It was 10pm, and I still had two and a half hours before I was committed to picking up our adult son who needed a ride home from work. The town where he works is a good drive, and I wasn’t looking forward to a lonely, snowy trip in the wee hours out on the highway. But our son was counting on me, and I wasn’t going to fail him.
“I’ll go, just tell me where it is,” Tom said.
“That’s the problem,” I said sheepishly. “I can’t really give you the address, I only know it by sight from dropping him off today. I made several turns that I would only recognize, and I can’t remember the name of the place, unfortunately!” It wasn’t one of my more brilliant moments.
Weary from the long day we’d already had, just after midnight, we set out on our journey. I knew immediately going down our hill that the roads would be bad. They were. The salt trucks and plows hadn’t even begun to salt and scrape.
Narrow two-lane roads that seemed perfectly friendly by day looked eerie and menacing in the cold light of the moon. We traveled slowly, with only the lights of farms and houses here or there along the way. Nothing looked as it usually did. It was a silent white world.
When we got to a critical turn, I confidently told Tom to turn left. He did, and that started our late night (mis)adventure. It will be funny some day when I think back to it, but I am not yet at that point. Let’s just say that every directional instinct I had that night was wrong. Very wrong.
“Turn here, no, there.”…”I am sure this is it. Yes, I’m positive.” “Stop, we’re going too far, this isn’t it.” “WHAT? I’ve never seen that barn. There were no railroad tracks here. This isn’t the right road!” “Go back.” “Highway 83?? That’s supposed to be Highway 59!” And so on. We stopped. We backed up. We turned. We slid.
We drove back onto a familiar road and were driving along through the snow at about 40. That was about 35 miles per hour too fast. Our car suddenly spun out of control. We were making donuts in the snow (going in circles) unintentionally and headed for a hill. Tom managed to stop the car in the wrong lane finally. I’m grateful nobody was coming over the hill at that moment.
Things did not improve. An hour and a half later we sat in a deserted industrial park in North Prairie totally defeated. I was certain this was the right turn off. It wasn’t. Our son had already been off work for an hour and probably thought we had forgotten him entirely. It would have been a long, cold walk of 10 miles back to where he lived.
“I can’t believe this! THIS IS WHERE THE PLACE WAS!” I shouted in exasperation.
“OK, we’re in the Twilight Zone,” Tom said drily.
We got back out on the highway and after driving up and down and up and down, around a round about, and around the round about again, we were exhausted and half demented.
Our son had a new cell phone that was not yet activated so we couldn’t call him. The second reason we couldn’t call him is that we discovered that BOTH of our cell phones had run out of battery. Not one, both of them.
Realizing we were beaten, we limped homeward in silence. I pictured our son being put out of the building into the cold with nowhere to go, thinking we had let him down.
We got home at nearly 3am, and I was so stressed out, I paced the floor. Tom gave up and went to bed, but I could not accept that somewhere out there, son was walking down Highway 59 in the dark and cold because of me. How could I get into a warm bed?
I prayed and prayed he would call. Finally, I called the sheriff’s department dispatch and a very kind female answered. She heard how distressed I was, and said she would have a sheriff’s deputy drive by the place where my son lived with roommates and see if he had gotten home. I waited another hour and 45 minutes until the phone finally rang.
It was my son, apologetic for not calling earlier. A security guard at work had given him a ride home after half an hour of waiting. He’d been sleeping for 2 hours already!
Can you say ARRRRRGH?
He hadn’t called because he figured we had just forgotten to pick him up. “It’s all good,” he said in his characteristic way.
Well, if nothing else, my thankful response was just another reminder to him that he was loved. I’ve never been so relieved, I can tell you. I finally got to sleep after a mug of hot milk at around 5am.
Now you know why I didn’t get up to make a heart cake from scratch for Valentine’s Day. I was bleary eyed and going on two hours of sleep for the great party, but I pulled it off. And anyone who thinks I’m addicted to drama has never been a parent. The stories you could tell…