You know, in the school of life, you never graduate. You may think you have completed your education but…surprise! We are always learning, right up until we stop at that last red light in life. I have roads on my mind as they pour steaming hot asphalt out onto our street today and have realized all summer, watching this process how very like our lives are to driving or traveling in a car, truck or SUV.
We never know when some moron is going to swerve toward us. We pray that moron is not us. We must always be alert for construction and/or accidents. Pets, children, falling trees and spills are only a few of the obstructions we need to heed. Around here you need to avoid seagull “gifts”, flying witches, if you hit a light post downtown this month and always, rain by the truck full.
If you, like me, have suffered disease, accident or were struck by the missile of life via war or random acts, you find yourself on a detour you never intended to take. I know that road because I’m traveling it, also. Two things I’ve learned about detours are: they never have dead ends and they take you to places you did not plan to go. That’s not necessarily bad but darned inconvenient. But if inconvenience is the worst thing we have to worry about, we’re doing well.
I’m always amazed at the surprises that lie in wait for us on these unknown roads; such as the people we meet who we never would have met on any other pathway. When I was a child we used to travel by car every summer back to the Mid-West and the South to visit family. I never knew those relatives very well and most of them are only faces and names to me now but they were valued by my parents and I could feel the love. We moved to California, far from other family members when I was an infant. My mother, my eldest sister and I came first, traveling on a troop train at the end of WW11. I guess my Mom was scouting out the area and then we made the move, traveling on Route 66 across America.
My memories of the following years of summer trips are interspersed with periods of vomiting and laying my head in my mother’s lap, which was precisely the wrong thing to do. It didn’t help that she always wore an Avon perfume called “To a Wild Rose.” Wave that scent in front of my nose today and I can puke on command. I have always suffered from mal de mare. Motion sickness sounds so much more interesting when it’s called by its continental name, don’t you think? My daughter and it appears, my daughter’s daughter also suffers from it. My daughter will not like this very much but I’ll reveal to you that her brother always calls her Barfy. You know how brothers can be. Now her daughter who is seven-years-old tells me that must mean she is “Barfy Jr.” I suppose it does.
As a little girl I counted telephone poles from my pea green position because that’s what I could see and we were all so blessed when they came out with a product called Dramamine. Travel by auto has never been a favorite of mine and doing it now is difficult for many other reasons, besides motion sickness. Having a painful sitter is a rotten way to go through life but that’s for another day and most of you know about my problems with that already.
I remember those trips with much fondness as the American Indian reservations had fascinating stores along the way full of turquoise jewelry and hand-braided wares. The food along the way was so much tastier than it is now. Frosted mugs of A&W root beer are difficult to describe today. The ice cold froth when you have been stacked six people deep into a non-air conditioned car, well, just imagine. The Burma Shave signs along the road were our form of entertainment and our substitute for video games and DVD auto players. This was long before you could find a gas station on every other block and Dad always hung a canvas bag of water on the back bumper of the car just in case our radiator over heated when we drove through the desert. If AAA auto service existed, we certainly didn’t have it.
I was always relieved when it was dinnertime and we could stop, eat and look for a motel along the road. In those days many of them were little cabin like bungalows and for me, getting out of the car was a recovery experience as my stomach returned to normal. I’m sure it was a relief for everyone else in the family as well. The negative note here is two-fold. Often, traveling along good old Route 66 were insects of gigantic proportions, unlike any I had ever seen. The other negative was my Dad wanting to “hit the road” as the sun first appeared in the sky. This was no small feat for a man with four daughters and a wife…all those women.
My memories of road trips are so varied and later, thanks to medication for motion sickness, enjoyable. Strange, but I never gave any thought to the ability or inability to sit. My sacroiliac joints weren’t a problem then. The comfort problems ran more along the line of talking all of your sisters into leaning in the same direction so you could use one as a pillow in domino fashion..
Yes, trips, roads and later, driving are such a big part of our lives, destinations and joys. When our health places us on a road unknown, I am always reminded of that wonderful poem by Robert Frost, THE ROAD NOT TAKEN.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if ever I should come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
I have often thought of this poem when my mind comprehends where my road in life has taken me. Would I be writing and having my work published if I had been able to work as a nurse? That is just one of the many questions which arise. Where would we be living if I had not developed such a strong negative reaction to the sun? The connections are abundant as we think of our children meeting their life partners, where our grandchildren will grow up and so many other vital decisions. The saddest development for me is my inability to travel and get to know my grandchildren in Texas as well as I would have liked. That hurts every day of my life. We each know there are many kinds of pain.
All we did to get here was to follow the road we chose or were forced to traverse. Surprises fraught by pain, disease or injury have rewritten the maps of our lives. Curly Q’s of life spin around us as we wonder, wish and dream but we have the one path we’re on and that has made all the difference. Make your journey a good one.
THE DETOUR by Sue Falkner-Wood
Wait! Something’s wrong
Is someone tricking me?
I don’t see the humor here
Not once have I said, “Whee!”
This is not the way I chose
Nor is it the way I planned
But here I am, in spite of hopes
On a rocket, oft unmanned.
Get the map or GPS,
The plan has wildly changed,
I’m still the same old me
But I’ve been rearranged.
It’s hard to see the way
Thus I plan from day to day
My body is no longer mine
The pain seems here to stay.
Is it okay to drive
When I don’t know the way?
I have to tamp down panic
As it fills my heart each day.
A detour it may be
But I choose faith not fears
I can’t stand a daily life
Drowning in my tears.
It’s true this is a detour
But can I not still strive?
Each day has value and brings hope
Because I’m alive, oh yes, I’m alive!