By Rick Lakin
Faith Finds Forgiveness
Book 2 of the Twin Destiny Trilogy
by H. Byron Earhart
Now available on
Amazon as an ebook
Prologue: A Ship in the Night
November 10, 2010. A regular workday for the rest of America. For people who lived around the Great Lakes, it marked the thirty-fifth anniversary of the 1975 sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This huge ore carrier, weighing more than thirteen thousand tons, over seven hundred feet long, holding twenty-six thousand tons of iron ore, was caught at night in a devastating storm on Lake Superior and vanished. Without so much as an SOS.
A ship following the Fitzgerald could not actually see its lights through the squall, but was keeping track of it on radar. One second, the screen showed the Fitzgerald‘s blip. The next moment, its shadowy image had disappeared.
On the 2010 anniversary of the Fitzgerald sinking, when Faith Armstrong woke up and turned on the FM radio, the announcer was recounting the details of this maritime disaster. Eating breakfast, she switched to CNN, which featured a file photo of the ship and a brief clip of a Detroit church tolling its bells for the twenty-nine victims, followed by a few bars from Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” commemorating the tragedy.
Before Faith left the condo for her job at Hunter Hotel, she glanced out the window at the sun lazily rising over the placid swells of Lake Michigan. During the day she heard several people make passing references to the Fitzgerald.
After work, Faith reached home just before sunset. Pouring a glass of white wine, she relaxed in her recliner watching the last rays of sunshine light up the lake. Faith couldn’t imagine how such a beautiful body of water the likes of Lake Michigan or Lake Superior could turn into such a sinister scene as the sinking of the ore freighter. The Great Lakes could be a picturesque paradise. Or a fluid hellhole. A dungeon of death.
Faith wondered if the men of the Edmund Fitzgerald had time to think about Lake Superior as it ushered them into their underwater grave.
Faith knew that, like placid waters of the Great Lakes, her own tranquility could be destroyed by sudden squalls.
Problems in Paradise
Faith sat in the after-work solitude of her manager’s office at Hunter Hotel. She had always looked forward to late afternoons, being left alone in her paneled sanctuary, able to catch up on email and write memos. But after she reunited with her twins and their families, this quiet time became the occasion to reflect on her odyssey from Canton to Chicago.
A knock on her door preceded Clara, the cleaning lady, entering. “Miz Armstrong, you want me to come back later?”
“Yes, Clara, sorry to interrupt your schedule. I won’t be too long.”
When Clara left, Faith settled back in her leather chair, slipped off her shoes and put her feet on the desk, returning to her daydreaming.
For the first time since her mid-teens, Faith glowed with happiness. Reconnecting with the twins and their families was the best thing that had happened to her since she left downstate Illinois. But she couldn’t comprehend why, just when she had every reason to be at peace with herself, sneaking suspicions and nagging doubts plagued her. Relaxing in her chair, her mind wandered back to her childhood days in Canton, scenes of her mother and father in their home, and then her move to Chicago.
A half hour later a knock interrupted Faith’s reverie.
Clara stuck her head in the door. “Miz Armstrong, ain’t it time for you to be goin’ home?”
Faith laughed. “You’re right, Clara, come on in. I’m heading out.”
“Sure, Clara, I’m fine.”
Saturday morning Faith went to her favorite bookstore to shop for a novel or light mystery. None of the recent releases interested her. Since she had reunited with the twins, she had cut back on her reading. Browsing in the store, she left the book section and looked at a display of calendars, diaries, and journals. She thought, Well, I’ve never kept a diary and won’t start now.
Then she saw the blurb advertising a journal.
“A journal is the latest and best alternative for busy, on-the-go people who don’t want the taskmaster of a daily entry, but like to keep track of good times, bad times, and problem times.
“Good times—birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, births, promotions. Write them down so that you can remember later all the joy of those happy moments.
“Bad times—deaths, funerals, breakups, sickness. Get rid of the blues and bad feelings by writing them down, clearing your mind.
“Problem times—worries, anxieties, uncertainties, fears. Sort out your difficulties by putting them down on paper so you can see them better and deal with them.”
Faith picked out a journal with a pink cover, went to another counter and selected several roller-ball pens, and took them to the cashier.
That evening, not finding anything interesting on TV, Faith took the journal out of the paper bag and opened it to the first blank lined page. At Hunter, she was used to writing reports, but these tasks had specific goals. A journal was open-ended. She picked up one of the new pens, test-writing it on the shopping bag. Then she twirled the pen in her fingers, not knowing where to start her journal.
Hmm, might as well use the clues from the ad for the journal.
She rested the point of the pen on the first page, then wrote, “Good times.”
