I sometimes feel stuck in my grief, so I search through my memories trying to find something to think about besides our loss. This only applies to times when I am alone; I have little trouble ignoring the ache when my kids or grandkids are around, and I am so thankful for them and their visits. But, when I am alone, my thoughts often return to “that week”, the hole in my heart, or the myriad of other feelings that accompany a great loss. But, today, instead of using my blog to relieve some of those feelings, I want to share with you one of those memories that always makes me smile.
As I was driving home this evening I passed by a spot I mentally call my “pee spot”. (I have a couple of friends that maybe should just stop reading this right now!) Yes, I meant that exactly as I wrote it – I call it my “pee spot”. It is a place on an old 2-lane highway where, many years ago, I had to pull over, get out of my truck, squat on the side of the road and pee. And, that wasn’t the only time this particular night. Earlier that evening, I had to squat in the courthouse parking lot to pee, too. Let me tell you the story behind this impropriety.
My hubby and I are both a little bit of car enthusiasts. The first thing that attracted me to my husband, before we even went out on our first date, was his 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe. It had a 289 engine, traction bars in the rear end and Cragar Super Sport wheels. It was a high performance 4-speed, was silver with red button-tuck leather interior, and had been in a car show at Bartle Hall, back in the day. I fell in love with it before I fell in love with its owner! And, this was just the first of many cars we owned over the years; we really like cars! After we started dating, Dan often let me drive his Mustang, giving me some much needed driving experience, and even taught me how to speed shift in it. We had a lot of fun in that old souped-up car. The Mustang was never actually mine, as my husband (then fiance’) traded it with a friend who worked on cars, for a 1970-something Cadillac. We loved that big ole’ tank, too. At heart, my hubby is really a luxury car kind of guy. I’m sure God moved on his heart, back in 1977, to buy that ’66 Mustang just to bring us together. Anyway, we had the old Caddy and my little silver Chevy Monza when we got married. We had a couple of other cars in between our wedding day and that fateful night in the courthouse parking lot a year or so later, including an old Opel that Dan painted a bright yellow.
We decided, shortly after we were married, to trade my aging Monza in and buy something newer. So, we took all the amazing accumulated wisdom and experience that comes from being 19 and 21 years old and married almost a full year, and went shopping for a new car. We found a Chevy Luv truck that we fell in love with. It was black with orange, red and white stripes down the side, a 4-wheel drive – the kind you had to stop, get out of, and turn the lug nuts to put it into 4-wheel drive, four on the floor, and had a very cool roll-bar on top with amazing spotlights on it. I loved it, and it quickly became “mine”. Here’s a funny aside – when our oldest daughter was a pre-teen, she and I once had a conversation about all of the cars her dad and I had owned and various things about them, and I mentioned our Luv truck. Her eyes got big as saucers and she said, “You had a LOVE truck???” Poor thing! She was at the age when everything sounds like what she was beginning to learn about life and procreation and all that stuff. It was so funny! It took me a few seconds to realize what she was hearing, and I quickly explained, after I could stop chuckling!
We actually had very little wisdom and experience with buying, trading and selling cars at that point in our lives, and we learned an important lesson the hard way that night in my Chevy Luv truck. It was around Christmas time and we had been out to my parents’ house for a visit. We lived about 6 miles from them, and as we were leaving I made a very unwise decision. I knew it only took us about 10 minutes to get home, so I decided I could make it home before going to the restroom. What’s 10 minutes?, I thought. To quote my little sister, who is also my nurse sister, I have a “bladder the size of a walnut”! True statement! Here’s another funny aside – We took a trip to Chicago in the spring before our middle son left for boot camp in July, the year he enlisted. We had to take 2 cars, as our family is too big to fit in just one and we had recently gotten rid of our big van. So, Dan and I drove our Volvo, with our youngest daughter in tow, and Joe, our oldest son, along with our other two sons, followed us in his little Nissan Altima. They decided to “time” my bladder for me, and came to the conclusion that I had a “99 mile” bladder. They had bets on whether or not I could make it 100 miles. Never happened.
Now, back to my original story – I did not use the restroom, which I needed to do, before we left my parents’ house late that evening, counting on the fact that we would be home in 10 minutes and I could use my own restroom. In Dan’s younger years, and even into middle-age, my husband felt like he had a target on his back, as it seemed that every time he even slightly exceeded the speed limit he got pulled over by a police officer, and was almost always issued a ticket. This night was not an exception to this rule. As we were heading home, we were met by an on-coming police officer who flashed his lights at Dan, indicating that he knew he was speeding. Dan had already gotten two speeding tickets in the past few months, and knew it would be a problem if he got another one.
