We hopped in the car. 3 in front, 4 in back.
Destination Known. We went there just 2 weeks ago.
She got behind the wheel. Last time, I suddenly remembered, she had a panic attack halfway there.
I reminded her, and then took control of the wheel.
We backed out of our driveway and up our hill.
Halfway there, and I started to panic.
My brain began sending the wrong signals to my limbs and my limbs temporarily forgot how to operate a vehicle.
After going around the same block 3 times, I pulled off to the side. Surprisingly, no one else had made a snide comment about my sudden inability to drive.
I took a deep breath. I counted my fingers to 5. In…..1out….In….2out…..
I opened my eyes I had shut tight. And realized that when I took control of the wheel before we left the house, I didn’t move seats.
So while I was turning the wheel, she was still in the driver’s seat operating the pedals and the signals.
The obvious solution became clear quicker than I could blink.
Her and I opened our respective car doors, did a mini Chinese fire drill, and then sat in the proper seat.
The steering wheel slid back in to its proper position without prompt.
I took a deep breath, put the key back in the ignition, and the car roared to life once again.
We merged on to the freeway. Raindrops expanding in size. Cars passing us by at an unfathomable speed.
Finally. My brain is sending the correct signals to my limbs. I execute each move without much thought.
Only an hour left in our drive until we get there. To the spot. 2 Weeks ago we went to the same spot. But the trailhead was closed due to sideways snow. So we stayed in the lodge. 2 weeks ago, I watched my girls go thru the gift shop, asking to buy everything. As if I was a broken record, I kept repeating No….no….no.
Over and Over again. They finally gave up. So we got our hot cocoa’s and our gooey warm chocolate chip cookies so big they could feed 2 at a time. And we sat by the fireplace, looking out at the trail that I was dying to go on.
But this time, we would make it. The weather forecast was in our favor.
Or so we were told.
In the back seat, the girls were in a deep trance, staring at their tablets. The others bickering about who knows what.
I didn’t pay them much attention. I had to focus on the road.
The raindrops splooshed! Their splash radius larger than my white knuckled fist. Another block and the raindrops quietly changed. Landing without turbulence. The wipers did not have to work as hard.
30 minutes away. I suddenly remember that I do not like driving in this weather. Why isn’t my husband driving?
I begin to panic.
The car seemed to get wider. I was unable to reach the pedals. The gas pedal stuck.
I went to roll down the window just a crack. But the button was not there. I looked over. Why is it so far away?
Keeping my eyes on the road, I leaned over to my left. But something stopped me. As my eyes left the roadway, I glanced sideways.
What? How? Huh?
3 people up front, and I am now in the middle. How did this happen? I start sweating. The steering wheel sliding thru my frictionless palms.
The steering wheel is getting further away from me. My t-rex arms cannot reach.
I cannot fill my lungs with oxygen. I realize I am hyperventilating.
But before I can slow my breaths, as I close my eyes, the curtains close, and the music stops.
I hear the silence. I open my eyes. What happened?
We never made it up to the mountains. To that trail I had been dreaming of completing.
I am no longer in the car.
Did I crash? Did we die? Is this heaven? Or maybe hell?
I look around. I am in a classroom. A playroom of sorts.
The toys and equipment look similar to what is at my child’s occupational therapist’s office.
A ball pit in the back with a giant rock wall leading to it. Another room is off to the side. Swings and hammocks and playdoh line the wall. Mats on the ground.
I hear the unmistakable sound of a door opening.
One by one kids start coming in.
If we are at E’s OT, I think to myself, she might be walking thru the door any second.
I put on my mom hat.
After a couple minutes, all the kids have shuffled in and found their respective parent.
No E. I start to worry. I am trying not to panic.
I feel like an outsider without her here. Why AM I here?
And then E’s OT comes up to me. A kid following close behind.
She tells me about this kid, and what their challenges are. And then walks away.
Like a deer in headlights, I freeze.
I could only move my eyeballs. I felt my chest tightening. Hours must have passed.
But then something finally clicked, and I went right to work. This kid was nonverbal and had many of the same challenges as E. So somewhere inside of me instinctively knew what to do.
I had already been doing this for 4 years with E.
I blinked and parents were arriving to pick up their kids.
The last one to walk thru the door was actually E. She was coming for her appointment.
I felt my chest loosen and my shoulders automatically relaxed.
I sat on the wooden bench that creaks if I move just the right way. And I observe E interacting with her OT.
At the end of her appointment, before we leave, she noticed a bag that looked familiar to her. She went over to it, and found some of her old toys that we, er I, had donated during one of my toy purging sessions when the kids weren’t around.
Well shoot….she grabbed the bag and we went home.
My alarm annoyingly went off. After smacking the snooze button 6 times, I finally wake up.
But I wake up feeling something I haven’t for a long time.
I felt at peace.