Saturday, April 28, 2012

My First Non-Fiction Short Story: Dad's Desperate Wisdom

This is my first attempt at a non fiction story. I think it turned out very well. It is about a pivital time in my young life. I felt like it needed to be told. The four adults in this story are my parents and my aunt and uncle. Three out of four have passed on.Only my uncle survives today.

Dad's Desperate Wisdom

Six months before my grandfather died we were preparing to move from Burlington N.C. back to our home state of W.Va. Two years earlier my father brought us here after finding work at a Mercedes Benz dealership as a salesman. But my parent’s hearts remained in the mountains. Things had been tough for the working man in West Virginia over the last few years and Dad found it necessary to move us out of state to make a living for us. Lately he had been working two jobs preparing to move his family back home. After a couple of years he had stashed away a little money and had gathered up a house full of furniture. I always thought it was neat to see Daddy come home from work and toss his spare change into the floor furnace; the night before we left he cleaned out the change, it looked like a million dollars to me. We had a big TV/stereo consol, a wrap around sectional couch, a freezer chest, air conditioning and we brothers had bunk beds! I slept on the top bunk. I had a train set Dad&Mom got me last Christmas. Sister had her own bedroom with a pink and white canopy bed stead, beautiful dolls and playhouses. Mom was working as well; we had a car -a jet black 1958 Pontiac Chieftain- and Dad had his Harley Davidson so things had been going well for us.
  Still we would have preferred to remain in West Virginia with our friends and family so we were always looking forward to returning. Then came the day that Dad got a call from my Uncle Donald back in West Virginia with good news; Dad's application had went through! He got the job at Mountain State Packing Company in Logan and the company was anticipating him joining their sales team. Dad had announced this to the family with a pizza party. “Good news!" he bellowed as he came through the door balancing two pizza boxes in one hand and carrying a giant bag of chips in the other. Mom danced around the kitchen table and hummed with pleasure as she set up the impromptu meal. All evening as they discussed when and how we were going to get back home to W.Va. Mom and Dad were constantly looking and smiling at one another; they were all happy and kissy, kissy. We giggled at their happiness, their pleasure was contagious. We were going home!  I was only 11 years old at the time; still I was excited to go back to my old school with my old friends and cousins. It was hard to sleep that night, it felt a little like a holiday.
But all his excitement was soon stifled. The reasons we were going home to West Virginia had all changed.
 The plan had been to move back in the summer of '68, but the unexpected death of my mother's father caused my parents to change our plans of when and how we were going to move back home. That had been a bad day. The news of my grandfather's passing knocked the wind out of my Mother. That was a day of tears and questions from we kids; Mom, being the mother she was, gently fielded each question and consoled us; we had lost our dear Grandfather. The elation my parents had been enjoying as of late was replaced with grief. That sad day Mom quietly wept for hours in her bedroom; Dad attended her as best he could.
 Mom and Dad discussed the new state of affairs and decided instead of going home for the funeral and then returning for a few months just to return again we would simply move home to W.Va. early. After this decision was made Mom felt rushed to make the move happen so that she could be home to help my grandmother and help plan the services.
So things had drastically changed; we prepared to move not in six months but in two days!
 It was a frantic time around that house; my parents, their friends and we kids worked hard to pack and load our possessions into a rented U-Haul truck. Dad seemed to be constantly glancing at his wrist watch to check the time, sweat trickled from his brow as he and a friend wrestled that big motorcycle into the back of that already near full moving truck.
The car was also loaded with boxes and bags of cloths. Dad was constantly attending to Mom who seemed to be OK one minute and would break down in tears the next. I was an adult before I lost one of my parents; in retrospect Mom was a rock. Still, Mom’s strength was tested sorely over the next several days.
