August 16, 1999 – Monday – 10:23 a.m.

I spent most of last week working at the bookstore.  We have some new people working there, and Jenny’s last day was Wednesday.  I’m thankful for that job.  It is relaxing.  I can be myself.  I spend most of the day laughing.

I talked to Vince last week.  He told me that his new girlfriend Natalie stays with him at this Newland Land Harbor place and they sleep in the same bed, but he assures me they aren’t having sex.  I don’t know what he is thinking.

Thursday night I went out with Marion and Rebekah from church, I took them to see Runaway Bride.  Friday was our bookstore beach day.  And on Saturday I went to Justin’s birthday party after work.  He turned 15.  Brandon spent the night and the next day after church we hung out at the beach with Melissa and Amanda, they are Sterling and Christin’s cousins.  They’re parents are going through a divorce, so I figured I’d show up more often to spend time with the girls as they go through this difficult time.  They are 14 and 11.  I’m not sure what I can do, but I’m pretty good at smiling, laughing and crying, and all three of those are worth sharing.

Lindy has been on my mind a lot.  Perhaps it is just that Allen and Jessica, and Dan and Abigail, and Curtis and Meagan will probably all get married next summer.

You know, maybe the joy of all this is in its simplicity.  To simply live and not know what is going on.  To now worry about figuring it out because Jesus has already figured it out for us.  I don’t need to know what is going on, but just lean on loving those around me.

My mom called this morning to wish me a happy birthday.  She forgot last year and tried so hard to this year that she called me a day early.  Ha!

November 23, 1997 – Sunday – 1:00 p.m.

I haven’t stopped thinking about her since she left my room last night.

She came to me because she was sad.  She needed someone to talk to and she told me the story of her divorced parents and how she is split between them.  I held her.  She cried.  I prayed for her and she cried all the more.

I prayed for God to take all the pain, hatred, and unforgiveness away and to fill it with peace, love, and joy.

Then, after I stood there with my arms around her, holding her, as she cried on my shoulder, she took ahold of my hand traced a heart on my palm with her finger.  I saw her lips moving and, even though I couldn’t hear her, I knew she was praying for me.  She was asking God to bless me.  I could feel it.  She held my hand so tightly and I started to cry.

I’ve ministered to many hurting girls.  I’ve held and touched many and they all received my touch and prayer, but this is the first time a girl ever took the time to return the blessing; to return the affection.

She was hurting, she was in pain, and yet she gave.

Even now, it brings tears to my eyes.

December 30, 1995 – Saturday – 5:00 p.m.

Last night was interesting.  Scott and I went to Asheboro.  He wanted to see Toy Story, so I saw it again for the third time.  It was still funny and magical.

After the movie, we just drove around from Asheboro to Pittsboro to Sanford to Siler City.  We had a good talk.  Scott has been through a lot since I last saw him.  He has gotten himself into some weird relationships, but he is good now and seeing a decent girl.  He has a steady job, is getting his own place, and now wants to get married.

I guess it’s the next logical step, but it made me appreciate the fact that I was going to college.  I want a steady job and I want to get married, but I could tell that Scott’s mind hadn’t grown, his worldview hadn’t expanded, he had just surrounded himself with other people who weren’t going to college and it felt like they weren’t really benefitting each other.

This morning was really difficult.  I am so used to waking up in my own room with no one there to get in the way and everything working smoothly.  Everything went so wrong this morning and I got really homesick and angry.

My own mother, rather than saying she understood what I was going through and trying to empathize with me, just said that if I acted that way when I was married that I wouldn’t be married for long.

I asked her why she always has to bring marriage up with me.  Just because she got divorced didn’t mead I would.  I told her that who I am now, the angry person that I am, the frustrations, the sadness; it’s not me.  I can’t be me in this house.  I was me when I was on that stage at Heaton Christian Church surrounded by all of those children in Lone Star Gulch.  I can be me in Banner Elk, because there I feel loved and I love and it feels like home and I feel a beating heart in my chest!

Home is where the heart is.

I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I was in tears.  I grabbed the rollerblades that Vince let me borrow and I drove to Sanford.  I rollerbladed at Kiwanis, listened to my new Enya tape and tried to remember me.  I even read all of the journal entries in this section that I wrote while at home in Banner Elk.

I’m doing a lot better now.

As I was driving back, I realized that 1995 was over.  I don’t have my other journals with me, so I will just have to depend on my memory for this.

