Read an Excerpt
I Think I Gave God A Ride To Work Last Night
A Book of Emotionally Charged True Stories of Love, Family, and Miracles
By Morton Gregory
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Gregory M. Carbino
All rights reserved.
I Think I Gave God a Ride to Work Last Night
* * *
The story began when I decided I was going to write a prayer to God every morning. I think God comes to us in many forms. A lot of times, we don't recognize him. I think he just checks in to see how we are doing and how we are treating others, especially ones in need. I think my wife and I passed the test last night, and I hope God smiled.
Since I started writing my prayer each morning, I have felt such a connection to him. My days go better, and I look at others in a different way. I think I am beginning to see them as God does. However, God has some pretty funky outfits; you would never guess it was him. Sometimes, he hangs around in some weird places, like in that men's room at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was disguised as a janitor.
I was standing at a urinal, doing what men do at a urinal, when out of the blue, God said, "Give him a tip." I said to myself, "Really?" So me being me I reached into my pocket and gave the janitor a ten-dollar tip. You would think I gave him a hundred dollars.
The man thanked me over and over again. I said, "You are welcome. You are doing a good job."
He said, "Bless you, sir. Bless you."
I was there on a business trip. I was wearing an expensive suit, and he acted like I was someone with money and prestige. In fact, I should have been a servant to him. When I was leaving, he said thank you again. He explained that he did try to do a good job. At that point, I told him it showed.
I know I saw God that day. As I walked out of the bathroom, a feeling came over me. I knew it was God, and I began to cry tears of joy. I couldn't control myself. When I realized what had happened, I ran back to the men's room, but no one was there.
That was many years ago, but I will never forget that moment.
To get back to last night and my morning letter to God, I asked God to allow me to be a blessing to someone that day. He usually does, and last night was no different. It was raining cats and dogs. My wife and I were on our way to dinner. We saw a skinny little girl with long hair, flip-flops, a McDonald's uniform, and an umbrella. She looked like she had a long way to go. My wife and I turned around, went back, and asked if we could give her a ride. She jumped into our car and said, "Thank you. No one has ever done anything like this for me. You are such a blessing to me." She kept repeating that during the drive.
I hadn't seen her working at McDonald's before and I haven't seen her again since that night. I am smart enough to know from that day in the men's room that we were the blessed ones that night in the rain. Thank you, God.
What Would Grandpa Spear Do?
* * *
Grandpa Spear was a quiet man. Even though he never saved any damsels in distress, set any records, or caught any bad guys, he was a hero. His eyes always had a gleam that warmed your soul and made everything all right.
When I was young, I would go to his camp as much as possible. It was a special place on a quiet pond back in the woods. We'd fish, and when the bullheads were biting, you could catch one after another. The bullhead were very small, but the meat was so sweet and tender. I think the bullheads in Sterling Pond are like life: sweet and tender if you taste. Yet, they also have horns that can stick you. You must respect that and handle them carefully.
From the way he handled life and bullhead, I could tell Grandpa Spear always knew this. After we would get a bucket of fish, we would put our poles away and go into camp for the "cleaning of the fish" ceremony. I call it this because it was always the same. Grandpa would stand bent over the sink in the tiny little kitchen and clean the fish while Grandma and I sat at the kitchen table and teased him about what a good job he was doing. This would always get the same reaction. Grandpa would threaten to make us do it. Knowing Grandpa, we were not too worried. We knew he loved doing it for us as much as we loved teasing him about it. When the fish were cleaned, Grandma would roll them in cracker crumbs and fry them in butter. I would eat them as fast as she could get them out of the frying pan. Grandpa would always say he didn't want any, but we knew he really wanted to save them for us.
As I grew older and discovered teenage girls, fast cars, and drive-in movies, the times at camp became less frequent, but the memories are something I will always have. Sometimes I close my eyes and swear I can still smell the bullhead cooking, see Grandpa smiling, and smell the cleanliness of Grandpa's flannel shirts that I used to wrap up in to protect myself from the night air at the campfire.
When life gets a little hard, I sometimes wish I could go back to the safety of those times. I think Grandpa knew those days would come when I was older because he gave me more than childhood memories on Sterling Pond. He taught me more than how to catch bullhead, which side of the tree the moss grows on, and what critters made sounds at night. He taught me integrity by having it. He taught me about helping others by always unselfishly doing it. He also taught me the importance of sticking to our values by never wavering from his own. Grandpa never made any big speeches — just small statements of action.
I thank God for Grandpa Spear and my times growing up on Sterling Pond. I know I am very lucky to have had those times, and I hope someone in your life has given you the gift of the same times and lessons. If not, I am sure Grandpa wouldn't mind if you do what I do when you are faced with one of life's important decisions.
