Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Monday, April 1, 2024

Arriving Late: Stories from A to Z

After my husband Bruce died, I wanted to run away and walk the earth. Or as a normal person would say—travel. I was lost, confused, damaged, cut in half. Not normal. My first choice was to join him on the Other Side. I couldn’t have my first choice. 

Anywhere I went those early months, I wanted to leave. I hurried from the apartment to the car to the grocery store; hurried through the aisles and checkout line back to the car, back to my apartment. No matter where I was, I didn't want to be there. 

Two months after the funeral, I drove my little car to Southern California for my daughter’s birthday. Her husband was in Guatemala as he so often was in those days. I didn’t like the idea of her being alone on her birthday so soon after her dad’s passing. 

I set off from my son and daughter-in-law’s house in St. George, only a six-hour drive from LA. South of town, the freeway was down to one lane each way due to construction. I called my daughter to tell her I might be delayed. 

“That shouldn’t make any difference, Mom. Once you get past it, you’ll make good time. You’ll get to Vegas well past morning rush hour. There won’t be traffic between Vegas and LA since it’s a Wednesday.”

“I hope so,” I told her. “I can’t drive in the dark because of night blindness.”

“Oh, you’ll be here before dark, no problem. Call me when you hit Vegas.” 

Sally had driven this route countless times and knew her business. Her confidence made me think it would take no time at all. Mentally, I turned it into a four-hour drive. Once I get past Vegas, I think, I'll drive through a few mountains and outlying cities in California, then LA, and I'm there. 

Sally lived in Torrance, “right off the 405,” she said cheerfully. 

What a breeze, I think, as I zoom along on Interstate 15. I settled into my own thoughts, missing Bruce and wishing he were at the wheel like always. He loved to drive, and I enjoy the passenger seat if the trip isn’t too long. Truthfully though, I am no fan of road trips. Sitting forever in a car is uncomfortable.

I stopped often at the shining gas stations with their spacious restrooms and enticing lines of snacks and sodas. I liked seeing the other travelers in their family groups, the retired couples, or occasionally a single person like me. Everyone seemed glad to be going somewhere, perhaps on their way back and looking forward to relaxing at last in their own home. 

On the road, I listened to the CD recording of Bruce’s funeral, hearing the hymns he loved that I chose for opening and closing songs. Enjoyed once again the remarks of our ten children, speaking for just three to five minutes as I’d requested. Not one of them went over the time limit. 

Bruce’s closed casket had been at the front of the chapel, centered below the podium and covered with a magnificent spray of flowers in autumn colors created by our son-in-law Rob. He had registered with the state as a florist so that he could purchase his selections for the flower arrangements at the florist discount. 

I imagined Bruce standing near the casket, filled with love for each family member there in the front rows of the chapel, and for the many friends who had come to the service. He must have been bursting with a father’s pride as his children, from oldest to youngest, took their turns at the podium to share favorite memories of their dad. 

Driving, reflecting, crying, and stopping for breaks as I zoomed through Vegas. Sally thought I was late reaching it but said, "You'll make better time once you get through the city." 

Nevada is awful to drive through. Ugly, boring landscape and seems to take forever. Finally, I crossed into California. 

As the sun dropped in the sky, it bothered my eyes. I squinted through my sunglasses and slowed down, feeling nervous and vulnerable. By four or five, I had enough of the blinding western horizon. I passed a motel in Barstow and turned in to see about a room. 

Checked in, I lay down in the cool, dim room and closed my eyes. When I felt better, I called Sally. 

“Where are you, Mom? Have you hit the 405 yet?”

“I’m in Barstow.”

“What? That’s all the farther you ? I figured you’d be here by now, especially with gaining an hour.”

“Well, there was traffic remember.”

“Where, in Vegas?”

“No, St. George. The construction that slowed me down outside of town.”

“Oh, that. When did you get to Vegas again?”

“Around noon.”

“Noon Utah time or Vegas time?”

“Utah time. I looked at my watch.”

 “That’s only eleven Nevada time. I can’t believe it’s after five and you’ve only made it as far as Barstow. You’re still two and a half hours away from Torrance. That’s nine hours to make a six-hour trip, or seven if you don’t consider the time change. What have you been doing?” 

“Driving. And stopping a lot.”

She laughed. “Mom, you must have stopped at every gas station along the way.”

“I’m not used to driving long distances. Dad was always the one who drove.”

“Mom, nobody takes two days to make that trip.” She was laughing like it was the biggest joke.

