Being homeless was something I never thought I would experience. I suppose it’s something I can mark off my bucket list, not that it’s ever something one wants to do. It was in that few weeks I discovered how gracious people can be. I never felt alone, not for one minute. I knew someone was watching over my kids and me. I could feel his presence.
No, I’m not talking about God. However, I’m also not dismissing the possibility of a godly presence.
One the first day of seventh grade, I met a boy. He had a round head to match his round belly, and he made me laugh. We were instant friends, and sometimes a little more than friends. We spent the rest of our school years together, plus another five short, precious years. My dear friend died of a heroin overdose in 1999.
My time in school was not very pleasant. I have always been chunky, so the mean girls did what mean girls do. Even after school was out, it seems I was always the butt of a joke with people I considered friends. Rob was never mean to me, though. In fact, he was one of the few people we always watched out for me and have my back. If it weren’t for him, I would have had a very boring early 20s.
The week before we uprooted the family to move to Washington, I had a dream. The dream was full of energy. The kind of dream that feels real. In the dream, Rob gave me a gun. According to Carl Jung, best known for his work with Sigmund Freud, dreaming about a gun is a sign of protection. From that moment on, I felt him with me. I don’t know how I knew it was him, I just knew. It felt like a hug. He even showed up to my going away party. His family was inadvertently book in the party room right next to ours. For me, that was as good as his actual presence, almost. He didn't leave my side until I was back in Ohio.
I have often wondered if, had he been alive when I met my ex-husband, would we still be friends? According to my ex, men and women can’t be friends, so to appease his jealousy and mistrust, I pushed away all of my male friends. In fact, I pushed away all of my friends just because he didn’t like any of them. Oh, how desperate that sounds now.
There weren’t just signs from Rob along the way. There were signs everywhere.
On the way to the shelter, I stopped at a McDonald’s. The kids ate and played in the Playland while I took advantage of free Wi-Fi. I had a lot of passwords to change. Before we left I needed to make a few phone calls. In Washington, it’s illegal to talk on your cell phone and drive. I found that out the hard way. We sat in the parking lot while I made my calls. I burst into tears and just sat there and cried. This was the first moment I had allowed myself a minute to digest what I was doing.
As I pulled out, a man drove up next to me and waved at me to roll down the window. When I did, he said to me, “Whatever happened, you did the right thing.” I was shell shocked.
“I saw you crying and noticed the car full of stuff and out of state tags. Whatever happened, you did the right thing. I felt your energy from my car so I ran home to get this for you, hoping you would still be here.” He was quite rough and covered in tattoos, and this was one of the oddest encounters I’ve ever had, but I didn’t feel threatened at all. He handed me a good luck token. He also gave me his phone number and said that he and his girlfriend would be around to talk to if I needed an ear. It was obvious I didn’t know anyone in the city. He hugged me and said it again, “Whatever happened, you did the right thing.” I never saw him again.
Without knowing it, he gave me the courage to continue on the path I had chosen. I took a deep breath and headed to the shelter. I kept the token in my pocket for a few days. Now, I carry it in my purse always. It’s amazing how someone can make such a mark in only a few minutes. I will never forget his face.