While looking through audio books in the library, I came acrossI Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project. I love stories so I checked it out. I was not disappointed. The stories, contributed by NPR listeners, ranged from hilarious to poignant. Ah, and then came Lori Peikoff’s story, which turned my body into one giant goose bump and brought a huge grin to my face. It’s the love story everyone dreams of, and it makes me happy to know that sometimes dreams do come true.
TABLE FOR TWO
In 1947 my mother, Deborah, was a twenty-one-year-old student at New York University, majoring in English literature. She was beautiful—fiery yet introspective—with a great passion for books and ideas. She read voraciously and hoped one day to become a writer.
My father, Joseph, was an aspiring painter who supported himself by teaching art at a junior high school on the West Side. On Saturdays he would paint all day, either at home or in Central Park, and treat himself to a meal out. On the Saturday night in question, he chose a neighborhood restaurant called the Milky Way.
The Milky Way happened to be my mother’s favorite restaurant, and that Saturday, after studying throughout the morning and early afternoon, she went there for dinner, carrying along a used copy of Dickens’s Great Expectations. The restaurant was crowded, and she was given the last table. She settled in for an evening of goulash, red wine, and Dickens—and quickly lost touch of what was going on around her.
Within half an hour, the restaurant was standing-room-only. The frazzled hostess came over and asked my mother if she would be willing to share her table with someone else. Barely glancing up from her book, my mother agreed.
“A tragic life for poor dear Pip,” my father said when he saw the tattered cover of Great Expectations. My mother looked up at him, and at that moment, she recalls, she saw something strangely familiar in his eyes. Years later, when I begged her to tell me the story one more time, she sighed sweetly and said, “I saw myself in his eyes.”
My father, entirely captivated by the presence before him, swears to this day that he heard a voice inside his head. “She is your destiny,” the voice said, and immediately after that he felt a tingling sensation that ran from the tips of his toes to the crown of his head. Whatever it was that my parents saw or heard or felt that night, they both understood that something miraculous had happened.
Like two old friends catching up after a long absence from one another, they talked for hours. Later on, when the evening was over, my mother wrote her telephone number on the inside cover of Great Expectations and gave the book to my father. He said goodbye to her, gently kissing her on the forehead, and then they walked off in opposite directions into the night.
Neither one of them was able to sleep. Even after she closed her eyes, my mother could see only one thing: my father’s face. And my father, who could not stop thinking about her, stayed up all night painting my mother’s portrait.
The next day, Sunday, he traveled out to Brooklyn to visit his parents. He brought along the book to read on the subway, but he was exhausted after his sleepless night and started feeling drowsy after just a few paragraphs. So he slipped the book into the pocket of his coat—which he had put on the seat next to him—and closed his eyes. He didn’t wake until the train stopped at Brighton Beach, at the far edge of Brooklyn.
The train was deserted by then, and when he opened his eyes and reached for his things, the coat was no longer there. Someone had stolen it, and because the book was in the pocket, the book was gone, too. Which meant that my mother’s telephone number was also gone. In desperation, he began to search the train, looking under every seat, not only in his car but in the cars on either side of him. In his excitement over meeting Deborah, Joseph had foolishly neglected to find out her last name. The telephone number was his only link to her.
The call that my mother was expecting never came. My father went looking for her several times at the NYU English Department, but he could never find her. Destiny had betrayed them both. What had seemed inevitable that first night in the restaurant was apparently not meant to be.
That summer, they both headed for Europe. My mother went to England to take literature courses at Oxford, and my father went to Paris to paint. In late July, with a three-day break in her studies, my mother flew to Paris, determined to absorb as much culture as she possibly could in seventy-two hours. She carried along a new copy of Great Expectations on the trip. After the sad business with my father, she hadn’t had the heart to read it, but now, as she sat down in a crowded restaurant after a long day of sightseeing, she opened it to the first page and started thinking about him again.
After reading a few sentences, she was interrupted by a maitre d’ who asked her, first in French, then in broken English, if she wouldn’t mind sharing her table. She agreed and then returned to her reading. A moment later, she heard a familiar voice.
“A tragic life for poor dear Pip,” the voice said, and then she looked up, and there he was again.
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ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA
Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the one book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.
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Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to start one.
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SEE EVERY MOMENT AS A GIFT
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Phil’s eBook, The Logic of Living a Spiritual Life: Supporting a Life of Faith Through Logic and Reason, is now available for 99 cents.
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In this eBook, you’ll find answers to questions like:
• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
• What is the secret to liberating yourself from other people’s judgments and expectations?
• How do you reconcile the “free will vs. Divine Will” conundrum?
• Why is there an exception to “Everything happens for a reason”?
Those who worship logic instead of God are only half right. Not only is it logical to believe in God and to live a faith-based life, the existence of a loving, benevolent God that governs all creation is perhaps the only systematic worldview that explains every aspect of life.
Phil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.
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