to Lostine I drove through the remaining little towns with ease until I finally reached Becky’s new home. The town wasn’t much to look at. With no major stores, buildings, developments, stoplights, or civilization around for miles, I could see why this town appealed to her father’s nature. He didn’t move his family up here because of the great weather and atmosphere. Fred moved his family to Lostine because he wanted to hide them from the real world, keeping them locked up in his own little world until the day he died.

Nobody knew who he was, people would easily fall for his deception, and neighbors would welcome him into their lives, appointing him their new religious leader. I pitied the people in this town and couldn’t wait to get Becky and leave immediately. I was already sick of the constant snow, cold, and steel grey skies. I wanted to see sunshine again; I wanted to get back to the blue skies and warm weather of San Diego with my wife by my side.

Once I pulled into town, I drove around for a few minutes and surveyed the scene to make sure that I knew all the towns’ roads and was familiar with the major intersections. I knew that if Becky’s family saw me outside their house, they would call the police to arrest me. Or even chase after Becky and I in the rental car. I didn’t want either scenario to happen and prepared myself emotionally for whatever was in store for me.

I found the old, beat-up house where Becky’s family now lived and slowly drove past her kitchen window, catching a glimpse of her inside doing the dishes. It was around 3 p.m. and I knew that her parents had asked Becky and her other sister to get things ready for dinner at 5 p.m. As I drove past her window, I waved, turned a corner, parked the car up the street from her house and waited. After a few minutes, she slowly came out of her house, walked up to my car, and got inside. She wasn’t excited to see me.

There wasn’t a passionate embrace or speedy exit like in the movies. Becky was indecisive again and giving me the cold shoulder. I grabbed her and kissed her, but she was like kissing a cold fish.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked, sensing what she was thinking.

“Becky? Hello?” I said, waving my hand in front of her face.

She just sat there, thinking over what to say.

“Jeremy, I don’t know if this was the right idea,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We broke my parent’s laws and God’s laws.” She said.

“Becky, I’ve just come 1,000 miles to get you because you asked me to. We’ve had this conversation again and again about what the right decision is, but the question isn’t what your parents want, it’s what you want. What do you want, Becky? The dream we had is now a reality and we can make it happen if you leave with me right now.” I said.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Becky kept saying, acting like she was doped up.

“Becky, what’s wrong with you?” You begged me to come and rescue you, and now that I’m here, you don’t want to go?” I said.

“I’m sorry, Jeremy,” she said.

“I’m sorry to,” I said.

“Can you give me until tomorrow?” She asked.

I laughed and said, “What’s a few more hours going to do? If your mind is already made up, I can’t change it for you in a few hours,” I said.

She looked at me clearly and said, “I don’t have a bag ready and will need one more day to get prepared,” she said.

“Alright, if I come and get you tomorrow morning, do you promise that you will leave with me?” I asked.

“I promise,” she said.

Suddenly, Becky’s parents pulled into their driveway in their old beat up station wagon.

“Oh no!” She screamed.

We slid down into the rental car seats and waited until they went inside.

“Alright, I’ll come back for you in the morning at 6 a.m. and you better be ready!” I said.

Becky agreed and we kissed quickly, and she exited the car and ran back inside her house. The plan wasn’t working out like it was supposed to, but plans often changed. And since I was here in her town, I didn’t plan on leaving without her. Once I was certain all of her family members were inside their house, having dinner I started up the car and quickly drove away in search of a motel.

Because Lostine had no major developments and no hotels, I was forced to drive to the next town a few miles away, where I found a nasty rat trap hotel that I could stay in for the night. The room smelled like cat piss and cigarette smoke, but it was a roof over my head, and once inside, I slumped down in an old chair and immediately fell asleep for the next few hours. I awoke around 11 p.m. that night hungry because I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. I decided to get in the car and go looking for the nearest restaurant. I couldn’t find any restaurants, fast food joints, all-night gas stations or any place to buy food late at night. Evidently, Oregon shutdown early, every night at and everyone was tucked away safely in their comfy beds. I was tired, hungry and homesick.

Lostine Oregon

Lostine Oregon

 

I didn’t know what else to do that night but drive so I stepped on the gas to see how fast the rental car would go.

Since the streets were deserted and there were no stoplights or other traffic for miles I went faster and faster until the car reached 100 miles per hour. After a few miles of driving at race car speeds I slowed down and was doing about 55 miles per hour along the country roads when a police officer pulled out from nowhere with it’s lights flashing.

“Shit!” I said laughing at the situation.

Here I was racing the car at 100 miles per hour a few minutes ago, through the deserted roads of Oregon and now this cop was going to give me a speeding ticket for driving at a measly 55 miles per hour? I hated getting a ticket but laughed at the irony and rolled down my windows as the cop walked up.

“You’re out here kind of late, aren’t you?” He asked.

“Yes, sir,” I replied.

“You know how fast you were going?” He asked.

“No, I’m from out of town,” I said, ready to laugh in his face.

“Don’t get smart with me, Son, you were doing 55 in a 35 zone.”

“Officer, it’s midnight. Unless there are cows out walking the streets at night, I don’t think anyone was in danger,” I said.

“Give me your license and registration, Smart Ass,” he said.

I handed it to him and he walked back to his car, never failing to keep his spotlight flashed through my back window while he checked my license.

Finally, he returned and handed me his notepad for me to sign his ticket.

“You’ll get your ticket mailed to you in 30 days,” He smiled.

“Excuse me, Officer Johnson; is there a McDonalds in this area? Because I’m starved,” I said.

“My name is Officer Smith,” He grunted.

“I advise you to go back to wherever your hotel is and stay there before you get into more trouble,” He said.

I mock saluted him, rolled up my window and drove away, leaving him standing out in the cold. When I got back to the crappy hotel I looked at my watch and it was 1 a.m. In a few hours, I knew there would be a final resolution: she would either come with me to the airport and we would go home together, or I would leave her in Oregon and never see her again. I didn’t want to think about what would happen if she changed her mind on me again, so I tried to keep such thoughts out of my head as I drifted off to sleep.

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The chess match

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Monday came quickly like any other Monday except on this one, my friends at work were shocked to see me back so soon when I was still supposed to be on my honeymoon with my wife. They were even more shocked when I began to tell my tale of what happened over the weekend and the disaster my wedding day brought.

Everyone comforted me that day, and once I told them the complete story, nobody brought up what happened to me again because they to repeat it again and again would be like driving a knife into an open bloody wound. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the day and considered going home sick when my phone rang. I answered it with robotic precision and the voice on the other end made my blood begin to boil.

It was Becky’s mother, the only woman in the world that I didn’t want to talk with at that moment.

“Is this Jeremy?” She asked in her gruff, manly voice.

“Yes,” I said, holding back my temper.

“Jeremy, Becky and I are at the courthouse right now and you have two choices. One, you can take the easy way out and annul the marriage or take the hard way and get a divorce. What’s it going to be? The clerk is waiting.” Her Mother asked.

“Where the hell do you get off calling me after what you and your husband did to Becky and me?” I exclaimed.

“I thought that you would say that. I knew that Fred was right about you,” she said in a sinister tone.

“You listen to me, you evil bitch. There isn’t going be an easy or hard way because I’m going to do things when I’m good and ready. You got that?” I yelled into the phone.

Becky’s mother continued to breathe hard into the phone like she was out of breath, I knew that she was pissed off and trying to think of what to say next.

“Is Becky there?” I asked.

“She doesn’t want to speak with you,” She said sadistically.

“Put her on the phone now!” I demanded.

I wasn’t mad at Becky. In my heart, I still loved her and if she was really there, all I wanted was to talk with her again to try and make some sense of the situation. I was madder than hell at her parents and had spent the last few days thinking of ways I could get back at them within lawful limitations. I heard her mother pass the phone to Becky.

“Hello??” she said.

“Becky, its Jeremy. I’m not going to pretend that in a million years, I will ever understand you or why we are in this situation. I don’t know what’s going on inside your head or what your parents did to you growing up to make you turn out like this. All I know Becky is that I love you and part of me will never stop loving you. I want you, not your mother, to tell me it’s over. Tell me what option to take and I’ll take it. Tell me to go away and you will never see me again.” I said.

There was strict silence for a few seconds, then she said; “We have to do what they want.”

“Becky, we don’t have to do anything they want!”

“You and I are adults and if you want me to fight for you, I’ll be at your house tonight with the police to get you out of that house. Or do you want me to go away?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“Do you want me to fight for you?” I asked.

“We have to do what they want,” she said again and again, like someone had drugged her.

“Do you want me to fight for you? Yes or no?” I asked.

“Yes,” She replied.

Just after she said yes, her mother grabbed the phone from her and said; “Alright, Jeremy, what’s it going to be?”

“You listen to me, you evil bitch. Until Becky tells me to my face that our marriage is over, nobody is going to force us to do anything!”

“You better be damn well-prepared because there’s going to be Hell to pay for what you and your husband are doing!” I yelled.

“You son of a bitch!” She demonically exclaimed right before she hung up the phone.

After she hung up, I spent the next few minutes shaking. When I finally calmed down, I called my mom and told her what happened. Once again my mom was blown away that anyone like Fred and his wife could masquerade as God-fearing Christians while underneath the façade, they were wicked.

As we talked, she thought of her friend, DJ whose husband Steve, a local attorney and had given our family free legal advice in the past.

“You should call Steve. He’s helped us out a lot in the past few years and I’m sure he can give you a lot of advice about your situation,” she said.

