Papa sees me
During my Camino walk in 2018, I discovered the joy of strawberry jelly on toast. Most alburgues offer a breakfast of toast and coffee for around 3 euro. Strawberry jelly seemed to be the most common spread, and I've since associated this delightful jelly with the Camino and my great walk with Papa.
Today was a particularly challenging day. I left my home and was traveling to a friends parish to play a funeral on the far north side of Atlanta. I took mom and her small dog with me, because after the funeral, we were driving further north to visit my mother in law for the weekend.
On the initial drive towards the funeral, my melancholic temperament showed up in dozens of discouraging thoughts. By God's grace, I was able to keep my melancholia to myself instead of 'sharing that gift' with my mom and her dog. Praise the Lord.
The funeral went beautifully and mom and I turned the trip towards the next phase. As our journey continued, my thoughts continued diving to deeper places of sadness and frustration (though still keeping my outward disposition pleasant). I felt an overwhelming weight of responsibility for all the various roles in my life, a smoldering burnout for music, and a genuine wonderment of what I'm going to do for the next 10 years.
Throughout the morning, mom is having a phenomenal outing and she is excited about having been able to attend Mass and spending time out and about with me.
We decided to pull into a Cracker Barrel to eat and get some coffee. New dilemma ensues.
What to do with my mom's dog?
I can't leave the car running, because my car won't lock and I have my briefcase and valuables in the vehicle. I can't leave the windows down and turn the car off because a concerned passerby would notify the police that the dog is in the car. (Disclaimer, it was very cool, cloudy, and windy where we were today. I would never, not ever endanger an animal in a warm or hot car).
Mom comes up with a solution and says to me "you go inside and eat, and I'll stay here with the dog. Bring me a to go order and I'll eat on the drive up."
Sounds like a reasonable idea. I go in, get seated, and within seconds of being at the table...I'm uncomfortable and agitated with the whole thing. It's just wrong.
I politely leave and get back in the car while holding in the angst. I calmly drive out and see a Waffle House across the street. I pull in and the resturaunt isn't busy at all. I pull the windows down on the car and grab a booth WITH mom where I can see the car. We figure out what menu items she can have on her sodium restricted diet and she is excited about her eggs and splitting a waffle with me. She's having the best day ever, and I'm trying to climb out of this funk. While waiting on the food I shoot a text to my wife letting her know I'm struggling.
As our food arrives at the table, I'm not prepared for what is about to happen. You see, as a guy raised around Atlanta, working as a truck driver and a musician, I've eaten my share of Waffle House. I'm very familiar with the menu, and what to expect on the plates when they arrive. I was not ready for this.
Our waitress places the plates down, and mom and I join hands and say a blessing. When I look down at my plate, there is a small single serve packet of Strawberry jelly. In all the years I've been eating at these diners, I've never recall receiving a strawberry jelly pack with my toast.
My heart knew exactly what this was. It was a sign that Papa saw me struggling this morning and wanted to remind me of my time with Him walking across the Spanish countryside. He wanted me to know that even though I was feeling so burdened, He saw me and loves me.
He wanted me to know that I am still on "The Way".
That moment changed everything. Mom was already having a great day, and it helped me to appreciate that more deeply. It helped me know that even though my hands felt really full, that I was exactly where I needed to be.
Mom and I had a great breakfast. I managed to not let my misty eyes give away my story to my beautiful mom that was having a phenomenal day.
Thank you mom for enjoying the simple gift of living today well, and thank you Papa for the encouragement that only You know how to give.
I'll see you down the road, Greg