18, No Time to Waste
"WHEN ARE FELICIA'S FOLKS LEAVING?" I asked Kathi soon after graduation.
"In July," she answered quietly. "But she's coming back, mom, and we're going to find an apartment."
I didn't answer her, but I was praying silently, asking for wisdom to understand and to let her go.
"Let her go in love," someone advised, "and she will return in love."
One night in early summer I took Kathi apartment hunting. We drove all over the Valley, talking to apartment managers and giggling together. The door of communication was opening slowly, and I felt a sense of peace which I hadn't known for a long time.
Secretly, I was hoping that she would never find an apartment and that Felicia's folks would insist that she stay in Texas anything to keep Kathi home.
"What about college?" I asked her.
"I'm going to college; I've already registered at Pierce. I'm going to work at Norm's Coffee Shop this summer. The girls there are making lots of money. Hope and I are going to train in Los Angeles and work in Westwood."
"What about Felicia?" I ventured.
She was quiet for a minute, then said sadly, "She has to go to Texas with her folks."
"Good," I said too quickly, and Kathi bristled.
"You don't understand! Felicia is my best friend. I love her."
"She should be with her parents in Texas. And you should be here."
We were on the verge of another explosion, so I walked away to let the tension subside.
After Felicia left, Kathi was busy with her work in the evenings and trips to the beach during the day. Her little black Volkswagen, which Vern had helped her buy on her eighteenth birthday, in exchange for her working after school at his office, wound its way down the road of Topanga Canyon toward the beach almost every day packed with friends.
Kathi loved the beach. She could run to the waves and scream with delight as they broke over her. While some of her more sedate friends were basking in the sun on the beach, she was body surfing or running up and down on the sand her long dark hair plastered down with sea water.
But one hot July day Kathi's little black bug refused to climb the hill, homeward bound. She called a friend, who picked her and her friends up, and left the car at a service station at Malibu.
"I don't know what's wrong with it," she told Vern that night. "It just won't go."
Vern went to the beach and towed the car home. The mechanic at the Volkswagen garage told us that the engine was "through functioning" totally gone.
Now Kathi was faced with the problem of transportation to her work.
"What in the world are you going to do?" I asked her.
"I'm not going to worry about it," she said.
"But you still own money on the VW. How can you buy a new one?"
"I will . . . I will." Kathi's usual resolve came to her rescue. But each day the phone would ring at the office and her half-apologetic voice would say, "Mom, what shall I do about getting to work?"
It was then that Kathi began to realize what a family is all about. Vern and I, often at a great inconvenience to ourselves, would leave the car for her so that she could drive to work. She began to see our love and concern and responded to it. By the end of the second week of July, we noticed that something was happening to Kathi. Her attitude was different. She began to care more for her family, and the rebellious, independent spirit seemed to be more under the Lord's control.
But there was still the old problem Felicia.
Early in July we had taken a short vacation with the boys, visiting Cindy and Don in Garden Grove, Disneyland, and the San Diego Zoo. When we arrived home, there was a letter from Felicia's sister on Kathi's desk.
My heart sank. Sure enough, Felicia had run away from home and was back in California. I called her mother and we talked both of us in tears. I promised as bravely as I could to look after Felicia.
When Kathi came home that night, I confronted her with, "Have you heard from Felicia?"
She avoided my eyes.
"I know she is back in California. I talked to her mother today. She is worried sick. How could Felicia run away like that?"
Kathi was torn, and I knew it. When Vern came home, we both tried to talk to her.
"Kathi," Vern said, "you don't want to leave home, do you?" She shook her head without looking up.
"It's because you promised Felicia, isn't it?"
I swallowed hard. "How about if Felicia comes to live with us?" Kathi looked up quickly; she couldn't believe her ears.
"We'll fix up your room for the two of you," we told her.
I was sure this would be the answer, and that night Vern and I went to Norm's Coffee Shop for dinner. Kathi greeted us.
"Guess what?" she was dancing with excitement. "I'm not leaving home. Felicia is coming to stay with us." My heart sank, but I promised myself I would be fair and give her a chance.
I spent the next day fixing Kathi's room for two, adding an additional chest of drawers. When they came home, I welcomed Felicia as best I could to our family. Felicia was crestfallen; this was not what she wanted.
It lasted one night, and Felicia again was after Kathi to get an apartment.
The end of July was Vern's birthday, and we drove to my mother's house for a special dinner with the family. When we arrived, we found a beautiful package with a card for "Daddy." It was an expensive shirt from Kathi, who had made the long detour on her way to work to leave the gift for the celebration.
After dinner we went all twelve of us to Norm's for dessert. Kathi was delighted when we walked in and gave us special service. We were proud of the tiny, smiling waitress, her dark hair piled high on her head, running around the coffee shop as if on air.
