Natalie’s First Road Trip

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” –Martin Buber

There is something mysterious about starting a journey in the dark.  My friend Linda invited me to drive to Michigan with her and her two young children in October.  She suggested, and I concurred, that driving at night was the least difficult way to make the twelve hour trip while our little ones slept.

Feeling quite confident about Natalie’s protocol, I didn’t hesitate.  My family, who lived in Michigan,  had not seen  Natalie since she was six weeks old.  Days before we were scheduled to embark on our journey my husband lost his job.  He encouraged me not to change my plans.

I vividly remember hanging the burette with Natalie’s dextrose on the hook in the car that ordinarily is home to the dry cleaning. I can’t remember what powered the pump because it only had an auxiliary battery that lasted for a few hours.  Knowing Natalie’s Dad he probably rigged something up with the cigarette lighter.   Natalie was tucked snugly into her car seat with the patchwork crib quilt I made for her before she was born. The skies were ominous at 9:00 PM and it was raining.

The children slept more than half way and Linda and I shared the driving. Everything went smoothly and we arrived in Michigan under blue skies before lunch the next day..  My father was there to take Natalie and me to his house in Midland an hour away. I disconnected Natalie from her pump and held her hand as she tested out her new walking skills that were only a few weeks old.  Dad tried to hide his sadness when he loaded Natalie’s IV pole and other supplies into his trunk.  He  shook his head from side to side in silence, then said, “I am so sorry Iris.”  He shook his head again, but this time he didn’t say anything.

I called Natalie’s dad and told him how well the road trip had gone and that Natalie and the other children couldn’t have been more companionable. When they weren’t sleeping they sang and laughed and asked, “How much longer till we get to Michigan?”

Lesson Learned: Don’t expect people you love to grieve at the same time or in the same way as you do.

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