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207 || Searching For Someone To Watch Over Me

This is part two in a series of posts by Patti Townley-Covert titled “The Windblown Girl.” To read the other stories in the series, click here.

Men were never meant to be gods. But my dad became mine before my earliest remembrance.

At a young age, I learned that gods discard women at will, just the way my dad did when he left my mom and me. Though someone like me might tempt a god into a momentary dalliance, only a goddess could fascinate him for a lifetime. And my dad’s leaving left no doubt; I was certainly no goddess.

Even in his leaving my dad was no ordinary mortal. He rode off to Vientiane, Laos wearing white Levis and cowboy boots to fight a war that didn’t exist. During the Vietnam conflict, the U.S. government insisted, “we have no men in Laos.” The government also claimed no association with my dad’s employer, Air America, who had given my dad two ID’s. One instilled the rights of an American. The other made him a man without a country. He carried that one on the missions he flew. The CIA was rumored to be involved with this private company, but my family didn’t really know for sure. All we knew was that whenever our dad climbed into the cockpit of his plane, his life was in danger. He warned my four sisters and me from the beginning—if the enemy captured him, they’d consider him a spy and put him in front of a firing squad.

Roy F. Townley 1crop Roy F. Townley 2crop

Air America pilots took more risks than anyone. Their motto was, “first in, last out.” My dad performed feats beyond the capability of regular guys and took risks ordinary mortals didn’t take. The C-131 he flew looked like a giant fish with a belly large enough to hold cargo from refugees to pigs to white phosphorous. For a couple of years, my dad wrote home about the bullets that riddled his plane while in the air. After landing, he counted their number—fifty-one on one mission, fifty-two on another. I could almost hear him chuckle as he described one that came within an inch of the fuselage. My father’s life ridiculed death’s threat. He was invincible, immortal, untouchable, or so we thought. And yet, he was a distant god—never around when I needed him—not even for my high school graduation.

Though he made it to my wedding, it might have been better if he hadn’t. My parents fought over every detail, and I was stuck in the middle. All I wanted was the peace of a family who ate dinner together and someone to watch over me—a man who loved me and would never leave me or our future children.

Unfortunately I was too young, naïve, and dysfunctional to make that happen. Before we married, I thought Rick loved me more than I did him. I was wrong. He didn’t even like me and spent most of the time trying to turn me into someone else. He told me how to clean, how to cook, and how to dress. Nothing I did was good enough to please him.

Though I was committed to our marriage, I didn’t like him much either. We had little in common. I loved the beach; he didn’t. I loved to read; he didn’t. I wanted children; he didn’t. He told me he wanted me all to himself. I told him I was either having children or I’d get a divorce.

It took many years to understand why I married Rick. Throughout high school, I dated a multitude of guys but there was one who especially captured my heart, and it wasn’t Rick. When Tom came home from a tour in Viet Nam, we finally started dating. The summer of ’68 was filled with lazy days and romantic nights. When he deployed to Germany, I went off to college to await his return. But the longer Tom was gone, the more scared I became at the thought of marrying a man whose leaving hurt. In comparison, Rick seemed safe. I’d known him a long time. His brother had married my best friend. Still, if he ever left, I’d survive. Besides he was older with a steady job. We got engaged a couple of months before Tom came home, and I refused to see him for fear I’d change my mind.

Not long after my marriage to Rick, I began to dream about Tom coming to rescue me. It was an extension of my childhood fantasy that someone might care enough to save me from life’s miseries.

Several years later, Someone did. It was Jesus. All along He’d held the details of my life in His hands. The longing I felt for a man to take care of me had been placed in my heart by Him. There was no place to go where He wasn’t watching over me.

If I go up to heaven, you are there;
If I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
If I dwell by the farthest oceans,
Even there your hand will guide me,
And your strength will support me.

(Psalm 139:8-10)

God had been with me in the midst of my childhood when my future stepmother enticed my dad into an affair. He was there throughout my parents’ bitter divorce and when they each remarried. He was present when the malevolent forces of this world used my stepfather to perpetrate unspeakable trauma throughout my family and my stepmother to plunder my father’s assets. Jesus was there in the midst of the nefarious devastation that destroyed innocence just like He was there when Adam and Eve rebelled and ate that fruit.

Before I even knew Him—from the very moment I was conceived—Jesus was intimately involved in my life.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
And knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
As I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

(Psalm 139:13-16)

Jesus was even there when I married Rick. I just didn’t know Him yet. Still, He was watching over me every moment of every day with a love far beyond any I’d imagined. The rescue I’d been waiting for happened. It just took time to get my heart ready.

9 Comments

  1. Patti, thank you for bearing your soul in this piece. I think writing for this magazine is an amazing blessing as is it a blessing to have you write for Shattered. I need to take the time to explore it more deeply. This piece comes to me at His perfect timing. I love your writing and I’m so proud of your accomplishments. By sharing your heart you are pointing hearts, like mine, closer to the one, true Father. ox

    Reply
      • Patti, I was very happy to run across your short story. I’m a photo editor for Vietnam Magazine based here near Wash. DC. Each year we put together a list of those who have finally been identified and “brought home.” one of those, this year is your father Roy. You have a couple of very nice photos of him and I’d very much like to include on in the list. He and the other two members of his crew are on this years list. I look forward to hearing from you … best, Guy

        Reply
  2. Thanks Patti for sharing your past and what God has done in your life. I’m looking forward to future installments.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the encouraging words, Geri. I’m looking forward to writing them! I never know how they’ll unfold and my editor at Shattered is great at asking those challenging questions that pull more from me than I even knew was there!

      Reply
  3. Another beautiful testimony, Patti. While I’m sorry you experienced so much hurt and sadness in your past, I rejoice that you have also experienced true joy, love and peace in your relationship with Jesus! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Ann-Margret. All the pain is worth it when you find that deep well of joy. If you haven’t checked out my blog entry on this topic, check out the link “Jesus was there” in the text above. I’d like to write a book on this subject!

      Reply

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