Sharon Randall: Going home

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 6, 2022

W

hat do you do when it seems there’s nothing you can do? I recently spent 10 days visiting family in the small Southern town where I grew up.

We celebrated my sister’s birthday, told stories and ate a frightening lot of fried food. It was hard to say goodbye, to leave my sister in a nursing home, and my blind brother all alone in his apartment. But saying goodbye is often the price we pay for getting to say hello — for finally being together after too much time apart.

I tried to focus on the laughs we had shared. But I still had to keep wiping my eyes as I packed up to fly home to the place my mother, rest her soul, always called “California of All Places.”

As much as I hated to leave, I wanted to go home to be with my husband and children and grandchildren and to sleep in my own bed. I was exhausted, not from work, but from the adrenaline that had kept me going nonstop for 10 days.

The cottage at the lake where I stayed had a perfectly good bed. But I never sleep well away from home, especially if I have a lot to think about. Do we ever not have a lot to think about?

When it was time to get on the road, I loaded all my stuff in the “economy compact” rental car that I had stood in line forever to rent. (I asked the rental agent why it took so long, and he said, “We’re short-handed ‘cause we can’t get nobody to work.”)

Before leaving my hometown, I said goodbye to the lake and the mountains and the ducks and the mosquitoes and a construction crew that kept hammering away nearby.

I wish you could’ve seen it all.

Then I drove around the lake and turned north to go 90 miles to the airport in Charlotte. I could’ve taken I-85, but chose instead a more scenic route.

Halfway to the airport, I was thinking about my brother and sister, wishing I could do something to make their lives easier, and wondering when, if ever, I would see them again.

It was a question I couldn’t answer. Somehow it reminded me of the words in a card that a friend sent me years ago after my first husband died: “Then, when you think you will never smile again, life comes back.”

Those words are like magic. They always make me smile. I was still smiling when suddenly a warning light lit up on the car’s dashboard. It was yellow, not red, which I took as a good sign. What did it mean? Did the car need to be serviced? Or was the engine about to blow up?

I pulled over to check the owner’s manual, but didn’t find an answer. I tried phoning my husband for advice, but found this part of the “scenic route” had no cell phone service.

Finally, I did what I learned to do as a child when I didn’t know what to do: I prayed.

“Please just get me home and let me sleep in my own bed.”

It wasn’t my best prayer, but it came straight from my soul.

Taking a deep breath, I pulled back on the road. Then — and I am not making this up — the warning light went off. And it did not come back on.

Let me be clear. I believe all prayers are answered, but not always in the way we hope for.

Seeing that light go off, and stay off, put a smile on my face that lasted all the way to the airport; while I was being patted down by security and running a mile to the gate; and even when the pilot said the fog was so thick in Monterey we might have to divert to San Jose.

When we landed in Monterey, where the fog had lifted and my husband was waiting to take me home, I said another quick prayer: “Thank you.”

Life has lots of warning lights. We all get our share. Some of us get more than others. But things don’t always go from bad to worse. Once in a while, when all seems lost, we get to go home and sleep in our own bed and wake up with a smile.

My brother and sister are going to love that story.

Sharon Randall is the author of  “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or www.sharonrandall.com.

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