Chapter 10: Back to Chattanooga

This is a guest series by Phil Cate. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them all by clicking on ‘Phil Cate’ under the Categories heading in the right panel. Watch for new installments every Friday.

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Chapter 10
Back to Chattanooga

        When I got out of the Navy, I did not trust anyone. Not that I really ever had, but by now I was totally isolated.

       I had met a girl while on leave and visiting my mother once in Chattanooga, and she expressed interest in me after we spent a couple days together. Of course I was interested in her, as she was female. We had corresponded a little while I was out at sea.

       I went straight to her place when I arrived in Chattanooga. She was very shocked to see me at her door. I told her I had been discharged, and she invited me in. My mother lived right down the hall; but for whatever reason, I chose for a week or two not to let her know I was home. 

       I stayed with this girl for a couple weeks and she wanted to progress in a relationship. I have no idea why, as I was quite worthless at the time. I only had a few bucks, I had no job and seemingly did not have much of a future.

       She was Christian and had a friend who was very involved in his faith. Rick spent a good bit of time with me, trying to help me figure out God’s purpose for my life. While I looked up to him and very much appreciated and enjoyed the time with him, the seeds he planted weren’t going to grow for quite a while.

       My grandparents on my father’s side were spending a good bit of time in Chattanooga, looking in on my mom. They were still living in Gastonia, but my grandmother was extremely angry with my father over the divorce and actually sided with and got close to my mother during this time.

       I finally told my mother and grandparents I was in town, and we had a tearful reunion. I had not seen any of them since Melissa’s funeral.

       My grandparents actually began looking into moving to Chattanooga; if I was going to be there, they were going to look in on me. It wasn’t long before they had listed their house in North Carolina and were buying one in Chattanooga. I didn’t realize at the time what an incredible act of love for me that was. They sold their home and left their friends and their church just to be near me, as they were very concerned about me.

       My grandfather, being as social as he was, immediately found an old friend in town he had grown up with. Howard had been a career truck driver. He worked for one of the local auto parts distributors, and he spoke to the owners and told them about me, and I was interviewed that day.

       The founder’s wife, who was a precious soul, interviewed me and took me out in the parking lot where these enormous trucks were parked. She asked, “Can you drive one of those?” Predictably, I lied and said, “Absolutely.” She tossed me a map and headed me down to meet the warehouse manager and told me I’d start the next day. I would be delivering parts and pallets of oil and antifreeze to their store franchises. Of course, she asked if I had a chauffeur’s license, which was required in Tennessee to drive for a living. I said, “Absolutely,” and I was hired on the spot.

       I jumped into the car where my grandfather waited, and he asked how it went. I said, “Come on, we’ve got to go to the drivers’ license office and get a chauffer’s license.”

       The next morning, I had to ask the employee at the gas pump how to start the thing. He showed me, and I was off to the races. I was a truck driver.

       It wasn’t long before they wanted to train me to be Howard’s backup driver throughout all of Alabama. He would sometimes have me go with him on Friday nights to learn the route.

       In his late sixties, Howard was a good friend to me and offered a lot of seasoned advice. My mother had been in his ear some about my behavior at home and had put him on the spot to talk to me about it. Having had two boys of his own, he knew the patterns of rambunctious young men.

       He said, “Phil, your mother’s quite concerned. Apparently you’re playing pretty hard, and I’ve just got to let you in on something. All of this drinking and chasing girls just doesn’t mix well; it’s dangerous. You really ought to give up the drinking or the skirt chasing. I’ll give you some advice — do your drinking when you get older.” Now that was fantastic advice. Not that I did anything about it, but it was great advice.

       Speaking of drinking and girl chasing — I pulled into my apartment building parking lot late one night. That day my truck had broken down, and the leasing company that provided our fleet dispatched out another truck; but I was up in northeast Tennessee, so it took a while for them to show up with fresh wheels. It was a drab, dreary day, and cooling off as the sun slid down in the sky.

       I finally got home and was parking when a cute girl walked in front of me carrying boxes from her car, apparently moving in. She was a brunette, about 5-foot nothing and 100 and nothing pounds. I approached her to help her carry stuff, and next thing you know I was invited to come over later. I showed up and we drank a little — well, a lot, in my case anyway — and I woke up on her couch. I’m not sure how, but I ended up living with her within a few days.

       Talk about two lost souls, my goodness. As with many other things, I look back on that and wonder,What was I thinking? I guess in fact I was not thinking; I was feeling a few things, but not much thinking was going on at all.

       I really must spare you all the details, but within a few weeks we were married. The marriage, however, was built on some deceit and we immediately had some trauma. Not a good way to start off, for sure.

       I was depressed and discouraged; I wasn’t much fun to be around for a while. I really should’ve sought a divorce, but I just couldn’t take telling my family that I’d carelessly blown it again. What an awful reason to stay married.

       But I had never really needed good reasons to do stupid things before, so it felt like just another bump on an increasingly bumpy road. Or maybe it was a ditch. Either way, the oil leak was starting to get obvious. Oh well, nothing some heavy drinking couldn’t make worse, but it would be fun on the way to misery, or something like that . . .



Next: Let’s Stick Him in Sales   


Phil Cate is a resident of the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area and runs a small medical equipment resale business. He is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at or by phone at 678-429-0901

Printed by permission from Phil Cate, Mama told me Jesus saved my soul, but who was gonna save my butt??? Confessions, lessons, and revelations of a born rebel, © 2008.

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