Sunday, November 18, 2012

You Don't Leave Family Behind

I am getting ready to begin a thousand mile journey with my two sons. We are heading north to celebrate Thanksgiving and grandma’s 80th birthday. I’m dreading it. It is not the celebration and time with family I dread. It is the hours trapped in a small car with my sons that I dread. Recently at the dinner table my youngest, 19 year old Joel, proclaimed, “I’m your child. It’s my job to annoy you.”  We had a big chuckle about that and I informed him that he was doing his job very well. But in the back of my mind I was thinking . . . “one thousandmiles with no escape . . .”

And then I remembered my parents. They were brave, very brave. Or perhaps they were just crazy. I’m not sure. My parents put five children in their station wagon for a seven thousand mile, seven week journey from Massachusetts to California and back visiting National Parks and exploring Canada on the way home. The year was 1973. There were no DVD players, iPods, or hand held game systems to entertain us. There was only Beth, age 6. She sang. She hummed. She talked. She played loudly with her dolls. She believed it was her job to entertain us and shetook her job seriously.

So it was not surprising that after five weeks and thousands of miles on the road, we left her behind. It wasn’t intentional. Really, it wasn't. We pulled into a gas station in the middle of Utah and we all poured out of the car to use the restroom, stretch our legs and enjoy a momentary escape from each other. We all piled back into the car and continued on our journey.

I was always in the “way back” of the station wagon with Beth so I immediately noticed that she was not with us. I leaned over the middle seat where my teenage brothers were sitting to tell mom and dad that Beth wasn’t with us. My brothers grabbed me, pinched me and whispered in my ear, “don’t you say a word.” So I didn’t and we continued on down the road.

It took my dad about 20 minutes to realize that the car was silent. He pulled over on the side of the road, stopped the engine and got out. He ordered us all to line up on the side of the road and he began counting. He stared at us and said, “Where’s your sister?” I broke down in tears and stuttered through my sobs, “We left her at the gas station and they wouldn’t let me tell you!”

My dad instructed my mom to get back in the car. He looked at my brothers and me and said, “You don’t leave family behind.” He then turned, walked away and got in the car with mom. They drove away. They left us behind. They returned with Beth and we never left her behind again.

I’m guessing that in my journey north with my sons there may be moments when I’d like to leave them behind and perhaps moments when they'll want to leave me behind. But we’ll remember my dad’s words, “You don’t leave family behind.”  We’ll enjoy the ride, the holiday, the birthday. We’ll endure the ride and we’ll all get back home. We won’t leave anyone behind.

Hear more about my awesome sister in my story:
"Blonde, Beautiful and Bubbly"  click for download