I found this blog post from right after my father died and my brother and I went on a journey – an odyssey – and I was keeping a little bit of a “blog journal” of our travels — little did I know how my life would morph and change in unexpected, and very big, ways–though, truth told, I knew change was coming; felt it in my bones, down to the marrow. I read this post as if someone else wrote it, and it contains a message for me. Maybe for someone out there, too.
As my brother and I left Blanchard Caves on our Odyssey trip, one of the tour guides said to us, “Watch out for deer. They come out this time of the evening.”
It wasn’t ten minutes later, as we carefully drove along an unfamiliar road in the soon-to-be-coming dusky dark, that I saw a deer by the side of the road and said, “Up head. There’s one; be careful.” We passed the deer without incident, both laughing at how we were warned and then there a deer was.
A few miles more, and I saw her. She darted out quickly and in the time it took me to open my mouth and yell, “Watch out!” she’d already ran right into Tommy’s truck. The sickening sound of WHAM! against metal, and our cries of “Oh no!”
Tommy said, “I can’t go back. I just can’t.” The stricken look that formed his features into grief must have mirrored my own.
I said, “I know, Tommy. I understand.”
Yet, as we both said this, he’d already slowed, ready to pull to the side of the road. We both knew we couldn’t leave a suffering animal. We’d just lost our father and the thought of dealing with death of any kind caused our faces to fall into folds of worry and sick and sad. The Odyssey had barely begun and already we were ready to call it Done. It was all too much. Too much. Too much. And if she was suffering, what would we do? How to help her?
Tommy looked into his rearview and said, “Hey wait! She’s up! She’s running into the woods.”
“That means she’s probably okay. Oh I hope so. And Tommy,” I said, “even if she’s not, we can’t go searching for her in unfamiliar woods, especially with dark coming soon.”
“I know,” he said. And we went on our way down that lonely darkening road. The night tainted, unfamiliar. Grieved. It felt as if Tommy and I were the only humans left in the world. Visions of the beautiful animal hurt in the woods pummeled my thoughts. I know Tommy was feeling that too.
After driving in silence for another hour or so, we began to worry. There was nothing out there but a smattering of farm houses here and there far back from the road. We were tired and ready to settle in for the evening. At last we saw lights in the distance, and we came to a gas-station where we stopped to fill up. As Tommy went inside, I looked around, trying to gauge my bearings, feeling disoriented and exhausted. There were a few men standing around but they didn’t look approachable. Another woman filled her car, but she had an angry expression. I felt uncomfortable there, as if I were an interloper upon their space and place and time.
Just then, a woman pulled up to fill her tank. Something about her calmed me, so I made my decision and walked up to her, “Excuse me,” I said, “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 can go to Hardy. It’s a little town but it has a couple of decent hotels. And!” She smiles at this, “And! it has a Wal-mart and a McDonalds!”
“Sold!” I grinned at her, then said, “Thank you so very much.”
“No problem. Drive safely. There’s some construction on the way.”
A little over an hour later, Tommy and I were checked-in to a hotel, and set out to the McDonalds for salads and to Wal-mart for a few supplies. Our moods were lighter, our faces lit in relief.
I said to my brother, “I only wish I’d asked her name. She saved us a heap of driving into the unknown.”
The next morning was bright and beautiful. Tommy and I prepared again for our Odyssey, our faces as bright and beautiful as the morning. “Off we go!, I cried, “Into the wild blue yonder!” We laughed, speeding off to the next adventure.
I think often if we’d have given up because of that evening we were so tired and sad and distraught. I think if we’d have consulted technology 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 using only our sense of direction and a paper map. I think what if we’d have said the trip was too hard, and we were too tired and disoriented. We’d have missed the Rest of the Story. We’d have never known the days ahead of that evening. We’d have slapped the face of the evenings before The Deer & Lost in the Dark incident when we felt as if the entire world was waiting for us to find little treasures.
Everything doesn’t have to be easy. Everything doesn’t always go our way, or the right way. Everything we do has ups and downs, has disappointments and successes. It’s when we decide to keep going, to let the dark times teach us to reach out and to find The Rest of The Story, that we live the life we were meant to live—one well-lived.
Will you give up? Or will you find The Rest of Your Story?