Underneath, she wrote,
“Good times for me are two very different periods. The first is my childhood, happy times with Mom and Dad, pleasant friendships with friends at school. The second good time is now, when my sons found me and I got together with their families.”
She hesitated before writing on the next page,
Below that, she penned,
“My dark times started when I got pregnant, and that ruined all the good times in Canton. Mom and Dad were disappointed in me, and I was disappointed with myself. When they insisted on adoption for the twins, and then the terrible insistence on splitting them, that actually split me from my folks and from Canton. So as soon as I graduated, I left home for a job in Chicago with Hunter. And I feel bad that I never really made up with my folks. Well, Mom and I forgave each other when she was dying, but Dad went to his grave without forgiving me. And I didn’t forgive him.”
Next she wrote on a new page,
She thought for a few minutes, then put down pen and paper, and went to the kitchen. She looked through a cabinet until she found an Earl Gray teabag, and put water on to boil. Waiting for the kettle to whistle, she thought about her problems—maybe they were uncertainties.
Returning with her teacup to the recliner, she began writing under “Problem times,” starting with,
“Problem times for me now are uncertainties. I’m really happy to be with the twins, but am afraid this happiness can’t last. Well, maybe one uncertainty is fear—I’m afraid of losing the twins and their children. The real problem is, I don’t know why I’m afraid.”
She finished her tea, put the pen inside the journal to mark her place, and got ready for bed, still thinking about problem times.
The next weekend Jeremy came to Oak Park, and Faith was glad to join her family.
Every time Faith got together with her brood, she shed abundant tears. Her sons asked, “What’s the matter, mother?”
She answered, “I’m just so happy.”
Her daughters-in-law Melanie and Rachel understood her tears of joy, and gave reassuring hugs until Faith’s weeping turned into laughter. Faith was happy. But behind her sunny smile lurked a gray shadow of fear.
Faith tried to bluff her way through her anxiety when she confessed to Melanie and Rachel, “You gals don’t know what it’s like to be promoted to grandmother when I never got to be a mother to my own boys.”
Melanie said, “Gee, Mom, I never thought about it that way. For Jeremy and me, our kids are our life. I mean, outside the church, they’re everything to us.”
Faith smiled. “What holds it together for you, Melanie?”
“I never really thought about it that way, but I guess for Jeremy and me, it’s our trust in God’s way, and you know, trying to follow WWJD—What Would Jesus Do?”
Faith turned to Rachel. “You and Jon aren’t that religious, are you?”
Rachel chuckled. “No, not in the organized religion sense. And I don’t mean to put down churches and synagogues, but Jon and I think that what is most important is trusting each other. Being able to talk things over, reach agreements and compromises.”
Faith bit her lip, deep in thought. “You gals have just told me something that I always knew, but didn’t want to face. When I left Canton, and the old home place, I left behind not just my parents but also my childhood belief in God. So I don’t have any family to look back to or any religious commitment to rely on. Nor . . . do I have a companion to help steady me. I . . ..—
Rachel asked, “Mom, you never thought of dating or finding a good mate?”
“No, not really. When I was young, a new hire at the hotel, there were plenty of guys who gave me the eye and made passes. There was one executive who was pretty crude. I turned down all of these guys, so I became known as the Ice Lady. As I moved up the corporate ladder, and got older, my reputation preceded me, and most men seemed to see me as off limits.”
Melanie and Rachel put their arms around Faith.
Melanie said, “Gee, Mom, you really have had a rough life.”
Rachel added, “The important thing is that you hung in there and did great.”
Faith smiled. “Well, why am telling you this sob story of my dark past? I should be thanking you two and your husbands—and kids—for letting me bask in the sunshine of your families. I guess it’s just that I keep pinching myself, not knowing if this paradise is real and lasting.”
On the drive home from Oak Park, Faith was glad she had the reassuring talk with Melanie and Rachel. She was blessed to have such wonderful women to support her. While she talked with them, she felt more confidence and secure. But on the drive to the condo, alone and lonely, Faith fell back into a funk of doubt and uncertainty, that raised many questions.
What did she really want? Did she want to recover her childhood religion and have the protection of God and church to guide her, like Melanie and Jeremy? Did she need a man in her life for companionship like Rachel and Jon? Faith was all too aware that passion had passed her by. She had never had a man romance her, say “I love you,” and wait for her to echo the phrase.
When she got to the condo, she slipped into a night gown and a robe, then settled in her recliner. She picked up the journal and turned to a new page.
“Tonight is what good times really are! Family. And sharing. That’s what I’ve been missing all these years. And I don’t want to lose it.