She gave me his number and after we wrapped up our call, I phoned Steve and replayed with him all of the details from what happened on the wedding day to my phone conversation with Becky and her mother.

 After I finished my story, Steve rolled out an arsenal of ideas for me.

“You should call the police and ask them to do a welfare check because she’s your wife and they are holding her against her will so you can tell the police that you’re concerned she’s been kidnapped by her parents.”

After his suggestion and a few others, I called the police and told a dispatcher that I believed my wife’s parents kidnapped her and were holding her against her will.

They asked me what kind of proof I had for this and they transferred me from department to department until they finally found the right dispatcher that told me I was talking to the wrong police department and that I should call the police in Becky’s area.

After taking some more time to cool down emotionally, I called the East County police department. Eventually I reached a dispatcher, Wanda who asked me about the situation and I launched into my story and told her all of the details.

“Damn, Child, she sure screwed you over didn’t she??” Wanda said.

“Why does a nice, young man like you want to go back to a woman like that?” She asked.

“Because I still love her and feel that her parents are holding her against her will at their home,” I said.

“Honey, you should just give up and realize that you got lucky by this happening when it did. You could have been married for one year before she run back to her parents with your child. Then you would have been really screwed.”

“I have to save her; I have to try,” I said.

“Okay but you realize that if she don’t want to see you again, then it’s over right?” Wanda asked.

“I do,” I said.

“Alright then, I will schedule a welfare check tonight. One of our officers will call you this afternoon and want you to meet him somewhere close by before you go to their house.” She said.

She took down all of my information and told me that everything was set up for the police to visit Becky’s home tonight.

“Will this work?” I wondered to myself.


 

“Will the police get her out of the house, away from her parents, to talk to her about what’s going on?”

I didn’t know what to expect. Once again I was treading into unfamiliar territory, but this time, I had the advantage. If Becky could get away from her parents long enough to speak with the police officers, she could tell them how she really felt and they would free her from her, “prison”. I felt like I was playing a championship game of chess and was nervous as I pondered how the next move would play out.

In a few hours, I would try to bring Becky and me together once again, and I had no idea what would come of my efforts.

If my plan worked I was prepared to do anything to keep her, even drive hundreds of miles away to my Aunt Susie’s house to run away from her parents and keep Becky safe until her family was out of California for good.

By 4 p.m. I received a phone call from an Officer Ryan, who instructed me to meet him over at the 7-11 near Becky’s house by 6 p.m. to prepare before departed for the welfare check. After I got the call, I raced over to the 7-11, leaving my parents behind wondering if I lost my mind once again and was getting into more trouble.

Once I arrived at the 7-11 I waited there for what seemed like forever until a black and white police car finally pulled up next to my car and I got out to greet the police officers.

“Jeremy?” A huge police officer called out.

“That’s me,” I answered.

“I’m Officer Ryan. This is my partner, Officer Bolton.” He said pointing to his partner who nodded in my direction.

Out of habit, I looked at officer Bolton’s name tag and noticed that it said M. Bolton.

“Michael Bolton?” I asked, looking at the officer.

Officer Bolton looked pissed off.

“I wouldn’t go there if I were you.”

“He gets teased all the time about his name back at the station,” Officer Ryan said.

After the humorous moment, the conversation turned serious when Officer Ryan asked me why I thought my wife was in danger. And then he briefed me on what they planned to do when the got to Becky’s house. After we agreed on the plan, they made me promise that I would stay by my car so that her parents wouldn’t know that I was on the street watching the situation go down.

“It’s for your own safety,” they said.

I agreed then we all got into our cars and they followed me over to Becky’s house. I parked the car behind a looming oak tree two houses down from her parent’s house and got out of my car to watch the officers approach pull into the driveway in front of her house, after calmly exiting the vehicle the proceeded to walk over to the front door. Officer Bolton knocked for a minute on the door when Fred came out to speak with the officers.

Becky’s house had a small porch that was secured by bars and a metal gate. Fred stepped outside his door and made no effort to come close to the gate or even open it.

The police officers talked to Fred for minutes until finally he went back inside and Becky came out to speak with the officers. I wanted to run to Becky and tell her that I was there but decided to do what the police officers said and stay away. The officers talked with Becky for a few minutes, occasionally motioning for her to come out from behind Fred’s security gate but she wouldn’t do it.

They didn’t even bother to get her away from Fred’s house and I knew that Fred was standing behind the front door, like a menacing jailor, listening to her every word.

Their conversation was over before it even began.

After only two minutes Becky smiled at the police officers like she was okay, went back inside her house, closed the door and as soon as she had come was gone. I stood there dumbfounded.

They were supposed to conduct a welfare check but they didn’t even get close enough to her or get her away from her parents to see if she was really safe. Once the conversation was over, the police officers got back into their car, pulled up the street in front of my car and we walked back to the large oak tree to discuss everything that she had said.

“What did she say?” I asked.

“She told us that she was fine, wanted to be there, wasn’t in any harm, and asked us to please leave,” Officer Ryan said.

“Why didn’t you ask her to step off her porch, away from her house?” I asked.

“Because she didn’t want to and preferred to stay where she was,” Officer Ryan repeated.

“Her father on the other hand, couldn’t stop complaining about you,” Bolton said.

“What’d he say?” I asked, acting like I didn’t know what was coming next.

“He said that you kidnapped his daughter and forced her to marry you over the weekend and that you threatened his family because they tried to stop you,” Bolton said.

I was blown away. I didn’t even think Fred could stoop that low in his lies but he finally did.

“He also said that if you ever step foot on their property again, they are going to press charges,” officer Ryan repeated.

I felt like a vindictive hoodlum kicked me in the ribs and I couldn’t catch my breath. I didn’t have any enemies, yet Fred hated my guts and for what? Because I loved his daughter and didn’t want him to treat me like a slave for the rest of my life? That bastard.

“Listen, Buddy I met the father and from talking to him for that short period of time, I can see what kind of person he really is, so I understand what you’re going through and I’m going to give you only two pieces of advice. One, stay away from that house, because if you go back there, it’s only going to mean trouble for you and two, give up on her because as you saw tonight, she doesn’t want to return to you and that should be enough to tell you that chapter in your life is closes,” officer Bolton said.

I stood there staring at Becky’s house, trying to comprehend it all.

“Got it?” Bolton asked looking at me with a stern look on his face.

“Got it,” I said, feeling defeated once again.

“Come on partner let’s get out of here and go arrest some hookers on El Cajon Boulevard,” Officer Ryan said, looking over at Bolton with a grin on his face.

I thanked them and walked over to my car, feeling like the story was over. I didn’t feel depressed or crazy like I did on my wedding day. I only felt sad that I had taken it this far and yet we still were not together. I had to play it out to see what might happen. Over just a few weeks, I endured the emotional fight of my life and having done so, naturally I felt like a wasted man.

I slumped down to the ground, wanting to lie there, next to my car all night, without caring if I got hit by another car or not.

Where was Ernest Hemmingway when I really needed him? I needed someone like him to unload all of my sorrows to after a few stiff drinks and then be told that I would recover from this loss. I needed a Kung Fu master to come out from the shadows and convey some philosophical solution, comforting me with promises of clarity.

I sat there feeling sorry for myself for a few more minutes when I finally had enough energy to get back into my car and go home. Tomorrow was another day. I’d wake up and start breathing again, trying to forget her. I’d never forgive her parents for what they did to us or quit loving her at least not for a long time. But I knew that with each day we were apart it’d get easier and I’d begin to live a little more each day.

 Later that night, after I got home and told the latest part of my story to my parents, they comforted me once again and asked me to give up and move on with my life.

“You gave it your best shot, Son. That’s something that any man would do,” dad said.

“I hate what this is doing to you, Honey, so please give up and let her go,” mom respectfully requested.

I promised that our relationship was over and that they could rest easy in knowing that I wouldn’t try to go after her again.

“Good, because there’s always plenty of fish in the sea,” My dad said.

What did that mean though?

Do we get multiple opportunities in life to find the right person to spend our lives with, or is it a one-shot deal and everyone we meet after that is a pile of crumbs left over from the cake?

Before I went to bed I wrote this poem.

It’s over

My heart is sad.

I fee like I’ve drowned in a flood and don’t know that I’m dead.

With all the love I have to give and gave her how come she didn’t let me into her life one more time to save her?

I’m tired of fighting this battle!

When will it end?

For to long now I’ve fought this unseen battle against a man that I thought was once my friend.

Good, evil, hell, disaster why can’t a simple word like love be the answer?

I didn’t ask or want to get caught up in this fight.

I didn’t want to get caught up in this strife.

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I almost lose my mind

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justice of the peace

It was time.

I looked over at Becky, she smiled as I grabbed her hand, and we walked over to the room where the wedding ceremony would be performed.

My parents, sister her son and my grandma followed with their cameras ready to witness the moment.

As we stood in the room, I looked over at my family and was blown away by their love and support, I wouldn’t have been able to follow through and stand firm on my commitment to marry Becky without the support of my family.

I looked over at Becky and melted in her beautiful brown eyes and imagined what it would be like later that night when we could finally share our passion a husband and wife.

“Are you ready?” The justice of the peace inquired.

“Yes,” we said in unison.

As we faced each other delivering our vows and promises to each other, life seemed perfect.

I felt harmoniously content at that moment. I had found the woman I loved and was going to face the future with my soul-mate by my side.

Before I knew it, the ceremony was over and the justice of the peace said, “You may kiss the bride.”

Becky and I smiled right before we shared the longest kiss that we had ever had with each other.

No more looking over our shoulders.

