I picture him standing in the church superintendent’s office,
the grim man threatening to fire my father from his pastorship
in the small town of Live Oak if he continued to attend
the interdenominational prayer group that spoke in tongues.
With two small children and a third on the way, my father must have had
balls to look that man straight in the eye and tell him
to go to hell, that he’d rather resign than resist
his own heart. So he gathered my pregnant mother,
my brother, and me, put us all in the car, and headed south,
not knowing where to go, with no job, no home, and only a few dollars
in his pocket. Somewhere along the Pacific Coast Highway he woke
in a cheap motel at 4 AM and heard a small voice say,
Go east, so he obeyed, eventually pulling into the beaten town
of Turlock in the dusty San Joaquin Valley, where he went to see
an old Navy buddy named Carl and said, I need a job and a house.
Carl said he’d hook him up with the school superintendent
the next morning, because they were hiring teachers. And my
father walked outside to see Carl’s neighbors loading furniture
into a truck and asked, Is this house for rent? And the landlady
said, Why yes it is. These tenants are moving out. And just like that
I had my first lesson as a young boy that sometimes
all you’ve got is balls and faith. That a voice will speak to you
in the dark of morning with your one cup of coffee,
your single tank of gas, and say, Go east.
And that you follow.