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When Prince Charming doesn't show up

October 17, 2007|By Kate Prado

I grew up watching "Leave It to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" on television. I was one of eight children with a "stay at home" mom. By seventh grade I already knew my destiny. I was to meet a man, marry him and have children. Like my five older sisters before me, my future was set in stone.

At the age of 19 I met my Prince Charming while working as a waitress in an ice cream store and going to school part time. He was a serious student who would one day become an attorney, and I was a dreamer. I would eventually marry him, leave my family in Maryland, and move to California.

After almost nine years of marriage I found my Prince Charming was really not quite so charming at all. I also discovered I would never be able to carry a child full term. Suddenly, I was a woman without a purpose. Worn out and tired, I packed my bags and came back to my parents. I was holding out for someone to rescue me from my messed-up life.

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I had only been home a few months when, without warning, my mother had a massive heart attack and died. I was working as a receptionist in an insurance agency with plans of getting my own place. Now, instead of moving into the apartment I had been looking at, I would continue to live with dad in his house. My parents had been married for 45 years, and he would not do well alone. We had always been very close, and after all, I had no children, no husband, and I was there.

What had happened? I had planned to return east and meet my next "dream man." This time I would make the right choice and live "happily ever after." I even imagined somehow having a baby. Now my plans for starting over, and my mother, were both gone. I found no time to grieve for her, or my marriage, because my father was devastated by her loss, and I needed to be strong.

After my mother passed away, it became impossible for me to stay where I was working. My father was having "spells," and I would often have to run home to be with him. In desperation, I prayed for God to guide me.

Early one morning I felt as if two hands had grabbed the front of my nightgown as I slept, jerking me straight up in my bed. Suddenly, I heard God speak to me. His voice was clear and his message brief, "I want you to clean house."

I knew it must be God speaking. Who else could have come up with something so outrageous? I had already lost my home by the ocean, left a job with the airlines and was back living with my dad like a kid. Mother was dead, and my divorce papers came right before Christmas. I said out loud, "You want me to do what?!"

A second time I heard Him say, "I want you to clean houses."

I decided to throw out a little fleece to the Lord. I told Him, "I will advertise, and if I get five days' work I will know it is what I am to do. If not, then I won't do it."

I made flyers and left them on doors all around my old neighborhood. I decided if my father needed help, then there must be others like him whom I could work for. Within a very short span of time my phone was ringing with people calling about my new "business." So, I put my high heels away and hung my suits in the closet. I traded them in for blue jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. At 31 years of age, I started dragging my vacuum cleaner and a bucket of cleaning supplies from house to house to care for the elderly.

I watched after my dad, along with countless others, until my father passed away. As one person would go home to be with the Lord, God would open another door for me to meet someone else. From the first day I sent out my homemade flyers I never had to advertise again. Work always came to me.

One day as I was saying goodbye to one of my customers at their doorway, a neighbor living across the street from them started to back her car out of the driveway. With a loud crash, she rammed her 1969 battleship-sized Buick into my new little car. I ran over to make sure the driver was all right. Behind the wheel was a small, gray-haired woman, wearing round eyeglasses and peering up at me.

I glanced at the crumpled bumper of my car. I hadn't had it very long. It still had the "new smell" inside, and she had harpooned it like a whale. After seeing her lower lip start to quiver, though, none of that really mattered. I tried to calm her down. "I can get it fixed," I said. "Please don't get so upset."

For the next 11 years after hitting my car, "Grandma" became the person God sent into my life to teach me many important lessons. She was a retired math professor who had never married, and I became her prize student. As I cleaned, shopped, helped tend her rose garden and care for her dog, Robin, I was learning. We would sit for hours talking and drinking tea while doing puzzles. Grandma had cared for her own mother after the loss of her father and understood my feelings. Her body was old and bent, but her keen mind was filled with stories of surviving life.

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