A Fork in the Road

Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, I worked as a nursing assistant in one of our local hospitals. The work was hard and fast paced but I enjoyed it immensely. It was more than just a job for me. Although I needed the money to supplement my husbands income, I was left at the end of the day , very tired but with a feeling of satisfaction that I had helped someone.

Little did I know at the time that I would become a life long friend to some of the people I worked with. One of them was Dolly. Dolly and I had much in common except in looks. She was petite with dark brown hair and eyes. I was of a medium frame with blonde hair and blue eyes. Otherwise, we shared the same birth month and year. I was older by four days. We enjoyed the same music, books and movies. Our husbands had a lot in common also. They shared the same birth month and their excessive fondness for and ingestion of booze.

When I went home from work I put in another four to six hours. First, I prepared dinner for two growing boys and their father, although he was never home to eat. The only time we sat down to a family dinner was on special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas, because he had to stop on the way home from work and have a beer or six to unwind. When he found his way home he was usually to unwound to eat the meal I had kept warm for him and fell asleep on the couch most of the time. I had laundry and all the other household chores to do.

Dolly didn’t have it as easy as I did. She had all those things to do and she had seven children. I often wondered how she managed.

It’s funny how sometimes life closes in on you and you wonder how a love you thought was so strong, just fades away. You wonder, " When did it happen ? How long have I been this way? How long in this rut, this prison?"

Life closed in on Dolly. She came to a point where she could not take anymore and devised a plan to leave. She managed to put a little money aside. This in its self was a miracle. Her husband was often laid off from work or out on strike and with seven children there is always an emergency with someone needing something. Her plan was to go visit her mother she had not seen in many years and lived far away in another state.

Someone else who became a life long friend was Cheryl. Dolly rode to work with Cheryl when they had the same schedule. Otherwise she had to take a city bus all the way across town, sometimes making it to work on time, sometimes not. Then there was the long ride home with a stop on every corner. She had plenty of time to think and review her life.

Her plan was that she would give a two week notice at work . When the time was up, on one of my days off, Cheryl would pick her up just as though they were going to work and drop her off at my house, then I would take her to the bus station.

The day of the great escape came. Dolly had packed a small suitcase and hid it in a trash bag. Cheryl picked her up in the alley around six-fifteen a.m. Dolly threw the trash bag in the back seat, hopped in the front and Cheryl took off like a bandit heading for the border with a posse in hot pursuit. She dropped Dolly off at my house and went on to work.

Dolly and I sat around drinking coffee and killing time as her bus did not leave until around one P.M.

Now I'm sure you've heard of Murphy’s Law. How about, The best laid plans of mice and men? Well, that goes for the best laid plans of Dolly and what could go wrong, went wrong.

My phone rang. It was Cheryl. She said that Dolly’s husband had called work to talk to her and was informed that she was no longer employed there. So, he called Cheryl. She tried to make excuses but said he was on to the plot and was going to the bus station to confront Dolly.

Now Dolly was already a pile of jangled nerves but she pulled herself together and called the bus station to see if there was somewhere else close where she could take the bus. She was told the bus would be in a small town about twenty miles away at noon. We decided that would be the way to go. I had been to this town but always with someone else driving and did'nt pay attention as to the route.

I called another friend to see if she could give me directions. She told me to go north on a certain highway and it would bring me right to the town.

We put everything in the car including my nine year old son and headed north on the highway. I drove about ten miles and it dawned on me that we were not headed for the town we wanted. I told Dolly and pulled over at a gas station to ask directions. I was told to go back down the highway about two miles and take a left. I turned the car around and had gone about two miles when I saw a road with a sign that had the name of the town on it so I took a left.

We drove on a fairly decent highway for about five miles. Then we entered The Twilight Zone. A gravel road lay before us with nothing on either side but farm land. We drove for miles and miles without seeing a house, a car, truck, tractor or even a Jack Rabbit. On and on we drove for what seemed like hours. Finally we came to a fork in the road. I stopped, wondering which way I should go. I have absolutely no sense of direction.

From the back seat came a small voice, "Take a right, mom." Having no better idea, I took a right. I could see the road stretching on for miles and was beginning to get worried. The air- conditioning in my car did'nt work. We were all hot, tired and thirsty. I could just see us running out of gas and dying from dehydration in a sea of gravel.

Again, we drove on and on, I thought the road would never end but at last we came to another fork. Without hesitation, from the back seat came the small voice, "Take a left, mom." The thought came to me, " And a little child shall lead them." I took a left.

We had not gone very far until the gravel road became a paved road and we saw a little country church, then a sprinkling of houses and a small town. It was not the town we were looking for however and by now it was well past noon.

We stopped at a gas station, got cold drinks and directions and went back to my house. If I had been in Dolly’s shoes I would have given up at this point. Not Dolly. She called the bus station again and found there was a bus leaving at mid-night.

We got her on that bus. I was sad to see her go. While I admired her determination and courage, I felt she was so distraught that she was not thinking clearly. I felt her husband might retaliate by taking the children even though she assured me that he did not want that responsibility.

She was gone about two weeks. In that time she wrote a lovely poem that described her feelings. She felt lost and alone, she had come to a fork in the road and she must make a choice. She stopped and listened for that small voice to guide her. No, not the one from the back seat but the one that lives within each of us if we only listen. It told her not to look back, to go forward. Shortly after she returned, she filed for divorce.

There is a story between that time and now but I will leave that for Dolly to tell. I will say that she is happily married to a wonderful man. She is an artist, a poet and a writer. She has many grand children and a happy life. I'm very happy for her and grateful for her friendship.

As for Cheryl. She has recovered nicely form colon cancer surgery. She has a wonderful attitude and a bright outlook on life. She enjoys camping with her husband and friends, her grand children and  creating beautiful handmade quilts.

The small voice from the back seat grew up to have a mighty powerful voice.

He has four beautiful children and a lovely wife. He was baptized on my birthday and has made me very proud.

Me? Well, as you may have guessed, I have four beautiful grand children.

I write poetry, dabble in genealogy and writing. My husband of forty five years stopped his drinking in 1991 after a stroke. Although, he did slow down a lot before that. He walks two blocks to the park each morning to feed the ducks, walks our dog and works jig saw puzzles. We have a good life with many blessings.

Looking back, I recall how I envied and admired Dolly for taking steps that I myself wanted to take but didn't have the courage. But then I wonder; how you measure courage. I suppose it took a little courage for me to remain in my situation.

We all come to forks in the road and have to make choices. I have no regrets for the choices I  made and I am sure Dolly has none either.

When you come to your fork in the road, stop; listen for that small voice. It will lead you in the right direction.

© Lora Cox