No more hiding our relationship in fear that her father would find out and break us up.

It was real. We were married and it finally seemed like our relationship was meant to be. My parents were thrilled and took a whole lot of pictures. Becky and I hugged everyone in my family and we went out to celebrate. My parents didn’t want us to leave us right away and decided that they wanted to take us out to breakfast at the nearest Denny’s that was right up the street.

We got in my car and followed my parents to Denny’s for breakfast.

I kept replaying the wedding ceremony in my mind and I felt like shouting gleefully from the top of a mountain top because it was the best day of my life. I was so excited that I wanted the honeymoon to start immediately but didn’t get the same impression from Becky. She looked like she had just attended her parent’s funeral. She wasn’t saying a word.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” I asked.

She looked at me and burst into tears.

“What is it?” I asked.

She wouldn’t tell me what was going on.

“Aren’t you happy?” I asked.

“Yes,” She replied.

“Then what’s wrong?” I asked.

“My parents. I was just thinking about them again.”

“This is not how I imagined my wedding day to be, I always thought that they would be there by my side.:

“Becky, I love you. And I swear that I will do whatever it takes to fix my relationship with your father and get him to accept our relationship.” I vowed.

“Once I fix my relationship with your parents they will have to accept us as husband and wife. Then we can get married again in a church ceremony like you always wanted.”

“Isn’t that what you want? Because I swear that I will do everything in my power to make that happen.”

“Yes that’s what I really want,” She said.

“Then once our honeymoon is over, I will work hard to make that happen. But today let’s just focus on what just happened ok?”

I grabbed her hand and held both of out hands up to let the sun reflect off of our wedding bands.

“Becky, were married!” I said with excitement.

“Something that we thought would never happen a few weeks ago did happen, and there’s nothing anyone can do to take that away from us!”

She smiled, leaned over, grabbed me, and started to kiss me like we did before her father had broken us up.

“Are you lovebirds coming?” My Dad asked as he walked passed my car with the family as they walked into the restaurant.

“Be right there, Dad,” I said smiling, as everyone walked passed us, talking excitedly about the ceremony and what we had just gone through.

Being able to hold Becky felt wonderful after having been away from her for so long. We finally went inside and had a big breakfast with the family, talking excitedly with my parents, sister and Grandma about the future, what our plans were and of course, the honeymoon.

Breakfast was over before I knew it and as walked out of the restaurant; my dad pulled me aside, looked me in the eyes, and said. “I’m proud of you son. You stood up like a man, kept your word and now you two are finally married. Congratulations!” He said as he bear-hugged me.

I told my dad that I loved him and couldn’t thank him or my Mom enough for their love and support during the last year.

As I walked away, my dad handed me an envelope and said, “Here, you’re going to need this.”

I looked inside and saw hundred dollar bills.

“It’s for the honeymoon,” he stated.

After Becky and I hugged and kissed everyone again, we waved goodbye to everyone and they got into my parent’s car and drove away.

I looked over at Becky and said, “Are you ready?”

She smiled, and we ran for my car to hit the road for our honeymoon which was only 15 miles up the highway in a little town called Cardiff by the Sea.

Driving up the highway to our hotel, we talked actively about the night-to-come when we could consummate our relationship. She told me that she had bought something special for the big night, which only increased my sexual expectations.

I knew that before her father broke us up, she had been avidly reading sex books that she picked up from the public library, so that she would be prepared for our wedding night. Her parents never knew what she was reading, and every time they passed her room all they saw was her knitting a new blanket for one of her siblings or writing a letter when she was secretly preparing herself for our night we had looked forward to for so many months.

We finally got to the hotel and checked into our room.

Once we were inside, I closed the door and led her over the bed.

I didn’t want to wait for nightfall and I playfully pushed her on the bed and began to take off her clothes when she started saying, “wait, wait, wait.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“We need to call my parents,” she said.

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“Why now?” I asked.

“Because it’s the right thing to do and I just want to get it over with,” she said.

With hesitation, I agreed and told her to hand me the phone.

I should have ripped the phone line out of the wall, threw the phone in the trashcan and made love with her right there but I wanted to do the right thing, the honorable thing and try to settle the problem with her parents.

She dialed the number, it rang, and then the unmistakable gruff voice of her mother answered.

“Hello?” Said the gruff voice on the other end of the line.

“It’s Jeremy, can I speak with Fred?”

“Where’s Becky? What have you done with her?” She asked this like I had kidnapped and murdered her daughter.

“Becky and I just got married,” I said.

“You what?” She screamed.

The phone slammed down and Fred picked up the line.

“Hi Fred, it’s Jeremy. We need to talk.” I said.

“I will only talk to Becky,” He replied.

“Fred, talk to me, it’s time that we work out our differences and talk about what happened, because Becky and I are married now.” I said.

“Listen to me you punk. Get my daughter on the line right now.” He said.

I looked over at Becky, rolled my eyes and said, “He wants to talk to you.”

Becky grabbed the phone from my hand and with a childish voice said, “Daddy?”

For the next few minutes, she sat there listening to her father shouting from the other end of the line. I tried to grab the phone out of her hand, but she turned away.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Becky kept saying as the looming voice continued verbally attacking her.

I kept hearing the words, “evil,” “wicked,” “abomination” and I knew that Fred was only talking about me. All my life I tried to do good to my fellow man and be a good person and Fred was putting me in the same category of criminals and murders.

I motioned to Becky to hang up the phone, but she wouldn’t do it, it seemed like she was shell shocked as she sat there and continued to take the verbal abuse until I finally grabbed the phone from her hand and hung it up for her. She started sobbing harder than I had ever seen her cry before. I held her close and tried to comfort her.

“Becky, it’s going to be okay. We have to give them time and eventually they will accept us together.” I said.

Becky kept shaking her head no and she finally said, “I have to go back.”

“What??” I exclaimed.

“We shouldn’t have gotten married. We made a mistake and should have never continued our relationship. They were right and we were wrong.” She said.

I felt like I had gotten hit by a semi truck, the familiar feelings of pain, that I has known to well after Fred first broke us up suddenly came rushing back. This was supposed to be a happy day!

We were finally married and she was ready to back out after a few hours? After everything we had gone through to finally come together, she was backing out now? The ink wasn’t even dry on our marriage certificate and it was already over?

For the next few minutes, I tried everything I could, pleading with her and stating my case as to why we should stay together. But what I was saying wasn’t working.

She kept shaking her head saying, “No, no, no.”

I got up and paced the room, looking for a mini-bar because I really needed a drink but I found nothing.

“Becky, I kept my word, followed through on my promise to marry you and went the extra mile to bring us together, and now you’re getting cold feet?”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” She kept pleading.

I should have thrown her on the bed like in the movies, ripped her clothes off her and said, “Well, it’s too late to back out now!” But instead, I kept trying to get through to her. She wasn’t listening.

 “I need some time to think,” She said.

“What’s to think about?” I replied.

“I need some time to think, alone.” She said.

I got up from the chair, grabbed my coat, and said, “I don’t know what to say,

“I’m going for a walk and when I get back, your mind better be made up, because I can’t take this any longer,” I said.

I slammed the door shut on my way out, leaving her inside.

I didn’t get in my car and drive away. Instead, I started to walk to the beach, hoping that by the time I got back, she would be all-right. And we could be happy again.

I felt weak; like I was walking around in a bad dream, unable to wake up. Why was she doing this to me?

“Fred has brainwashed Becky and her entire family. Are you sure that you really want to marry her? Because you wont know how messed up mentally she is until you’re living with her.” My dad’s words kept replaying in my mind.

I didn’t want to admit it to myself that she was brainwashed, until that moment, I didn’t realize how brain washed she was.

I couldn’t get her to listen, I desperately tried to get her to see things rationally and realize that she didn’t have to go back to her father and take the mental and verbal abuse that awaited her, but she didn’t see it.

I kept walking, trying to think of things to say that would make her see the truth and stop thinking that she had to go back to her father but I was overwhelmed, exhausted and my mind needed a break.

Once I finally got to the beach, I sat next to a lifeguard tower and tried to come up with a plan for how I would handle the situation if she did try to leave me.

I didn’t know what to do, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be, we weren’t supposed to be going through this on our wedding day, and we were supposed to be happy.

I looked at my watch, realized that almost an hour had passed by, and decided to walk back to the hotel. I started my walk back, stopping at a flower shop to buy her a bouquet of roses, thinking it might cheer her up. Once I got back to the hotel, I realized that something was wrong when I saw her putting her bags into a yellow cab parked in front of our room. I ran over to the cab and tried to pull her back into the room.

“Becky, don’t go!”

“I love you. Doesn’t that mean anything?” I desperately asked.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she kept saying behind her tears.

“Poppa said that if I come back now, they would act the marriage, never happened.”

I was flabbergasted.

“But what about us? What about our marriage? Don’t you care about that?” I exclaimed.

Taxi Cabs

The cab driver sat in the front seat of his car, reading his newspaper, acting like he couldn’t hear a word.

“Please, Becky, don’t do this! Don’t ruin our marriage. Don’t let your father ruin our happiness!” I pleaded.

“You don’t understand, if we leave and try to start a life together he will find us, it’s never going to work. I’m so sorry, Jeremy,” she said.

I didn’t know what to do, or say, other than cry.

“I’m so sorry,” She sobbed.

“Why did you lead me along like this?” I asked.

“Has Daddy prevented you from having relationships with other guys? Becky, I don’t understand the power that your father has over you!” I said.

“Don’t say that!” She burst.

