It was here (Orlando) that I discovered the Good Samaritan Coffee House and the "crew" that kept it moving, day in and day out. I met Craig Marlatt, the "little dynamo" who had founded it and kept it moving ahead on the strength of his personality and the help of some good friends. Everywhere I went, people seem to know all about Craig and his background which included time in prison. (As I write, I discovered him again, still living in Florida, still very much the family man - and a very large family now. We exchanged e-mails and I was pleased to tell him of the impact his Mother made on my life. I believe she was a widow and drove school buses for a living, counting her passengers as being a huge part of her life. She was an inspiration to all who ever crossed her path.
It was always intriguing to me, the impact of the Rescue Mission nearby. I used to stand in their lines just to meet transients such as I was, just to talk about our mutual experiences. Of course, my main interest was to invite them to the Coffee House to discover how "life in Christ" was far better than merely, "life" on the streets. Along the way, I met a young girl who would have a large impact on my life. It was very hot day and here was this young girl wearing a beautiful, but very heavy overcoat. She needed to get away from that crowd and one day she appeared at the Coffee House, and was befriended by a slightly older gal and they became best of friends. One day, she asked me if I had a drivers license, that she needed someone to drive her car and take the two of them to the airport. Her name was Maryann and I never dreamed that she would, later on, become my wife. We got lost coming back from the air-port and in the process, became good friends. On Valentine's Day (1982), church friends invited Maryann and I to their "Sweetheart's Ball" and I wound up singing, "Let My Call You Sweetheart" and embarrassed her, she said, but it wasn't much later, while I was driving her to a revival meeting at the First Baptist Church she blurted out, "I'm in love with you, really!!" I was not prepared for that.
I had decided to go out the Frank Constantino's "camp" for newly released State prisoners where the idea seemed to be that we could help these guys get acclimated to their freedom. It was a great idea - I recently read that it still is, but to me with a college degree and solid work experience behind me, I found it to be a chaotic mess. Frank had great ideas and it seemed to me, so did everyone else, so much so that I became disallusioned, or perhaps it was mt new found love for Maryann and my hopes for a better future. We decided to get married.
She had been boarding with an older woman who happened to know of lady who had been "wintering" in Florida but was leaving for the summer, offering her house, rent-free, and suggested it would be a good place for us to start our marriage. It was, but it really wasn't a good time for us. What I was about to discover that she was still "hooked on" psychiatric medicine and was really angry with her psychiatrist. I will never know - for certain, but my answer to her dilemma was to just stop the pills. Shortly afterwards, she panicked and wanted to start taking them again. I convinced her that all she needed was proof everything was going to be OK and took her to the local hospital, to an ER doctor who told her that there was nothing wrong with her vital signs, she was not going to die and she calmed down and I thought, she had won a battle that had been raging for years.
Well, I thought it was, but most of us know, there are "ups and downs" in marriages, especially when both parties had experienced unsuccessful marriages in their past. We had our share. I was moving on in years and one of my problems was the fact, I had no real idea of what our future would hold, based on my more recent work experiences. By now, I had been away from "career" interests for over five years and it troubled me that I could not find anyone who could become interested in the "possibilities" I had to offer. Inwardly, I was becoming more and more frustrated. That was a burden on our marriage and it didn't help that Maryann still seemed to have memories of the problems that followed her previous life. She and her husband had two beautiful sons that she adored and her husband seemed to have eyes on other women. That marriage ended in a divorce and reasons to believe she had mental problems. That stigma had followed her to Florida where her father had moved - after leaving her Mother to marry another woman and that was a another "problem" to add to her concerns. I didn't really help.
The fact that I had merely stepped out of my former marriage and left some bewildered children did not help either, only that was not the problem with Maryann and I. I thought it was the fact I had not found a place for my skills and abilities and finally, when she would not agree to leave Orlando, I did. I went to Atlanta and as if there were forces in my life beyond my control, I found a job with plenty of potential and an employer who loved to teach me everything I would ever need to know if I stayed and took over the business when he retired. I was, in fact, more excited than I had been for years. I came back to Orlando for Christmas, shared my experience with Maryann, hoping, in fact, believing, she would go with me to the apartment I had discovered that I thought she would love, but she had no intentions of leaving an area where she was comfortable, to start over.
I began to realize, I was the ultimate optimist and she was just the opposite. But I loved her and stayed but everything seemed to get away from me. We loved the church, used to delight in signing the songs we loved as we drove to and from church. I was happier then than anytime in my life. When one Pastor left town, we found another church and when it moved beyond the "family" we had come to love, we found another. And we had good friends. Earlier in our marriage, we had met this gal who had been to Dallas, TX, and met this guy, Bob George, who really understood the Bible and convinced we should attend one of his seminars. So we did and in route we met the guy who would marry the gal who had encouraged us to go. The four of us became the very best of friends and although Maryann has passed away, the three of us are together, in spirit at least. They still live in Orlando, I have moved on.
Our marriage did not survive. I finally moved away, this time to Tennessee where the miracle f all miracles would happen to me, but we remained good friends, thanks to the Postal services. Along the way, she met another fellow, another nice guy I had to agree and so, we divorced. It did not mean that I stopped loving her. I just set her free and was so glad that I did as she developed cancer and would eventually pass away. I wound up with a huge hole in my heart.