The summer of my sophomore year in college, a group of us used to get together most every Sunday to play racquetball. The group included my uncle, my cousin’s new father-in-law Pete and a few other friends.
I didn’t know too much about Pete, but he seemed a pleasant enough gentleman. My uncle (my cousin’s father) got along with him easily enough. They didn’t have what you would call a close relationship, but they would have light conversations about their professions and about how my cousin and his new wife just seemed perfect for one another.
I was still at the age when I was crossing over from older teen to adult. The adult world was still the domain of “older guys” — guys with wives, kids, insurance payments and houses. I do remember asking my uncle what Pete did for a living, and he replied:
“Pete is in the plumbing and electrical supply business, but his business isn’t doing too well.”
In those days, I shrugged it off with a typical sophomoric shrug. To my 19-year-old mind, Pete could just try something else or sell more things, and everything would soon be all right. As I was writing my book Detour many years later, Pete came to mind, especially as I wrote the following:
“If fear, pain and hard work are prerequisites for change, it is easy to understand why some people resist it.”
Life Builds Character or Reveals It
It was on a Monday in late July (the day after the racquetball game) that my aunt and uncle received a call from their new daughter-in-law.
“My father has disappeared!” she cried.
They were all frantic. Pete got in his car after our racquetball game, shut the door and simply drove off. To where, no one knew. They contacted the police, but the police could do nothing. Pete’s business was “in trouble,” and maybe his marriage was getting rocky (something else my 19-year-old frame of reference was ill-prepared to understand), but Pete had committed no crimes and people seeking a ransom did not kidnap him.
A few days passed, then a week and several weeks. Pete had walked away from his wife, daughter, new son-in-law and his business. He had left his life behind.
My life went on, I returned to school, made it through another year, then another. Then, as I graduated, I suddenly remembered Pete. I asked my uncle, “Whatever happened to Pete?” My uncle’s reply was simple and to the point: “He disappeared.”
Every Road Has a Curve
In the man’s absence, his wife eventually divorced him and his daughter gave birth to two children. There was never the slightest hint of criminal activity on Pete’s part, nor was his disappearance part of a plot or scheme. Somehow and in some way, Pete probably assumed a new identity and lived a new life.
In Detour, my tagline is: “It’s the curves in life that make us strong.” However, I am well aware that for some people the curves are too much and they would rather drive off into the sunset without looking back than face what is in front of them. I am not sitting in judgment, for I know all too well that life can become very painful. We may feel there is no way out or that we are the only people in the world who have ever gone through what we are going through.
As a grown and much, much older man, I all too well understand that there is nothing new under the sun. You name it, and I guarantee someone in your office, community or church is going through it right now. You aren’t alone. You can change. Please remember, there is always something you can be thankful for not matter how dark things appear.
Also, as an older man, I wept for Pete as I wrote the book. After some interviews and my own investigation, I found out he never saw his wife again, he never spoke to his daughter again (sadly, she passed away from cancer), and he never even kissed his grandchildren.
Pete chose to avoid the curves in his life. Yes, he could have put a “going out of business” sign on his warehouse door and, if he needed, he could have asked his wife for a divorce, and life would have gone on. He could have made it through. Instead, he walked away from a life’s journey simply because there was a detour in front of him.
Chances are, when you arrive at a detour in life, you’ll be tired. Your problems will have multiplied and, even worse, they’ll seem to be ganging up on you. Instead of focusing on the roadblock and any anxiety it might be causing you, focus on how far you have already come. Resolve to face your problems—because running away doesn’t make them go away.