Tuesday night my desire to be a good mother won over common sense.
For two days the weather forecasters had been warning us about a blizzard that was coming on Tuesday evening. I even got notice via email that one of the local craft stores were closing early so their employees could get home before the storm hit.
Then I talked to Hillary. She was sick and the baby--not even two weeks old, threw up all over her. If Max had been there I knew she would be fine but he was working out of town. I threw a nightgown, robe, clean underwear and cosmetics in the car and took off. Point one for motherhood.
"If I hurry," I said to Phil, who was wide eyed and disbelieving, "I can beat the storm."
I ran into the storm right out of Provo. There would be no hurrying. I didn't consider turning around. Point one for stupidity.
The storm grew worse. I have sight in only one eye and that makes driving more difficult, especially at night, but I preserved--my daughter needed me. Point two for stupidity. Point two for motherhood, too.
Soon all signs of lines on the road were gone. I followed a car that seemed to know where he was going. He slowed from 40 miles an hour to 20.
When he took an exit to Spanish Fork I waited for someone else to pass me and then I followed his tracks.
Santaguin--where my daughter and grandbaby and other two grandchildren live--is a thirty-five minute drive from my house to hers. It had been thirty-five minutes already. I wasn't even to Payson.
I slogged on and finally I saw the exit I wanted. A car was following MY tracks, the stupid fool. Who would follow me? But, because he was following me I couldn't just stop in the middle of the road and try to figure things out.
There was NO STREETLIGHT at that exit. What is the matter with the powers that be in charge of roads? Is there some road-ology rule that says there should be inconsistency in road signs and street lights? I had no idea where the exit road was and was afraid if I just turned toward the right I'd go right off the embankment. Besides there was that fool following. And visibility was about ten feet. I should have slowed to a stop and waved him around, got out and found the road but, stupidity earned another point and I kept going.
I saw a car coming up from that exit onto the freeway. I thought about turning around and going down the exit ramp, WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN A GOOD IDEA as there were no other cars for miles and miles around but stupidly earned point four. I pulled over to the side of the road, the car following me hurried to catch up to the car that just came from Santaguin and then I called Hillary.
"I've missed my exit."
"Oh, Mom. The next exit is ten miles down the road, at Mona."
Motherhood earned another point as I said, "I just wanted you to know I am fine"--liar, liar, pants on fire--"and I'll go to Mona and turn around. Call Dad and tell him I'm fine." Make her a liar, too. The two cars were out of sight by now so I took a deep breath and started again.
When I got to Mona there WERE THREE STREET LIGHTS AT THE EXIT. Three! Talk about conspicuous consumption, especially when the Santaguin exit had none.
Off I went, and because there were plenty of streetlights I could actaully see the on ramp and I got back on the freeway. I should have gone to a random house and asked for asylum.
Have I mentioned that this section of I-15 is under construction? So, there were odd barriers all over the place? Barriers in the blizzard that I couldn't see anyway, until they were ten feet away.
Last week Phil installed brand new windshield wipers on my car. From Costco. The Costco he loves. The Costco that can do no wrong. Except the wipers collected ice and soon I had exactly a three inch swath of clear windshield that I could see out of if I sat up tall. When that bit of clean windshield disappeared I stopped the car, got out and banged the ice off. Of course I didn't have any gloves because I was speeding to my daughter's rescue and finding gloves would have taken sixty seconds. Phil would have tried to talk me out of going all of those sixty seconds and I was not going to be talked out of going.
I started saying, "Have faith. Have faith." about every three seconds. And, "Heavenly Father, just keep my windshield clear and I will do the rest."
Thank goodness for those annoying groves the road-making people put at the edge of the road to wake up sleepy drivers when they drift off the road. I was a drifter and how was I to tell? I couldn't see anything, but my hearing was good. When my tires hit the groves I veered back to the left. I prayed, "Heavenly Father, just let me have enough clear windshield to see out of. I promise I will not speed"--most of the time my speed didn't even register--"and I will be kind to people and not kick dogs." I tell you, when you are in a real blizzardy pickle you think of odd things.
