Grace's classes start on Monday, so we needed to get her back to school. The boys both had sporting events on Friday. I decided to drive Grace on Saturday and Sunday. Ten and a half hours each way. The dorms opened again on Saturday. As she texted friends and checked Facebook, she feared she would be the only one back on Saturday.
"Will you stay with me if no one else is back?" she asked.
"Sure," I said, already dreading a night in a dorm room.
We left about 7:30 on a bitterly cold morning. The temperature at home read zero; as we cruised north of Columbus, it dropped to -7 but the sun rose blindingly over the snow-covered fields.
Usually, Grace and I talk a lot in the car. She slept instead this time. She'd been home, mostly forming an indentation on the couch for five weeks. She got home on Dec. 17 and she came down with a cold on Dec. 18. She hardly left the couch.
Two trips to the doctor finally revealed that she had whooping cough, which probably explains why she wasn't able to shake the "cold" and why getting up to exercise or taking a walk around the block didn't help kick the cold.
So we had five weeks to talk. We went shopping on Thursday, avoiding the house while the water was turned off and sewer work completed.
Even though we didn't talk, I could reach over and touch her. We held hands for a lot of the way.
We arrived at the school at 5:30, and after a brief panic where Grace couldn't find her student id which gets her into the dorm, we carried about six loads of things into the dorm room. And there was her roommate Colleen limping around because she sprained an ankle. How? She likes to jump off her front porch into the snow. Her dad had dug up the yard and deposited rocks in the yard, which he hadn't told her before she jumped. Thus, the sprained ankle.
Everyone screamed to be reunited. Hugs. Late Christmas gifts. Nick has dreadlocks. Big Mike lifted girls off the ground in backbreaking bear hugs. All the exciting news. Kim had whooping cough too.
I helped Grace unpack some then sat and watched. I'd planned to take a nap in her dorm before heading back southwest to Columbus. I thought I'd drive and get a hotel some place in New York.
I started driving at 7:30 p.m., twelve hours after we had left that morning. The snow splattered the windshield and the nights seem especially black on the two-lane road in upstate New York. The snow and dark made it hard to see, and I felt really nervous when I passed an Amish carriage with a lantern swinging on the back. The lantern gave off faint light through the falling snow.
The snow made the trip slower. I travelled at 40 miles per hour on much of the highway. I stopped for coffee. Then more coffee as the hours ticked off. At one point, somewhere between Syracuse and Buffalo, I pulled into a thruway rest area and laid the seat down. I covered myself with a quilt and tried to sleep. Nope. I might as well get some coffee and keep going.
Whenever I got tired, I'd stop for coffee, the cold air kicking my eyes wide awake before I scrambled back to the car to drive some more.
I'd hoped to wait to fill up with gas again once I got to Ohio. Gas in New York hovered around $3.35 while in Ohio we were paying $3.08. With the snow pelting the roads and the snow plows lumbering along, I kept filling up whenever I stopped, in case I got caught in a snow traffic jam.
Earl texted me again around 2 a.m.
Still driving I told him, when I called.
At 4:50 a.m., I stopped at a rest stop in Ohio, about 70 miles north of Columbus and rested for 20 minutes. Then I drove the rest of the way home. I arrived at 6:30 a.m., 23 hours after I left. The car is coated with dirty snow and salt. The inside of the car is littered with blankets and sleeping bags and bottles of water.
I put on my plaid, flannel pjs and climbed into bed just as the sun began to rise, reflecting again off the bright snow.
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