It was a cold rain that lashed against the windows of the bus. Garrett Baylor sat looking out seeing nothing. It had been a very long time since he had been home, and he really wasn’t sure how his family would take it. He looked down at his hands and took note of the calluses that lined his palms, and he though, his family would never believe what he had been through in the last 8 years.
He thought of his mother, she was a warm, wonderful, down to earth person, but he had coldly turned away from them leaving without a word. He had no idea if they would ever forgive him.
Loneliness was his friend, he closed his eyes and remembered the sound of his mother’s voice that sweet, beautiful voice, and he prayed to God that she would forgive him.
The bus was cramped, and he noticed all was silent save for the sound of the tires on the road.
He looked up at the clouds, bruised and filled with the rain. He could relate to them, he felt bruised and filled with regret. Garrett realized that the next stop was his; he could just stay on the bus and forget about going home. After all, he was the one who burnt those bridges not his family.
No, he thought, this time I will go home and take my just deserts. Quite fitting since it is Thanksgiving, he sighed heavily.
Oh, how he had missed the holidays with the family in North Carolina. He had received word from a friend that his grandfather had passed away. He never even knew no one knew how to find him to let him know.
The bus began to slow, Garrett gathered his belongings and prepared to exit the bus and face his greatest fear. His fear was not one of failure, not anymore, but the fear that his family would turn him away confirming his inner fears, the one that told him he wasn’t good enough. He had been on the bus for hours now; finally he had become accustomed to the smell of a dirty locker room that permeated the bus. Now, as he disembarked the bus the smell of rain in North Carolina was a welcome balm to his soul.
His mind drifted back to that day. He was young, just 18 old enough to know better to arrogant to stop, and so sure of himself. Things could have been so different for him if he had only listened to his mother.
“Come on chicken, get in we’re racing.”
“No, Garrett I am not getting in that death trap!” Sara stood with her arms crossed looking angry. “You know what Momma said about your racin,’ it’s gonna get you killed!”
“Come on baby sis, you don’t always have to listen to Momma do ya?” he smiled. “Come on, I promise we will win and then I will buy you dinner at Stormy’s Diner.”
She stood there looking up at the darkening sky, he was sure she wasn’t going to get in and he would have to forfeit the race to Tony. That’s when she surprised him.
“Ok, but you have to promise that you will buy me whatever I want from the menu.”
“No problem, sis come on now let’s go.”
She hopped in the car with a smile. That was the last time he ever saw that smile.
He lost control of his car and ended up in a tree, he spent six weeks in the hospital and his sister died she was just 14 years old. He felt the weight of that guilt ever since. When he recovered he couldn’t look his family in the face so he packed up and left in the night, joining the military.
Now, he knew it was time to go home, be a man and face his demons. Finally, he could see the lights of home, they were warm and welcoming to some, but to Garrett they represented his greatest fears. He kept moving toward them as if pulled by an unseen force.
Setting his bag down on the wraparound porch of the house he once called home he peered in the window. They were all there, Momma, Daddy, Kate, Jerry and two others that he didn’t know. Must be their significant others.
Garrett stood there for what seemed like an eternity, taking in the smells of a home cooked meal. He watched as his mother moved about placing the Thanksgiving dinner on the table. He felt something warm and wet on his cheek, he dashed it away.
Finally, they were all seated at the table and they bowed their heads. He could see Daddy’s lips moving as he said grace. He was about to leave and never come back when his mother turned and saw him.
Garrett could see the look of shock on her face; she sat there frozen to her seat for just a second more. Then she leapt up and ran for the door.
This is it, he thought, now she gets to tell me to go and never come back. He stood there rooted to the spot.
She rushed out the door and threw her arms around him, tears streaming down her face. “You’re home, God has answered my prayers you’re home!” she cried as she hugged him tighter.
This was not at all what he had expected. He began to sob, and his mother held him through it all.
His father came out and put his hand on Garrett’s back and simply said, “Welcome home son.”
Garrett could see his other siblings standing on the porch looking at them with tears running down their cheeks as well.
His mother held him at arm’s length and said, “I lost two children that day, thank God for bringing one of them home to me.”
“Come on in son, out of the rain, dinner’s a getting cold.” his father gently led him home.