“Bad times—my strange fear that somehow I might be separated from the twins and their families.
“That’s where the problem is—and I’ve got to deal with it, but can’t let the bad times interfere with the good times.”
She closed the journal and went to bed, still thinking of her glorious weekend.
The next morning Faith woke up feeling good. She was still soaking up the afterglow of the Sunday get-together in Oak Park. Usually she had a quickie breakfast and shower before rushing off to the hotel, but she decided to take it easy. She scrambled two eggs, put a slice of bread in the toaster, and made two cups of coffee.
After eating, she turned on the water in the tub, and soaked for a while as she re-ran all the events of yesterday, the way her grandchildren looked, what they had said to her.
Getting out of the bath, she slipped on a robe and walk to her recliner, picking up the pink journal. She smiled as she read last night’s entry, then announced, “Yes, these are good times, and I’m determined not to let the bad times ruin my happiness.”
It was almost eight o’clock when she finally got ready for work and left the building. George, the doorman, said, “Running late this morning.”
“Yes, George, I had a full weekend, and didn’t feel like making the early run to the office.”
When she got to the hotel, she was met with stares greeting her later than usual appearance.
Her assistant, Linda, asked, “Are you okay, Faith, I was just about to call you.”
“I’m fine. Great. Had a wonderful time with my family yesterday. Come on into my office and I’ll tell you about it.”
“I can tell you’re feeling great by the hundred-watt smile on your face.”
“Come on in, Linda, we can talk before we start the day.”
“Afraid that will have to wait, boss lady. Houston Hunter had several messages on the answering machine when I came in, and they followed up with several more calls, expecting you to be in the office early. I told them you would ring them back as soon as you arrived.”
“Don’t have all the details, but apparently some dispute between housekeeping staff and personnel. The housekeepers are threatening a walkout.”
“Ouch! Get Houston Personnel on the line, and hold all other calls.”
Faith spent all morning and early afternoon talking with the Hunter people in Houston and the representatives from the housekeeping union, first listening to each side, and then forging a compromise that both accepted.
By mid-afternoon, Linda came into Faith’s office. “Do you realize you didn’t even stop for lunch?”
“Yes, I know, but there wasn’t time. And now I need a nap more than something to eat. Tell you what, hold all my calls while I try to doze off for a while. Then after work—if you’re not busy, let me take you out to an early dinner and we can have the talk that got interrupted by Houston this morning.”
Shortly after five, Faith and Linda went to a nearby restaurant. They ordered, then Linda said, “I don’t know how you do it, long distance negotiating and settling disagreements.”
“It’s not easy, but Betty Foutch was a good manager. She showed me how to defuse confrontations, keep the lines of communication open.”
“Well, Faith, glad that’s settled, but what were you about to tell me this morning when I had to cut you off?”
“Linda, I had a delightful time with my family this weekend. The grandkids, as always, were fun to be with. And my daughters-in-law were very huggy, comforting me when I shed my happy tears.”
“You’re lucky to be on good terms with your sons’ wives, that’s not always a smooth relationship.”
“No, and, well, I guess you know, I was separated from my twins for thirty years, and just got back together with them.”
“I just knew that you had a reunion with them, but never heard the details.”
“No, I was too embarrassed to tell you the whole story. If you know what I’ve gone through, you won’t think I’m such a great manager.”
Their food came. They talked as they ate. Faith gave Linda a brief account of her Canton family, her pregnancy, the splitting of the twins, and the thirty-year separation until Scott Henderson brought them back together.
Linda said, “I knew you had some secrets you weren’t sharing, everyone does. But that’s a story that sounds almost like a TV episode, almost too good to be true.”
“Yes, I’m happier now than I have been in decades. And you’re ahead of the story. Like you, I think it’s too good to be true.”
“But you’re happy, aren’t you?”
“More than I can put in words. In fact, if I was religious, I’d be praying or going to church. You know, most of what I achieved at Hunter, I did myself. But the reunion with my twins, it’s what others did for me. And maybe someone upstairs was helping.”
“Someone upstairs? You mean God?”
“Call it what you want, God, Providence.”
“But you’re not religious? You don’t go to church?”
“No, Linda, I gave up family and religion when I left Canton, and haven’t been in a church since, except for a few weddings and funerals.”
“What church did you go to when you lived in Canton?”
“The Lutheran Church?”
“There are plenty of Lutheran churches in Chicago. Why don’t you find one and attend?”
“Too many bad memories from Canton and my dad’s strict sin and damnation version of Lutheranism. Uh, Linda, do you go to church?”
Linda laughed. “Not as much as I should. I’m Episcopalian. Have you ever been to an Episcopalian service?”
