Which One?-part 14 (Image: Not Open For Business)

There it was—in my face—what I’d been chasing, dreaming about, yearning after for months and in a way—looking for my entire adult life. I wanted Joanie—and suddenly there she was in my lap. The old admonition, “Be careful what you wish for,” flitted through my thoughts.

Looking back now I realize it wasn’t a difficult decision—really there was no decision. Mostly it was the shock and surprise—being hit between the eyes with, “You want it—you got it—now deal with it.”

It took a few minutes for me to focus my thoughts and find my voice.

“I’ll come there—I’ll come get you,” I said (now it was my turn to blurt.) “I’ll drive up there tomorrow—I’ll leave at 5 A.M.—I should be there about 3 or 4.”

I could hear Joanie and Barbie talking. Suddenly Barbie was on the line.

“Orion,” Barbie began, “there’s 3 feet of snow up here. Do you have snow tires on your car—chains in the trunk?

Where I live—central Virginia—we typically don’t get a lot of snow. In an average winter we might see 4 or 5 light snows and a few of some consequence but they usually melt in 3 or 4 days. I calmed down a bit and acknowledged Barbie’s point.

In the days that followed Joanie and I—with input from Barbie—decided it would be best for all concerned to wait a few months. The thought of waiting 2 months now that Joanie was unencumbered and committed to me—was like being told I had to hold my breath underwater for two months—then I could come up and breath.

Odyssey was (and still is) a small town with the typical small town collective nosiness and preoccupation with minding everybody’s business but your own. Something as minor as a couple breaking off an engagement—can easily become the subject of vicious, judgmental gossip and lascivious distortion—especially when a fairly high-profile couple in the community break up and a new boyfriend magically appears the next day. Ridiculous as it might sound to some people, it would almost certainly become a scandal and a lot of people would be hurt and embarrassed. You might call it the dark side of Mayberry.

So we started crossing off the days until I would fly up. The third weekend in February was a four day weekend—two national holidays tacked onto the weekend. It would be an agonizingly long wait until then. During that time we would call twice a day and talk about our lives—share secrets—discuss the future—get to know each other as the mature adults we were now with 42 years of life lived apart from one another.

Our lives had taken such different paths. Joanie’s dream had always been to raise a family and make a home in the community where she was born. My path had been to leave home, travel, search—sometimes learn. After escaping the Mohawk Valley via the military and following the military, I had attended colleges and universities in three states and had lived in 6 more.

Joanie was a nurturing, domestic, small town girl who had lived exactly the sort of life she had always wanted for herself. I was a malcontent, anxious, restless wanderer for most of my life, always wanting to see more, understand more and while there were a number of shining moments that I still treasure—I would never really be happy.

Now, in the final few decades of my life I had come full circle. Four decades earlier I had rejected and left the region I grew up in as well as the one, perfect girl for me. I would think to myself and say to Joanie over and over, I wish I had recognized how I really felt about her and married her when we were kids but we both knew it never would have worked back then. I had to chase my convoluted, narcissistic dreams—I could not stay home and be unsatisfied and unhappy—I had to be unsatisfied and unhappy in a dozen towns in nine states.

In the last weeks of the two month waiting period I was incredibly anxious and miserable. I desperately wanted to go—but was terrified something would prevent it. The only way I could find any approximation of peace was to accept that it wouldn’t happen—that I would never get to go back to the place I came from and be with my Joanie.

But the day to go came right on time. And other than the plane being delayed 2 hours due to weather up north, nothing happened to stop me. On a chilly, grey Friday afternoon in February I claimed my window seat, stuffed my carry-on into the overhead and snapped my seatbelt. In a daze of unreality I watched the runway outside my window slowly taxi past and the horizon gently spin around as the plane turned into position for take-off. The heavy whine of the jet engines built into a controlled scream as the accelerating runway raced by the window faster and faster then dropped away into broken clouds and a grey-blue mosaic of mountains, farmland and tiny towns passing slowly, silently far beneath us.

I was going home.

End part 14

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