I had planned on writing about our trip tonight. I had saved away things that I wanted to write about, but as it turns out, our trip home was the most eventful part of the trip.
T and I had a very late, and boozy, night last night, so we didn’t push ourselves to get going too early this morning. In fact, we detoured to see the place where the fictional Mary Richards was to have lived during the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I was duly impressed by the architecture as I have a strange fascination with the brutalist movement.
We stopped not long after leaving Minneapolis and had a hearty breakfast. Once we were back on the road, I slept until it was almost time to stop again for lunch. I woke up from time to time whenever the car jolted me awake. It was very windy out on the open road, and T had to fight against gusts as he drove.
We stopped for lunch in the middle of nowhere Iowa. It was well past noon, and we were practically the only people in the restaurant. Our waiter was overly attentive, and we kept commenting, “poor kid” whenever he left our table. He was trying too hard, to the point of annoyance. We were just anxious to eat and get back in the car. Neither of us are good travelers on long car trips.
When we left the restaurant, we drove along silently. We wanted to get home, but we still had hours ahead of us. We’d been cooped up together for too long. We had exhausted our arsenal of polite small talk. Miles of road construction was slowing our pace, and we mentioned our frustration from time to time. While we were driving on a four-lane interstate, there were cross roads to access the county roads. Due to the construction, temporary stop lights had been set up to allow exit and entry to the highway.
Our car was stopped at a stop light, and we were first in line. I was digging around in my bag for a piece of candy, Certs to be exact. I wanted to try to get the horrible taste of my lunch out of my mouth. My head was down, and I wasn’t paying any attention to the traffic around us. I was in passenger zone. Suddenly, T yelled, “FUCK!” and I immediately looked up.
I felt the blood drain out of my face, and my arms and legs, as I watched a large pickup truck spinning in the intersection nearer and nearer to where we sat trapped at the stop light. Almost simultaneously, I saw the semi. A huge cloud of dust was flying up as the 18-wheeler careened over and over in the grassy area next to T’s side of the car. I jumped up and spun around in my seat to watch it come to a standstill. For a moment, there was complete silence. I saw the driver of the pickup truck sitting behind his deflated air bag. Once again, I spun around to see the semi laying on its side in the grass. Cars were all around us, but no one moved for what seemed like minutes. In reality, it was probably more like 5 seconds. People began to run towards the crash. I’m not sure where they came from. Miraculously, both drivers climbed out of their vehicles without assistance. People were milling around, and talking on their cell phones. Eventually, we were on our way again. We drove for miles and miles without saying a word. I could feel T’s caution. We were both nervous and jumpy.
Somewhere down the road, we needed to stop for gas. Once again, due to construction, our plans had to be altered. We had to push forward a few more miles in order to exit. That placed us in a place that neither of us wanted to be. We found ourselves driving down a road that brought back painful memories. It was the road leading to the University Hospital where our daughter had died. T had thought we would avoid the road, but suddenly we were there. Hotels, restaurants, signs, so many things were the same. I freaked out! I said, “Please turn around. Just turn around.” He kept driving. I don’t know why. Maybe he was in shock, too. Once again, we seemed to be trapped in a moment that was beyond our control. The traffic was heavy. We were in the right lane, but needed to turn left in order to turn around. I was freaking out and held my head in my hands. I couldn’t look. Even now, writing about it, I am shocked by my reaction.
Once we finally extricated ourselves from the road, and the memories, I road along silently crying. I was embarrassed by my reaction. T kept apologizing, and so did I. I felt ashamed and crazy, because I couldn’t stop crying. Words poured out. Memories rose to the surface. Poor Grace. Oh, how I miss all that she could have been. I tried to explain my emotions to T. The memories were so sad. I felt like I was looking back on another woman, a young, confused, hurt woman. It was like looking back on one of our children. I had been 22 years old, just a child, younger than our oldest son is now. Our dads had both been at the height of their alcoholism, and our mothers had been entangled in co-dependency. I felt so sad that T and I had gone through such a horrible experience without the proper support of our parents.
I was so hurt by seeing one restaurant in particular. Oh, how I remembered that restaurant, a swanky expensive place along the river. I remembered day after day driving to see our dying child and watching beautiful people enjoying a night out. I remembered that T and I were so poor back then. I remembered being HUNGRY and not having enough money to stop to buy a sandwich. Our daughter was dying, and we had to wait through a long day and a long drive home to make our own dinner. Today I hurt so very much for that poor young couple.