Friday, April 11, 2014

I May Never See the World

I have never liked to travel and as I've gotten older, that extends to not liking for my family to travel.

So the fact that the 3Es and their parents are in Raleigh visiting museums and culturing it up makes me uncomfortable. Their trip last fall to Disney World was borderline excruciating. Occasional trips with the Baby Daddy family to California are painful.

When I was small I just liked my own space, my dog and my room. My dog was my best friend from the time he picked me to love when the stray had puppies under the old house. The other six puppies found homes but he was with me for 15 years, through adolescence, moving twice, marriage and a baby. I was devoted to him with the singular passion of a misfit child and hated to leave him, even for a week-long, road trip.

I'm not sure if my father was similarly afflicted by that stay-at-home need, or if it was the self-employed servitude, but during my childhood we only took two vacations. While I remember the wonder, I also remember how glad I was to get home, to see Hershey and familiar hills and sleep in my own bed under the south-facing window where the moon shone in. Since my Mom makes a lot of road trips, I tend to think the root cause of my homebody nature may lie with him.

My chosen career only made it worse -- not because of the desire to always be at home, but because of the fact that I learned life and death are simply so seemingly random. As a journalist, I had the task of chasing ambulances and would mentally run through the list of where the people I loved should be as I responded to a bad wreck. Eventually that fear subsided, but I became even more aware of how unexpectedly tragedy could visit a family with no rhyme or reason.

I stood on the side of the road on a Christmas Eve and watched rescuers cut a man I knew from his Jeep after he was hit head on by a drunk driver while he and his wife were returning home from delivering Christmas food boxes for the church -- he was the only survivor. When my daughter was a baby, I watched rescuers cut a family free of their car just a few hundred yards from their driveway after they had been crushed beneath a jack-knifed tractor-trailer, and only two of the four survived. A group of friends returning from a shopping trip missed a turn, and then a stop sign and plowed broadside into another car leaving death in their wake. A woman taking her mother shopping turned left in front of a car and never took her mother anywhere else. Vacationers from out of state fell asleep at the steering wheel and wrecked full speed on the interstate, leaving survivors bewildered and far from home.

In short order, I pretty much didn't go anywhere I didn't absolutely have to go. Even my trips back and forth to work were fraught with anxiety.

Over time that faded somewhat, but never completely went away. Matched with my inability to sleep on most beds (I'm chambered airbed sleeper, converted from water beds), my dislike of travel means I usually prefer to stay within a day drive of whatever I'm going to do or find ways to entertain myself at home.

Yes, my children and I went on beach trips, but they were generally two or three days and likely to include the family dog. I'm not prone to taking a drive just for the sake of shopping, although I'm working on that. Semi-weekly trips to Winston-Salem with its higher traffic volume and unfamiliar streets are a mixture of dread and exhilaration that I manage to push myself a little.

I also worked hard not to let my fears cripple my children. My daughter flew to California while in college with a dormmate who took a few friends home for spring break. She'll probably never know how hard that was for me. She transferred from Greensboro to Appalachian State and I moved her to a town I'd never previously visited. Her then-boyfriend took her to Vermont to propose and she's flown cross country and traveled more than I ever wanted to do.

Since Ethan's death, I hate even more to see the strands of my life scattered and at risk, so I suck it up when the big Es go to Boone for the weekend. I message her to make sure they've arrived. Check Facebook to see if I can see they're OK.

The whole family leaving, well, that pretty much wrecks me whether it's a relatively short drive to Boone, or a week-long trip hours away. I resist the urge to call, try not to imagine horrific interstate crashes, random small tragedies. But my heart sometimes stumbles in my chest until I get a call or text saying they're home.

So yesterday and today, I'm on edge, grappling more with my own insecurities than any real threat. Because I know as well as anyone that we don't see the threat coming and death sends no warning telegram. Still, I'm unable, at least right now, to feel any differently and am only truly at peace when everyone is home and the weave of what's left of my life is pulled tight again.

And I'm counting down the hours until they come by to pick up their dogs, until I feel little arms hug me and hear the stories of their adventures and I finally feel safe again.

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