 Everything was hurried and confused. Being the oldest and still just a young boy some of the duties being given to me seemed a bit overwhelming. With the help of my 10 year old sister Carla, I was watching and entertaining my two youngest brothers as directed by my mother. I was to keep them out from under adult feet so as not to interfere with their very tight schedule. Mikey 6 and 3 year old Rushie Baby were wide eyed as they watched the hustle&bustle and the commings&goings of the 'speed move' being performed around them.
That last night we all slept in sleeping bags in the living room of our now empty echoing house; it no longer seemed like home. Everything we had was outside loaded in the truck or in the car. I didn't sleep well that night; the shadows thrown on the walls from the bare windows were creepy and the familiar sounds of the appliances were missing making me a little uncomfortable. My exhausted parents slept soundly, my siblings slept in their arms; Sissy and Mikey slept next to Dad and Rushie curled up against Mom. I lay in my Batman sleeping bag between the two piles of family.
Gradually it began to become light outside, I was pleased when Dad rousted us all up and told us it was time to leave. Mom produced a quart of milk and several individual boxes of one serving cereal- I got rice crispys. Dad slit each box along the perforations and pulled back the lids, Mom added the milk. What a treat! We normally sat around the breakfast table, added fruit and sugar to a bowl of cream of wheat or cereal and had to abide our manners; now we were 'camping out' more or less. It was a fine breakfast.
Dad&Mom gathered the sleeping bags and a few small things we used overnight, bathroom stuff after we all brushed and washed up, and the rest of our remaining items. They put it into the car and we began loading up.
"Has everybody used the bathroom? I don't want to stop to pee every 20 minutes. Use it now."
"Is everything in the car? Where is Mikey?"
"Sissy go find your brother, its time to leave. Check the sand box in the back yard."
"Here Honey, The house is all locked up, you can take these house keys to the neighbors."
"Alright, I'll be right back."
"Gary, you'll ride in the truck with me."
"Great Dad, I love it when I getta ride in a truck with you!"
"Well, get your stuff and climb in."
"Mikey, there you are, you and Sissy get in the car."
"Carlos, I'm going to miss her, she is a good friend and neighbor."
"I know Honey, maybe we can stop back by here next year on vacation. Did you get her phone number and stuff?" Of course you did, you Ok?"
"I'm fine; I just want to get going. This will be the longest trip I've ever driven and I want to get it behind us."
"I'll be right behind you in the U-haul so if you get tired or unsure of the directions pull off; I can do nothing else but pull off behind you."
Smiles exchanged and kisses traded my parents climbed into the vehicles and fired them up. It was a January overcast morning and a little on the cool side; a good day to travel. After a few moments Mom rolled down her window, Dad saw this and rolled his down. She leaned out and called "Ready?"
"Ready to go!" Dad called back.
None of us knew it then, of course, but we were only a few hours from the accident that would change everything.
The large truck went into gear and Dad clutched it into motion. The neighbors waved from their front porch, Mom waved back as did Sissy, Mikey and Rushie."Love you! Thanks for everything!"
Dad hit the truck's horn, “Honk! Honk!'
We were rolling! By this time tomorrow I'd be running the hollers with my cousin Ed and eating my Mamaw's peanut butter brownies! At the time I thought 'What an exciting time it was to be a kid; life was good'.
Dad shifted the big long gear shift and the truck smoothed out as we gained speed. His large hand rested comfortably on the big black shifting ball as he went through the gears.
"Wahhh! Click, chunk, Wahhh!"
My hands on the dash and a happy grin on my young face I watched Mom drive the big black sedan ahead of us along the streets. Occasionally from the back seat of the car Sissy or Mikey would wave out the back window at us, I’d wave back, Dad would honk and Mom would toot her horn. Dad handled the large truck like a pro as we worked our way out of town and to the highways. That's what I liked, getting away from all that stopping and starting of the city blocks and cruising the four lanes.
Mom put on her right turning signal, Dad did the same. The dash light blinked with a heavy click.
"The Interstate, we are gonna make some time now, son!"
Whistling along with a song on the truck's stereo Dad bounced that heavily loaded truck onto the entrance ramp to the I40 interstate.