“No, what’s it like?”
“It’s a rather formal ceremony, with a lot of kneeling.”
“Sounds very different from the sermons I heard when I was young.”
“Would you like to go with me some Sunday?”
“I don’t know. You say there’s a lot of kneeling?”
“Yeah, do you belong to a fitness club?”
“No, I use the exercise room in my building.”
“Well, if you come to a service with me, you can skip the exercise room for a day.”
“Where is your church?”
“That might be a downer for you. I attend Church of the Redeemer in Hyde Park.”
“You go to the south side just for church? Why?”
“Faith, you always tell people that there are lots of hotels, but not all hotels are created equal. Not all churches are created equal. This is a small, homey church, nice people, and a wonderful priest, Father Whitman.”
“You call him ‘father.’ We called our Lutheran ministers ‘reverend’ or ‘pastor.’”
“Same difference. Listen, it was nice of you to take me to dinner, but I’ve got to go now. Think about Sunday, and let me know tomorrow. I can pick you up and we can go together. Don’t worry, you can just do what I do in church.”
The next Sunday, Linda picked up Faith for the half hour drive to Church of the Redeemer.
As they arrived at the church, Linda introduced Faith to some of her friends. When they entered, Linda said, “Just do what I do,” genuflecting as she entered a pew.”
Faith watched Linda, standing and kneeling when Linda did. Linda whispered, “If you’re not a member, you don’t go forward for the Eucharist.”
Father Whitmore gave a short upbeat sermon about Christian love, how it should fill our days, even in simple things, like holding a door open, or thanking someone for an expected courtesy. “Make every act an act of love.”
Faith repeated that phrase in her mind, so she could remember it.
On the way out, Linda told Father Whitmore, “This is my friend Faith from work. She is interested in joining the church.”
He responded, “Faith, we’d be glad to have you as a member of our church. If you want to talk to me about joining, just call me.”
When Linda and Faith got in the car, Linda said, “I know, maybe I shouldn’t have said anything to Father Whitmore about you joining, but you’ve been away from religion for so long, that I thought if I didn’t make a move, you never would.”
Faith shrugged. “Oh, don’t apologize. No harm done.”
“Well, Faith, what did you think of our Episcopalian Church?”
“It sure is different than Canton Lutheranism. Very formal, quite impressive. A lot of getting up and down.”
“Yeah, and the sermon was not the sin and salvation I used to hear, but actually something I could use in everyday life. I liked what he said about love in daily life.”
“Sounds like you want to come back.”
“What is funny is that even though I couldn’t follow the service, I felt at home here. There’s something about this church that makes me feel at peace. When I was young I prayed every night before bed, and haven’t done that since coming to Chicago. Today I wasn’t praying, but I was giving thanks to God for somehow reconnecting me with my twins.”
This was the first of many Sunday trips by these two women to Church of the Redeemer. When Linda begged off because of other commitments, Faith felt comfortable coming by herself. Father Whitmore told Faith to stop by if she wanted to talk about joining the church.
Faith didn’t mention to Linda that she was keeping a journal, but she did write a number of entries about how she felt comfortable in this church, and liked Father Whitmore. She quoted his sermon theme, “Make every act an act of love.”
One Sunday after returning from Church of the Redeemer, Faith had a light lunch, and cleaned her condo thoroughly. She would love to go to Oak Park, but Jon and his family were attending a wedding. Whenever Faith missed getting together with her sons, she began to wonder if her paradise would last, or if some unexpected turn of events would once more separate her from her twins.
She was antsy, but brewed a cup of strong coffee for an extra burst of energy. She needed to deal with her ongoing issue of uncertainty and anxiety. Sipping her coffee, and feeling the caffeine kick in, she picked up her journal and started a new page.
“Problem time—now. Why should I be afraid? I have a good job, plenty of money, and a wonderful family. For the first time in my adult life, I have the inner peace that allows me to stop, relax, and even look back on the problems with Mom and Dad that I’ve avoided.
“Yes! Maybe that’s part of the difficulty, having the leisure to look back at my life.”
Faith put down pen and paper, realizing that writing out her problem did help her sort out her issues. She needed to look more closely into her own life, but how could she do that?
She wanted a second cup of coffee, but knew more caffeine would make her jittery. She forced herself to stay on task, asking herself how to take charge of her life.
She sat in the recliner for what seemed a very long time. Then she recalled, years earlier, reading a Psychology Today magazine article on meditation, written by a nun, titled in the nun’s own flowing cursive calligraphy, “don’t just do something, sit there!”
