There it was on the rock wall by the bus station. A plain white envelope. It was one of those short kind used for personal letters. On the outside, written in childish print was a single name Jon.
I put the letter back on the rock wall. What if the person who had written the letter, or the person it was intended for came walking up and caught me holding the letter? I would be mortified being caught in such a position. As if on cue, a young man turned the corner and started walking toward me where I stood waiting on the bus. I glanced at my watch to make sure he knew I hadn’t looked at the letter. I smiled at him as he drew near. He was in his early twenties in jean shorts and a blue tee that read GO THE DISTANCE. He smiled back, said a quiet hello, and kept walking. My quick deductive reasoning said this was not the Jon of the letter.
Being a good twenty minutes early for the bus, I jumped onto the rock wall putting my bags down. The letter was tantalizingly close. I sighed. I couldn’t just let it lay there. If the owner walked up and asked what I was doing I would just tell him, “Don’t leave personal things out where other people can get curious and read them.” Whether or not I had the nerve to say this should the occasion present itself was yet to be seen. Still, it was a plan, so I opened the letter.
A single sheet of ruled notebook paper was in the envelope with the same childish print.
Marsha is pregnant. She is afraid to tell you. Jon, Marsha can’t have this baby. She is only 16 years old and she has the chance of a future. If you love her the way you say you do, you will encourage her to get rid of it before too many weeks have passed. Don’t ruin her life the way you ruined mine. I have tried to be a good mother to you, but I know I haven’t been the best. I am just not a good mother, but I know you will be a good father because you have gone through so much. Please, don’t be a father now. Have a life before you become a dad.
I know I let Mom & Dad raise you. It was for the best. You have turned out OK. All I could think when I was pregnant with you is “Why me?” This is the wrong thing to think when you are carrying a baby. I never wanted you. I didn’t know what to do with you when you were born so I left you with your grandparents, my Mom and Dad and I left. I wish I could say I regretted doing it, but I haven’t. There is something in me that is screwed up. I don’t like kids. I don’t want kids. There is nothing about being a mother in me, but my Mom is the best and I knew you would have the best of everything she and Dad could offer as long as you were with them.
Marsha didn’t tell me she was pregnant easily. The hormones got the better of her and she finally told me. There will be other opportunities for you to have children and be a dad. You are only 17. You have the world and time ahead of you. If you and Marsha are really meant to be together it will happen.
I’m leaving on the Grey Hound tonight. I am going to Florida. I don’t know where in Florida I am going. Have a good life, son. I will stop by on my way through again sometime.
One line kept jumping out at me over and over: Don’t ruin her life the way you ruined mine. How cruel was this of a mother to say to her son!
I wanted to find Jon and tell him he had not ruined his mother’s life – if her life was ‘ruined’ she had done so all by her lonesome.
“Excuse me,” said a soft male voice. “That’s mine.” I looked into the eyes of a 17-year-old boy who had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Carefully, almost reverently I folded the letter and slid it back into the envelope it had come from.
“You didn’t ruin your mother’s life,” I said, jumping down off the rock wall as the bus cleared the rise and was heading our way. “She ruined her own life by not having you in her’s.” Impulsively I reached out and hugged the young man, even though he was quite a bit taller than me. “If you need someone to talk to I usually take this bus every Thursday to go downtown. My name is Alice,” I said, again impulsively.
I didn’t see Jon again until after a year later, though I thought of him often. One Thursday as I was waiting for the bus Jon and a pretty petite little woman pushed a stroller to the bus stop. Inside was a little bundle wrapped in pink blankets and a little pink hat. I started grinning from ear to ear.
“Hello, Alice,” Jon said, and gave me a big hug. “This is Marsha. And this, he said, reaching into the stroller to pull out a beautiful baby girl, is our daughter, Alice.” I covered my mouth with my hand. “I knew everything was going to be OK when you offered to talk to me. I came a couple of times but always missed the bus.” He placed his baby girl into my arms. “Thank you for what you said about me not ruining my mother’s life and offering to talk. That showed me people are good deep down, and I want my little girl to know that, too. Marsha and I got married and our folks are helping us. It’s hard, but we’re doing OK. I’m going to be graduating in June and I’ve been accepted on a basketball scholarship for the UK Wildcats in the fall. I would like you to come to my graduation if you can. I’d like for you to meet our folks.” Jon held out a gold sealed invitation that I somehow managed to grasp with my hand.
“I would be honored,” I said through all the happy tears.