When all else fails, pause for a minute and ask, yourself the question. "What would Grandpa Spear do?"
Freckles, Pigtails, and Dreams
* * *
The innocence of our youth! When dreams are free and anything is possible. All the I-want-tos: I want to be a policeman. I want to be a fireman. I want to be an astronaut. I want to be a nurse, doctor, or writer. Better yet, I want to be a movie star. We can dress up and play any role or travel anyplace we want in our minds. No one told us not to be silly.
The problem started when they thought it was time for us to learn about the real world. It all started in kindergarten. All of a sudden, our coloring had to stay within the lines. Well, I decided I was going to be different. They said, "You can do this. You can't do that." And it didn't really fit my way of thinking. I was a free spirit with a mind and dreams of my own. If I wanted to grow up to be a fireman, what did that have to do with the alphabet? And what if I wanted to be a movie star? I had all the schooling I needed. I could practice all day at home. In the morning, I could be a cowboy, and in the afternoon, I could be a policeman.
Well, I made it through kindergarten all right, but when first grade came, I had had enough of the real-world stuff. This was someone else's real world, not mine. My dad would drop me off in front of the school, and the rodeo would begin. I was the wild mustang that needed to be roped and tied. Dad would drop me off at the front, and I would run out the back door as fast as my little legs would carry me! The teachers, I still believe to this day, thought I would give up easily, but no way! School was not my idea of how I was going to spend my days. So the chase was on. The four first grade teachers, a janitor, and Billy Dawson — one of those brownnosers in the second grade — would catch me and send me the principal's office. I didn't mind too much because by the time they told me I couldn't do this every day, school was in session. I had already missed the first hour.
It really began to get interesting when they started sending me down to Mr. Billings. He was the guy who makes you put the different-shaped blocks into the different holes and then timed you doing it. I think Mr. Billings was the school psychologist. That was okay because I would just pretend I was a super spy and Mr. Billings was the mafia. I really knew what he was up to, but I wasn't about to let him know that I knew.
Finally, after Mr. Billings, they just let me sit in my brother's fifth-grade classroom all year and decided to allow me to repeat first grade the next year.
So there I was in first grade all over again. This time, it was different. I was beginning to see that there were too many of them against only me. I started to do all the things you are supposed to do, and life, as it was, went on. The dreams became less believable, and the rules became stricter. All the way through school, we had to have reading, writing, and math. When high school came along, we needed to add language and earth science.
Like the majority, you just followed along with the real world. People told you that you can't do this, you have to do that, or this is the only right answer — and you don't argue about it. After we go through high school, we head off to college or work, all trained for the real world. The observation that has come to me is that we have messed up. Yes, I know we have to have rules in society, but I also think we have to look back at the "I want tos." The way I see it in the so-called real world, there are too many of us going to see too many people like Mr. Billings.
Maybe we need to introduce "Self-Esteem 101" as a mandatory class, or "Goal Setting 101." Language and history are okay if we have the time, but we can't afford to give up self-esteem and goal setting. We need to take the freckled and pigtailed youth of today and let them dream. If they color out of the lines, compliment them on their choice or colors. Where would we be if Thomas Edison hadn't had the self-esteem to believe in the electric lightbulb or if Henry Ford hadn't built the Model T?
These guys colored outside the real world's lines. The people who tell you your dreams are silly are living in the real world of Mr. Billings. The people who hold on to their dreams are living in the world of Mr. Edison and Mr. Ford. Which one are we going to teach our youth to live in by example?
By the way, what you are reading is one of those famous "I want tos" that everyone said was silly. I decided to live in the real world of Mr. Ford and Mr. Edison. I kept on writing. Billy Dawson, the brownnoser, probably has appointments with Mr. Billings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at ten o'clock.
The Little Red Ashtray
* * *
The story began when I was four years old. I think we all have memories of the good times and the challenges in our lives. We never forget the sweet and innocent moments. I am sixty years old now, and just this morning, I picked up the little red ashtray and held it in my hand as softly as I hold it in my heart. It was a Mother's Day present I bought with my own money for my mom. I knew she would love it, but I never realized how much until years later.
I always wondered why she displayed it in the formal dining room with all the expensive, limited pieces of art. Now I know why. I know the ashtray, to her, was the most valuable piece in the whole display — but not because of its beauty. That ashtray was more than a piece of glass; it was a piece of my heart. Her little boy loved her. The funny thing was that my mother hated smoking. As a little boy, they never told me it was an ashtray. I just thought it was the most beautiful red candy dish I had ever seen, and in a way, it was.