This nun was playing the alternative, counter-culture theme that what most Americans and other modern people should “do” is some sitting, contemplating, meditating. Faith had read the article and agreed with the message, but lacked the guts—or nerves—to put it into action.
All day long Faith thought about the nun’s advice, wondering if she had what it takes to sit and contemplate her troubled past.
Late afternoon a light rain started to fall, so she had to skip her usual Saturday night out meal. She called in a pepperoni pizza and ate it while watching the news on MSNBC.
Evening had faded into night. She left her comfortable chair, approaching the picture window to squint more intently into the lake. Its jet black surface was mirror-smooth, but reflected no image.
Faith recalled the sailors from the Edmund Fitzgerald whose bones amounted to just an infinitesimal addition to the sediment at the bottom of this vast series of lakes.
She returned to her chair, flipping open the journal to a new page, writing on it “DECISION TIME.” On the next line she jotted down,
“Now is decision time—time to face my problem (or is it problems?).”
She felt better going to bed. She could hardly wait until morning to share her decision with Betty Foutch.
The next morning Faith was on the phone.
Over the years, except for Adeline, the only woman Faith had been close to and still talked with regularly was Betty Foutch, who had taken Faith under her wing when she first moved to Chicago. After ending her Hunter Career in New York, Betty retired to Miami.
“Hello, Betty, it’s Faith.”
“Girl, how are you?”
“How are things at Hunter house? Taking care of my old bed and breakfast?”
“Things are moving along well.”
“So what’s the occasion for the call? You’re always the problem-solver, looking for solutions.”
Faith laughed. “Well, this time it’s different. You’re right, I’m looking for advice, but it’s personal. And you’ve always been better than a lawyer and a psychotherapist put together when it comes to counseling.”
“Okay, shoot. And let’s see if I can live up to my reputation. What’s the bad news?”
“It’s not really bad news, except I’m kind of worried.”
“Yeah, behind this professional exterior are more anxieties, and secrets, than you’d find in a shrink’s filing cabinets.”
“Secrets! Sounds interesting. But if some worries are all you have for bad news, what’s the good news?”
“The good news is a blockbuster. It’s one of my secrets that I never shared with anyone. Several times when we were talking, I came close to telling you, but just couldn’t. It was too depressing at the time. “And—”
“So you’re going to tell me now. Is that the bush you’re beating around?”
“Uh-huh. And even now it’s hard to let go of it. Before I came to Chicago…you know, when I was in high school…I got pregnant…and—”
“You had an abortion?”
“No! What I had was twins. Only my parents were super-religious and made me give them up for adoption.”
“Yeah. And my dad and the agency made it a condition of adoption that the twins had to be split.”
“Well, let’s get to the good news. Super news. This year the twins found each other and then located me, and I’m a happy grandmother, three times over.”
“Congratulations. If that’s the positive, then the negative can’t be too bad.”
“No, not at all. In fact, it’s just because I’m so happy…ecstatic, actually…that I don’t think it can last.”
“Why not? I always figured you had some personal stuff hiding in your closet that you didn’t want to show the world, but I never knew what it was. It’s over, isn’t it? All in the past?”
“Not exactly. I guess we’re back to the bad news. You can’t imagine how lonely and depressed I was, all those years in the closet. You know, not gay, but hiding from myself. And the main reason I was such a workaholic was to keep busy so I didn’t have time to think about my unhappiness.”
“Now I’m out of the closet, as you put it, but looking back into it, and wondering how in the heck I made it through all those years.”
“But you did make it. That’s what counts.”
“I know. There’s no reason for me to worry now, but—I’m worried!”
“I don’t know. There’s so much emotional baggage I swept under the rug while I was climbing the Hunter ladder, I’m afraid the past will catch up with me and spoil my happiness.”
“Hey, Faith, I’m glad to listen. And I’m delighted you got back together with your twins. And some day you have to tell me the whole story. But you haven’t given me an opening for my advice. What do you want from me?”
“Okay, here’s the bottom line. I’m thinking about taking some time off. So what’s your advice?”
“Time off? For what?”
Faith gave a nervous laugh, “To…well…, as the psycho-babblers would say, ‘find myself.’”
“Yeah. Does that sound too generation-X?”
“I guess it sounds strange coming from you. I mean, a lot of people would love to trade places with you, look in the mirror and see a Hunter executive smiling back at them. Seems to me you’re a great ‘find.’”
“On the outside, maybe, but you haven’t seen the inside.”
“That bad, huh?”
“No, not godawful. But kind of scary.”
“So what do you plan to do in your time off?”
“I don’t know. I guess you could say this is…uh…kind of exploratory self-discovery. So what do you say to that?”
“Go for it, girl!”
Source:: Byron Earhart