Tuesday, February 4, 2014

SOLSC: Florida or Bust

I had never seen roads this bad. Snow pummeled our windshield relentlessly, the wipers tried valiantly to keep up. The lines of demarkation were not visible, a driver's only hope of staying in the correct lane was to aim for the quickly-disappearing tracks in front of him, trusting that the previous driver had been able to see better than he. My dad was at the helm, my mom his co-pilot.

The white-knuckled silence was occasionally broken by mom saying things like, "Michael, you're getting close to the side," or "Watch out for this truck up ahead, I think he's swerving into our lane."

I sat in the back, clutching my son's car seat as if that would save him from harm, and keeping my eyes fixed on the road, as if that would save us from sliding into the ditch. My shoulders were around my ears. I don't think I blinked, or breathed. When trucks barreled past us on the two-lane, back-road highway, I cringed, sometimes audibly.

We were bound for Florida. The entire Midwest was struggling under the weight of the worst winter storm in decades. The weather had been brutally cold for days, well below zero. And now it was snowing on top of the ice, a brutal combination. We were warned not to leave. But we had to. It seemed a matter of life and death. If we could just get my dad to Florida somehow all would be well. He would feel better, back to his old self. He would be back in the driver's seat, in full confidence and with our full trust. We would once again be the kind of family that has a man of the house, a man who plans ahead, and consults road atlases, and packs his own clothes, and knows exactly how to drive in the snow.

And then, just like that, we turned onto the Interstate. It had been cleared and was surprisingly much more passable than the secondary road on which we had been traveling. We let out a collective sigh and began to relax a little in our seats. But I could hear in my dad's voice and see in the way he moved that he was bone-tired. "There's a Cracker Barrel about ten miles ahead, should we stop?" I ventured.

"Ah, someone is getting hungry?" he teased, as if I was twelve again and asking for a pit stop on our family road trip. His valiance at trying for normalcy in the face of his grave illness and our grave travel situation smashed me to pieces.

We pulled into the restaurant, and I dashed into the ladies' room with Thomas to change him, with my mom close behind. I hugged Thomas close, too rattled to know that I was on the verge of tears but unable to stop once I started. My mom followed suit, and the three of us stood, locked in a huddle, my mom and I both terrified and relieved and so, so sad all at once.

"Isn't dad just ridiculous?" said my mom. "He insisted on driving. We never should have let him."
"But we made it, didn't we?


  1. You have me thinking about all the challenging transitions in my life, the way it's the little things that ground my feelings and let me process them. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Anna, I hope some Florida sunshine has worked some magic for your family. Will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  3. Very heartfelt post. I can't empathize with the sickness and hope I never have to, but your description of the car ride to me back to many childhood trips on the bad roads of Eastern Oregon. Best wishes your way!

  4. First, I'm glad you took the plunge and came back to writing these personal pieces, Anna. It's great to hear your voice and see your words in front of me.
    Second, the way you're feeling -- both about your dad's health and the way the roads were -- made this piece of writing so strong. It exuded voice and made me feel like I was listening to you tell a story of your road trip aloud.
    May there be other road trips, and pit stops, for the four of you to take together.

  5. It seems you are on several different journies and you will begin to fill different roles in your family on these journies. Be true to yourself, feel every feeling and treasure every moment. Thank you for sharing -- it is a beautiful piece.

  6. Thank you for including us in your journey! You are making memories!