Mr. Gonzales, Please Put in a Change of Address !

I got one of the biggest scares of my life today. You’d have to see my office to understand the layout but, it started as a one car garage.  The walls are painted Gamecock red and the concrete floor overlaid with bamboo wood. Sleek white bookcases anchor my desk.  But the white metal garage door attached to an overhead pulley is a dead giveaway of its origin. Random me loves it because I can work all day outside while I’m inside. Whether pouring rain or saturated with sunshine, I have the best both worlds but, as with all good things, disadvantages do surface. The negative with my inside/outside area? I can’t  hide.  Don’t go self righteous and act like you’ve never done it. Being a preacher’s wife doesn’t mean I’m not human. Sorry for the soapbox rant, but double standards are my pet peeve.

When inside the house, you usually have an opportunity to see who’s about to come calling. If you don’t want to be called upon, you drop to your knees, crawl to the TV and turn it off, toss the kids in a closet and play hide & go seek.

When you’re sitting outside though, you can’t do that. Drive in my yard most days when I’m working in my office and I’m a sitting duck.  If I try to put the door down, my white garage door appears. If I leave it open and go inside..well, seriously, think about it. You drive up to a house and the garage is open, but it’s not a garage, it’s a room.  A red room with a computer, books and cat who’s just had four kittens.  Either leave my stuff up for grabs (not that I think my friends would be so bold…’ll leave wondering why I never told you that Jeff Foxworthy and I are relatives. Funny girl, aye?

This morning, a Union County Highway Patrol car came barreling down the half mile lane to our farm house.  When I realized it was a patrol car, my legs turned to spaghetti and my heart dropped to my toes.  I’ve watched 48 Hours enough to know that Highway Patrol folks don’t just stop by for a glass of sweet tea.

I approached the car swallowing a cottony film coating my throat and braced myself for the tragedy ahead.  I had just spoken to my Chipper moments before, Jena was in class and Tams was watching COPS, so I assumed the visit concerned our twenty seven year old son, Josh. The man didn’t smile or say hi.  He was expressionless as he handed me a sheet of paper. You know this person?

My head was spinning so violently. I couldn’t focus on the words, let alone the name.  I choked out, You’ll have to show it to me, I’m rattled. His finger guided me to the left top corner where I read the name GONZALES. My heart floated up to its rightful position in one beat as I realized this wasn’t about anyone I knew. This is your house and address?  His finger moved over the computerized information.  Yes sir, but I don’t know the man.

By now I was collected enough to assume Mr. Gonzales had given a bogus address and for some reason Union County was looking for him. I knew the officer might ask to search the property and honestly, I wasn’t keen on Marshall Dillon taking a hike on our 57 acres, so when he repeated the questions once more, I responded in a calm, collected manner. We’ve only been here two months so I can’t say for sure who may have worked on the farm in the past. But I don’t know anyone by that name. He took the paper, tapped his fingers on the dash and sighed. Thank you ma’am. Beautiful morning, isn’t it? I bobbed my head; indeed.  The officer told me about a few people he knew close to our farm but, it was what he DIDN’T SAY that I heard loudest.

GOT ME TO THINKING about our dear friends, Heyward & Susan, who got a 5am rap on the front door. But, the name on the paper was that of their beloved, nineteen year old son, Sheldon. I’ll never forget visiting with Susan after Sheldon’s death.  Chills danced up and down my spine as she recalled peeking through the frosted glass, realizing it was an officer’s silhouette.  She explained how her blood went cold as she went to get Heyward out of bed before opening the door. She told me how she  “just knew”.  She wept, telling me how their world changed in the few moments of that unannounced predawn visit.

None of us knows what the next fifteen minutes will bring, tomorrow, next month, next year.  Life is a gift but, it is so very fragile and as I get older, I understand the gift of time.

Last month, Sheldon’s brother in law, a police officer, was shot & died instantly.  His mom had spoken to her twenty nine year old son an hour before the shooting.  Matthew’s five year old daughter will grow up without her daddy, his sister won’t share the holidays with her little brother. His parents will forever grieve the loss of a son. An unexpected visitor came calling. That is the reality of LIFE and of DEATH.

I’d like to thank Mr. Gonzales for borrowing our address.  I might even give him a hug if he happened to show up soon because it was time for me to remember how blessed I am, not tomorrow. TODAY.  I’ve been so busy the past few days, I haven’t had time to send my Joshua a text message.  On second thought, I think I’ll give him a call.

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