When, in a distant place by the sea
And I was young and free and alone
I searched for a special someone
To walk beside, someone I didn’t know
AND YOU WERE THERE.
Later, when we left the sea
And came to the mountains
The vastness of this new place
Filled me with fear
BUT YOU WERE THERE.
I roamed from job to job
From trouble to trouble
Searching for something from within and without
Yet never quite finding and feeling the doubt
YOU WERE THERE.
And now in this time of finding
This time of happiness and joy
This time of reaching and growing
This time especially for sharing
YOU ARE THERE.
© Jim Ruppel
The world can be unsettling, at times, especially if you listen to the news. You don’t know what’s going to happen next or how to prepare. You can take comfort, when you have a constant in your life you can always count on, whether it be a companion, friend, pet or a special place. I know this to be true in many ways. Let me tell you how it began to unfold for me.
This poem speaks volumes, when hubby wrote it at least 40 years ago in a Journalism class. Though times have changed, the message remains the same and holds true even today. We were trying to settle in and find a constant back then, in search of our new home. It was a bit scary as we had traveled west, across the country to Colorado, far from family and friends.
Though we tried to prepare, sending ahead letters and resumes to companies for employment in Denver, we didn’t know anyone, had no jobs lined up and no place to live. We were on an adventure ― you might say ― embarking on a modern day, covered-wagon excursion. We loaded up the dogs and everything we owned in an old Volvo station wagon and U-Haul trailer and headed west after making a short detour to visit family. We only had $700 and some change to our name.
It had only been a few years since we were first married and we were living off base in Virginia. We had already seen a lot of changes to our world in the short time we’d been together, with the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Martin Luther King, Jr. What could be so hard now, having also gone through trials of our own just to get married? More on that in a story called, “Young Love to Old Love.”
It was 1966, when we first met and fell in love and the Viet Nam War was very real and alive. It was my last summer at my grandparents before officially becoming an adult and finding my niche in the world. Jim was in the Air Force stationed on a small radar site not far from town.
Then, three years later, his hitch in the Air Force had come to a close and he’d always dreamed of living in Colorado. It was a chance for us to turn the page to a new chapter and begin our lives with no commitments or attachments. The farthest west I had ever been was Washington, D.C. on a senior class trip. I didn’t know what lay ahead or what to expect and it didn’t matter. As long as we faced life’s challenges together, I would be alright. That was my constant.
You’re right, I was naïve but had I known all the obstacles we would face over the years I would have been too afraid to take the risk and would have missed a lot of life.
It was night and we were tired, when we landed in Colorado, having been on the road most of the day. We had driven through Denver to the foothills to a small mountain town called Loveland. We pulled up to a local motel for a room to get some rest for the night, regroup, get a newspaper and make plans for the next day.
There was an air of excitement having finally arrived in Colorado where we wanted to live. But Jim had a funny look on his face when came out of the hotel. He said they wouldn’t give us a room because of the dogs. I felt like I’d been turned away from the inn ― no room.
No wonder, if you looked out and saw our dogs in the back seat. From where he sat, Buck, our white shepherd’s ears almost touched the ceiling. So, we moved on down the road to the next town and next hotel. This time parking around back and getting a room for the night.
Next day, we found some places to call to rent and headed for Denver. I was in awe of this new place, the mountains and hustle and bustle of the city.
It was a lot different from the places we were originally from ― Philly and Toledo. And, it sure wasn’t like my grandparents’ small, rural town in Virginia where Jim was stationed and we had lived for last few years.
We landed our first apartment in the heart of downtown Denver, 14th and Downing, one block from one of the busiest commercial streets, Colfax, and 6-8 blocks from the business district with offices and high-rise buildings. They were older turn-of-the century houses converted into apartments.
Ours was a garden level and there were 2 or 3 levels above us with small balconies and an alley in the back. We had no phone or shower, just another bathtub with feet, but we were happy and excited to be out on our own making our way.
The dogs adjusted well through a trial and error period, while we went out to payphones to call on job prospects. Having come from the country, where they had room to run, we found out their boredom got them into trouble when we kept them together inside. They had gotten into a bottle of lotion chewing and squirting it all over the place. So, Buck had to be chained in the back near the alley way, since we assumed he was the culprit.
He was happy making friends with neighbors, as they walked to and from their destinations. They’d stop and love up on him a bit, while passing through. Once, we heard he had sniffed out some marijuana from a girl’s purse. I guess she got her cache back as we never heard from anyone.
By this time, his nose was getting keen on the smell with hippies around. Their music and American flag draped over the balcony one flight above gave us a clue where they lived. Everyone was friendly and did their thing and that suited us just fine.
Within a day, I landed my first interview on my first call for a job. It was a company I saw in the yellow pages. I didn’t want to start searching from ‘A’ so I started at ‘C’, instead, and called Chevron. It was for a secretarial position in a geological/geophysics department. Meanwhile, Jim was making his own calls taking turns on the payphone and sharing the car. I was lucky, as my interview was only a matter of blocks away on Broadway and I could take the bus.
Life was good and we were making progress and the dogs were settling in while living in the heart of Denver with its sirens, traffic noise and musical assortments. I got my job at Chevron and was working full-time by now while Jim was still looking.
One day, he had come home for lunch having been gone most of the morning job hunting. He went around back to get Buck but found he was gone. It looked like his chain had been unhooked. Panic set in concerned with how a dog from the country would fare in traffic of a busy city.
Jim ran up and down the alley, then out front looking up and down the busy streets ― no Buck. He went down to the nearest intersection and saw him across the way at the corner. He called out, “Buck” and whistled to get his attention. It did and Buck turned around and saw him.
Jim hollered out, “Lay down”. He did. He was across a busy intersection with traffic whizzing by in both directions. There was an elderly woman standing next to him with a bag of groceries, waiting for the light to change. She looked a little anxious, not sure of what to think with a big, white dog lying next to her. The light changed and Jim called for Buck to come and he bounded to him and was safe at last.
We all survived the daily challenges trying to figure it out as life moved on and the days and weeks soon passed. Along with working during the week, we settled into a routine taking the dogs for walks, close by at Washington Park, and making weekend calls back home to family on the payphone. We took an occasional trip out of town to the mountains, again being reminded of why we came here. The beauty took my breath away.
We were home and together ― sometimes laughing, sometimes crying and occasionally fighting. No matter, we only had each other on which to depend and go to and that was all we needed. It was our constant. “You were always there ― my love” back then and still today for each other.
Pat from the ol’ kitchen table