The windshield wipers now had 1/2 inch of clean window and when that closed I stopped, stepped out of the car, took my other foot off the brake and the car went on without me! I had left it in gear. I hobbled, one leg partly still in the car, I got in, and put the car in park. I put my head in my hands and said things like, "Thou fool," and then I got out, banged the ice off the wiper and got back in the car.
Somewhere along there I uttered another simple prayer. "Dear Heavenly Father, please don't let me die tonight or Hillary will never forgive herself, even though she didn't actually ask me to come down. And she has always said she won't speak at my funeral because she won't be able to talk and I've always said, 'well, you can write it out. Trent will read it for you.' And so, Heavenly Father, don't let me die tonight, because then she'd feel guilty for two things."
In five minutes the whole windshield wiper scenario played out again, even the part about leaving the car in gear, AGAIN.
One good thing about this whole horrible bad night, I thought, my hobbling skills have improved greatly. I probably have hobbling muscles that I didn't even know I had and they are now exercised and will be big and strong in case I ever have the need to hobble in the future.
I banged the ice off the windshield wiper and saw that there was one lone semi coming--oh wait, he had three cars behind him, if I hurried I could follow the pack. But, he was almost to me.
Do I stay in front of the car and if he hits the car it will run over me? Or do I stand behind the car and if he hits me he will smash me into the car?
I did neither, I decided to get IN the car but of course there wasn't time because he was really speeding, probably twenty miles an hour and so I flattened myself to the driver's door and he passed within four feet of me. He blared his horn. Was that a greeting? I decided it was his message, "Courage. Have courage and keep going." The three cars following soon were out of sight as I was so shaken I couldn't get behind the wheel in time to follow. When I did, I found out that I had TURNED THE LIGHTS OFF when I got out of the car. Old habits--turn off the lights when you get out of the car. No WONDER he blared his horn at me, it wasn't a "courage" message at all. It was a "You are a stupid fool" message. A car with no lights and a wild woman standing there in a blizzard? He probably thought I was an escaped mental patient PLUS a stupid fool, and by then it was a possibility--I would be glad to be in some nice warm mental hospital, in a nice, safe, padded room.
The blizzard blizzarded on and I did too. But the windshield wiper now had a mission--to collect ice--and it was doing a fine job, Costco would have been proud. So I had to get out and bang the windshield wiper. And like magic, here came another semi. I'm sure they were twins but probably not identical because this driver only tooted his horn five times as he passed because--and I swear, this is true--I had flattened my self AGAIN to the car because there wasn't time to get inside, and when I did get in I found that AGAIN I had turned off the lights. I put my heard in my hands and muttered a prayer, "Never mind, Heavenly Father. Anyone this stupid doesn't deserve to live." I thought I heard a chuckle but that was probably my imagination.
But, whether I deserved life or not, I was on a mission, to take care of my daughter and granddaughter, so I put the car in gear, turned on the lights and went on my way, ten miles an hour. The tracks of the semi and his entourage were already covered with blizzardy snow and so I was relying on the inadequate poles at the edge of the road that have too-small florescent circles on top. Florescent circles that have pretty much lost their florescent-ness.
What is the matter with the people in charge of the Utah road budget? I thought. It's not being spent on what really matters. There should be taller poles, closer together, and with bigger, brighter, more florescent circles for one, and streetlights at ALL exits, but the groves in the road were a pretty good idea so they get some points.
I had been watching my odometer and it was not anywhere near the ten mile mark when I PASSED my exit. I PASSED MY EXIT. AGAIN! I don't know what the stupidity ranking is by now but it has left the motherhood one in the dust. If there were any dust. There was only blinding snow and a stupid woman, who stooped on the bridge, that was over the road, that went to my daughter's house. My windshield was un-look-out-able anyway so I got out of the car--I put it in park and left the lights on--and banged the ice off my windshield wiper. It came off in my hand.