"That smile never leaves her face," my sister-in-law said, nudging me. "Just look at her."
It was true. She smiled at everybody and enjoyed waiting on people. No wonder that her tips were so high! She gave everyone personal, special treatment. I remembered one night when she had come home elated because a customer had given her a $2.00 tip "just for your smile." Now I could see why. Kathi's magnetism constantly drew people to her, for her love for them was open and genuine.
One night, on a previous occasion, I had been irked by her friendliness with three hippie-type boys who were talking to her as they left the restaurant. Kathi smiled, patted them on the back, and told them to be sure and return. She seemed to know them, and I was worried. I cringed at the sight of their long, unruly hair and their careless dress. But none of this bothered Kathi.
"Who were they?" I had asked her later. "I hope you're not too friendly with them."
"Mom," Kathi rebuked me, "how can I reach people if I'm not friendly? We are told to love one another."
Of course she was right, my heart told me. Kathi had learned to love and accept people as they were.
I was to learn later that not only the customers, but also her employers and fellow workers had seen the love of Christ shining through her life. If someone was "low" or "blue," Kathi had ready words of comfort. When a girl at work wanted a day off, it was Kathi she called on to work for her.
"Kathi, it's your day off," I frowned. "You just let people use you."
"It's okay, mom," she'd smile, and go off to fill in at Norm's endearing herself to another grateful friend.
Now Kathi was serving us the birthday dessert of ice cream piled high with strawberries. My brother was teasing her about the tip he would leave, and she was running back and forth with the coffee pot, her dark eyes sparkling. Once I caught her eye and we both grinned.
That evening marked a turning point in our relationship. After that, each night I would meet her at the door, even though it was close to midnight, to chat and laugh over the happenings of the day over a cup of coffee we shared a special closeness. She would stack her tip money in small piles and we would count it together.
"I'll soon be able to buy a car," she said.
One night I touched her hand and said, "Kathi, I never really understood you and I'm sorry."
"That's all right, mom, nobody does. But I do. I understand myself."
During Kathi's free time, she and Felicia continued their search for an apartment. Finally they found one close to our home. They moved the middle of August, one day before my birthday.
The evening of the Saturday that Kathi moved out, she called to say, "Be sure to pick me up for church in the morning. And I'm going to grandma's with you for your birthday dinner."
The next day she was excited as she carried a big package. After dessert, she placed it on the table in front of me. The card said simply, "Love, Kathi." And inside was a three-piece pants outfit, bright red, which fit perfectly.
"It's darling, Kathi."
"And it fits me, too," she giggled. "Now promise you won't take it back. I want you to have it for your vacation."
Our son David, who had gone shopping with her, told us that she had sought out my own special dress shop and my favorite sales person and had paid for the pants suit in quarters her tips.
Although living away from home, Kathi was actually with us more than she had ever been. Each night she would either call or come over to share her plans with me. And we tried to help her by sharing our car with her; she was visibly moved at our concern for her.
One night as we sat chatting in the den, I mentioned a dream I had had recently. Kathi bolted up in her chair and looked at me intently.
"Was I coming through the door?" she asked.
I was surprised. "Of course not." Her question puzzled me. Then I realized she was referring to some "strange" dreams I had had in the past dreams where my father and my aunt were walking through a door dreams I had had just before we received news that they had gone to be with the Lord.
The week after my birthday, Kathi and I made plans to meet for lunch and shop for clothes for our vacation. When she bounced into the office on Thursday, she looked lovely in a white mini dress, her long, dark hair held back with a band. I smiled to see how much she was trying to please me; she knew that it had irritated me in the past when she had dashed into the office with bare feet and flying hair.
"I'm letting my bangs grow out. See?" she said and this, too, was something I had urged her to do previously. Soon she was walking around the office, greeting the men with, "Hi! I'm Kathi."
In the restaurant she urged me to have anything I wanted; she was paying for it. We had a happy, relaxed time of conversation, and at one point Kathi said, rather timidly,
"You know, mom, sometimes the people in the restaurant ask me why I have such a smile, and I tell them it's because I have Christ in my heart.
"And now I know what I want to do with my life," she continued. "I want to be a missionary."
"That's wonderful, honey." I touched her hand.
As we were shopping, I felt a oneness with Kathi that had always eluded me. Instead of the usual debate over which clothes were right, we were in agreement over everything she bought.
"Which blouse do you like best? The navy blue or the green?"
"I like the green one, honey," I said, after some deliberation. And it was the green one she bought.
When we walked back to the car, I handed her the keys. "Now drive carefully," I repeated the familiar phrase.
"Thanks, mom." Kathi said those two words with more meaning than anything I had ever heard her say, and they echoed in my ears for a long time.
Table of Contents || Chapter Eleven