Friday, May 13, 2016

Penpal Musings

I received a letter from a very good pen pal yesterday. She wondered by I haven't blogged all winter. It was a legitimate question that I didn't really know the answer to until I sat down to write back this morning. Only she will know the true answer to it when she receives my very personal letter.

I have this unwritten rule (in my head) someone in my past said to me about returning a letter ... something about two weeks. I know if I let my pen pal's letter sit too long on my desk, I'll be past the two week mark and then self-induced guilt sets in and things go downhill from there. After that, I'm never sure if it's my turn to write or theirs. It's a vicious cycle and in the end it doesn't matter whose turn it is to write, we just write. I love that about my pen pals! I won't spoil the contents of my letter today because I know my pen pal will read this blog post. That's how I met her many moons again. Through blogging.
But, that's not what this post is about.
Road tripping with my dad. It came up while I was writing this morning and I have to get it out. My writer friend mentioned she recently took a trip with her son across the U.S. while helping him move from coast to coast. Not many of us get a chance to do that one-on-one trip with immediate family but when we do, it's special. I got to do that with my dad about 14 years ago. I may have written about it before but can't find it in my blog posts. Here it is in my May 2016 remembrance of it ....

Mom had died suddenly that spring while snowbirding in Arizona. We buried her in Oregon and then made plans to travel back to Alaska for the summer. Before my mom died, I was at the lowest point in my life and now my dad shared that feeling. We were a couple of sad sacks trying to figure out what to do next in life. Might as well take it on the road and see what happens. We left Arizona in early May, heading to Anchorage faster than he wanted to roll because I wanted to get there for a big dog show. Looking back, I regret rushing him on that trip. Still, it took what seemed like forever to get there although it was probably only ten days.

I learned a lot about my dad and myself. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be taking this road trip of a lifetime with dad. I hadn't had his undivided attention in a long time and we were stuck-like-chuck in that RV together for 3,628 miles. I learned how to drive a motorhome and although it was scary as hell, I pushed through the fear and enjoyed driving. We stopped often to take a coffee break, make a sandwich, and if there was a casino anywhere nearby those stops were a bit longer than a cup of coffee.

The details of that trip escaped me but three four five things have stayed with me that I'm not sure I've ever written about. If I have, forgive me.

One time when we stopped for a coffee break, I opened the upper cupboard door and a coffee cup fell out and hit me square on the noggin. I was immediately as pissed off as an angry mama bear and he laughed at me. Then I cried. He kindly explained that when you are in a moving vehicle like this, things readjust. From that point forward, I took care when I opened any doors in that deathtrap. I learned how to drink and love instant coffee on that trip. To this day, I can't look at a jar of instant go juice without thinking of that incident. Thanks for that, dad.

Another valuable lesson I learned on that trip is that it is possible to bath and wash my hair with a gallon of water. While it is true that one can hook up at an RV park and have access to unlimited amounts of electricity and water, that's not always how we rolled. There is only so much water for bathing and other bodily functions, not to mention you need enough for coffee drinkers like us. To this day, I am a proud proponent for water saving measures because of that experience. This came in handy when our hot water tank died a couple years ago and it took my hubby much longer than I thought it should to get a new one installed. I am resourceful and found a 5 gallon bucket to use for bathing until I couldn't do it any longer. Many have not seen that side of me that goes postal. Shit gets taken care of when I do ... go postal, that is.

I'm not all that tough it turns out. Neither is my dad. We got about a few miles before arriving to his homestead and neither of us could fight back the tears. We were arriving home to Alaska and she wasn't with us, in body. In spirit, yes. The entire trip I couldn't help but think that mom should have been sitting in that passenger chair with Ginger (the dog she left behind) on her lap. We hadn't talked about mom the entire trip. A lot of stuff was left unspoken. That coffee cup falling my head? That wouldn't have happened to her. She knew how to travel. And, now I knew how to travel.

Things happen the way they are supposed to or at least, that's what they say. Whoever they is.

So, thanks pen pal ... for writing to me. I needed to remember this and your letter was just the right catalyst.

love, susan

P.S.  I'm going to meet my pen pal blogging friend in-person this summer when she travels near where I live. I am looking forward to that!


  1. What a blessing that you shared that road trip with your Dad. All that valuable time spent together, and at a time when you both were hurting, is priceless.
    I have both my parents staying with me right now. They came down to spend the winter with me but my Mom ended up having open heart surgery so their stay has been extended into the summer. I'm so grateful for this time I have with them. I'm taking care of both of them and I'm so honored to be doing so. I'm not taking any of this time for granted. It's all a gift.
    What a gift that trip across country was for both you and your dad. And yes, your mom was with you all the way. Of that I have no doubt.

    Great post Susan. Thanks for sharing.

    Michele at Angels Bark

    1. Thank you, Michele! I've been on vacation and just saw your reply this morning.

  2. I just saw your post today. I spent the last week tending four grandchildren (ages 7, 6, 4, and 18 mos), and although I took my laptop with good intentions of blogging, it was an unrealistic idea. Any so-called "free time" was spent prone on their couch trying to recover energy. (I had to laugh when my daughter and son-in-law returned from their trip to Mexico...they brought me a figurine that symbolizes "energy"! Perfect gift!)

    I love this post and the things you gleaned from the trip. Your dad's comment about "when you are in a moving vehicle like this, things readjust" made me think how it describes life. If we are on the move, growing and progressing, things readjust. Goals. Plans. Ideas. Dreams. Unexpected turns in life can bonk us in the head if we aren't careful.

    I look forward to your letter and our future visit!!

  3. Susan, as usual, I take away something good from everything I read. ". . . when you are in a moving vehicle like this, things readjust." I got it as, "Girl, when you are moving through life in a human body, things re-adjust." I instantly sat up straighter, re-adjusted my position in this chair, pulled my keyboard closer and here I am, typing.

    Life happens. Sometimes I don't know how to react to events I'm not on board for. As if I have a choice, right? When major shifts occur we might need time off to re-adjust just as all of life re-evolves, or evolves. Perhaps you are like me and need a lot of down time to complete recovery. I have to walk away without time limits. Used to be I kept going because I had no choice. Withdrawing from life is akin to becoming a willing "patient" in a sanitarium back in the day when people took time to heal and recover from physical illness/ailments. This is all new to me. I loved writing letters. Then I couldn't, and it was so hard it became physically painful. I haven't read the usual blogs I follow, until today. It was meant to be. Thank you.

    My mom and I took a road trip twenty years ago. We still talk about it uneasily once in a blue moon. My life with my parents was a series of road trips as we moved from one army base to another. Staying put was something I wanted yet feared. Now I miss the open road. I miss my mom too, although she's a twenty minute drive from me.

    Physical healing and spiritual healing often go hand in hand. It's happening to me even as I type this. Going "mute" is okay. No news is still good news.

    You are adept at writing about some of life's "awkwardnesses." "Things happen the way they are supposed to or at least, that's what they say."

    Cheers to you and your pen pal.

    Be well.

    1. So, so, SO good to hear from you! You "get" me and I get you!


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