Thirty-Five Cents and a Tank Full of Gas

I pulled out of work onto the highway and instead of turning right toward home, I turned left, toward North.

He was North.

back roads

And while it was only a Tuesday, and even though I’d just seen him on Sunday… and even though I had to work the next day…and even though I didn’t have anything with me but the clothes on my back, a quarter tank of gas and thirty-five cents in my pocket…I turned left anyway.

I pointed my little car North and I went to where he was. To where he was working hard, pounding pick axes and hefting dirt and swinging shovels and digging ditches…

…and thinking of me.Scan3

But when I got there an hour and a half later, he wasn’t there.

My knock was quiet on his motel room door and even though I’d never been there, the gas station attendant’s directions brought me right to it and once I was in the parking lot I knew exactly which room I’d find him in. After all, it was the one I’d been sending sweet cards and drawings and pictures to for over six months. His home away from home, his abode where he’d spend hours on the phone with me, chatting into the night, me listening to the stories about his work crew, their roughneck lives and his foreign part of the state I’d never once seen.

JULY 2014 011

I knocked again and only after a third time knocking did an elderly man answer the door, his smile big from around the corner of the white dingey steel.

I was surprised at this face that was not my young man’s face, my happy-go-lucky, smiling man’s baby face. This wasn’t the face of my guy who worked so hard all week on the gas pipeline in the wilds of northern Michigan, earning the paychecks that brought him back to me and all of our dancing fun on the weekends.

the bridge

No, the elderly, sinewy man who answered the door stretched his goofy smile even wider when he got full sight of me on the step to his motel room.

“Well hey Cassy, you’re lookin for Matt ain’tcha?” And he opened the door wide.

I’d been pretty sure I had the wrong room, but once he said my name, I realized this was the roommate I’d heard all about. This was the man my man spent his weeks with, ate his dinners with, slept in the same room with each night and drove to the same worksite with each morning.

“Smitty! Hey, good to meet you! Is Matt here? I thought I’d come have dinner with him.”

Somehow, that goofy smile got even bigger still and the little man of muscle leaned against the door.

“Well no. He ain’t here. Actually, he left about an hour ago. He headed downstate.”

What?!

In all our dating months, he’d never come home mid-week. Ever. He was a leave for work as late as he could Sunday night and come home the second he got off work on Friday kinda guy. The schedule was always the same.

Always.

A Tuesday trip home? What for?

Smitty must’ve read my thoughts.

“The boss had an errand downstate. Needed a tool. Matt jumped in the truck with him. Said he was gonna tag along. See his gal, take her out to dinner maybe. He was headin down to see you darlin.”

My heart leapt.

Isn’t it the unexpected…the out of the ordinary…the off the pattern times…aren’t those the times we really learn how a person feels about us? Aren’t those the times when we really learn who we are?

A midweek trip.

To see me.

He must really love me as much as he says he does.

But then my heart sank too.

Because there, in the pocket of my little blue and white striped short sleeved dress, I held all my worldly treasure.

A whopping thirty-five cents. And I’d barely breezed into this run down motel on the fumes from the itty bitty gas tank of my itty bitty Chevy Spectrum.

How was I going to get back home? There was no way I could get back downstate with no gas and no money. And how was I going to see my guy that I’d traveled so far to surprise?

Again, Smitty must’ve read my thoughts.

“Let’s see if we can’t get those boys on the mobile. Boss keeps one in his truck.”

Today, my trip could’ve been texted, tweeted, and on Facebook before I’d even left. Then, though, the smart phones consisted of a suitcase crammed full of spiral cords that led to a spy movie-looking device that sometimes worked but most of the time didn’t.

This time it did.

And after Smitty got the boss on the phone and told him he had Matt’s little gal here at the motel, he handed the phone to me and said “Here’s your boy.”

“Hiiiii honeyyyy….” I sounded like a junior high girl to him I’m sure. “Surpriiise?”

I was so sheepish. Here he was, in the truck with his boss, and here I was, in his motel room with his sweet old roommate. How in the world, the one and only time I decide to surprise him with a visit,  -the most unexpected thing in all the world for this nice and steady predictable guy-  how did he pick that day to morph into Don Juan surprise lover and swoop downstate to surprise me?!

