My small daughter and I had to leave the homeless shelter unexpectedly due to health concerns. I was forced to make this decision to ensure she would be safe.
I packed up what we had and loaded up the back of my car. I felt so alone, so helpless. Where in the world were we going to go?
I contacted a friend who was able to get us a hotel room for the night. Even though we had somewhere to sleep for the night, my anxiety was heightened knowing we would have to check out in the morning.
Thankfully, my VA disability came through, and I used most of my money to get us a week’s stay in a hotel about two and a half hours away in a little town off a highway exit. But it was only for a week, and I knew we would eventually have to check out.
I was living in a constant state of fear, always thinking about the next move and how I would keep us from sleeping in the car. My sister got in contact with me, and I explained the seriousness of the situation. She paid for another two weeks at the same hotel. I was relieved that I had more time to figure out where we would go in a few weeks.
I spent a lot of time on my laptop trying to find a place to live. The money wasn’t there. I couldn’t afford the rent and expenses it would take to secure a place for us to live. I wanted to curl into a ball and hide under the covers, but my daughter needed me. I had to keep pushing forward even though I felt hopeless.
We got up one morning and decided to drive around the small town. There were so many back roads through the country. We drove by fields of horses and cows grazing. We came upon a blinking light in the middle of nowhere with only a gas station. It had a small kitchen that served hot food. We sat outside on a bench and filled our tummies with delicious burgers.
When we got back in the car, I passed a street sign that said Paradise Road. I thought it would be nice to be on a road that was the complete opposite of our current situation. I turned around and went down the road.
We stopped in front of a house on a farm. My daughter saw two beautiful horses and wanted to get out. We stood by the fence and were greeted by a friendly dog. A woman came out and walked up to the fence. I told her we just wanted to watch her horses and take in the scenery.
I lifted my daughter up over the fence so she could pet the horses. The woman took her to meet the chickens and follow a duck around. My daughter played with the dog. I stood by the fence and watched her enjoy the sun and the company of a loving person.
I wrote this poem to capture the unexpected joy I felt during one of the hardest times of my life:
Left the shelter
Scared for daughter’s health
No one would help
No place to call home,
Staying in a hotel
Nowhere to go
In the middle of nowhere
Saw a big farm
Decided to stop
We hung on the fence
There was a beautiful white horse
A lady came out
“Hello” she said
She held my daughter
Showed her around the farm
Chickens, a duck, and Guinea fowl
Such a sweet dog
What a peaceful time
A break from despair
Love is in the air
My daughter and I left Paradise Road and headed back to the hotel. I knew the reality of our situation would hit me once we got there: living in a hotel, trying to survive, and wondering where we were going to end up. But on Paradise Road, we found a refuge. We smiled and laughed. We absorbed the shining sun and the overwhelming love from a stranger.
Our time spent on Paradise Road, even though it was short, was a wonderful feeling and a nice break from our reality. It was a peek into the better life that would soon come our way when we finally found our home. The love I felt there gave me hope to endure the uncertain just a little while longer. I will never forget Paradise Road—the road that gave me the will to keep reaching for the bend in my own road.