I may be the only person in the history of the world to have made a round trip from Portage la Prairie to Three Hills, Alberta as the lone female in a 1992 Cadillac with three generations of Todd boys.
My husband, our elder son, and two of his sons escorted me, the two little ones travelling in pajamas since we pulled them straight from their beds at 5:00 a.m. I didn’t have to drive, but took my turn entertaining the five and three-year old boys in the back seat. Lucky for us, their mother had brilliantly packed enough books, toys, and snacks to make this relatively easy.
A snowstorm and engine failure contributed richly to our adventure, especially when you take into account we’d already been cooped up in the car for twelve hours by that point. Sketchy cell service, CAA, a tow truck, and eventual rescue by yet another Todd boy—my brother-in-law—entered into the story as well. Not to mention (okay, I’m mentioning it) a certain writer’s full bladder. Ladies, have you ever tried to “relax” on the side of the highway, in broad daylight, with nothing to hide behind but your car, while being pelted with snow and sleet? Enough said.
For the ride home four days later, our younger son joined us too. This time, we made it without incident except for the extra sardine can-esque squishiness. As always, I felt overjoyed to see Portage and my own bed.
The purpose of this multi-generational trip was to say our good-byes (I won’t say “final” because we’ll see him again) to my father-in-law, and to hopefully bring a little joy into the heart of Mom/Grandma/Great-grandma Todd. Tears and laughter both played parts in our time together. Our grief mingled with relief to know Dad is free at last from the insidious thievery of Alzheimer’s disease.
Jon and I spent a day sorting through piles of family albums, selecting and scanning photos, and creating a PowerPoint show to play at the memorial service. Combined with some powerful music, it provided a deeply meaningful tribute to Dad’s life.
I saw bits of my father-in-law’s life I’d never witnessed. Snapshots of his childhood, teen years, and early adulthood served to remind us, not only of the brevity of life, but of all the elements that combine to make us who we are. We were reminded of the many children he and Mom invested in after their own were grown, as they foster-parented for 20 years. Something sobering happens when you watch 80 years go by in a ten-minute slide show, like those time-lapse videos of a flower budding, coming into full bloom, then shrivelling back to nothing in mere seconds.
We celebrated Dad’s life with sadness, yes, but also with joyful anticipation. We know he is reunited with his parents, siblings, and son, and we will share in that reunion in less time than we imagine. Our faith in Jesus assures us we don’t need to grieve “as those who have no hope.”
The parallels between life and road trips have not gone unnoticed. While we’re in the thick of it, the way seems long and the trials hard to bear. But when it’s done and we’ve made it home, those trials dwindle into whimsical stories to tell and mere circumstances that shaped us into stronger people. The only truly crucial things, in both life and road trips, are the precious people with whom we share the journey, and reaching our desired destination.
|Basil Dean Todd (with foster child), 1933-2013|