We hadn’t planned on staying the night in Salt Lake City.
Of course, we also hadn’t planned on loosing time to an oil leak in the truck and a flat tire on the trailer. We were two days behind on our journey and Doug wanted to make that up.
But we needed fuel.
And we needed food.
Traffic picked up as we left the salt flats behind and skirted around the city. The sky had changed to an odd color. The wind began to rock our trailer.
We took an exit which promised a truck stop, but there was none. Doug drove in frustration as I searched maps for said truck stop, for food and maybe even a place to stay for the night. Then that strange phenomena kicked in… the one where we look at one another, clearly speaking English, but it sounds more like Swahili.
Fatigue, hunger, driving through big cities, seemed to bring this out. He would resort to grumpy silence and I to hand signals. So how does a driver, who is driving, see hand signals on the passenger side? He doesn’t. Such is the plight of a woman who speaks with her hands when the words of her mouth aren’t heard.
After an hour of lost-ness, the fuel tank was filled, but we were still hungry.
And by the way, with three electronic devices on board and every map program you could possibly want, I know we weren’t lost. We knew exactly where we were. We just didn’t know what to do about it. And our English language speaking skills still hadn’t returned.
With the wind picking up and rain coming down, Google found us an RV park just three short turns away. An hour later we were hooked up to power and water, fed up (with actual food) and the rain had stopped.
To be honest though, I was fed up with our grand trip as well. And we weren’t even a full week into it. This was hard work, not a relaxing vacation. I knew I’d wanted this trip, but was regretting our method of doing it.
Rather than fall further down the rabbit hole of wondering, I joined Doug on a walk around the place.
The park was quite lovely, actually. Swimming pool, laundry, TV/game room, tree-lined parking spaces and a night watchman. It was the only place we stayed with a night watchman. And as we walked, Mr. Watchman pulled up in his golf cart. It was starting to get dark and he was there to lock up the pool.
I sat on a bench as Doug and Mr. W began to chat, then noticed an older man get out the other side of the cart.
He was headed straight for me. That’s the way it is. Old people, kids, dogs (sorry, not really a dog person) and any, shall we say, “unique” type person… it’s like I’m a magnet.
And I did not want to talk to him.
He looked a lot like my dad. Thin and bent over, his walk was unsteady. His speech was slow and difficult. And by now he was seated next to me. Right next to me.
I don’t remember what we were talking about, but something reminded me of Washington D.C. When I mentioned it he lit right up. He had lived in D.C. for many years. He had been a park ranger. A mounted park ranger. But there’d been an accident. He’d been dragged by a horse. And then, as he said, “I couldn’t think or talk so good”.
I learned his son brought him to live there. His son is a good man. He loves to ride at night with his son. And it’s a good thing it was getting dark because I was a little teary eyed.
I was talking to this man, but couldn’t stop seeing my dad. You can’t spend the last days of life with someone and not be affected. You have to do things you don’t want to, but you must. You see things you don’t want to see, but there’s no choice. And you hear words that pierce your heart.
Then, what do you do with all that?
Now in hindsight, I see our long summer journey was part trial & error, part great adventure, part family time and part of my grieving. It was feeling lost, yet completely at home. It was frustration when words and gestures missed their mark, but understanding was still found.
Knowing where you are is a good thing. Necessary, actually. But not knowing what to say, where to go, what to do next… isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes it just means you need to wait a little longer, quit waving your arms so wildly, or maybe you just need to sit on a bench and have a conversation with a complete stranger.
I’ve begun looking through old pictures finally. It’s fun to remember. It’s good to see Dad as he was when he wasn’t suffering. It’s good to remember being his daughter instead of his caretaker.
We walk along the path, help each other on the way, preparing to leave the old behind and step into the new….
… unless you’re the night watchman. You and your dad can just ride your golf cart.