At long last I realized that even the best psychologist couldn’t get through to her. Our relationship, and marriage, was over before it even began.

I let her hand go and said, “Go”.

“I’ll always love you,” she said as she got into the car.

“Becky, you don’t know what love is, I never want to see you again.” I said.

I returned to the hotel room and slammed the door.

I heard the cab drive off with Becky in it and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I looked around the room and saw our wedding bouquet of flowers on the nightstand and threw it to the floor. What was I going to do?

My family had gone for a drive to the mountains after the marriage ceremony, so I couldn’t call them. I was miles away from home. I didn’t know anyone in the area. For the first time in my life I felt like killing myself. I was sad, depressed and angry. I was tired of the struggle, tired of the pain, upset that she dragged me through the gutter and I just wanted it to end. I grabbed my suitcase and headed out to my car.

I looked down the street for the nearest bar and couldn’t see anything for miles but shabby little motels, dinners, shops and sandy white beach.

So I got into my car and headed for the freeway and thought, “I can drive my car into oncoming traffic or off a bridge and nobody would care.”

“My marriage is over,” I kept saying over and over again in my head.

She ripped my heart out and I wanted the pain to stop.”

As I stepped on the gas pedal I thought of my family and the life I had before I met Becky and knew I needed to get home.

I continued to drive, reliving the day’s events and the depression kept pounding back into my head, “It’s over; I can’t believe that it’s really over.”

If I hadn’t had a home to go back to or a family that day, I would be dead today. I would have driven my car off of a bridge because she wholly destroyed me, leaving wounds that would take years to heal. Going home saved my life.

I didn’t know how I got there that day or how fast I drove on the freeway because the pain was too heavy to bear. Once I made it home, I staggered up to my house. I felt like I had just drunk 12 beers. The world seemed incomprehensively upside down to me. Life wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had just married the woman I loved a few hours ago and before we had time to consummate the relationship we were already separated. She was at her home getting interrogated by her parents while I was at my home wallowing in my misery.

I called my old friend Robin, and after I told him the entire story, he sympathized with me and said that he tried to tell me from the beginning that my relationship wouldn’t work out. But I wouldn’t listen to him.

I apologized and as we said our goodbyes to my friend and when my family finally got home they were shocked to see me sitting on the couch, still in the suit I was wearing a few hours before.

“What happened? Where’s Becky?” They asked.

I spent the next few minutes retelling my story as they sat there, with shocked looks on their faces.

“Fred must have some evil kind of control on his daughter,” dad said.

“I never thought he would still have that kind of control over her once you two were married, that S.O.B doesn’t have a heart.” mom said.

“I hope he gets what’s coming to him,” grandma said.

“Even though it hurts right now, honey, don’t give up on love. You weren’t meant to be with Becky, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find someone again more apt to share your life with,” mom said.

I couldn’t think or talk. I just sat there, stunned, shocked, and sad. I wanted to cry but couldn’t let the emotions out yet when finally they came and my family comforted me.

That night after a few beers and some phone calls from friend’s who had heard what happened, I eagerly headed to bed, to try and forget.

In bed I thought about what would happen on Monday, “Work 8 a.m. and later I would go to the courthouse 11 a.m. to get an annulment. It’s finished She’s gone and it’s time to move on.” I said

In a few days, her family would move to Oregon, and I would never see her again. Or so I thought.

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It wasn’t over

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The next day, I woke up, and knew that I had to pull myself together and go to work.

I felt like a semi truck had just run me over and I didn’t think I could go back to my normal, daily life after what just happened.

For the next week, I alternated between hope, grief, sadness, anger, and back to hope again.

My old friends came around and comforted me trying to pull me out of my depression but nothing worked.

The following Saturday morning, my mom opened my bedroom door and woke me up to say that Becky was on the phone and that she wanted to talk.

I ran to the phone and said, “Hello,” without quite believing that it was her.

I had tried to call her every day over the past week only to have her mother yell at me and tell me to stop calling their house.

They eventually changed their number.

“Becky?” I said.

“It’s me, they finally let me out of the house to go shopping and I drove to the first pay phone I could find. Becky said.

“Becky, I didn’t mean for any of this to happen!” I exclaimed.

“I know. That’s why I didn’t want you to talk with my father, because I knew what he would do,” She said.

 “That night, after everything happened, we had a family meeting to discuss what had happened and my father said that you’re evil; a deceiver who only wanted to marry me with the ulterior motive of taking me away from them.”

“That’s not true! I told you many times what my plans were and I promised your parents that I had honorable intentions. I said.

“They have my brothers on the lookout for you, and told them to beat you up, if you get to close to the house,” she said.

I couldn’t believe it.

Two weeks previous, her parents and siblings were my close friends and now, they were my arch enemies ready to hurt me if I tried to rescue Becky from them.

“Whom do you believe, Becky? Them or me?”

“Tell me to go away and I will leave you alone, and never speak to you again. You know I never wanted to hurt you.” I said.

“Of course I believe you,” She replied.

“Do you still love me?” she asked

“Yes,” I said.

Even though I knew that her family was seriously screwed up and that her father was an absolute psycho, I still loved her and was prepared to fight for her.

“So, what do we do now?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said with a sigh.

“Becky, we have to talk face to face.” I said.

“I know,” She replied.

“I can’t call you, and you can’t call me from your house, so how can we communicate?” I asked.

“Letters,” She said.

“You know the bird of paradise plant under the garage door window?” she asked.

“I remember,” I said.

“Every morning, I get up before everyone else and do chores around the house.”

“I will leave you a letter buried under the rock next to that plant.”

“When can I get it?” I asked.

“At night because it’s too dangerous for you now that they are on the lookout for you,” she said.

“You better not come until at least 1 a.m. when everyone is asleep.”

“In my letter, I will let you know when we can meet and talk.”

“I will leave the first letter for you tomorrow and you can pick it up by 1 a.m. Monday morning. I better get back home before they send someone after me.” She said.

“Becky why don’t you just run away?” I asked.

“Because, my little brother and sister need me and if I run away, my parents will find me.’ She said.

“Becky, I still love you and I’ll fight for you,” I said.

“I still love you too,” she said right before she said goodbye and hung up the phone.

After our conversation, I felt renewed.

I could get her back; our relationship still stood a chance even though I would have to fight for her.

I was ready for the fight and suddenly, I felt like I was preparing myself for battle.

I told my parents what happened and they tried to talk me out of pursuing her, but seeing that I wasn’t going to back down they told me that they supported me.

The next day, Sunday, I was filled with nervous energy as I planned out my moves to retrieve her letter by 1 a.m. Monday morning.

I couldn’t do anything but think about what awaited me in the early morning hours of Monday, I pictured her father running out of the house with a gun, or her brothers holding me down while her father beat the “evil spirits” out of me.

The hours flew by until it was finally the clock struck midnight and I drove to her house to pick up her letter by 1 a.m.

Once I got there, I parked far up the street and ran to her house, dressed in black.

I made it to her darkened house and ran up to her garage and dug next to the bird of paradise plant, and found her letter buried right where she said it was.

Success!

Suddenly somebody coughed inside the house and the garage lights came on, lighting up the area where I was hiding as if her father, the warden knew what I was doing and was coming out to stop me.

I didn’t wait around to say hello and ran like hell.

I felt like I was a jewel thief, running from museum security.

I got into my car, stepped on the gas, and floored it until I was out of the area. Once I calmed down, I pulled over to a gas station and began to read what her letter had to say.

It was chaos in her house.

After my blowout with her father, everyone there was on edge and her father didn’t trust anyone on the outside anymore. Her letter also said that they had to drug her and tie her down after I left because she couldn’t stop crying and trying to run away from them. She wanted to see me and suggested that we meet Friday morning to talk about what to do.

She said that she could meet me in my car a few blocks away by a school at 6 a.m. as she was going on her morning walk.

If I agreed to the plan, she asked me to write her back and leave my letter in the same spot the following morning.

When I got home, I immediately sat down and wrote my letter to her, agreeing to meet her early Friday morning to talk about what to do.

 My parents thought I was crazy to pursue her after what her father did to me, but they could see that I was still in love and knew they couldn’t stop me, so they continued their support.

Early the next morning, I took my reply letter to her house and buried it in the same spot.

In a few days, we would meet again.

It had been almost three weeks since we last held each other.

Before that we had never been apart for more than a few days. I couldn’t wait to see her again, hold her in my arms, comfort her, and plan for the future.

What were we going to do?

I knew that I still wanted to marry her, but since her parents now hated me, that couldn’t happen like we planned.

I also knew that her parents had found a home in Oregon and planed to move in a few weeks and they would take Becky with them and any opportunities for us to be together.

Was I making the right decisions?

Was it really worth it?

Why couldn’t I just walk away?

What would her parents do to her if they found out?

These questions raced around in my mind as I thought about what I was going to say to her on Friday, and what I would recommend that we do.

I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I was prepared to do everything I could do to make it work. Because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with anyone else but her.

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Confrontation

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The next day was Sunday, and the day where I went to Fred’s house and attended his “church”.

I went over to his house like I normally did but this time, things were going to be different, I was still angry at Fred, and wasn’t going to leave his house until I spoke with him.

As soon as I got there Becky was waiting for me outside and tried to divert me again, but I wasn’t going to give in this time.

We were outside, talking about my plan to speak with her father when suddenly, Fred and his wife burst out of their house like police officers ready to make arrests.

They walked straight over to us and Fred said, “I know something is going on. Becky has been upset and crying ever since yesterday, I’ve never seen her like this before.”

I stood there, looking at him, dumbfounded.

