What did we do when plans changed back in the day? Well, we didn’t change the plans, for one thing. I can’t count how many times I’ve received a text from someone 10 minutes before we are supposed to meet up that just says, “can’t make it!” or “running late! I’ll be there in 30 minutes.” No, when we made plans, we stuck to them…because what else could we do? 5:00pm meant 5:00pm…not 5:15pm!
So when this mother realized what had happened, she could just call and straighten everything out…she had to floor it!
It was early on a stormy winter morning in Northern California. We were making our way along icy roads to the airport, and from there to our weeklong vacation in the warm Hawaiian sun. My dad had worked the night shift at our local hospital, and he was tired from his long hours of work. He was sleeping in the backseat of our van. This was a typical occurrence as we often tried to maximize vacation time by having Mom drive and allowing Dad to sleep en route to our destination.
My younger brother and I were half asleep. My older brother, Jesse, was absorbed in his latest book. He spends most of his waking moments reading. Whenever Jesse reads, he loses touch with everything except whatever he is reading. He could probably read right through a bomb dropping on us.
After several hours on the road, Mom pulled the car into a rest stop. We could hear Dad snoring as we all got out to stretch and yawn – well, everyone except Jesse and Dad. Dad was still asleep in the back, under the blankets, and Jesse was right in the middle of a “very interesting chapter.”
When we had all done the usual business that you do at a rest stop, we hopped back into the car and drove on. The time went by slowly, and I kept peeking at my watch and then at the sky. Would we ever get to the airport?
After about thirty minutes, I stretched my arms and caught a glimpse of the seat behind me. I looked again. I pulled back the blankets and ever looked under the backseat. That’s funny. I thought. Where’s Dad? I glanced back again, expecting to find him where we had left him. Still no Dad. Certain that there was an explanation for all of this, I questioned my mother.
“Do you know where Dad is?”
“Yeah, he’s in the back.”
I sat in bewilderment and glanced back one last time, but he simply wasn’t there.
“In the very back, with the luggage?”
“No, just the ba…-”
The car roared to a sudden stop, followed by a 180-degree turn that sent us back the way we’d come. Mom had looked in the back and confirmed my suspicions. Dad was missing!
Mom frantically questioned each of us about whether we knew the location of our missing father – first my younger brother, then me, then Jesse. Jesse had been reading through all this excitement, but he suddenly awakened to the panic.
Calmly he remarked, “Don’t worry. He told me to tell you he was going to the bathroom and he’d be right back.” My mother pointed out that we had left the rest area half an hour ago. Jesse just blinked.
An hour after we had left the rest stop, we picked up our now freezing father. He had been trying to keep warm by pressing the blow-dryer in the bathroom over and over again.
Dad spent the rest of the trip wide awake.
And did we make it to the airport on time for our flight? Absolutely. The plane had been delayed because of a bomb threat. Were we shocked or surprised? Naaaw. It was all part of our typical family vacations.
This poor dad! Rest areas aren’t known for being cozy and warm, either! They are usually made with concrete, concrete, and more concrete! At least there was a newfangled air dryer that could blow warm air for 15 seconds…it’s a wonder it didn’t break down after an hour of constant use! One thing is for sure…they never got into a vehicle again without doing a head count!
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