By Del Starr, a pseudonym, all rights reserved.

There’s No Place like Home

Gary and Dianne were concerned on the trip back to the United States. They were to land in South Carolina and Grace was to land at New York. Grace was not the easiest person in the world to get along with and already her visit had been fraught with arguments and temper tantrums. Gary and Dianne had left their car in Germany for it was on its last legs and not worth bringing back to the United States. This meant that upon their arrival in South Carolina, they would have to find and purchase a car large enough to transport three children, three adults, a dog, and a cat cross country. They wished that their flight had been to New Jersey which would have been closer to Grace’s point of entry and easier to make arrangements if they were not able to find a car before Grace’s arrival.

When the plane first touched down in the United States, it was in New Jersey. Gary and Dianne had been unaware of this stop and upon landing, claimed their luggage, etc. When the plane took off for South Carolina, Gary, Dianne and the children were not on it. Several times they were paged but they ignored the page and headed for the Army base nearby.

Gary reported in and his orders were changed to show New Jersey as the point of arrival. Then Gary and Dianne began looking for a car. It was not an easy job. They found cars that were too expensive, too old, too small, and ever so many other “too” things. They could not find just the right car for them. Grace’s arrival was scheduled the next day and still they had no car.

The next morning Dianne called the airlines in New York upon which Grace would arrive and asked them to give her mother a message saying, “Have not found car. Take base cab service to New Jersey base.” And they resumed car hunting.

About two hours before Grace was to arrive in New York, they found the perfect car, a Ford station wagon. They arranged for its purchase, piled Janetta, Brian, and Brad into the car, and headed for New York. They arrived about ten minutes after the plane had been scheduled to arrive and Dianne searched and searched for Grace. She was paged, she was prayed about but no Grace.

Finally, in desperation, Gary and Dianne climbed back in the car and went back to New Jersey in hopes that Grace had received the message Dianne had left for her and had gone on to New Jersey by herself. If she had received the message, she would at least know that they were in New Jersey and would be able to contact them there. With heavy hearts they pulled through the gates of the base and around to the Guest House. On a bench in front of the Guest House sat Grace. Gary and Dianne sent silent prayers of gratitude heavenward.

They then learned that Grace had been given a message which read, “Have not found car, find your own way to base in New Jersey.” It took a while for Grace to believe that they were telling the truth when they told her that this was not exactly the message that Dianne had left for her. Grace was terribly upset but Gary and Dianne were so grateful to God for hearing their prayers that they hardly noticed Grace’s disposition.

Another night was spent in New Jersey and after a good rest, the family, along with the dog and cat, now loaded into the Ford station wagon to proceed to California.

Grace was not happy riding in the back seat with the children, though a play area had been set up for them behind the back seat. The children would lean over Grandma’s shoulder and bother her. Not very far into the trip, when Gary and Dianne stopped, Grace purchased a fly swatter and from then on, whenever the children would bother her, she would swat them with the fly swatter. The children weren’t happy with the arrangement either, but Gary and Dianne determined to keep things as calm as possible, for the trip was to be a long one.

The first stop was at Gary’s parents’ home in Missouri and a glorious reunion took place. Grace met Gary’s parents for the first time and liked them but sensed the love there was between Gary’s mom and Dianne and was jealous of it. She once more began picking at Dianne until another argument began.

Grace, as was her norm, left the house and “went for a walk.” She was unfamiliar with the territory, however, and soon found herself lost. She walked for hours. Dianne was not terribly concerned because Grace had acted this way many times during the times that they had lived together. Late in the evening, Grace finally found her way back, but she had worn pedal pushers and the bottom of her legs had been exposed to the glaring sunlight. Grace now suffered from sunburn on both legs. It did not portend to be an easy journey as they continued to the West Coast.

“Dutch,” the dachshund, had been put into his new home in the kennel and “Pops,” Gary’s stepfather, was very excited about the prospect of having new blood in the area. He spent a great deal of time with the dog admiring and settling him. He was a very good-looking dog, perfect for stud.

The day before Gary and Dianne were to leave Missouri to head for Iowa, Pops came into the house and asked, “Did you know that dog has been neutered?” That, of course, ended the prospect of the dog staying in Missouri and when Gary and Dianne loaded the car, Dutch was loaded also.

Gary’s mom grew a beautiful garden and tomatoes were ripe and in abundance. She picked a nice lot of them and packed them for Gary and Dianne to take with them.

Gary and Dianne needed to take care of some business in Colorado Springs, where they had resided before the transfer to Germany, so they headed there next. The business took a couple of days and the tomatoes kept getting riper and riper. They had eaten some but were afraid that the rest would go to waste before they could eat them. The family checked into a motel and fed the children, then Gary went to the store to buy a loaf of bread and some “Miracle Whip” to make tomato sandwiches. Of course the children wanted tomato sandwiches also but Gary and Dianne knew that they would string tomato all over the motel and decided it was best to not let them share.

Dianne had some rock candy in the car and she brought that in and began doling it out to the children who were just as happy as could be; but the thought crossed Dianne’s mind of the Bible verse, “Who of you, if your child asks for bread, would give him a stone instead?”

Business finished, the family headed for Gary’s sister’s home in Iowa, where they spent the next few days. The children had cousins to play with as Gary’s sister had children the same ages as Gary and Dianne’s.

One evening Gary’s brother in law cooked barbecue chicken on the outdoor grill. It smelled so good and tasted good also, when they had a chance to eat it. But Grace went to Dianne and said with a sneer, “I sure hope he didn’t use beer to make that barbecue sauce; some people do, you know.” Dianne reassured her that she was certain he did not. It proved later to be a false assurance but Grace never knew the difference and the alcoholic content had cooked out.

The family then headed for Seattle to take Grace to her home. Secretly, Dianne thought, “Finally!” The children also were much more relaxed when Grace was no longer traveling with them and the family sang songs and played games as they traveled to the valley of Oregon where George still lived with his new wife.

Dianne was so glad to see George. He had always seemed like her own father and she hugged and hugged him until he finally gently pushed her away from him and said, “Let’s go get some dinner.”

The time went altogether too quickly and Gary and Dianne had to leave so they would be able to spend some time with Donald, Dianne’s father, and his family. They arrived in time to go camping with them which was a new experience for the children. They got to enjoy the boat that Donald had purchased for the family with some of the money the family had realized upon Robby’s death. Dianne couldn’t help but think of Robby every time she looked at the boat but she realized that Donald had made a good choice, to give the family something that they all could enjoy in memory of Robby.

From Donald’s home, the family proceeded to the Presidio of San Francisco and Gary reported for duty.