The Blessing of Distraction

by Maile on June 6, 2012

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First and foremost, thank you to each and every person who offered their wisdom and empathy after my last post. I have kept quiet here on the blog for the past several weeks while in the room of my mind I sat and conversed with all of your responses. I intend to share a snapshot of that conversation later this week. But today, I’m still stuck on the brakes.

As we drove into the serene foliage of the campground where Willie (our bus) would rest for the next 5 days, my nerves draped over every millimeter of my body like live wires, jumping and sparking with the slightest brush of contact. Willie had just accomplished the daring feat of driving down yet another steep grade during our descent into this village at the base of Mt. Rushmore.

In the weeks since our incident on the Teton Pass, every slight undulation on each road we traveled caused me to breathe in short, machine gun bursts and sweat profusely. So this path to Mt. Rushmore, littered with sizable hills and curves that forced Shawn to rely on Willie’s unreliable brakes, kept me in a complete state of panic.

Thankfully, coming into town, we had no incidents. We learned after Teton that Willie brakes a lot better without the added weight of towing our minivan behind him. Hence, on every 6% grade hill or higher, we got into the practice of taking the van off. I drove the van down the hill with the kids while Shawn drove Willie.

But honestly, I was tired of the worry. Every time I kissed Shawn through the open driver’s side window of the minivan and watched him walk away toward Willie, I thought it would be our last. Of course my imagination provided the Richard Marx ballad for background music and reeled back the action of Shawn’s walk so everything was in slow mo and saturated with emotion. So I’d drive down the hill, crying into my shoulder (as to not alarm the children) while whispering unintelligible pleas to God, if He was even up there or even cared.

Of course, every time we made it safely to the bottom.

So by the time we got to Mt. Rushmore, I felt I couldn’t take one more mountain or hill or 7% grade. And unfortunately, we had a little bit of all of that to face when we would leave this town in 5 days time.

All week, the worry lingered about a quarter inch above my head, a moving cartoon cloud complete with rain and lightning. I kept busy with the kids and cooking and monument-viewing, but the cloud hovered. My mom flew into Rapid City to stay with us on the bus for a few days. As I drove to the airport to pick her up (the very roads we’d be driving in a few days’ time), I memorized every incline and decline, every turn and stoplight, judging each based on their potential trouble for Willie’s brakes.

The evening of our departure arrived. My stomach felt corseted while the armpits of my t-shirt turned dark with perspiration. My kids, my mom, and I loaded up in the minivan, and Shawn came over for his farewell kiss.

As we drove away, my mom listened as I gave her a rundown of the potential hazards ahead of us. About two miles into the drive, she managed to steer the conversation to other topics, occasionally shouting to the back of the van to get the kids opinions on this or that. She seemed completely unconcerned.

That my friends, is the blessing of distraction. Because while I still felt frighted and worried, seeing my mom calm and cheerful gave me hope that perhaps everything might just be okay. She kept me from evaporating into a steam cloud of “what if’s”; she kept me present in the safe, forward motion of a minivan driving down a highway with the excited chatter of 4 children and their adoring Meme.

And you know what? We made it down the mountain.

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