On Sunday, Dec. 6, Joyce and I hit the road with only our essentials crammed into my dumpy old Subaru Brat. The drive was long and scary, mainly because I had never done anything like this without my parents before and Portland was a totally foreign place to both of us, but we wanted to prove we could make it on our own and nobody or no place was going to stop us.
As we rolled into Portland on Sunday night, it had begun to snow — something I had never really had to deal with — and by morning there was roughly 18 inches covering the city. So on Monday morning I chained up the tires and slowly made my way to my new job.
Obviously we had no place to stay yet and we were at the mercy of local churches. Our first night was at a hotel paid for by a local church, but the second and third night was spent in the tiny cab of our Subaru Brat. Yes it was cramped, uncomfortable and cold, but we weren’t giving up.
Joyce would tag along with me to work and spend 9 hours in the Brat reading and listening to the radio. Thankfully, God provided us with a camp trailer in a church parking lot to stay in until we got on our feet. We stayed there for a little over a month and even had our first Christmas there. It was small but cozy and we knew it was only a little longer until we could have our own place.
Just after New Year’s 1993, I was finally able to sign the papers for our first place. I remember Joyce and I sitting in the middle of the floor of the barren apartment with nothing but two sacks of clothes and huge, proud smiles our faces. We had nothing but we had all we needed. Eventually my parents were able to get all the contents of my old bedroom up to us so we spruce the joint up a little.
Now, Portland was an entirely different world than good ol’ North Bend, and soon things began to take their toll on me. I had developed a dangerous case of road rage while dealing with the PDX freeways, and the various “Nudie” bars began to become an all too frequent part of my agenda. I knew this stuff was becoming a problem but didn’t know what to do about it. My walk with God was nonexistent at this point, but that didn’t mean He wasn’t looking out for me.
Joyce was a big fan of one of the local craft stores, and while browsing through one of the aisles, I heard some nature sounds being played through the store. It instantly reminded me of back home, and the smell of the natural twigs and branches in the aisle hit my nose, further reminding me of home and then something in me SNAPPED — I looked over at Joyce and said “Dude, we gotta move back home!”
Now, of course, she thought I was crazy — we both knew how the job market was back home — but at the same time we both knew we didn’t want to raise kids in the big city. So after almost 3 years we packed it up and moved back home. I remember laying there the first night back thinking about the job I had given up & about the 401k I given up and said to myself, “What the hell have I done?!?!?”
I was able to get various part-time jobs here and there and we were able to make it work, but we both knew something was missing. We’d been married for 4 years at this point and things were getting rough. It seemed as though our marriage was falling apart and nothing was working. Even my favorite time of the year, Christmas, seemed to have lost something. It was only by the grace of God that we made it through 1996 — commonly referred to as “hell year.”
Joyce & I were able to work out the various problems the year had thrown at us, though it would take years for the scars to fully heal, and we decided it was finally time to expand our family. We’d always talked about our future children, and giving them names, personalities and even faces, but we never felt like the time was right until then.
After a few months of trying and failing we began to get discouraged, but as Jeff Foxworthy once said, “If there’s anything to be a failure at… ” Moving on, we kept at it and each month hoped for the best. Finally, one night Joyce took the test but didn’t have it in her for another disappointment, so I decided to check to see if it was one line or two.
Moments later Joyce knew something was up when the talking turned to silence, then from silence to a strange noise she had never heard me make before. She came in to the bathroom and with tears pouring out of my face in a way that had never occurred before I showed her the test and squeaked out “WE’RE HAVING A BABY!”