I couldn’t believe that he was trying to act like everything was normal. Did he really think that I wouldn’t find out what he said?

“Fred, I know what you said to Becky about my parents.”

Suddenly the wind stopped blowing, the birds stopped singing and I felt like I was in the presence of evil.

Fred’s face turned a fiery red and his entire demeanor changed.

“You told her that if she has a relationship with my parents after we are married, that she would be dead to your family.”

“That’s right, Jeremy, I did say that.” Fred said in a very sadistic, serene tone.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because your parents are evil and will burn in Hell for what they’ve done.”

“They denied God’s prophet and will ultimately receive punishment for their sins.

“Are you saying that you’re God’s prophet?” I asked.

Fred looked at me, reeking arrogance and said, “yes”.

“Fred, I love my parents and we are not going to cut them out of our lives once we are married. Besides doesn’t the bible say honor thy father and thy mother?” I asked.

Fred looked at me, enraged, and exclaimed, “How dare you! You’ve stayed in my house, communed with my family, spent time with my daughter, and now you’re turning against me?”

“Fred, I’m not turning against you, I’m standing up for what I believe is right and I’m not going to follow you blindly, doing something that’s wrong.”

“That’s it, Jeremy, you’re not going to marry my daughter,” Fred said.

I stood in front of Fred for a second unable to comprehend what he had just said. I felt like I had just been beat down by somebody who I thought was my friend.

“Calm down Fred, lets talk this over.” I said.

“No! You deceived me! I’m not going to let my daughter marry an evil man like you!” Fred screamed.

“I’m not evil! All I’ve ever done was good for your family and loved your daughter, why are you doing this to me?” I pleaded.

“No! There will be no more conversation with you!” Fred exclaimed.

Becky stood there sobbing, realizing that her dream of love, marriage and her own life was crashing down around her.

“Becky get in the house!” Fred screamed.

Becky didn’t move and continued to sob uncontrollably and then Fred grabbed her arm and pushed her in the direction of the front door to the house.

My fighting instincts were coming back and I wanted to grab Fred by the throat and strangle him but I tried to reason with him.

“Fred, what about your Christian values? What about all of the things that you stand for?” I exclaimed.

Fred got up into my face and said, “Damn you, you get off my property before I hurt you!”

“Why? Because I don’t ‘believe’ like you and I disagree with you?” I asked.

“Damn you! I will kill you!” Fred shouted at me as he kept coming closer to me, with his fists clenched.

Suddenly, I heard a commotion in the house and saw Becky run out of the front door, past the arms of her brothers who were trying to keep her inside.

“Jeremy!“ She screamed.

“Get in the house!” Fred roared at Becky as he intercepted her.

I attempted to run to her when her two eldest brothers ran outside and knocked me to the ground. They held me down while Fred dragged Becky back into the house, like a dog.

Once Fred was inside with Becky, her brothers went back inside the house and left me on the ground, battered and bruised.

“This isn’t over!” I cried.

“Becky! I still love you and I won’t give up!”

I ran to the windows and pounded on them with all of my strength and I could hear her screaming for me inside.

“Fred, come out and talk to me, you coward!”

There was no response.

They had closed the curtains on all the windows making the house look like a crypt. I kept pounding on the doors and windows for minutes until I finally gave up, got into my car and went home.

Driving home, everything hit me and I began to shake and cry from loosing Becky and the confrontation with her father. I wanted to go back there and rescue her. I wanted to free her from the prison her parents had created.

How could he do this to me?

How could he do this to his own daughter?

Everything seemed perfect a few days ago and now it was all upside down.

After the shock and tears, I finally made it home, somehow, and sat on the couch as my shocked parents listened to the details of my confrontation with Fred.

They were surprised to see me and sat there in awe as I replayed the shocking events.

“I’m so sorry, son, I knew Fred was a controlling psychopath but I never thought he would sink that low and ruin his own daughter’s happiness.” Dad said.

My mom sat on the couch and put her arm around me, suddenly everything started to hit me like a ton of bricks and I let all of my emotions out and cried once again.

My parents comforted me and then my dad said “You know what? You’re the lucky one.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You can go back to your life. Becky can’t.” Dad said.

“Fred will keep his thumb on Becky and his other children for the rest of their lives and his brainwashing will continue to haunt them even after he’s dead.

“You got out Jeremy. I’m proud of you because you stood up to that bastard and didn’t back down. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes people have to fight for what they believe in and stand up for what they know is right.” Dad said.

 I didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything, and all I wanted to do was lie down and be alone….

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Two Years Later

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Shortly after showing my art at the Del Mar Fair and going to the Picasso exhibition I started seriously searching for another job and applied for a position as a plumber trainee with a plumbing and drain cleaning company in San Diego called Drain Patrol.

 

Drain Patrol promised to pay me a base salary, bonuses, and offered the opportunity for me to learn a trade that was in high demand. Best of all, I would be working normal, 9 to 5 hours every day and I could have my evenings free to work on my art and pursue a social life.

 

The decision to leave PEC and to start working at Drain Patrol wasn’t a hard one to make because I knew that after working at PEC for almost two years I would never be able to move beyond the mundane work, low pay and little opportunity for advancement that the company offered.

 

Even though I was burnt out, working for PEC I would miss the people I worked with every night and the friendships I had made with Dave and Gill. I felt that my time working there had been well spent and that I would use what I had learned from them to move my life and artistic goals and aspirations to the next level.

 

After sad good byes to Dave, Gill, Mike, Orion and the other friends I had made I started my job at Drain Patrol and was excited and energized to begin building a better life for myself.

 

Gill and Dave approved of my decision to get into plumbing and were unanimous when they said, “Shit flows downhill and the world will always need someone to clean it up.”

 

My choice to quit my job at PEC and start working for Drain Patrol didn’t pay off. I quickly regretted my decision to go into plumbing when instead of training me to be a plumber, the company sent me on every dirty, smelly, slimy job in the city doing grunt work totally unrelated to plumbing.

 

“I thought you were going to train me to be a plumber?” I asked my boss one day.

 

“Your job is better than a plumber, you’re a ‘drain cleaning technician’,” My boss said with a laugh.

 

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“But that wasn’t in the job description when you hired me,” I said.

 

“Why don’t you want to be a drain cleaner? It’s the best job in the world! Hasn’t anyone told you about the perks yet?” He asked.

 

“What perks?” I asked.

 

“Eighty percent of my calls are from ‘desperate housewives’ in San Diego who want a lot more than their drains unclogged, if you know what I mean.” My boss said and then stood up and demonstrated his humping action to the applause of everyone in his office.

 

I never saw the ‘perks’ of the job that my boss described, because all I was ever sent on were the hard, nasty jobs like cleaning out septic tanks or main lines in commercial buildings. And so as I spent my 23rd birthday knee deep in shit, cleaning another blocked mainline, I realized that it was time for me to move on and look for another job once again.

 

In my personal relationships, life was changing for my loved ones and I had to deal with the pain of loss.

 

My beloved grandpa Raglin’s health started going downhill quickly after his 80th birthday due to the affects of Alzheimer’s and heart problems.

 

That damn disease robbed him of his mind, his personality, freedom and the things that he loved like his classic 1960’s Buick, home in Chula Vista and freedom for he and my grandmother to live their own lives.

 

Shortly after grandpa and grandma’s 60th wedding anniversary, grandpa’s heart began to fail and with his heart failing, Alzheimer’s took the remaining pieces of his mind so that all that was left was a shell of a man who resembled my grandpa but on the inside he was already gone.

 

The doctor’s and his care provider told us to prepare for the end because his health was failing fast and we should say our goodbyes.

 

I felt so helpless during those days not being able to do anything to help this man who I loved so much.

 

During his final days we were basically on call 24-7 waiting to get the call for us to come after we learned that Grandpa had passed away.

 

Those final days were amazing because the family pulled together one last time for Grandpa and all of my relatives were in town to say goodbye to him before he passed.

 

I wanted to be there for my family as much as possible and didn’t want to miss any moments with my Grandpa before he passed away.

 

I tired to keep a positive attitude at work and with my painting but my mind was always focused on what was going on in my family.

 

The call finally came, on a warm Saturday evening in September 1998, after a perfect day of working outside in my parent’s garden and on my artwork, my Dad came downstairs to my room to tell me the news I didn’t want to hear, my Grandpa had passed away.

 

I was crushed with this loss. It was something that I had anticipated and was expecting since his health started going downhill, and even though I was expecting it, I wasn’t ready for it.

 

My dad and I got in the family car and drove to my aunt’s house where my Grandparents has been living since selling their house and car after Alzheimer’s stole their ability to take care of themselves.

 

We arrived to find a small group of family members and friends, all who had loved my grandpa dearly, sitting around my aunt’s living room, sharing tears and laughter as they remembered him.

 

My aunts hugged my dad and I before they ushered us into my grandpa’s bedroom where he lied on the bed looking peaceful, like he was only taking a nap.

 

It was the first time I experienced death up close and personal like this.

 

It was surreal, almost like a dream that I was observing but not part of. I had lost my other Grandpa when I was only 10 years old and didn’t have a chance to get to know him as a man. But with my Grandpa Raglin, I had grown up and had the privilege of getting to know this man and sharing many of my birthdays, family dinners and holidays with him.

 

It was hard being in there with him after he died. It wasn’t the same, the body was still warm, but my grandpa’s spirit was gone.

 

I cried with everyone else in the bedroom, hugged him one last time, and joined the group out in the living room.

