The Mission: Cross-Country & Cross-Roads (part 9)

Deborah Hendrick on Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Ginny spent a leisurely day of flying. The weather was beautiful all the way north, and when she took her turn after a big heavy and touched down at Amarillo, the late afternoon sky was brilliantly blue and clear all the way to the moon.

She was pleased and relieved as she taxied up to the big hangar and cut her motor. Amarillo was cooler than she expected, and she breathed deeply, filling her lungs with the clean dry air.

Her actions appeared purposeful. She made the arrangements for her airplane to be hangared, and then she picked up her rental car and headed into town. Just like she knew what she was doing.

Ginny found her hotel without any trouble. The big television in her room was a nice treat. So many channels. She rarely watched anything except for the news, and that was for the weather.

The plan was holding up. A long hot shower was next on her list, and she stood there a long time, waiting for the water to run cool, when she remembered that the hotel was unlikely to run out of hot water.

She threw back the covers on her bed, intending to cool down and rest, before dressing and going back out for supper. But when she woke again, it was four-thirty in the morning, and she was hungry, finally. She hadn’t slept so well in a long time.

The coffee shop was busier than Ginny expected at five o’clock. The waitress was cheerful and pretty, and called her Sugar. She called everyone Sugar.

Ginny was halfway through her breakfast when she noticed the man in the next booth, facing toward her. Except he had his head down, praying. When he raised up his head, their eyes met. Since Ginny had been staring at him she felt the need to apologise.

“I’m sorry; didn’t mean to intrude. You look tired. Did you have a bad night?” she asked.

“I’ve been at the hospital.” the man said. “A lady from my church passed away during the night; it was sad, but it wasn’t bad.”

“That’s a sweet way to say it; you must be her pastor,” said Ginny.

“I am. She had a long wonderful life, but she was ready to fly away home.”

“I’m Ginny,” she said, “Please … sit with me. Who counsels the preacher” she asked, “when he’s sad?”

“It is a thorn,” he acknowledged, with a crooked grin, and slid into the seat across from her. “Sometimes the Lord sends me a stranger.”

Ginny smiled, feeling comforted for the first time in weeks. “Why don’t you tell me about her,” she asked.

“Florence Catherine Andersen. Kay. Born in 1914. Her father was an ambassador to some little country. She defied her family’s plans and went to nursing school instead of a teachers’ college. Didn’t marry until she was forty, then married two more times after that. Ninety-two years old, she was. She out-lived her last husband by five or six years.”

“Why did she marry so late?” asked Ginny.

“She was a nurse when the war started, and joined the Army. She was engaged, but her fiance, a B-24 pilot, was killed–lost in the Ploesti raids over Romania. She stayed in the service, marrying a fellow officer and then retired from the Army a few years later when he died.”

He smiled,”Turns out she really liked being married. Her next husband was a rancher, and they were married for twenty years before he passed. Husband number three was a geologist. He was retired from a big oil company, but retirement didn’t suit him. He worked free-lance, and with Kay at his side, they traveled all over the world when other people their age were joining AARP and playing shuffleboard. They went to China, South America, the North Sea, Indonesia. She took a trip to Antarctica last year.”

“An exceptional woman then,” said Ginny.

“Kay wouldn’t have thought so, but she could never understand why folks fence themselves in,” said the Pastor. Ginny was quiet. “Thinking about your own fences?” he asked.

“Oh Pastor, I’m supposed to be helping you.”

“You must have a big day planned, if you’re eating breakfast this early,” he said.

“I’ve never been to Palo Duro Canyon. I have some decisions to make, and I thought some sight-seeing might help.”

“So you’re not from around here then.”

“No, I came up yesterday from the other side of Houston.”

He whistled low. “You drove over seven hundred miles just to think about things? It must be a big decision,” said the pastor softly.

“I flew actually—I have my own plane—it’s a long weekend, and I frequently take cross country trips just to go some place I’ve never been before. Otherwise I’d have no reason to fly.”

“Cross-country and cross-roads then, is that what you’re saying?”

“Pastor, you cut right to the chase don’t you?’

“There’s this man. He says he loves me. Wants to marry me, that’s plain. After knowing me for two weeks, says that we were meant for each other.”

The waitress was making her rounds. “Pastor, how about some more coffee? What about you, Sugar?”

Ginny cradled the hot cup in both hands. “Do you believe that out of all the billions of people in the world, there could be only two who were meant for each other? Florence Catherine loved four men, Pastor, which you have to admit, is more than the usual allotment. And she was a late starter.”

“In 1963 I literally ran into this girl on campus, knocked her down, sent all her books flying. She scraped her palms, knees. Oh boy, was she mad. I picked her up and dusted her off, and heard God say right there in my head, ‘Here she is, boy. Watch your step from now on.’ Not only was I not looking for a wife, this little gal didn’t even fit my well-thought-out guidelines. Not even close. I was looking at sweet-tempered tall blondes, and she was a pocket-sized brunette with a mean temper.”

Ginny smiled. “So how long have you been married?”

“Forty three years.”

“What about her? Were you the man of her dreams?”

“Well she hadn’t counted on someone so clumsy.”

He took a drink of his coffee and studied her.“This fella what says he loves you—what does he do?”

Ginny put her face in her hands. “He’s a pilot in the Air Force. I want a fence–the white picket kind–and a rose-covered cottage, and he’ll be on the move for the next thirty years. I want a husband who’ll come home every night, and he’ll be gone for months at a time.”

“You’re a pretty woman, obviously intelligent. You must have been proposed to before, but you didn’t say yes. Did it send you into a tail-spin then?”

“Tail-spin is right. Because I know what our life will be like. I’ve already lived it.”

“Your Dad was in the military?”

“Still is. A Vice-Admiral now. But he was a pilot first. There’s more. Two of my brothers are pilots, and one’s a SEAL. It’s been my whole life. I wanted a different life as an adult.”

“So you tell him thanks, but no thanks, and move on.”

“Then why do I hurt so much, Pastor?”

“Ginny, why do you think it hurts so much? Why do you think Kay waited for ten years before she got married the first time. I bet she thought she could see into the future too. But we can’t–can we–see into the future.”

“What happens when you fly, Ginny? You plot your course, run out the the numbers. Calculate your distance and fuel, plan your stops. Ever get caught by a storm? Run low on fuel? What do you do then? Try to keep on course, or do you plot a new one?”

He stood, and pulled a business card from his wallet. “Call me. Take a sweater with you down into the canyon. It’s more beautiful than you can imagine, but it can be chilly in the shade.”

“There are geodes in the creek beds,” he said, “if you’re interested in that sort of thing. They look so plain on the outside, and so pretty on the inside. But you have to break them open to see.”

Topics: The Mission

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