by Fred Bedell
Two days before Christmas in 1973, it was cold and beginning to snow when I set out from Great Lakes, Ill., at 6 a.m. to get home to my boys on Long Island. I was in the U.S. Navy then.
My boys, Tommy and Bobby, were in a foster home in Levittown, because my wife had left us. I was in the Navy and didn’t have enough money to fly home. I had always kept my promises to my boys and didn’t want to disappoint them.
Roger, a fellow Navy buddy, had a car and was traveling as far as Ohio. I could get a bus from there. After we set out, the snow came down heavy, and the roads were getting icy.
All of a sudden, Roger’s car skidded and hit the back of a truck. We were lucky, though, and escaped unhurt.
The car, though, was in no shape to go any farther. At that point, I decided that I had to hitchhike.
As I was hitchhiking, I recalled a poem by Robert Frost, which goes as follows: “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep…”
Which I really had to do. I was 50 miles from Indianapolis. Seeing me in my dress blues, a man picked me up and said he doesn’t pick up hitchhikers, but did so for me because it was Christmas.
He dropped me off in front of the ramp going into Indianapolis. Just then, a man driving a snow plow offered me a ride into town. He dropped me off in town.
As I was walking into town, a couple picked me up and asked where I was going and said they hoped it was to the Greyhound bus station. At that, they told me to get into their car. Then they drove me the rest of the way to the bus station.
When we got there, I thanked them and wished them a Merry Christmas. The station was full of soldiers and sailors. The problem was that there were not enough buses for everyone who wanted to get home for Christmas.
I met a young woman who wanted to get home to her little girl and said that the bus company was taking couples first. So we presented ourselves as a married couple and got on the bus. I finally got to the Port Authority in Manhattan at 7 a.m., which was almost 24 hours later on Christmas Eve.
Then, I got on a subway and then on a bus going to Queens Village, where I was staying with my ex-in-laws. My father-in-law, Charlie, and his wife, Barb, who was suffering from terminal cancer greeted me with open arms.
After breakfast, we went to pick up the boys at their foster home. I rang the bell and my oldest named Tommy saw me first and said his new daddy was here. They called me that to show the difference between me and their foster parents.
We had dinner at my father-in-law’s house and started opening presents. I opened my sea bag and gave my boys their presents, which I said I received from Santa Claus when I was at the North Pole. At that, they hugged me and gave me a kiss. That was a Christmas I will always remember.
May God bless all of our service men and women trying to get home this Christmas.
Bedell is the Grand Knight of St. Anastasia Council #5911- Knights of Columbus in Douglaston.