 

There were people there that I hadn’t seen in years, like my Uncle Gary, from Michigan, a big burly man who loved to give bear hugs and tell dirty jokes.

 

“Hey Kiddo how are ya?” Uncle Gary asked as he gave me a bear hug and asked me if I had heard the joke about the two gay rabbits.

 

“Gary! Save the jokes for another time, okay? Mom is talking with the pastor about the funeral arrangements for Dad.”

 

My Aunt Susie said, smiling while trying to keep a stern look on her face.

 

“I guess I will have to tell you that one later okay? I better go sit down before I fall over. My old bones are killing me!” Uncle Gary jovially said.

 

After that, Uncle Gary went and stood with my other aunts and uncles in the doorway of my grandpa’s bedroom as they shared memories and argued about if a person should be cremated like my grandpa wanted or as they put it, “get stuck in the ground.”

 

Uncle Bob, Aunt Ramona, my Dad and I all stood in Grandpas bedroom or out in the hall voicing our opinions.

 

“I don’t care what anyone thinks. I just don’t think Dad should be cremated! It goes against what the bible says and it’s just not natural,” Aunt Ramona claimed.

 

Aunt Ramona is the organizer, businessperson, and the trooper in our family who took care of my grandpa and grandma during their final years after they couldn’t take care of themselves.

 

“Ramona, I think we should grant Dad his wish and let him rest in peace. I don’t think its right to change the last request of a dying man and mess up what he wanted,” Uncle Bob said.

 

I couldn’t help but smile at their argument. I knew Grandpa was probably shaking his head in good humor at their conversation, knowing that life would eventually go on as normal after we mourned his passing.

 

At his memorial, I really learned what type of man he was and what he meant to everyone in his life that he touched.

 

Grandpa Raglin was a simple, yet intense, man who touched many lives in different ways.

 

He was the type of guy you could count on for his helping hand, therapeutic ear, advice-giving ways or something as simple as sitting with you on your front porch to enjoy a glass of lemonade after a hot day.

 

Just knowing that he was there when needed was always a comfort. He was like the team player you could always count on to help win the game.

 

Even when he was in his early 80’s and in declining health, he still helped friends and family in any way possible.

 

I could see from the overwhelming display of emotion at his memorial service that he would be deeply missed.

 

I also learned that day what it really means to be a hero. A hero is not someone who is a celebrity or sports star; a hero is an average person who produces noteworthy results everyday in little ways that add up over time.

 

What this hero does may never be felt directly during their life because in most cases they will operate behind the scenes in a silent way but when that person is gone the void they leave behind can be felt in a very big way every day.

 

That was my Grandpa, to me, he was a real hero.

 

While my family life was changing I kept looking for the right job but couldn’t find anything that satisfied me or had any promise of long-term success.

 

I felt lost, it was like I kept hitting brick walls and couldn’t seem to find the right path.

 

In my sisters life, her marriage to my “good friend” Joe quickly fell apart. After they were married, Joe’s personality changed over night and the man that we knew and loved disappeared, and was replaced with a selfish, arrogant bastard who treated my sister like garbage on the sidewalk.

 

Their marriage fell apart when Joe agreed to participate in an art show in San Diego that was supposed to be the major vehicle to re-launch his career.

 

Once Joe agreed to participate in the art show he devoted all of his time, money and energy to the show while ignoring his new wife, not even trying to play the loving, caring husband. He looked to Becky more as a helpful assistant than his wife.

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The art show was an unorganized, pathetic disaster and since it had no publicity, attracted little to no interest from the art community nationwide and the artists in the show sold little to none of their artwork. Joe’s financial commitment to the show ended up driving him into personal bankruptcy and one day he packed up all of his belongings from the apartment that he shared with Becky and walked out, leaving her broke, penniless, and pregnant with my nephew Caleb.

 

My parents stepped in and moved Becky back home and helped her during her pregnancy and my beloved nephew, Caleb was born nine months later.

 

While I was still struggling and searching for the right job, and dealing with the changing dynamic of my family life, I fell in love for the first time, and was sucked into my own real life soap opera.

 

Her name was Becky; she was an attractive twenty one year old woman with a mane of long, curly dark hair, gorgeous body and dynamic personality.

 

She was the daughter of the new pastor of our church and had recently moved from Virginia to California with her family to begin a new life

 

Becky’s family had 12 brothers and sisters ranging in age from age one to 21. All of them, including Becky, were home-schooled by their mother, Mary and were raised with very traditional values.

 

Part of me liked the traditional values, aspect of their family, maybe because I went to public schools my whole life, and had to deal with the ups and downs of the modern school system.

 

Having just moved to California, her family felt like fishes out of water, alone and homesick.

 

Since her parents saw that their daughter and I had immediately fallen for each other, they extended a permanent invitation for me to come to their home for dinner every night and spend as much time as I wanted, getting to know Becky under their watchful eyes.

 

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Lakeside, CA

 

Since her family came from a rural part of Virginia where they bred and raised goats they continued that traditional ways in California when they moved into their new home in the county of Lakeside.

 

Every time I went to her house there was never a shortage of things for us to do together and during our first weeks together she taught me more about her traditional way of life while I brought over board games and videos for our entertainment in the evenings.

 

My love for Becky grew quickly because of a shared physical attraction, that developed quickly and also our shared interests in religion, politics, family life and the future.

 

I also became the confident and friend to her father Fred, who came to me every night with questions about California because, being from Virginia, and the new pastor, his sensibilities were challenged daily as he had to deal with how different his new home was compared to where he came from.

 

Fred, to me, became a friend and spiritual leader and I quickly began to look up to during his first few weeks in town.

 

I felt very much at home with his family and for the first time in my life, I knew what it was to be part of a big family and I enjoyed every second of it.

 

The big negative during these times was that I turned my back on my hopes, artistic dreams, and my family while I was enraptured with the first love of my life.

 

Gratefully I discovered that everything I had heard about real love was true.

 

When you fall in love with the person with whom you’re meant to be, it’s like there’s only the two of you on the planet with nobody else around.

 

Unfortunately, this also means that everything else in your life goes to out the door because you’re consumed with that other person.

 

When Becky and I first met, our eyes locked and, that was it. I was hooked and I couldn’t get away.

 

Our love also had a “soul-mate” quality to it. There was something about her that drew me to her and put my heart at ease. It was almost like I had known her 100 years ago, lost her. And finally found her again.

 

Her father, even though he had 12 children abhorred the thought of us even kissing each other before marriage because he viewed intimate, unmarried physical contact as a sin.

 

We abided to her fathers wishes, for one day, because when two people are attracted to each other it’s only a matter of time before that attraction becomes physical. We discovered each others bodies and made love in secret, behind closed doors and in the shadows, away from the watchful eyes of her parents.

 

After a very short time, I knew that I loved her and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. And nothing was going to hinder that from happening. Even though I didn’t have a good job, little money in the bank and decent car to drive, I knew that I wanted her to be my wife and I was ready to make that happen.

 

I “popped the question” one night when, after another night of dinner, conversation and fun with Becky and her family, I took her outside after everyone else had gone to bed, and asked her to marry me.

 

After wiping away her tears, she said yes, and we passionately kissed before deciding how we were going to tell her parents the news. I chose to follow tradition and officially ask her father for his Becky’s hand in marriage.

 

If was around 10:30 p.m. on a cold Monday night in February 2000 when we went into her parent’s bedroom to tell them our big news and ask her father.

 

I told Fred how I felt about his daughter by expressing my love for her and asked him for her hand in marriage.

 

He smiled and embraced me like a son, and said of course. I could marry his daughter.

 

For the rest of the night we talked excitedly with her parents, about wedding ideas and the future, and even though it was a blissful moment I had no idea that I would have to put up the fight of my life to marry her……

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More changes around the corner

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Once I finally realized that I was the only person holding myself back in life, I looked at my life differently and I felt a new sense of freedom to live my life by my terms once again.

 

Dave noticed something in my attitude one night as he walked past my work station and saw a different look on my face.

 

What’s going on Dude?” Dave asked as stopped at my workstation.

 

Nothing much,” I replied, “just thinking about my future and where I am heading,” I replied.

 

Good!” Dave said. “I’ve told you a thousand times that the only way you will get anywhere in this place is if someone gets hurt on a machine or dies.

 

You don’t want to be here another 10 years with me and Orion, do you?” Just as Dave said that Orion walked over to my machine, as usual, wanting to find out what we were talking about.

 

What are you clowns talking about?” Orion asked.

 

Jeremy is thinking about his future and doesn’t want to spend another year here working with us grease monkeys,” Dave replied.

 

Do you mean to tell me that Jeremy doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life working here like a slave every night, getting paid peanuts for his efforts?” Orion replied.

 

Jeremy is smarter than anyone working here, and he’s not married either.” Dave said.

 

Count your blessings kid,” Orion said.

 

Don’t get married until you’re in your 30’s.” Dave said.

 

What about your art? Aren’t you going to pursue it seriously?” Orion asked.

 

You should be painting full time, instead of working here for eight hours every day,” Gill said as he walked over to join the conversation.

 

I know, Gill, I just want to wait until I exhibit my art for the first time, at the Del Mar Fair, to see if I sell any of my paintings. If my work sells, this will tell me if I can live off the income from my artwork or not.”

 

The Del Mar Fair (now called the San Diego Fair) came every year and offered every thinkable display and exhibition for the attendees but most important of all it had an annual art exhibition that I entered.

 

The art exhibition was judged by a panel of esteemed artists from across the United States, the judges choose the art that was displayed at the exhibition.

