Technically, I was not fatherless. And technically, my mother was not a widow. Her husband, my father, was still alive when she raised me as a single mother. But God looked out for us just the same. He was our Father. I see that so clearly now.
Mom and Dad
When their marriage didn’t work out, my dad decided to leave the household. Then, my mom decided to leave the state. With their 4-year-old daughter in the back seat of her green 1965 Ford Mustang, she set out for parts unknown.
If she was going to have to raise her child alone, she was going to do it in a place where there was more opportunity. Less baggage. More sunshine. Less racism. California here we come!
Me (right) and my older cousin sitting on top of the famous green Mustang.
This was before GPS, and even before the I-10 made the drive less treacherous. We drove a couple thousand miles through mountain passes and desert highways. We were so alone. And we cried.
I was very young, but I still remember how frightening it was for both of us to see those mountains towering over us in the dark. We had never seen anything like that before. We were in the middle of nowhere, with a paper map and no cell phone! Just two young females, a 27-year-old and her little girl. But we had God. I see that so clearly now.
This was long before I knew the words of Scripture...the Scriptures which were introduced to me many years later by the father who had left us, ironically. In retrospect, when I think of all that could have gone wrong, I see God in the middle of it all.
Inspired by Today's Psalm
My mom and I arrived in Los Angeles bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as they used to say back in those days. Her only brother lived there at the time, so we crashed temporarily with him. But less than a week after our arrival, that beautiful Mustang was totaled by a drunk driver while it was parked.
If we wanted to go back home, it was now impossible. Then, right after that, my mom's brother did decide to go back home. And, we ended up having to crash on the couch of one of his friends at the time, and then a distant relative. We felt very alone. But God was with us. I see that so clearly now.
A glimmer of hope came just three weeks after we arrived in Los Angeles when my mother was hired on the spot after a job interview. It was a good job with stability and benefits, which allowed us to finally get our own place. We rented one side of a duplex for $62 a month, and it was just half a block away from an ice cream shop!
Soon, my mom could afford to send for the house full of furniture she had to leave behind. Her cousin drove it out in a U-Haul truck through those same mountain passes. Then we had another frightful experience. A week after the furniture arrived, we experienced our first earthquake.
It was a big one, and we were completely shook. Literally! She took me to work with her that day because we were too afraid to be separated from each other. My mom really wanted to go back home. But once again, the timing was awful. Our furniture had just been delivered. We were completely unpacked and settled into our new lives. She had just started a new job. It was scary. But we stayed.
At the time, it looked like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, I see now that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. And God made sure we stayed put.
My mother continued “moving on up.” When I was 12 years old, just eight years after we arrived in Los Angeles, she bought her first home...all by herself. This was a major milestone for a single mother to accomplish on her own in the 1970s. But she was not completely alone. I can see that so clearly now.
When I read today's Psalm, that word "fatherless" jumped out at me. It's not always death that makes a child fatherless. It's not always death that leaves a woman alone to fend for herself. In fact, nowadays, it has become the norm. But, thankfully, the Lord doesn't discriminate.
I was raised by a woman who worked hard, spent every minute of her free time with me, and who refused to bring strange men around. She saved her money, only bought things when they were on sale, and made sure we went to mass every Sunday. God honored her commitment with a commitment of His own. He loved us and cared for us, as though we were fatherless and widowed. And, He never left. I see that so clearly now.
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