I've mentioned in a previous post that I've been working on a memoir dealing with a dark period in my life that most of you don't know about. Shortly after my father's death in January 1991, I had an emotional meltdown. For reasons that will be explained in the memoir, I felt responsible for his death. Guilt can wreak havoc with creativity, so I found myself unable to write for a long time. Mom, Collin and I moved six times in three years. When the royalties for my existing novels began to diminish, we were evicted from our home and moved into a motel room.
My story now has a title—“You Can't Go Home Again”—and will be finished very soon. I expect to publish it early next year, God willing. Here is an excerpt....
We reluctantly put [Mom's dog] Schatzi in a boarding kennel and checked into a small, independent motel along the old Route 66, taking a chance on taking [my bird] Sam with us. We didn't know if we'd get kicked out for having him there or not, but at that point, I didn't know what else to do. I wasn't going to abandon him—I'd already failed to save [my potbellied pig] Iggy. Sam had already been traumatized. Because [my cousin Sharon's daughter] Laura had a cat—who had already made one attempt at having Sam for lunch—I couldn't leave him with Sharon.
We'd cover his cage to keep him quiet whenever we had to be away from the room—until we found him uncovered, courtesy of the owner, who, it turned out, had several birds of her own and adored them. That, at least, was a relief. He was welcome at the motel.
We stayed there for a month, trying to figure out how we were going to ever get another place to call home. The four of us, in that one room, were each dealing with the emotional trauma in our own way. Collin and I needed noise—neither of us could stand silence—so we left the TV on all night. I still can't sleep without some kind of noise in the room—these days, I use a radio. Oddly enough, we needed that closeness to each other, too. We were each others' lifelines.
Mom became increasingly depressed and experienced what our family doctor later told me were TIAs—the prelude to a major stroke. A combination of stress and being without her meds during the eviction had set it in motion. It was just a matter of time at that point.
Then, the money ran out. We were faced with having to give up the room, but having nowhere else to go. Mom sent Collin out to get our dinner one evening so she and I could talk. We would be leaving the motel by eleven the next morning. We agreed that we would ask Sharon to let Collin and Sam go back to her place, and Mom and I would be living on the street. We knew if we ended up in a shelter, Collin wouldn't be allowed to stay with us, and we wouldn't be able to take Sam at all.
That night, I prayed. I prayed for a miracle, because I knew that's what it was going to take. Finally, exhausted, I fell asleep.
The phone ringing early the next morning woke me. It was [my agent] Maria's assistant. I listened to her speak, but couldn't believe what I was hearing. She had called to tell me a FedEx envelope was on its way to me and would arrive by 10:30—an advance from one of my foreign publishers! Seven thousand dollars—more than enough to cover our room, necessities, and rent and deposit for an apartment, if we could find a landlord willing to rent to us after what we'd been through.
Thank God—He'd heard my desperate prayers and answered! I didn't know it yet, but He wasn't finished....
We went to the Jack in the Box down the street for breakfast. Had it not been for that unexpected windfall, we would not have even been able to do that. There, we found a copy of the Thrifty Nickel. Mom decided to check the ads while she ate—and found one for an apartment for rent. She called to make an appointment to see it that afternoon. We went to the bank to deposit my advance check. I withdrew some cash to pay for our room and food—or that was the plan, anyway. I don't know why I withdrew such a large amount. Just a feeling really, that we would need it.
The apartment was perfect for our needs. It was in a good neighborhood, near our doctor's office, drugstore, grocery store, library—everything we needed. I filled out the rental application at the kitchen counter. The landlord said he'd had other applicants and would let us know his decision in a few days.
I thought of the cash in my bag. Again, just a feeling prompted my next move. "I'll give you first and last month's rent, cash, right now," I told him.
He thought about it for a moment. "Okay," he said. We signed the lease on the spot.
"We'll have to stop at the bank on the way back to the motel," I told Mom. "We're going to need more cash."
Bob, our new landlord, spoke up. "I can drop you there."
We didn't realize it that day, but God had not only saved us from sleeping on the streets and led us to a new home, He had also given us a landlord who was one of the kindest, most decent human beings we'd ever meet. After the hell we'd been through, He'd led us to peace and a deep sense of security.
In the months to come, we were going to need it more than ever.