I was the unpredictable one. I was the one who did things spontaneously and without thinking and threw surprise parties and blurted things on impulse and evidently drove two hours on a whim to see my sweetheart.

He was the one who was steady.

mackinaw

But now, today, here he went and blew all that to the wind and swooped me off my feet the moment I heard of his rash romanticism, – that somehow coincidentally, collided with mine- his careless abandon to his workweek schedule and that was the kind of stuff in movies so I knew to be quiet and just let him have his handsome hero moment and say just the right words that would top off the frosting in my heart and push me right on over to a knee buckling swoon.

“Cassandra how much money do you have?” The first words out of his mouth came firm and knowing and his voice sounded a bit like I imagined he’d sound if he were addressing his four year-old niece. How did he know?

The record on the romantic movie music in my mind scratched to a halt abruptly and my voice got even meeker than it was when I’d first held the phone, a mumble really, and I muttered into the receiver.

“Thirty-five cents.”

The silence was heavy and the toddler in me fiddled with the telephone cord and imagined I’d just gotten caught pilfering cookies out of the cookie jar and my face turned a little red and tears sprang into eyes that’d just been sparkling with thrill and now I was embarrassed.

“Put Smitty back on the phone.” And that was the end of our conversation.

As I stood there awkwardly, still in the doorway to a motel room that was neat and tidy but smelled like two men and their work boots lived there, I listened to one side of a man-talk between Smitty and my man, and I was sure it had just then been decided that his girl had proven herself too irresponsible and reckless for a hard-working, task minded young fellow such as himself.

“Alright buddy, we’ll see ya in a bit”, I heard Smitty say and then he replaced the heavy beige phone receiver to its cradle and turned toward me, his white smile sparkling still.

“C’mon darlin, your boy wants me to get you set up in a room. Didja eat yet? How about a Coke? Here lemme grab ya a Coke.”

And Smitty pulled a pocketful of change out of his weathered blue jeans right on into his weathered hand, a hand rough and missing fingers and tender as he fished a soda out of the vending machine on the sidewalk and placed it gentle and friendly right into my hand.

Within three minutes Smitty had me all set up and had gone back to his room, giving me my space and I sat on the edge of the bed in my very own motel room, alone in a town I’d never been to before, freshened by a drink of cold Coca Cola, knowing my guy was on his way back to me just as soon as he and the boss finished their errand downstate. It would be a long wait, and a lonely wait, but he would be back for me soon.

My man had taken care of things, and in his quiet, direct, and steadfast way, without saying much at all, he’d taken in the situation and got to doing what needed being done.

And as soon as he got back, he filled my car up with gas, my pocket up with some money and he took me out to dinner.chevy

And I never did spend my thirty-five cents.

Some twenty-two or so years later, twenty years of marriage, a cross-continent move, four children, a strong and growing Christ-following faith and half a lifetime built high onto the foundation of that long-ago spontaneous trip, I laugh as I find myself, once again, going to where he is.

He doesn’t know I’m coming this time either.

He won’t be surprising me at the same time I’m surprising him though, because I’m not meeting him at a motel, but at an appointment he can’t miss. It’s his radiation appointment, his daily 9:15 morning session with a narrow beam of poison that is slowly killing off the cancer cells that dwell near his ear, right on the side of his face.

Today’s the 22nd of 33 sessions and the side effects are starting to wear him down. He’s tired and he’s sore and eating tears him up so he doesn’t and never did I think my strong robust man who still shovels but for fun now would be in danger of losing weight. But poison in your body takes an appetite away and sores in a throat kill the taste and he just can’t eat.

It hurts badly.

But he knew it would.

Back then, when they told him the options, he knew the risks, but in his quiet, direct, and steadfast way, he didn’t say much at all, just took the situation in and got down to doing what needed to be done.

And when we find ourselves alone in a town we’ve never been to before, -a strange new world with paths we’ve never walked- not much in our pocket except a handful of faith held in our worn and weathered hands, the One who takes care of things lets us know we’re not sitting alone. He’s coming back.