I just looked at it. And then I did what every woman in the world would do. I threw a tantrum. My hair was wet, I looked like Medusa--and she was surely a mad woman--and so I did a mad Medusa fit. And then I got in the car and called Phil with my frozen fingers. What he was going to do I had no idea, but he is the voice of reason in our relationship and I wanted to hear some reason.
"Okay," he said, "It's really easy to put back on. You just blah, blah, and then the blah blah, a little black hook, blah blah, and then it snaps into place and it's fixed."
"What about the little hole?"
"What little hole?"
"On the windshield wiper?"
"Listen," the voice of reason said, knowing full well that instructions go right over my head. He proceeded to tell it all to me again and so I got out of the car and found the little hook but there was that darned hole and didn't it have something to do with anything?
"I can't fix it," I said when I called him back.
"Okay, call 911 and have the Highway Patrol come and help you."
So, on this deserted road, where only about one semi and three cars came by every half hour I sat and thought of my options. It looked like I was on the pioneer prairie, in a snow storm, pushing a handcart to Martin's Cove. No signs of life except the service station lights that I could kind of see through the blizzard, that was on the other side of the freeway, on the road I wanted to be on, that would take me to Hillary. I had no other options, I had to call for help.
Luckily my phone charger was in the car because that was another thing I left without, checking my phone's battery, which was pretty much dead.
So I plugged my phone in and called "911" and talked to the nice gentleman, who was probably sitting in a warm office, with a cushy chair that rolled around where ever he wanted to go, maybe he had tasty snacks like Cheetos and a diet Pepsi at hand. He said, "Calm down." No, he really didn't say that but he probably wanted to and he probably rolled his eyes at the cute girl who was maybe next to him, talking to someone else who was stupid and in trouble in a blizzard. He had a "calm down" sort of voice.
He called the Highway Patrol and I sobbed my story out to them and said, "Yes, I was off the side of the road," and then they said they would send someone right out.
Did "right out" mean two minutes or ten? It didn't matter. I had a full bladder because I had ignored my own rule: Go to the bathroom before you leave the house. It is even known as "Grandma's rule." I didn't want to take the time to go to the bathroom because I was afraid Phil would try and stop me and because I didn't want to take the one minute it would take when my daughter was sick and needed me, and because I would be at her house in 45 minutes for sure because there might be just a little snow and the roads might be a little wet and so I would probably only drive 50 miles and hour instead of 75.
So, I did what any full-bladdered woman, on a bridge, in a blizzard would do. Yes I did. And I'm sure when the Highway Patrolman got to me, he could follow my tracks in the snow and see the only spot for two hundred miles that was free of snow. It might even have been still steaming.
So help came and the first thing the nice Highway Patrolman said was, "You are in the middle of the freeway. Follow me and we'll go to a safe spot."
No wonder the semi's honked at me. I was in their driving spot, with no lights on. In a blizzard. With a full bladder. (Oh, wait, that wasn't relevant to the semi-drivers. Unless they had full bladders too, but if they were men, and had a soda cup handy--darn men, built so conveniently.)
So, I followed the nice Highway Patrolman, only because I could see his lights faintly through my snow covered window. When he stopped I thanked God for men--and they can be conveniently built as long as they saved insane woman, with wild, wet hair, who are too stupid to know how to put the little windshield wiper hook in the right place and ignore the little hole.
I gave him my windshield wiper and immediately he said, "You've lost a part of it. This one won't work."
And I said to myself, See Phil, I'm not stupid, part of it is missing and if it had been there I would have figured it out. Which I knew was a lie but I said it to myself anyway to make myself feel better.
He took the other wiper off. How he did it, I don't know. The only way I could ever get one of those things off is to bang it on the windshield in a blizzard. He put the windshield wiper on the driver's side. I don't know if he noticed the little hole.
By then there was another Highway Patrolman there and they conversed and then the first man asked, "You missed this exit? This one, right here? Twice?" And then they probably snickered to themselves but they were nice and didn't let the snicker reach their faces but they both had smiling eyes. Maybe they were born that way and always looked happy, I hope so.