 

Jeremy, you don’t have to sell your art to be a good artist, even if you don’t sell your artwork right away you should keep working on it and not let it discourage you.” Orion said.

 

I know, I won’t give up if I don’t sell anything,” I said.

 

Have your paintings been judged yet?” Gill asked.

 

They are getting judged next week. I will let you know as soon as I find out,” I replied.

 

Gill winked and said; “Just think, if you sell a few paintings, you’ll no longer be an aspiring artist, instead you’ll be a struggling, upcoming artist.”

 

“You’re on your way, Kid. I would love to get back into my sculpting, but one of my ex-wives has all of my tools locked up at her house in Colorado. She told me that if I ever wanted to see my stuff again, I would have to give up the Picasso lithograph that we bought from Francois Gilot in 1975, when we were in Paris.” “I tell you, every ex-wife is always after something!”

 

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Francois Gilot was Picasso’s most famous companion. She lived with him for over 10 years, bore two of his children and served as the inspiration for some of his greatest paintings, “Flower Woman”.

 

Did I tell you that Francois is in San Diego? I heard through a friend that she designs jewelry or something. I wish I could get her number, but I think she’s married now.” Gill said.

 


 

Gill cracked me up. He was often thinking about women and always telling me about the treasures he had lying around from his years of hobnobbing with the rich.

 

I could see how Gill could have a Picasso lithograph lying around his house and didn’t have the desire to part with it because to people like Gill, fine things are too precious to give up, even if that means working in a crappy job for money.

 

When are we going to see the Picasso art show in Los Angeles?” I asked.

 

How about next Saturday?” Gill replied.

 

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LACMA – The “Holy Land” for art in Southern California.

 

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art was holding an awesome retrospective of Pablo Picasso’s work and I couldn’t wait to get up there and absorb everything that I could.

 

I had never seen anything that Picasso had created in person so going to this exhibit was like a Christian’s first trip to the holy land. I couldn’t wait. Picasso, for me, was as big as any movie star.

 

Even though he had been dead for almost thirty years I was like an excited schoolboy with a hunger for knowledge on anything Picasso.

 

Next Saturday sounds great!” I said.

 

Mike saw us standing around my machine talking during work hours and strutted over to break up our little party.

 

What are you girls doing? Don’t you know you’re supposed to be working when you’re on the clock?” Mike asked.

 

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How come you’re head is so shiny? Do you ever wax it?” Orion asked Mike, referring to his bald head, playfully, trying to break Mike’s bad mood.

 

Orion and Mike always talked trash to each other and Orion never hesitated to get in a jab at Mike.

 

You better get back to work before I knock you out,” Mike said playfully.

 

Gill walked back to his machine and Orion followed Mike back to his office to continue talking trash with him.

 

And Dave continued to prop himself up on the side of my machine like he didn’t want to get back to work just yet.

 

What’s wrong Dave?” I asked.

 

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Sometimes when I hear young people like you talk I too yearn to do more with my life or just hop on my Harley, get on the open road and never look back,” Dave said.

 

“What’s stopping you?” I asked.

 

An alcoholic wife, slacker for a son, and a pile of debt to choke a pig in the winter,” Dave replied.

 

Dave looked a little sad for a minute as he contemplated what he just said, but then he pulled himself together into his Mr. Fixit persona when Mossy came to my workstation with an exhausted look on his face. Mossy mumbled something about a machine eating his tools and asked Dave to come with him.

 

Dave smiled and said; “Duty calls. I’ll see you later, kid.” “Now Mossy, what seems to be the trouble in machine number one?” Dave asked as he and Mr. Mossy jogged to the machine that now had about 10 confused Japanese engineers standing around it with exhausted looks on their faces.

 

Whenever a machine like number one went down, if Mossy couldn’t fix it in a matter of minutes, every Japanese engineer was working on it, lending a hand, or offering useful comments.

 

I cringed because I knew that I would probably be recruited to work overtime tonight, because, once the machine was fixed it would be producing “hot parts,” that the company would do anything to have boxed and ready for shipment the next day.

 

If we were short on people to box parts that night, management would come out from their offices to box parts, just so we wouldn’t miss a shipment.

 

The company would never change, as long as I didn’t have any say in the management decisions there would always be nights of machines breaking down, the rush to box parts, and weary drives home from work in the wee hours of the morning.

 

I kept brainstorming about my new plan of attack would be for finding another job. Where would I start looking for work? What would I find? Would the job be long-term and satisfying for me? Could I support myself and also invest my money into my art?

 

My painting was progressing at a fast rate as I spent every free hour in my studio loft above my parent’s house painting away until the early hours of the morning.

 

Friday nights were always my favorite night, because for the following two days, I knew I was free from work. And I could spend that time on my art work doing what I loved.

 

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Friday nights, after I got out of work, consisted of my regular routine of bowling and beers with the guys and then I would come home to paint and stay up all night working on my art.

 

My studio was like an automotive repair shop that always had five different cars in various stages of repair being worked on every day.

 

As an artist, I just didn’t work on the same painting every day. I used the Henry Ford assembly line approach and worked on at least five different paintings every day.

 

You can’t work on the same painting for hours a day, especially if you are working in oil paint because once you have covered the canvas with paint you have to give it a day or two to dry before you can work on it again.

 

If you keep working on the same canvas repeatedly over and over, the canvas will eventually end up looking like mud unless you’re a Van Gogh.

 

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Vincent Van Gogh was a perfect example of an artist whose style of painting was wet on wet. He applied very thick coats of paint to his canvas over and over again until he got the effect for which he was looking for.

 

Van Gogh painted like this because he was a perfectionist, and was never satisfied with the results. So he kept working on the same painting until he had a picture with about an average of 10 pounds of paint on it.

 

In my case I don’t always work in oil paint every day. I also work in acrylic paint, oil pastel, charcoal and pencil so I’m never sitting around, with nothing to do.

 

It was around this time that I started to bring my love for archeology into my art.

 

One night, as I was looking through old National Geographic magazines that featured stories of Egyptian and African art, I saw ancient cave paintings, pottery, and sculptures and with the eye of an artist I began to take the shapes and images that made impressions on me and incorporate them into my artwork.

 

I was essentially following in the footsteps of Picasso, who saw African masks at the Trocadero around 1911, and became inspired to invent cubism.

 

Cubism is the most influential style of twentieth century art, developed in Paris by Picasso and Braque, beginning in 1907. The early mature phase of the style, called Analytical Cubism, lasted from 1909 through 1911. Cubism is based on the simultaneous presentation of multiple views, disintegration, and the geometric reconstruction of objects in flattened, ambiguous pictorial so space; figure and ground merge into one interwoven surface of shifting planes.

 

As my excitement for archaeology increased, I realized that I was doing what I had always wanted to do when I was eight years old, when one day as I was riding with my parents in our old Buick Regal, family car, my dad asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I told him that I wanted to be an archaeologist artist.

 

“What’s an archaeologist artist?” My father asked.

 

I didn’t answer right away. I knew that I wanted to draw or paint pictures of ancient dinosaur, human, animal bones, art, architectural ruins to depict what they looked like during life, I just didn’t know if what I wanted to do was a real career or not.

 

My parents had no idea what an archaeologist artist did or if it was a field of study, but they encouraged me to follow it anyway.

 

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As I got older, I quickly forgot about that aspiration and that ride in the Buick Regal until one night, as I was working in my studio loft, I remembered that day and realized that I was doing exactly what I said I wanted to do way back then.

 

It always shocked my parents when they would sleepily came down the stairs Saturday mornings to see me cooking breakfast, with hot coffee waiting for them in the pot.

 

Did you sleep well last night?” Dad asked.

 

Nope, I stayed up all night working on my art,” I replied.

 

What? Why did you do something crazy like that? Don’t you know that you are wasting away your body when you don’t get any sleep?” Dad rhetorically asked.

 

I didn’t care about sleep when my art was on fire. When I was in the creative “zone” time stands still and everything flows with the development of my paintings.

 

I’m alright,” I said.

 

No you’re not sweetie,” Mom would say. “Why don’t you go to bed?”

 

Whenever they mentioned sleep that’s when I got tired and muttered something about, “This is what artists had to do when they are feeling creative,” Then I would leave the room with my black coffee in hand intended to wake me up.

 

Sometimes, sleep was my greatest enemy as I worked into the early hours of the next day, not sure when I am going to get to bed.

 

My body would scream out, “get to bed, you moron!” while my mind and my brush holding hand yelled, “More! More!”

 

Art is like a seductive woman, a tasty treat, drug or alcohol that tempts you into coming back for more.

 

Even today if I am on a hot streak with my painting and it’s 3 a.m. I’ll stay up and continue working instead of going to bed and loose the momentum that I gained.

 

I can stay up all night working on my art and fight exhaustion during the day, but once I’m back in my art studio working on my art, I have the energy to work hard again.

 

I loved my routine while I was working at the factory, but I also knew that if I wanted to grow as a person and start doing things with my friends again, like going out on dates on Friday nights the routine would have to change.

 

I was also felt the pressure from my friends who were making me feel like a monk every time I saw them because I hadn’t hung out with them in a long time or gone on a date in ages.

 

Working at night was great in so many ways, but it also hurt my social life. I couldn’t do anything at night when the average person my age was on a date or doing things that all kids in their 20’s should be doing at night.

 

I have often found when I’m at a crossroads in life, not knowing where to turn the universe does me a favor and sends me a helper to get me going in the right direction.

