Driving south on I-75 through Georgia from Indiana to Florida, in my mind, was comparable to Mom’s experience driving through Kansas after she left my biological father back in the early 1970s. The terrain was just as uninviting and I felt I understood what she must have experienced, driving cross-country, the dull sacrifice and boredom required to escape one’s life. She was a frightened 24-year-old girl who had never driven a 17-foot U-Haul and her trip was a totally covert operation. Only her immediate family knew. She and I were living in Colorado with my biological father. After he went to work one morning she emptied every room in the apartment, except the master bedroom. Later in my life, as a young man, she told me that during our trek back to Indiana she thought Kansas would never end, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing there. It went on for miles.” To this day she regrets not having taken my biological father’s new set of Ping golf clubs — kept ceremoniously stowed in their bedroom — when she left him that July morning. “Driving through Kansas I could’ve at least thrown a golf club out the window at each mile marker to entertain myself – the bastard!”
As she drove east on I-70 she said her thoughts kept looping over the same questions: How-in-the-hell did she end up in Denver? In a dysfunctional marriage? Her only possessions, our only possessions, secured by a solitary Master Lock fastened to the handles on the truck’s rear lift-gate, a lock that could easily be snapped with a bolt cutter at a roadside motel or when she stopped for gas – if she could find gas. That summer witnessed the nation’s worst oil crisis ever – service stations closed, fuel lines for miles, signs announcing “No Gas Today.” All of this plus me, her four-year-old blond haired, blue eyed boy standing on the bench-seat beside her. She’d never done anything like it: packing up, leaving, and striking out on her own. Hers had been a small town, daughter-of-a-coal-miner life. She’d never lived anywhere other than Bicknell, Indiana. She was determined to have a future –for the both of us.
My mother was the strongest, most beautiful lady in the world, with her shining brown hair, hazel eyes, and her smile. I remember singing “I Got You Babe” with her. She made our life an adventure. She still does. Although she’s older, her hair silver-gray, and because her eyes bear witness to a life peppered with joy and sorrow, I think, she’s still the most beautiful lady in the world.
I love you, Mom.
Happy Mother’s Day!