Saturday, January 28, 2012

Heading North


He walked up to his mother and said, “I think it is time that we leave.” She turned and looked at her son in a reassuring way. She had wanted to leave for many years but was waiting for the right time to do it. The right time was now. Her husband of 30 years was extremely abusive, angry and mean.

Her older son, Matt, was graduating from university in a few days, and was already accepted into graduate school of his first choice. Her other son, and last child, had just graduated high school the day before he approached her.

Their lives in Panama City, Florida was coming to a close. Her young son, Chris, had loved living in the Gulf of Mexico’s panhandle. For years, he worked down the road at the marina learning to repair marine engines and welding from Mr. Fred Johnston who Chris always called him Mr. Fred. The two were very close and Chris was excellent with the various types of welding equipment. He learned from the father-figure expert. This would be his escape route to a new life, and freedom from the clutches of his deranged parent.

Over the last couple of months, Chris had boxed up what he would take and drove it over to the marina where he had taken an old and rotting box trailer, and made it brand new. His mother was a master seamstress, and had given him her materials to stow in the trailer, too. The last item would be her sewing machine and immediate materials, which would go in when the two would walk out the door of their home for the last time.

Her husband had a small accounting and tax office in downtown Panama City and was busy doing tax reports and filings for his business clients. He would return to a vacated home and a note left on the kitchen table saying, “Chris and I left for good. We have had enough, and today wasn’t soon enough! Good luck to you. We both hope you will be happier by yourself. Please don’t try to contact me. All correspondences will be through an attorney. By the way, I have copies of all our bank accounts, and holdings, and have discussed the situation with the banker and financial consultant.”

The two were gone by noon with the Suburban loaded up and left for the boat yard to hitch up the trailer. They were headed north by the next hour.

She had withdrawn a substantial amount of money from their joint account in order to live for a while as the two got established. Her sister, who lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had an unmarried sister-in-law living in Buffalo, New York who would be waiting for them to arrive.

Buffalo offered work for Chris as a welder, and mom as a seamstress. They told only two people where they were going. Her husband called repeatedly and neither would answer. They were gone. Free to live in peace and from fear and stress. Buffalo would become a new world for them, since all they have known was Florida. The winters would be challenging to their thin blood, but being close to marinas and water gave them the feeling of serenity.

The drive up and out of the south, on into the north, through Pennsylvania with all the trees blooming pink and blues and reds transitioning from spring toward summer calmed their souls and quieted the anxieties pulsating through their escaping bodies distancing themselves from the harm they had known for too many years and toward safety.

Buffalo, with its grand old center city, showing all its wear and tear was soothing to the two who related to what history can do to the present. They found their way to open arms, and warm embraces giving them an immediate anchor to their new home. The Buffalo sky was familiarly cloudy, but the water flowing in the distance was a connection to place that sealed the frayed edges of their jittery souls. 

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