 

 

My helper, my old friend Cliff, showed up that summer, opening my eyes to how much everything had changed in our lives, in such a short period of time since we had last seen each other. He miraculously appeared one Saturday afternoon shocking everyone who saw him.

 

I had spent the day with my old girlfriend, Michelle, and was parking my truck in front of my house when I heard someone from out of nowhere shout: “DUDE!

 

Dude!” I shouted back, just in time for a bear hug to crush me.

 

Cliff had changed. He didn’t look the same as he did the last time I saw him. His face looked tired and weathered, and he had gained about 35 pounds which significantly enlarged his six-foot frame.

 

How the hell are you, Jer?” Cliff asked.

 

Great, dude. I’m glad you’re back.” I replied.

 

After that brief exchange of emotion, Cliff didn’t want to talk about his new life just yet. He only wanted to revert back to our old life together of fun and games. He wanted to enjoy every moment of his short time off from the military.

 

Nothing has changed one bit!” Cliff said, as he sauntered around my house, taking everything in.

 

At that moment, I realized how homesick my old friend must have been. It had been four years since we had last seen each other and the time away had not been easy on him.

 

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That night, we raised hell like we did as teenagers and ended the night sipping cokes and eating nachos in front of the old Spring Valley movie theater.

 

What happened to you, dude? I’ve been trying for years to get together with you, but nothing ever seemed to work and now here you are. What have you been up to, where have you been, how’s married life?” I asked.

 

The military sucks, married life is great, and I gained this weight because I blew out my knee in a hiking accident last year and I haven’t been able to exercise because of doctor’s orders,” Cliff said.

 

I know I look like shit. Believe me dude, I feel like shit. That’s the reason I wanted to come home, to get healthy in the warm Southern California weather.”

 

And also because my wife, Laura, was away training in Alaska and I was trapped at home, alone.

 

It sucks being alone, three thousand miles away from your wife, but she’s serious about her career and I want her to get every opportunity she can while we are still in the Air Force.

 

But let’s forget about me. How about you dude? What have you been up to? What’s new? Are you and Michelle still an item? Are you two doing the nasty?” Cliff asked.

 

I’ve been busy, no, and no comment.” I replied.

 

What’s up with you, dude? Why are you holding out? Are you still waiting for the right one to come along? Why don’t you get it over with?” Cliff asked smiling.

 

Dude, you don’t know how many times I have been tempted to do it with Michelle. The reason why I’m holding out is because I don’t want to end up like our old buddy, Tim.”

 

You remember Tim don’t you?” I asked.

 

Yeah, he was the tall lanky dude who always hung out with the stoners in high school, right?” Cliff asked.

 

“That’s right, and now, four years later he has four kids to support from two different girlfriends.”

 

I didn’t want to screw up my life over a moment of carnal temptation and pay for it for the rest of my life with a child I wasn’t planning on. You understand, right?” I asked.

 

Jeremy, sometimes I wish I had listened to you more seriously years ago instead of doing my own thing as quick as I did. I wish I had your wisdom, Dude. You always seemed to have something going for you while all of our stupid friends were busy thinking about partying or getting laid.”

 

As we kicked back and thought about the past we realized how fast time had flown by.

 

For me, everything that we talked about felt like it had happened yesterday. I felt like I had just experienced everything that we were reminiscing about but for Cliff, it felt different and it was like he experienced the same thing 30 years ago.

 

It was like Cliff had lived five lifetimes in a few short years.

 

I was still living at home with my parents and doing virtually the same things since I had always done since I had last seen Cliff so nothing had really changed for me, yet.

 

You got it made, dude,” I said.

 

What do you mean, Jer?” Cliff asked.

 

What I mean is, at 22 you already have a great career, wife, home and a destiny in front of you.”

 

I’m still living at home and working on the first steps, building my life.” I said.

 

Dude! Don’t screw around with me! I know you don’t mean what you just said! You think my life is perfect?

 

This is my life, Jer. I’m stationed in a crappy part of the country, which is far removed from California. I’m on disability because of my knee injury so I can’t do my job. My wife is on a training mission in Alaska so I won’t be seeing her for another month and last week my dog died.”

 

The most exciting things that I get to do in my day are play a few games of Dungeons and Dragons on my computer and spend endless hours in chat rooms talking with people about stupid subjects that don’t mean anything.”

 

Cliff, I didn’t mean to get you upset,” I said.

 

Whoa, hold up, dude, I’m going to tell you something that you’re not going to want to hear.”

 

Damn, Jer! You got a lot of talent! You always had more going on than anyone in school. You were always on track because you had something that you didn’t have to work at, something that came easy to you, something that you enjoyed, your art.

 

Dude you got talent! Stop wasting your life wondering what you’re going to do with yourself because, you already know the answer to that question!

 

I don’t know dude. Everyone I’ve talked to about a possible career in art always tell me how hard it is out there and that I will have to suffer for over 50 years, or die before my art starts selling.

 

“All I’ve ever wanted was a normal life, working in a good job like my dad, but I just can’t find anything that satisfies me.” I said

 

What the hell are you talking about?” Cliff asked as he grabbed my arm and pulled me upstairs to my parent’s living room.”

 

Look at this stuff! Cliff exclaimed as he pointed at my art from over the past four years that my parents had proudly hung it around the room.

 

“Dude, do you think that the average guy on the street can whip out paintings like these in a few days without any effort?”

 

If I were to try to sit down and knock out something like any of these, it would just end up looking like shit.”

 

But you, dude, you are the only person that I have ever known who can sit down and paint a beautiful picture in one night. You are the only one I know who started his own business at age 10.”

 

While other kids were still playing with their toys, you were out working for yourself, earning your own money and getting the things you wanted, without having to beg your parents for them.”

 

You have talent, Jer. It’s time to stop being scared and get out there and use it because it will only go to waste. You got to get out there and take charge now before time runs out.”

 

I remember, you said that before we knew it, we would be married, with children. Dude you were right. My path is already laid, but you still have a clean slate and its time for you to get out there and make it happen.”

 

Cliff was right. At that moment it was like I was able to see everything with a different perspective.

 

I had been trying to hide under a rock for too long, because I was too scared of failing if I went after my dreams. But now I realized how wrong I was. I had been trying to recreate my dad’s life, but was unable to make that happen because I was running away from whom I was and what I really wanted.

 

Thus, I was determined more than ever to make my dreams come true. I was going to get what I wanted and would not stop or be satisfied until I turned everything from an unattainable idea to a fulfilling reality.

 

You’re right, dude,” I said.

 

Accept it, Jeremy, and start going for your dreams before another four to five years go by and you are still struggling with the same problems. I really don’t want to come back here and kick your ass in the future but, if I have to do that for my friend I will.” Cliff said.

 

After Cliff finished setting me straight we took off for an evening of assorted fun and experiences that I would never forget.

 

We went out eagerly searching for adventures: Cliff had wanted to relive the things that we did back in high school, so for the rest of our night, he didn’t want to think about responsibility, our jobs or responsibilities.

 

All he wanted was to let loose and go carefree for a few hours and so did I.

 

Unfortunately, that night everything fun was closed for the evening or wasn’t serving alcohol. We couldn’t find any of our old friends hanging out in any of our familiar places, and setting up camp in an arcade until midnight just didn’t seem like fun anymore.

 

Cliff was bummed.

 

Damn Jer. I can’t believe how fast everything changed around here.”

 

I have only been gone for a few years and it seems like none of the places we used to hang out exist anymore,”  Cliff said.

 

I know, dude,” I said.

 

It sucked to see the places we had once identified with like the our favorite movie theater, arcade, bowling alley and Taco Bell were now out of business, empty buildings, parking lots and ghosts of our past.

 

The night was quickly fading fast and I didn’t want to let my old buddy go home on such a sour note.

 

I drove Cliff back to the hotel where he was staying and upon arrival, we talked for a while until I noticed that there was a pool next to his room.

 

Why don’t we go for a swim?” I suggested.

 

Cliff started to laugh, “Now? Dude, we’re fully clothed and your house is miles away.”

 

So what?” I replied and with that I jumped in the pool, fully clothed and began to do laps.

 

Cliff busted up laughing and jumped in fully clothed as well.

 

I didn’t want to let my best friend go home depressed about how everything had changed. I wanted him to remember our friendship as a point in our lives where both of us really experienced our youth and acted a little crazy before we officially grew up.

 

And so we lounged and talked in the warm water until the early hours of the morning. Cliff had to go home that morning and I, most likely, would never see him again.

 

And then as quickly as the night had begun, it was over. Cliff and I had spent the last night of our youth together and we knew that it was time for us to part.

 

We got out of the pool, soaking wet, shook hands, hugged, said our goodbyes and I drove home.

 

After that night, I never saw Cliff again.

 

I heard from a few of my high school friends from time to time about what he was up to and where he was living with his family, but I was just never able to reconnect with him.

 

We drifted apart into our own separate worlds.

 

I remember on the very first day of high school when my freshman social studies teacher told me, “High school is going to be the best time of your life because this will be the only time in your life that you will have all of your friends around you, every day. But after high school is over, everyone will drift apart, go their separate ways and it will never be the same.”

 

He was right, during the last four years I had lost contact with all of my friends and associates from high school and now my last link to those youthful days, Cliff, was gone and I was faced with the reality of how fast time was flying by.

 

I was finally able to empathize with my parents because for the first time in my life I had a few years “under my belt,” and I could look back and reflect and worry about an uncertain future.

 

I felt encouraged, strengthened, confident and self assured after my last meeting with Cliff and was ready to make my jump to a better job and dedicate myself to doing more with my art and live a life that made me happy.

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