He’ll be here.

And He is.

And isn’t it the unexpected…the out of the ordinary…the off the pattern times…aren’t those the times we really learn how a person feels about us? Aren’t those the times when we really learn who we are?

When the prayers keep coming…when the love keeps showing up…when in quiet moments I feel held and sure…

He must really love us as much as he says He does.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:35-39

The unexpected surprise of sitting here on this new path in this new town has shown me how loved we are by our people.

By one another.

By our Lord.

And halfway to surprising him at his appointment this morning, I realize I’ve left my purse back home with the sleeping children and their watchful grandmother.

His smile is big when he pulls in and sees me there waiting and I tell him, not so embarrassed this time though.

“It seems I’m still that little girl who came to surprise you and only had thirty-five cents in her pocket. I forgot my purse can you believe that?”

“How much money have you got this time?” He smiles as I bring out the change in my pocket.

We count it up. Forty-five cents.

“More than twenty years later and only ten cents more?” He laughs.

And when we’re done with his appointment he fills my heart with some chat and my pocket with some money.

“Boy. I musta sure been cute back then, showing up with an empty gas tank and thirty-five cents.” I pocket the traveling money he slides across the console and hop out of his truck.

“Yeah. You’re pretty cute now though too.” Scan21

I kiss my big strong man, my baby faced man who’s starting to get sores from the three weeks of beams aimed at his handsome and happy face.

But he’s not saying much. He’s just doing what needs to be done.

And He’s trusting the One who loves him even more than I do.

And whether now, or someday far in the future, we’ll both leave work.

And we’ll turn North.

On that day, He won’t surprise us by being gone.

It may be a long wait but it won’t be a lonely wait.

On that day we’ll leave this foreign land and we’ll turn toward where He is.

On that day…

…we’ll head home.

*

Standing on this mountaintop

Looking just how far we’ve come

Knowing that for every step

You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground

Seeing just how much You’ve done

Knowing every victory

Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way

But with joy our hearts can say

Yes, our hearts can say…

Never once did we ever walk alone

Never once did You leave us on our own

You are faithful, God, You are faithful

 

{{Never Once, Matt Redman}}

*

The name of the LORD is a strong tower… ~Proverbs 18:10

20 thoughts on “Thirty-Five Cents and a Tank Full of Gas

  1. sasha

    I was smiling and crying the whole time reading this. What a beautiful story. I love you guys so much. Keep being strong uncle. ♡

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  2. Mary Christoffersen

    Cassie,
    Honestly, I haven’t read a love-story that good in a long time. I was rather surprised at easy the tears have flowed, not necessarily tears of sadness but tears of joy. : ‘ )
    I pray that you and Matt have many more years together. I hope you continue to write more chapters to this story.
    Godspeed

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    1. Cassandra Post author

      Means so much Mary to have had you come visit..thank you! ❤ I pray too, for more and more years with this man. I know you know how it is though…seems the longer you love em, the longer you want to. Thanks for the love ❤

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  3. christy Troutt

    This is so beautiful, as is your heart, my precious friend. I love you guys & am keeping Matt in constant prayer for healing….& for his little lady, comfort and strength.

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  4. amehrica

    Oh Cassy! Like Sasha, I too read this with a constant stream of tears yet a smile as well. I love you all so very much. A beautiful love story indeed. Thank you for sharing with us. Oh! And! Happy Birthday!

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    1. Cassandra Post author

      Thank you! Good to have you visit the blog today! I’m going to come visit yours…love meeting new blog folks 🙂 Thanks for the love this morning ❤️

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  5. donteatthecrayons

    I love your writing style. So smooth and artistic, yet simple and easy to comprehend.

    You and your husband will be in my prayers. Such a challenging scenario, no doubt. I see this post is already several months past, and I hope he is doing better. I can’t imagine.

    Blessings and prayers.

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    1. Cassandra Post author

      Thank you for coming to visit AND for your prayers! ❤
      He's doing great. His three-month check last week was a thumbs-up and an all-clear. We trust God should it ever not be that way, but we are so thankful that for now, it is. Thanks for the kind words this morning ❤

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