Yesterday we set out. The news yesterday morning was, though not unexpected, still a shock. Although we had prepared our best it still took my wife and me most of the day to wash laundry, pack, rent a car, handle some banking transactions, and tell the kids that their uncle was dead.
I had gone to bed praying the ninth day of a novena to St. Joseph, patron of a happy death.
That part was tough. My babies had been at school, ironically attending the funeral of a classmate’s grandfather. When they came home I stopped them on the porch and broke the news. “I’m sorry, kids, but your uncle died this morning.” My daughter, in particular, took the news hard. She looked up at me and shouted “Now I’ll never be able to give him these!” and she started crying as she said it. It was then that I noticed she was holding a large card filled with many other, homemade cards. It was a spiritual bouquet from her classmates for my brother. They knew he was ill and had wanted to send their love — to help in a way that children can in these cases. I walked inside and broke down. This was all so moving and losing a man I had never gotten to know as well as I could have hit me very hard in that moment. These children knew him well enough to know he needed prayers.
“It’s OK,” I said through my tears. “We can either give them to Grandma or place them in his coffin.”
My children (lead by my son) came over to me and, not saying a word, put their arms around me.
Our drive was rather uneventful. I hadn’t slept much in the previous nights. An hour outside of home I started to fall asleep. My wife took over the driving. We were still in North Texas. I dozed off. When I woke up — thinking it had only been an hour at most — I asked my wife where we were.
“I don’t know, somewhere outside of St. Louis,” she said.
Damn, she’s good.
And I had totally missed the Oklahoma Turnpike system. So, the toll roads in Oklahoma? Well, they don’t trust motorists much. I can’t say I blame them. If I were a native to Oklahoma I don’t know how much trust I’d have in anyone or anything to do with the US dollar. Anyway, they demand full payment up front. If you exit the toll road before driving its full length they give you a refund for the difference.
Other than that fun fact, in the remainder of this leg of the journey I thanked God for my wife and her energy and then I burned up my data tracking the Blizzard of 2016 that was bearing down on the Northeast as we drove across Chickasaw Country. We needed to make sure we would safely navigate around it and this would likely mean a detour through Buffalo of all places.
We checked into a hotel and bedded down for the night. It was 3AM. This was going to be a long trip.