In 1993 you read about a 17-year-old loving a youth group that would eventually fall apart by the time 1994 arrived.  I got a job at McDonald’s, I dreamed Winter Dreams, I met Emily, and just before the year ended I met Jenna and Tenielle.

In 1994 I wrote to Emily while adoring and being adored by my new friends Jenna and Tenielle.  I went to Deep Creek with Jonathan.  I went to Fishnet.  I said goodbye as a storm blew me away to a world I began to love.

I was taken to Cincinnati.

In fact, I was in Cincinnati when 1995 began.  But I threw Cincinnati away and Emily and I wrote and fell in love with each other’s written words.  A summer of McDonald’s, water gun fights, movies, Fishnet, and Crestview came and went as well as my heart.  A wonderful semester began with my birthday, new friends, and Antigone.  Others saw me as talented.  My pen pal came back to me, and now I dream of a beautiful girl and a beautiful cottage while saying goodbye to the waterfall as it flows back to Florida.

And then the snow came, and the Christmas play, but I had to say goodbye and grew horribly homesick the first day I was away.

. . .

And so 1996 is just over a  day away.  I try to find a single phrase to sum up 1995, but I can’t.

All is said and done.  The unspoken words cannot be taken back.  I will not try to forget.  I will not try to remember.

Is it really just a little planet.?

Do I have any control?

Are my smiles and frowns really mine?

I often wonder if I’m really on this little planet.  If this is really my face.  It’s as if I was in heaven, at home, and the Lord came up to me and said, “I’m sorry Jacob, but it’s your time.  You have to go down to earth.  You have to have a body, and you have to try and survive down.  It won’t take long, just a little while.  And don’t worry, I’ll help you until it’s time to return.”

It’s like I was handed a mask and told I wasn’t able to take it off.  Only God can do that.

Do people see the mask, or do they see me?

What do I see?

I don’t know, and I’ll drive myself crazy trying to figure it out.  All I know is that I’m on my way home; not only to Banner Elk, but to Heaven.

And I have only one wish, just one thing I pray…

That I remember only the good days, that I remember all of the best days.  That I forget the pain, the shame and that I only remember the joys, only the love.

Only the love, as I walk on the roads under heaven.

October 18, 1995 – Wednesday – 10:30 p.m.

I’m at Crystal and Clifton’s house now.  I got here around 5 o’clock p.m.  It was only Crystal and I for a while.  We just talked for two hours then went to church.  She is a good friend; almost like a sister.  Church was fun tonight.  I went to the youth group and we took a little trip to Wildcat Lake.

Tonight, Crystal, Clifton, and their mom Leslie and I watched a movie called Bye Bye Love.  It was so wonderful.  It was about divorce and I have been there.  I could understand those people.

I am from a divorced family.  It isn’t easy.  It’s very hard.  If my marriage is going to end in divorce, then I would rather not get married.

For some reason I sometimes think that once a career begins, life will be over because I will have established a routine, a permanent lifestyle.  But that movie proved me wrong.  Nothing ever stops.  These days will never end.

They will change, but they will not end.

Millions of little things have happened the first half of this first semester of my Sophomore year.

But as for now, I am sitting on a couch in the living room on the side of a mountain in Heaton, North Carolina.

And very few people realize I am actually here.

June 2, 1995 – Friday – 10:20 p.m.

The Bridges of Madison County opened in theaters today.  After my hard day at work, I decided to go see it this evening.  Mom wanted to go with me, so I let her.  She was excited; she finally got the chance to do something.

It was a wonderful picture.  My mom cried.

As the credits rolled, we went out the exit near the screen, but then we took a wrong door and ended up on the other side of the mall.  We had to walk around

And there, in an isolated and empty parking lot, I walked with my mom, a woman a little over 40, and I asked, “Mom, has Kevin or Nate or I ever stopped you from being who you wanted to be?”

She said, “No, but your father did.”

She began to cry.

Painful memories I suppose.  But it was then that I realized that at one point in my mother’s life, she actually loved my father.  That was so long ago.

I watched her as she pulled her keys out of her purse to unlock the car door and begin her journey towards our home and her world of detail and procedures.

June 2, 1994…if only I knew…

June 2, 1993…I difficult night, but now I don’t know why…

June 2, 1995…my first grade teacher recognized me today at McDonald’s.  It had been 12 years since she last saw me.  How could she have even recognized me?  But to her, she said I hadn’t changed much.

I always hear older people reflecting upon their youth and telling wonderful little stories.

I learned today that all of my youthful little stories have already been conjured up and written down.  The story of how I grew up cannot be re-written.

