Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I was driving home from work when I slid on a patch of black ice and lost control of the car. Although I didn’t wreck it, the out-of-control feeling I felt as it spun sickeningly was so terrifying, I decided on the spot that I would never again drive in freezing conditions.
Two decades later, I have long since gotten used to the idea that I have obligations that necessitate my driving in snow and ice. When I was a working nurse, I HAD to be there for the patients; staying at home cowering under blankets was simply not an option. There were times I had to stay overnight at the hospital, but as long as there was coffee, a bed, and access to a TV, it wasn’t so bad.
So why I didn’t stay safe at my son’s house the other day rather than try to get home in the middle of the worst snowstorm in 25 years, I don’t know. I don’t even know why I went to work in the first place; it was already snowing at my house, and I should have known that blowing snow is NEVER a good sign. I almost turned back…..and then when I got to work, there was no snow whatsoever, so I laughed at myself for my wimpiness and set about my business.
My son called around 9 AM to report that the snow was getting bad down my way and there’d been a massive 30+ car pileup on the southbound freeway, just a couple of miles outside my town. You see, people in my part of the country are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals when it comes to driving in snow, and we know it…..but we never learn, even though snow isn’t unheard of in this neck of the woods. We go around corners too fast and have the nerve to be surprised when we wind up in a ditch. We buy tire chains and then leave them in the garage at home. And we pretty much shut everything down when there’s more than a few inches on the ground.
Yet I stayed at work till around noon, when the administrative assistant saw me and asked why I hadn’t stayed home. Apparently the freeway had one lane open, and she urged me to leave while I still had a chance. There was still very little snow at the office, but the clouds were ominous and I certainly didn’t want to be out there after dark, so I decided to make a run for it. I had food, water, extra clothing, blankets, and even a day’s worth of meds in the car along with the emergency kit; what could go wrong?
I never really even debated staying with my son, even though I certainly could have. Will and I had gotten some not-so-good news from his oncologist over the phone that morning, and all I could think of was getting home to him. I needed to hold him and be held by him; and I knew that if I didn’t make it home that day, I’d have to spend the entire weekend at Ethan’s because it was only supposed to get worse. So off into the storm I went, even though I was afraid of what I might find in the middle of it.
I had only gotten about five miles from the office when the snow hit hard, quickly covering the freeway, and traffic began to get backed up. To their credit, other drivers were keeping a respectful distance from one another and going slowly (when we were moving at all, that is). At one point, we didn’t go anywhere for 45 minutes, and I began to wish I’d turned back at the last exit and gone to my son’s after all. The snow was falling faster and faster, and the possibility of spending the night out in the elements if we couldn’t get moving on that road scared me. I had supplies, to be sure, but what if I needed to pee?
It took five hours to drive 30 miles. By the time I reached the outskirts of town, there were several inches of snow on the freeway and cars were sliding everywhere despite the fact that we weren’t going any faster than 10 MPH. I’d been doing OK throughout most of the trip, thinking about Will and how badly I wanted to be home with him, but now I was starting to get really, really scared that I wasn’t going to make it unscathed. Cars were going off the road, and I wasn’t really in good control of my own, especially on corners where the snow was deeper. But damned if I was going to let a couple more miles of frozen precipitation keep me from my hubby’s side.
Finally I got to the steep hill that leads up to my house, and I leaned forward and gripped the steering wheel as I pushed gently on the accelerator. And the phrase from the Little Engine That Could was cycling endlessly through my mind: IthinkIcanIthinkIcanIKNOWIcan.
And I made it, up the hill and then down the sloping driveway to where Will was waiting, and the bear hug I got when I disembarked with wobbly knees was well worth the harrowing journey. Now I’m really glad I was able to get here, because we’ve been snowbound for two days and tomorrow’s not looking too good either. But at least we’re here together…..and every moment counts.