“Well, I guess I do. The sun was in my eyes, and it made me tired. So I stopped for the night.”

“Okay. I was super excited about seeing you today, but I guess it will be tomorrow. If you get on the road around eight, you’ll miss morning rush hour.”

“I’ll make good time tomorrow for sure. I always have more energy in the mornings.”

“Okay, Mom. I’ll see you then. Call me when you leave, and when you hit the 405."

In the morning, I felt rested and glad I stopped. Plus, it gave Sally a story to tell, about how her mom took two days to drive from St. George to LA. 

At her apartment, we lay around with the cats for two days. We cooked and ate, watched our favorite British mysteries on Netflix, napped in the afternoons, went to bed early. Except for the cooking part, we kept the same schedule as her three cats.
I had planned to leave on the third day but didn't want to go so soon. That restless energy pushing me to flee, to go on to the next thing, was gone. "I don't feel like leaving tomorrow," I said. 

“Why should you? What else do you have going on, and besides I have the time off. You might as well stay until Thursday when I go back to work.”

I decided to stay. After all, I loved laying around like a relaxed cat with my daughter in her one-bedroom cluttered apartment. I slept on a mat in the corner of the living room, and I could not have been happier. For once, I didn't want to be anywhere else.


  1. It's the hardest time when you lose your soul mate. My momwas beside herself when my dad died. She died 30nyears later and, I can say, she adjusted...she talked to him and asked me if that was weird. Insaid, far from it and to keep talking. I'm glad you took that drove and enjoyed your stay with your daughter. I am still gobsmacked ked that you have 10 children!

    1. I love that you gave her such a comforting reply, and to keep on talking to him. Thank you for visiting and reading, Birgit!

  2. Hi Karen - I can imagine it must have been a terrible time for you - but hearing this story ... I'm so glad you had that lovely time with Sally ... cheers for now - Hilary

  3. It sounds like you needed that road trip. And it gave you extra time with your daughter.
    Bet I make that trip in five hours! Yes, I speed. A lot.

  4. I enjoyed this story and look forward to more - the dash and the ellipsis are my addictions...

  5. Hi Karen, I was on the road with you the whole way - what a story. I'm glad you stopped and rested. Most of all I was filled with happiness when I read you had finally quieted that restless energy. What an uplifting story, thank you for sharing it.
    With smiles, Jenny

    1. Jenny, glad you stayed on to the end of the journey. It's a rather long post to begin this Challenge but I had to tell the story. Thanks for reading!

  6. When you lose a mate, it is one heart torn apart. Such a wound takes time to heal, its rate as slow as the minute hand of a clock. It passes but you don't seem to see it.

  7. Lovely story!
    My condolences for your loss. I truly admire how you expressed your journey toward healing via this road trip.
    I'm not fond of road trips either, but I've made quite a few. I used two drive from Nevada to Wisconsin and back a few times a year, and it was always long trip. I don't take them that long anymore, though my family and I will be driving for an eight-hour trip this June. It won't be so bad though, because we will be staying a week before we have to double back.
    Thanks for the enjoyable read.

  8. It takes a bit longer than people can imagine when you lose someone like your husband to adjust to a new normal. I don't think you ever totally move on. I have not lost a spouse but I have lost family I was close to. Everything is running smooth, then you think about telling them something. I am sorry about your loss.

  9. Doing things according to the schedule of the animals around you is a sound way to go while grieving.

    Ronel visiting for A: My Languishing TBR: A
    Abominable Wraiths

    1. Ronel, I never thought of it that way but of course it makes perfect sense.

  10. I'm so sorry for your loss. I imagine you were in a fog for quite some time after (maybe always). That would make a driving trip really daunting, but you did it! The drive from Vegas to LA is borrrrrrring. And you successfully navigated the 405? My least favorite freeway of all time!

    1. Dyanne, Being in a fog is probably the best way to describe it, and I've heard others say the same thing that they just wish the fog would lift.

  11. I am sorry for your loss. My husband and I were visiting my mother inlaw the morning she found her husband of 48 years had passed unexpectedly in his sleep. I can't imagine what she went through in those days and months after we left to go home - it was such a sad time for you but you wrote about that road trip so beautifully. My condolences.

    1. Alana, thanks for visiting & commenting. How sad for your mother in law and for your husband, to wake up and their husband and father is gone just like that. I hope she is doing well and able to navigate things a little better each day.

  12. I've been saving this blog since it was to be a continuous story, so I'm looking forward to reading!


Comments are welcome!