And now I will lay my down to sleep.  Only to wake up to another day of fast food procedure.

Perhaps there are bridges in Crestview.

October 21, 1993 – Thursday – 4:30 p.m.

I want to go to heaven.

I wish Ryan could go with me.

We could be free together.

Things have been rough these past few days.  Yesterday I had an Orthodontist appointment at 11:00 a.m.  Henry was supposed to pick me up at 10:30 a.m. from school.  I can’t leave unless he comes to sign me out.  He didn’t know that and he stayed in the car for 40 minutes.  At 11:10 he decided to come in and get me for my 11:00 appointment.  And he often brags about his intelligence.  I said I wasn’t going to the appointment, that I would reschedule, and he agreed but got really upset about it.

The water in our well has been low this past week and it must have been my mom’s time of the month.  They bought me a car.  It’s a Toyota.  A 1980 something.  They said they got it because they want me to be home by 3:00 to watch Nate.  They still give me all these lectures and rules and junk that they just say to hear themselves talk and have power.

Other stuff has happened.  Stuff that, at least according to them, is my fault.  And Henry is upset with me because he doesn’t think it is right for me to have a car when I have totaled two cars in the past year.  It’s not that I’m a bad driver.  I just can’t drive well while I’m eating or sleeping.

Hopefully things will turn around and be okay.  Nothing majorly bad is happening, just nothing good is happening.

At church last night, I felt so wonderful.  I feel so loved at church.  I don’t feel loved at home, but I know I am.

Emily hasn’t written me back in about three weeks.  My dad hasn’t called.  I wish I could see Brandon.

At school there is this guy named David.  I was talking to him about this girl who always stares at him in the hall.  He is going out with the Student Council President, a fox.  Well, I just got to thinking: the only girls who have ever liked me have been girls I’ve had no interest in talking to or looking at.  Except one.  Her name was Veronica, but she was younger and well, that must say something about a guy.

It hurts in a way.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with me.

I like me.  I just wish somebody would love me.

August 24, 1993 – Tuesday – 9:47 p.m.

178 days left of school!

I’m excited.

The day went fine.  In Spanish II, Mr. Benton asked me if I liked the winter.  He said it in Spanish, of course.

I said, “Si, me gusta invierno.”

He said, “Por que?”

I said, “Me gusta chocolate caliente.”

He laughed so hard and shared what I said with the whole class.  Then the whole class died laughing.  I didn’t think it was that funny, but I was glad it happened.

Once I got home I slept for an hour, then I did my homework and Grandma and Grandpa drove down.  After a bite to eat at McDonald’s, we went to visit Aunt Sis.  She lives a few hundred feet from where I used to live.  She is my mom’s mom’s sister and her husband died a few years ago.  They had a few children, including Cynthia who married a guy named Murphy who laughs like an old man sneezing.  They have three boys: Lebaron, Nick, and Ethan.

Lebaron and I used to be good friends.  He is 13 now.  I haven’t seen him in a long time.

Bruce, Cynthia’s brother, married a woman name Lavern and they have at least one girl named April.  They just moved here a few weeks ago.  They are living in a trailer behind the house where we used to live.  I saw April at school today.  She is a sophomore.

They were all over there at Aunt Sis’s tonight.  Murphy and Nick came over.  Boy, are they some country redneck folks.

Several, several years down the road, I will travel with my wife and stay the night in my kid’s house and visit with family I rarely see, just like my Grandparents did tonight.  And we will spend the hours talking about everything and nothing.  But I’m in no rush to get to that stage of life.

The other day, I found a journal that Kevin had to keep in the 6th grade for school.  I found this entry:

March 10, 1987

MY DAD

My dad is coming today to pick me up from school because we are going to Greensboro.  My mom and my dad are divorced.  My dad loves my mom, but she doesn’t love him.  My mom has remarried, but my dad still loves her.

Wow.  Kevin was in the 6th grade and he didn’t understand the complexities of love.  This sure puts Veronica in perspective.  I feel so foolish.  “Muy Tonto.”

Into the Woods came on PBS last night.  I remember watching that with Jason and Christi at their house.  We ate fried bologna and banana sandwiches.  Good memories.

I got my pictures from the zoo back yesterday.  I’ll take them to church tomorrow.  After tomorrow, I won’t see Anne for a long time.  She is so sweet.

Okay, I think I did it.  I think I made it through a journal entry without mentioning Ryan.

Agh!  I just did.  Oh well.  At least I tried.