As my brother and I left Blanchard Cavernson our Odyssey trip, one of the tour guides called out, “Watch out for deer.They come out this time of the evening.”
It wasn’t ten minutes later, as we carefully drove along anunfamiliar road in the soon-to-be-coming dusky dark, that I saw a deer by theside of the road and said, “There’s one; be careful.” We passed thedeer without incident, both laughing at how we were just warned and then there adeer was.
A few miles more, and I saw her. She darted out quickly andin the time it took me to open my mouth and yell, “Watch out!” she’d alreadyran right into Tommy’s truck. The sickening sound of WHAM! against metal, andour cries of “Oh no!”
Tommy said, “I can’t go back. I just can’t.” The strickenlook that formed his features into grief must have mirrored my own.
I said, “I know, Tommy. I understand.”
Yet, despite our words, he’d already slowed topull to the side of the road. We both knew we couldn’t leave a sufferinganimal. We’d just lost our father and the thought of dealing with death of anykind caused our faces to fall into folds of worry and sick and sad. And if she was suffering, what could we do? How to help her? The Odysseyhad barely begun and already we were ready to call it Done. It was all toomuch. Too much. Too much.
Tommy looked into his rearview and said, “Hey wait! She’sup! She’s running into the woods.”
“That means she’s probably okay. Oh I hope so. And Tommy,” Isaid, “even if she’s not, we can’t go searching for her in unfamiliar woods,especially with dark coming soon.”
“Yeah, I know,” he said. And we went on our way down that lonelydarkening road. The night tainted, unfamiliar. Grieved. It felt as if Tommy andI were the only humans left in the world. Visions of the beautiful animal hurtin the woods pummeled my thoughts. I know Tommy was feeling that too.
We drove in a silent dark that became a deeper dark, nothing around except for a smattering of farm houses here andthere far back from the road. Then, at last! There! Lights in the distance. We soon came to a gas-stationand stopped to fill up. As Tommy went inside, I looked around, trying togauge my bearings, feeling disoriented and exhausted. There were a few menstanding around but they didn’t look approachable. Another woman filled hercar, but she had an angry expression. I felt uncomfortable there, as if I werean interloper upon their space and place and time.
A young woman pulled up to fill her tank. Her friendly face calmed me, so I made my decision and walked up to her, “Excuse me,” Isaid, “But where are we?”
She laughed, and told me.
“Is there a hotel nearby?”
She laughed again, then said, “Not one you’d want to stay in, that’s for sure.”
At my stricken look her face softened. “Hey, look. You cango to Hardy. It’s a little town but it has a couple of decent hotels. And!” Shesmiled and said with mock excitement, “it has a Wal-mart anda McDonalds!”
“Sold!” I grinned at her, then said, “Thank you so verymuch.”
“No problem. Drive safely. There’s some construction on theway.”
We followed the woman’s directions and soon Tommy and I were checked-in toa hotel. We set out to the McDonalds for salads and to Wal-mart for a fewsupplies. Our moods were lighter, our faces lit in relief. I told Tommy I wished I’d have thought to ask her name, for she didn’t know what her kindness meant to me, and to my brother.
The next morning was bright and beautiful. Tommy and I preparedagain for our Odyssey, our faces as bright and beautiful as the morning. “Offwe go!, I cried, “into the wild blue yonder!” We laughed, speeding off to thenext adventure.
I often think what if we’d have given up because of that eveningwe were so tired and sad and distraught? I think, what if we’d have consultedtechnology and sped our way to an interstate where everything is The Same,given up the discovery we had been so excited about—the old back roads usingonly our sense of direction and a paper map. I think what if we’d have said thetrip was too hard, and we were too tired and disoriented and defeated. We’d have missed theRest of the Story. We’d have never known the days ahead of that evening. We’dhave slapped the face of the evenings before The Deer & Lost in the Darkincident, when everything was about that discovery.
Everything doesn’t have to be easy. Everything doesn’talways go our way, or the right way. Everything we do has ups and downs, hasdisappointments and successes. It’s when we decide to keep going, to let thedark times teach us to reach out to someone, and to find The Rest of The Story, that welive the life we were meant to live—one well-lived.
Will you give up? Or will you drive through the scary dark to a friendly face, right into the bright and beautiful to find The Rest of Your Story?