On the road

On a clear and windy afternoon, I buckled the urn into the passenger seat of my trusty Honda Civic, set the iPod to one of my road trip playlists, and headed out on what will be the first of several road trips in the next four months. I had to fast forward through a few songs that were too painful to hear, but not as many as I might have expected.

Cruising along an open stretch of desert highway, listening to the Eagles, the sun setting in my rear view mirror, I rested my hand on the urn, the way I used to rest it on Mike’s knee when we drove… and I realized that I was happy in that moment. Not just surviving, not just OK, but happy.

I love road trips. Speeding along an open highway, stereo blasting, never fails to lift my spirits. There’s an exhilerating sense of freedom when I hit the road. And at the end of June, I’ll be doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now. I’ve given notice at my apartment. I’m putting all my stuff in storage, and I’m going nomad for a few months. Home base will be my mom’s apartment in Arizona, but I’ll also be visiting family in Colorado, Kansas and Texas. I’m looking forward to covering new ground, driving on hitherto untraveled roads, getting a change of scenery.

I’ve made the trip to visit my mom so many times, I know the route like the back of my hand. My stops are pre-planned for the cheapest gas, the cleanest restrooms, the best junk food. There’s no mystery to this route, just comfortable familiarity. As I wound my way over the mountain, I remembered the first time I drove that way at night.

I was in a borrowed vehicle and couldn’t figure out how to turn on the high beams, and the twisty mountain road was unfamiliar. I crawled along, white knuckled on the steering wheel, until it gradually sunk in that the headlights illuminated my way as far ahead as I really needed to see. I began to trust that I wasn’t going to go over the cliff, to relax.

As I zipped along tonight, the road illuminated by my high beams and a bright moon overhead, as blithely oblivious to the posted speed limits as any local, I thought, “There’s a lesson here.” I’ve conquered roads that were dark and terrifying before, simply by facing the fear and continuing forward.

Going around one of those sharp curves, the iPod slid across the passenger seat and out of my reach, just as a song came on that I would have skipped: Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler. “Once upon a time I was falling in love, now I’m only falling apart…” The tears rolled down my cheeks, but it wasn’t unbearable. In a weird way, the sorrow was sort-of comforting. It felt good to get in touch with those feelings again.

I told my therapist in our last session that I feel very detached lately, not actively mourning. As she listened to me talk about what’s been going on in my life, she said gently, “You don’t sound detached. If you were detached, you wouldn’t be experiencing those moments of connection.” She suggested that what I’m experiencing right now may be simply a respite after completing one level of grieving, a calm between storms, as it were.

I’ll take it.

So, I’m here at my mom’s apartment, which feels like my second home. I helped her find this place and then helped her decide how to arrange the furniture and decorations that she brought from the home she and my dad shared for the last fifteen years of his life. It felt good to unpack in “my” room, to set up the urn and Mike’s photo on top of the dresser. Though I’m only here for a week on this trip, I know when I come back in a month I’ll be comfortable calling this place home… until my next home finds me.

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~ by hourbeforedawn on May 24, 2010.

9 Responses to “On the road”

  1. I totally agree that you are having a respite from the overwhelming part of grief.

    and I am so glad you have decided to be a nomad and see some of the country! I have a feeling it will be just what you need…

  2. Glad you had a good trip to your mom’s house and soon to feel like yours. Enjoy your visit with your mom, and being a nomad in a few weeks. Love ya.

  3. It’s always good for us to read “face your fears” stories, and your story is a good one, Lira. Thanks for sharing, and have a great week with your mom.

  4. I’ve done a lot of traveling since my husband died. I left eastern Ontario, crossed Canada and down through the west coast then on to winter in southeast Arizona. All in all, I’ve sort of been nomad for most of the past 18 months. The tripping around was good for my soul. I have no regrets. When I’m on the road, I keep Don’s ashes in a canvas travel pack under the seat of my van where I can drive with my right heel pressed against it any time I move my foot back off the gas pedal and put the van on cruise control. It feels right. He loved to travel as much or more than me, so why not go everywhere together. I’m in Nova Scotia for the summer, but will go back on the road in the autumn, and back to Arizona. Travel is good. It teaches us about other places, but mostly, we learn more about ourselves. I think it makes us stronger and more centered. Good luck with your travels.

  5. Glad you made it safely and that you are getting some space from the grief even if it is just for a short time.

  6. Just…excellent. You’re making it, baby. 🙂

  7. i feel as if i was sitting in that car with you. lira, your gift for writing humbles me. this is gorgeous. and hopeful. and beautiful. i hope you have a great time with your mum in az. please give her my love!

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