Eight hours on the highway to Saskatchewan is worthwhile because there will be someone waiting to welcome us at the other end. Anytime you have to make a long journey, the impact of it is softened by the prospect of someone waiting to welcome you and to mark the end of an otherwise lengthy journey.
As we were on such a journey to celebrate the life of a matriarch, I thought about the fact that there would be such a person to welcome us at the end of our trip. We are ever so fortunate to have such a friend waiting for us, because not all people are so blessed.
It made me think of a close friend whom we met about fifteen years ago through Potter’s Hands. At that time, he had lived on the street for eighteen years after conflict with the family that had adopted him. He travelled across Canada several times in order to find that home he so desired, not always realizing that he carried his past with him, like most street people do; in a backpack. Until he arrived in Red Deer he had not found what he was searching for.
In Red Deer he found some folks who welcomed him and made him slow down his running a bit. He worked extremely hard at trying to live a ‘normal’ life. He was invited into our homes and our lives and over time we learned to love this man even though his difficulty with relationships never really improved. His work ethic was awesome, and he held a couple of very good jobs, but there was always something missing in his own life.
About a year ago, his adoptive father, (whom he loved and had a great respect for), passed away, which really impacted him. After this, his discontent grew perceptibly. Even though his work was going well, changes in the structuring of the company only helped his discontent to grow. Then the lady he was seeing also wanted to make changes for herself and so the dissolving of their relationship seemed inevitable. Altogether, it was enough for him to come to a point of decision.
Finally, yesterday he came to our home to tell us that he had resigned from his job and his relationship, and at the end of this week will load up his car and leave to go back home down east; permanently!
Not knowing exactly how to respond, I thought about the last fifteen years that we have known him; how we met, the changes he went through leaving his street life behind and the cleaning up of his habits. He was quite musical, and often, along with others, our home would be filled with music. This was the type of change we had been working towards; not only for him, but for all who come to us through the kitchen.
But now, and I can see it in his face, he has a different mindset. Having fully reconciled with his family, and the promise from a former employer for a job when he gets there, he will be travelling back to his family home in Ontario. He has made the trip back several times, but this time will be different. Now, in his own heart and mind, his return to be with family will be heralded by something very different.
This time, like for us travelling to Saskatchewan, there will be someone waiting in anticipation.
This time there will be a light in the window.
Just before submitting this article, I received a call to tell me that because of a change in his circumstances, my friend has now rescinded his decision to leave. But he has been assured by family down east that the light will always be in the window for him.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.