It was one of those frustrating times when you are trying to leave on a trip but cannot seem to get on the road. In this case, I was moving my third son Tyler to college, two-and-a-half hours away from Bismarck to Fargo, North Dakota. We were all sad to see him go. He was transferring to North Dakota State University after a year at the local community college. One of my other sons, Luke, was sharing an apartment with him, so I was comforted to know the two of them would be roommates.
Also leaving with us was Tyler’s girlfriend, Jessie. Although we had a large family of ten kids, Jessie had managed to find a place in everyone’s heart. Jessie was also transferring to Fargo and planned to drive her car behind Tyler. Both had decided to move up early during the summer in order to get jobs and be settled when the school year started. But that morning, there was one delay after another. Just when we thought everything was finally ready, Jessie said she had to run to the bank to get some money out. While we waited, she phoned to tell us that her bankcard was lost. Tyler suggested just leaving ahead of her since we would be driving slowly and she could catch up with us later in the day. Jessie tried to remain calm but the tears came. Not until then, did I realize she had actually never driven out of town on her own. She was not even sure of the directions. Then, there was the stress of running late and losing her bankcard. But perhaps the real reason for her tears was what she was leaving behind. Her mother—her best friend– had died only nine months earlier. Jessie was a strong and sensible girl but there were times she missed her mother terribly.
Embarking on such a milestone as this was surely one of those times. Her parents had divorced a couple years before her mother died. There were resentments both real and imagined and emotions sometimes ran high between Jessie and her father. When she asked him to wake her up before he left for work that morning, she had expected him to come and say good-bye. Instead, he called her name before the door banged closed and he drove off to the fire station where he worked. Her father did not want her to go away to college, but Jessie had expected he would still want to say good-bye to her. With no mother to help her prepare and feeling emotionally abandoned by her father, Jessie was carrying a heavy weight that morning.
Realizing she did not want to drive up alone, we agreed to wait for her. Jessie never did find her bankcard, but decided she would call it in missing after we got to Fargo. (Someone found it and turned it in later that day.) Then, finally we were on the road, almost two hours behind our original plan. Just a mile from our home, Tyler pulled into a convenience store to buy drinks and snacks. I complained, impatient to get going. “I’ll just be a minute,” he promised.
A few minutes later, it seemed we were really ready this time. But then, as our van descended down a steep driveway onto the street, the trailer hitch scraped the concrete and came off. “Oh no,” I said, wondering if we were even roadworthy with this sort of occurrence. Tyler hauled out a hammer and screwdriver.
“Don’t worry,” he assured me and plopped down under the hitch. “I know what’s wrong and I can fix it.” I returned to the van and waited through this latest delay. After a few minute’s I looked out the back window and saw Jessie’s dad, wearing his fireman’s uniform giving Jessie a big hug. Our hitch had come off kitty-corner from the fire station where he worked. He had looked out the window and spotted Jessie’s car parked behind our van and hurried out the door to say good-bye to his daughter. Whatever fear or resentments he had over Jessie leaving, melted away when he looked out the window and saw her standing outside her car, waiting to leave.
A hug good-bye from her father meant the world to Jessie. In spite of all the factors that complicated their relationship now, Jessie loved him. When she talked of her childhood memories it was filled with love and admiration for her father—the props he helped build for her dance recitals or the time she slipped away from him skiing and he frantically looked for her. A cloud overshadowed this next chapter on her life because she was leaving town without saying good-bye to her dad.
It had to be Divine intervention that brought Jessie and her father together at the very last minute. For some reason, Tyler did not pick up snacks at the store we had already passed. And for some reason, our hitch came off within view of the fire station. We needed to be there, stuck for a few minutes in order for the good-bye to take place.
It’s always good to forgive others without a hitch, but in this case, it was the hitch that brought reconciliation between a father and daughter. And just a couple days later, Jessie’s dad decided to drive out to Fargo. After spending the day helping her get settled, his reluctance to see her leave home was replaced with a new feeling. “I’m actually kind of excited for you,” he admitted. So, a second good-bye took place just a few days later, but this time, without a hitch.
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Copyright 2016 Patti Maguire Armstrong. Originally published at CatholicMom.com in 2011.
About the Author
Patti Maguire Armstrong is the mother of 10, and has a B.A. in social work and M.A. in public administration. Her newest book is Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to Heaven. Others include Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and the Amazing Grace Series. Follow her at @PattiArmstrong and read her blog at PattiMaguireArmstrong.com.