They decided I should go down the up ramp and the second man would lead the way. I started to follow him and I yelled out my window to the first, windshield-wiper-fixer, "What's your name?" He told me and then I yelled, "Thank you, Sergeant..." and then I bumbled his name so bad I'm sure he not only snickered inside but also had a good long laugh. And I don't even know if they are Sergeants or if I've watched one to many CSI type shows. So I followed the second man's car but I could couldn't even see as well as I had before, in fact it was almost impossible to see and I thought, How on earth am I going to be able to make it to Hillary's? My eyesight is failing! I'm going blind in my other eye! Please Heavenly Father, not yet. I really wanted to say, not at all, but I didn't want to appear bossy. He knows how I feel and what I fear.
When we got to the bottom of the hill I realized I had my interior light on. And so I turned it off and I could see much better. I waved to the nice smiling eyed Highway Patrolman and I s-l-o-w-l-y made my way--in the middle of the road--in the middle of the night--to Hillary's house--who is our middle child.
I stopped when I was almost there and called Phil. "How do I put this car in four wheel drive?"
"It's always in four wheel drive," he said.
Bah! That's why I get such fantastic gas mileage! Four wheel drive, 24/7, in case a driver is out in a blizzard for several hours once every fifty years.
He told me to go into Hillary's driveway very slow, and in the lowest gear, because Hillary's driveway is on a slope--just like the ones on mountain passes where you see signs that say, "Trucks use lower gear on this grade." This is because the people who were building their house got tired of digging one bucket of dirt with every five buckets of boulders and they gave up and her driveway and garage should be four or five feet lower--but there were all those pesky boulders--and so to get to her garage you have to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. In low gear. Slowly.
I called Hillary and said, "Open your garage door," and she did and I put the car in 1st and drove very slowly up the mountain slope, into Hillary's garage and then I slumped over the steering wheel and wept. After the shudders stopped I composed myself and when I got inside I asked how she and Daisy were.
"We're fine. I feel fine and Daisy hasn't thrown up any more," she said.
And then my eyes crossed and my whole life flashed before my eyes and, let me tell you, the last two hours and twenty minutes counted for almost half of it and then I said, "Thank goodness," instead of saying, "You have a fool for a mother, who goes out in the blizzard of the century, with inadequate information, and I hope this gene was not passed on to you, but watch out, it may have been. You won't find out until your children are grown and need you and you should stay home because they are really probably fine."
I washed my hands and said a little thankful prayer to Heavenly Father who obviously looks out for fools, and I took that baby and I didn't let her go until Hillary got up at 4:00 am and said, "Give her back. She needs to eat."
And then I had a delightful morning with the girls--my girl, Hillary and her two charming older daughters, Maddy and Ruby and the captivating baby, Daisy. I told chapter one of a new story and Maddy and I ate "toad-in-the-holes" for breakfast--which is ironic. I won't let anyone in my family call Acini de Pepe salad "Frog Eye Salad" because I think it's plebeian and not respectful to the frogs of the world but I will eat a Toad-in-the-hole.
I have only been this frightened one other time in my life and that was when I was seventeen years old, riding on a bus, in Switzerland, driven by a bus driver who spoke not one word of English but had a full vocabulary of Danish, driving on high mountain hairpin roads, in the lane closest to the edge--which--I swear--was crumbling into the abyss--in a horrible, thick fog, at night! That was the only time I have been as frightened as I was on Tuesday night.
Today, on Thanksgiving, I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for the voice of reason, who I married and who deserves better than he's getting. And grateful for every person, who is in any way, mine. Especially my children, who are really amazing, but maybe don't know it yet.
I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving--I know some of you didn't have Thanksgiving today, but I hope you had a nice day and are having a nice life, and that you don't have to be a stupid fool, like I was, to know how precious life is and how very important relationships are. We should nourish them in the most careful way.
And now I must make my life count for something. I guess I better get to bed so I can get up in the morning and start.
PS Why do you suppose there is a little hole on the windshield wiper apparatus if it's not used for something? It makes no sense to me. If it makes sense to you please leave me a comment and tell me why.