Back and forth, back and forth…
The rain was falling steadily and the windshield wipers were moving quickly….I felt as if this was lulling me to sleep. My eyes began to close…
My eyes can’t close; I’m driving!
“Wake up, wake up, wake up!” I was yelling to myself in my head.
You would think it is that easy, but it’s not.
My eyes really wanted to close.
I grabbed the bottle of water next to me and took a sip, thinking it might help wake me. It didn’t do much.
I asked my daughter, who was in the passenger seat, to give me some of the pretzels she brought with her. That helped. I was awake.
I looked over at her, and then in the rearview mirror at her sister, who was in the back seat. I was a little freaked out. I realized how close I could have come to killing us all. It was terrifying, and at the same time it made me so sad. It shouldn’t be like this. There should be another adult in the car. My husband should be with us.
We were headed up to Lake George. It was our first trip since my husband had passed away a little over a year earlier. We were going with three other families – our “family friends”. I was so grateful that they still cared about us and included us in most everything. I was looking forward to this Memorial Day weekend getaway. I thought a trip with friends would be good for me and my girls, although it was hard getting used to being the “fifth wheel” – the only one without a partner.
I had loaded up the car myself that morning and we were following one of the families up for the three hour drive. I had not slept well the previous night because I was feeling the stress of my first “alone” trip. I was paying for it in the car with my eyes trying to close.
That was the first of many times where it screamed to me that there were no longer four on a car ride – now there were only three.
It is one of those things that I always took for granted. The four of us would get into the car: my husband drove most of the time, me in the passenger seat, and our two girls in the back seat. Simple. It was something I never thought about.
I cannot begin to count the number of car rides like that. From going out for dinner in our neighborhood, to driving almost two hours away to see my family – it was parents in the front, kids in the back.
I never had to worry about my horrible sense of direction; my husband had a great one so he would get us where we needed to go. If I was tired, I would close my eyes, comfortable that he was getting us there safely. At an event, I would wait indoors for the car, wearing my dress and heels, while my husband either went to get it himself or walked outside to hand the ticket to the valet.
Sometimes, it is the little things that remind you how different life is after you lose a spouse. One moment, the four of us were driving to the mall together, and the next I was the sole adult in the car, the only one responsible for getting us from place to place.
When you are a solo parent, all kinds of huge responsibilities fall on your shoulders, and yours alone. There are also small ones that you might never think of.
I was reminded of this while watching the “car” episode of This Is Us. While most of us focused on the sadness of the funeral, I was also super-focused on Rebecca driving her children around that day. She no longer had an adult in the passenger seat, it was now one of her kids. She was solely responsible, even on the most difficult day of her life. I knew exactly how that felt.
We did make it to Lake George that day. I am happy to say that we had a great weekend, and that we made it home without incident.
Driving solo has been challenging for many reasons, but it has also made me a little more independent. When you have no other choice than to be responsible, you learn that you can be. While I will always wish to still be in that passenger seat, I now know that I can handle being the driver, in the car as well as in my life.
The one thing it has not helped is my sense of direction. I am very thankful for my navigation system :).