As a teenager, I started smoking. Like all my friends, I was probably trying to be cool. My mom didn't like it, but like most people who get hooked, it is one of the hardest things to stop doing.
When my mom died and all the things were being given away to her children, the only thing I asked for was that little red ashtray that my mom never put aside to make room for the expensive things. I had a very hard time accepting my mom's death.
I decided to give my mom one more Mother's Day gift. I am sure she loved it as much as she loved that beautiful red ashtray. I quit smoking in honor of her that Mother's Day, and I have not smoked another cigarette in twenty-two years.
Dead Man's Run
* * *
I would die for her. I think any normal American teenage boy from anywhere in the USA — with hormones racing faster than the land speed record set in Utah Flats — has heard or made this statement. At age eleven, I thought it was the yuckiest thing I had ever heard, and I swore I would never make such a geek statement. At age sixteen, Mary Forbes turned me into a liar. I not only made the statement, and I almost literally acted it out.
The story all began on the ski slopes. Mary belonged to one of those families. When the kids were babies, instead of teaching them how to walk, they skipped right to putting on skis. She had been skiing longer than I had been walking, and I was six months older. Every weekend, my friends and I would load up my car with skis, poles, boots, bindings, and dreams of skiing with Mary Forbes.
We went to the slopes, watched for her hot pink ski parka, and watched to see which lucky stiff would get to ski with her that weekend. Every weekend, it was one of those older guys. You know the type: over the hill, twenty-two, a fancy ski patrol jacket, and an ego bigger than the mountain. We skied all weekend, had a great time, tried to bump into Mary, and usually did a lot more looking than skiing. When the weekend was over, we would be tired on the drive home. We'd talk about the geek who was with Mary. Quietly we each would wish we were over the hill, like the twenty-two-year-old guy with the fancy ski patrol jacket. If we were skiing with Mary, our egos would probably be bigger than the mountain too.
One weekend, we were waiting to get on the T-bar. For those of you who are not skiers, the T-bar is almost exactly what it sounds like. It is a metal bar that's shaped like an upside-down T. It was the lift that pulled us up the mountain, and the pulley system never stops. When it is your turn, you walk in front of it as best as you can walk with skis on, let it hit you in the hind end, and hope the bar doesn't kill you or maim you for life. The way the lines were set up made it the luck of the draw for who would be on the other side of the T.
That day, I hit the lottery. You guessed it. As the lines were going, Mary and I were about to be paired off. I probably could have sold my place to one of the guys for a full tank of gas, an oil change, a wash and wax, and a week of their lunches — all those things that are important to a teenage guy. But no way! Riding with Mary Forbes on the T-bar outweighed any bribe.
When our turn came, I rushed to get in front of the T-bar, crossed the tips of my skis, and almost tripped.
Mary smiled and said, "Hi."
The T-bar pulled us up the hill.
Mary said she had seen me there a lot.
I said, "Yeah, I think I've seen you here before too." I did not want to tell her I had spied on her for six weeks — or that I knew her name, address, telephone number and had snapshots of her in that hot pink parka on my bedroom wall.
She said, "This is the last run of the day for me because I have to go home early. Why don't you call me? My phone number is in the book. If you are coming up next weekend, maybe we can ski together."
I tried not to jump up and down, scream my thanks to the heavens, or act excited in any way. I just said, "Sure. I'll give you a call."
I skied off like I was going down a different trail because I didn't want to mess things up by acting too interested. Besides, the guys were coming up behind me, and I couldn't wait to rub it in, lay it on, or do anything else with the news. After several "Yeah, rights," "You liar," and "You've got to be kidding me," the guys finally believed. For the rest of the day, I was king of the mountain — at least in the eyes of the guys.
The following week seemed to last forever. I wished I could go to sleep and wake up on Saturday morning at 5:30. I spent several hours in front of the mirror with my medicated pads, making sure I didn't break out with a big zit on my forehead. Finally, Saturday morning came.
I had arranged to meet Mary in front of the ski lodge at nine. I got there at eight — just to make sure I didn't miss her: At 8:57, she arrived. Mary wanted to ski the chair that day. It is the same thing as the T-bar except you walk out in front of a moving chair. When it hits you in the hind end, you sit down and up the mountain you start — all in one motion. As we headed up the mountain, I knew I had died and gone to heaven. I didn't remember the pain of getting killed. What I didn't realize was that the pain was about to come.
Excerpted from I Think I Gave God A Ride To Work Last Night by Morton Gregory. Copyright © 2015 Gregory M. Carbino. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.