I glanced out the side window of the junked ‘37 Chevy. The old coupe had a smell about it; musty, and while it whispered to me of its many roads traveled, the sweet scent of summer hay and the muted, golden sunshine of those unpredictable Ohio skies etched themselves in bronze during this enchanted period of my childhood.

Gramma was hurrying across the pasture.

“Edward! You drive me to church,” she demanded, out of breath in her thick German accent. I called back with a surprised, “Okay!” She had Grampa’s straw hat in her hand.

Mom, Dad and Grampa usually worked on Sundays, so it was a good day to sneak out to the field and race that old car around for a while. At ten years old, I guess I was a tolerable mechanic to keep it running, but I never drove on a public road before. My unpredictable gramma was testing me, again.

With no brothers or sisters to keep me straight, I grew up independent as hell, crossing the line between daring and recklessness every day. Gramma wasn’t much better; she was a little crazy, too. She had seen it all, or most of it during her sixty-odd years, and she used that wisdom generously to push along her audacious grandson whose life she saved one day in the backseat of my father’s car. I was about five-years old at the time and sitting next to the door, with Gramma sitting next to me. All I remember is falling head-first out the door and seeing the pavement flying by a few inches from my nose, and then feeling someone abruptly grabbing the straps on the back of my overalls and pulling me back into the car. She was very aware.

Only when I look back do I appreciate the many ways in which she challenged me. She made me test myself repeatedly, and I became stronger for it. Only later did I discover how I would need every bit of that strength ─ when the journey began.

She plopped Grampa’s old straw hat on my head, “To make you look older in case Harry (the local constable) sees us,” and off we went with Gramma holding on for dear life to the door handle of an old Chevy with no plates. Before I knew it, I had smoothly navigated the three miles to the Catholic Church she loved, not passing one other car. I was on top of the world, soaring. Wow! I actually drove on a paved road!

About the time that Ed was having fun driving his grandmother to church, I was being born. Life was so easy for him regardless of what he did. He had great karma. When he was seventeen and eloping with his high school sweetheart, before heading to college on a four-year football scholarship, I was seven and sadly kissing my mother goodbye for the last time.

Fast-forward twenty years and my very dark nights changed into incredible sunlit mornings. I met Ed, and his good karma began rubbing off on me. It was strange; I felt as if I had known him my entire life, and he became my lifesaver.

It was the beginning of many Sunday trips Gramma and I secretly made to that little church, but then one night she unexpectedly up and died on me. They said it was a massive stroke. I missed her. She had a sense of spontaneity unlike anybody in the family. Everyone else was careful, always worried about stuff, but she had guts, and a way about her of never telling me things outright. She made me learn by watching her. I picked up things like; it was impossible to be careful and free at the same time. And, fear and love are like oil and water; you can’t mix ‘em. Something began to register then; something that watches a kid grow up but isn’t exactly him. The fact, however, was that Gramma was gone, and I was on my own.

Childhood memories can be beautiful things. I vividly recall the soft petals of spring wildflowers brushing my cheek, and winter snowflakes melting on my tongue. At the time, it didn’t feel childish at all; it was all so real and oh so close to truth. Why was a snowflake so amazing to me then? Maybe it was because I was surrounded with wonderment.

Both of us seemed to have little insights when we were kids. When I was about nine-years-old and never heard about past lives or future lives or anything like that, I distinctly remember thinking, “Why was I born?” My next thought was, “I didn’t have to be born, but for some reason I was!” They say that we all have an underlying karma from past lives that nudges us in certain directions and shapes our current life, and from my perspective now, I certainly believe that to be true.

Chapter 1 –Part 1; Stumbling Across Buddha; Our Amazing Journey - Ed and Janet Rock (available on amazon)