The 2-lane highway we were on, traveling between our house and my parents’ house, has no streetlights along it, and several little country roads exiting off of it. We very quickly were at one of these little intersections, and Dan darted off onto one and cut his headlights. Of course, my heartrate accelerated, and my almost full bladder felt the effects! The officer was not fooled. He followed us onto this road and soon had us pulled over to the side of the road. As we sat waiting for him to come to our lil’ Luv truck and tell us we were speeding, I thought about how many minutes this was going to add to our short trip home, and wondered if I would make it. It was several minutes before he got out of his cruiser and came to Dan’s window, and as he approached, we both worried about the cost of another speeding ticket, and the quandary we would be in if Dan lost his license for having too many. When the officer finally came to the side of our truck he told Dan to get out of the truck. Dan asked him why, then told him that he hadn’t been drinking. The officer repeated his command, and Dan obeyed. I tried to listen to him talking to Dan after he’d gotten out of our truck, but couldn’t hear him very well. They talked for a few minutes, then I definitely overheard what the officer said – “Will you come peacefully, or do I need to cuff you?”! Panic! He leaned in the truck window and told me I would have to follow him to the police station, as Dan was under arrest for driving on an suspended license. What??? I knew Dan had a legal driver’s license, but I didn’t argue. I followed…..still needing to use a restroom, of course. We didn’t go to the police station, as I was told, we went to the courthouse/jail about 20 minutes away. Dan was escorted into the booking area, with me following both he and the officer, where they began the procedure of booking him in jail – he had to remove his belt and shoelaces, empty all his pockets, get thumb-printed, have his picture taken, and all that stuff. By this time, I really had to go, so Dan asked the guy behind the desk if there was a restroom I could use, which elicited a chuckle from him as he shook his head “no”. I did not find one bit of humor in this, and couldn’t understand why he did. He then told me that I needed to get myself out of there and go find $300 for bail if I wanted to get my husband out of jail and back home. I wanted to stand there and cry. It was approaching midnight by now, and I had no idea where I was going to get $300 cash. And, I really, really had to go pee by now!
All this rigmarole began with that little piece of junk we bought from a friend for next-to-nothing, and painted bright yellow with a can of spray paint – the old Opel. It reminded me of a miniature yellow UPS truck. And, let me tell you, it was ugly! We didn’t own it for very long, because it really was a piece of junk. We sold it to someone neither of us knew, an acquaintance of a friend. He seemed a little shady, but we were young and didn’t really know about these things then. I remember thinking he was maybe a little less than honest when he asked if he could keep the tag on the car “just to get himself home”, then he would remove it and throw it away. We thought, “No problem.” So he drove off in the ugliest car we ever owned, with our tag on it, and I promptly dropped the insurance on it, thinking, the sooner I dropped it, the sooner we’d save a buck. We didn’t give it another thought. A few weeks later we got a letter in the mail saying that our car, the Opel, had been in an accident, and we had no insurance on it, and if we didn’t contact the whoever-it-was right away, Dan’s license would be suspended. Being the mature, wise and experienced people we were, we thought that is not true and threw the letter in the trash. A few more weeks passed, and we got another, more urgent letter, and we tucked it away thinking we should probably look into it. Before you start wondering why we were so stupid, let me just say that neither of us had had any experience with this kind of thing, and both of us absolutely hated talking to people we didn’t know – something one of us had to eventually outgrow – which we did – and we were in our late teens/early twenties. A few more weeks passed, and we got a letter stating that Dan’s driver’s license had been suspended and he could not drive again until he got it taken care of. That got our attention, but not so much that Dan quit driving! I believe he fully intended to take care of the matter, and he actually had no real guilt in the matter, so he just went about his business as usual.
Which brings us to the late-night visit with the booking officer at our local jail. After they took Dan to his cell, I left the courthouse in tears, feeling humiliated by the chuckling officer, needing to pee so bad it hurt, and not knowing how I was going to get Dan out of jail. I got to my truck shortly after midnight and knew I would not be able to make it home; in fact, I would not make it a few more seconds. So, I dropped my jeans and let loose just enough to take the pressure off, right there in the parking area outside the courthouse. I was about 15 minutes from home and thought I could possibly make it home now, but no. About halfway home, at that now-famous spot (in my mind), I had to pull over and relieve myself just a bit more; then I made it home. I called my parents and my mom “just so happened” to have $300 cash that she had set aside to buy Christmas presents. Thank you, God! She quickly came to our house with the money, and we went to the jailhouse and bailed Dan out.
This memory makes me smile every time I pass by that particular spot on the dark 2-lane country highway near our home. I hope sharing it with you makes you smile, too. And, I hope it didn’t gross you out too much!