When I was 19, I learned that no matter how lost you are, you will always find yourself. Just be mindful of your direction and keep telling yourself that this is temporary.
My mom called me at 6:00am to tell me my stepfather had a heart attack and was being flown a few hours away for a triple bypass. He was in his 40s at the time, so it was quite the shock. My mother was weeping over the phone, alone in a waiting room, hours away. I was always there to help clean up the mess, and now I was about to leave for work with her frantic tears in my head. I couldn’t wipe them away for her.
I went to work, totally shell shocked and distracted, which is always safe for a production job. I held on, tried to keep it together. I tried to focus on my work, keep it all in. I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t keep it in.
“I have to go early! How do you get to Madison?”
I borrowed $20 for gas from a co-worker and received vague and conflicting directions from about 3 different people. I wasn’t concerned that it was 3 hours away. I wasn’t concerned that I had no idea where I was going. I just drove.
At some point, about an hour in, I bought a map. It didn’t tell me the whole way there, but I thought I would figure it out when I got closer.
I had some random highway and street names to watch out for when I got close. Then disaster struck; construction! I don’t mean like an intersection closed, I mean like “road closed to through traffic for the next 20 miles. Take the detour”. It was country construction, not city construction.
All of my directions were now completely useless. I followed the detour so nervous and panicked that I figured for sure I’d have a peptic ulcer by the time I got there. At least I was going to a hospital. 2 hours of detour, then the highway scribbled in my notes. Then the first road, then the second. I was going the right way! Until that road dead ended at a lake.
I turned the wrong way into one-way traffic (very exciting), then saw the sign. I rushed to park my car in the garage and ran into the hospital, determined to rescue my mother. Stop at the first desk, the second, then the cardiac ward. I asked where my mother was, the waiting room was empty. I panicked, totally just utterly panicked. The nurse said “your father is this way” I quickly corrected “he’s not my father”.
Things were rough between us. Ugly words and twisted emotions. I was complicated and he was stubborn. Then I was lead into a room, where in the bed lay a broken man, full of tubes, no one waiting for him. He was just waking up from surgery and I was the first thing he saw. I made awkward conversation with him, as he couldn’t talk. He motioned to hold my hand, and I did. I stayed for about an hour, then I was escorted out.
I called my mom from the waiting room. “Where the hell are you? How did you get there? Come home right now!”
So I left. With no map. In a city I did not know.
I ended up about 2 hours west of anything I knew. I was on dirt roads at one point and there were dogs chasing my car. Seriously, dogs. It was dark and there was nothing but farms for miles around. All I knew was that I was heading south, so then I made a left to head east. Then a right to head south. I kept doing that until I eneded up on a paved road. Oh, the rush of finding a paved road! I had just about given up hope!
I stayed on the paved road until it turned into a highway I knew. I could have just about cried. I was 2 counties away from where I should have been, but I had a lifeline. I could make it home, it was just going to take a while.
And that night taught me more about life than I would learn in the next 10 years. Just because I took a few wrong turns.