"Cool Dad!" I shifted in my seat to look ahead to the car Mom was driving; when we were close enough I could look right down into the interior of the sedan. I noticed that both Mikey and Rushie Baby had dozed off to sleep; Sissy was reading a story book. Mom was concentrating on the merge as we accelerated onto the highway. Eventually Dad shifted the long black gear shift into the highest gear and settled in for the long haul. We would be on the interstate for the next 7out of the 10 hours the trip will take; the last three hours will be on the W.Va. turnpike and the mountain roads coming into Logan County.
The morning passed without incident; we stopped once at a rest stop to use the facilities and get some chips and cookies. We kids took the 10 minutes at the rest stop very seriously; we ran, played, jumped, squealed and explored. Mom and Dad sat together at a pick nick table talking in low undertones and smoking, they shared a paper cup of vended coffee.
Soon Dad called out, "alright everyone, back into your seats we are leaving."
Sissy and I ran back to the car&truck diverted only a moment to sup one more quick time from the water fountain. She jumped in and turned to wave at me as I climbed into the cab of the truck, I stopped and waved back. My little sister is my best friend; she has always been there. I can't ever remember not having a sister. Although I'm 18 months older than she, it was if we were twins; we are very close. At times, even today, I think she knows me better than I know myself.
Back in tandem the 'Cox family move' was once again merging into traffic. We got up to speed-70 mph-and settled in. Mom cruised the big boat of a sedan ahead of us about eight car lengths, Dad would have preferred to stay further back but he complained that cars and semis kept merging in between he and Mom.
“Say Dad, why didn’t you just tow the car behind us, Mom coulda rode up here with you and us kids coulda rode in the car!” I thought I was really brainstorming with that one.
“Ha! That’s against the law son, besides I couldn’t leave you all back there and not be able to see you!”
“Oh,’ was my only reply. Dad smiled at me and scrubbed my head a second then put his weathered hand back on the big black gear ball.
With the monotony of highway travel I soon drifted off to sleep myself and dozed there on the large bench seat of the truck. I was wakened by the sound of Dad gearing down the truck; again the turn signal was blinking and clicking. I stirred and stretched. I could see that we were once again exiting the interstate, good, I must have slept a long time; I needed to pee.
“Why we stoppin’ Dad?” I asked sitting up to get a look at where we may be.
"It's getting late and I guess your Mother wants to get something to eat." He said as he clutched the truck and breaking as we slowed. Mom's break lights shown in the windshield.
"Let's get pizza!"
"Son, I think you'd eat pizza day and night. “He smiled at me. “No, I think a couple of hotdogs and some fries are in order here."
We came to a stop sign, Mom chose a right turn. She pulled out; Dad pulled up to the sign, stopped then pulled out and turned right following Mom.
"Hot dogs sound good to me Dad, where we gonna eat?"
 "Well, it looks like it will be your Mother's choice, we’re following her lead."
After about a mile Mom signaled as we followed her into a drive in restaurant, there was curb service. Cool! Dinner will be served on aluminum trays hung in the window with hot food piled on them!
Dad pulled the large truck over to the side and turned off the ignition.
"C'mon son, we'll join the rest in the car." We climbed from the cab and went to the little boy’s room, came out and crossed to parking lot to the black sedan where Mommy was already ordering hot dogs and fries. The young waitress smiled at Dad and me as he opened the door. Mom scooted for Dad to get under the wheel; I climbed in the back with Sissy and Mikey. Sissy hugged me as if I’d been gone for a week. We all started talking at once about the trip so far and notable landmarks we saw along the way. Dad gave Mom a little kiss and a squeeze then asked her how she was doing.
"A little tired but doing well. I wish I had more to do than drive and think. Daddy was old, but not all that old. Carlos, how is Mommy going to make it without Daddy?" Mom's chin quivered slightly.
"It'll be ok Honey, she has a large family, and she has you." Dad smiled a little then took Mom by the shoulder. Mom forced a little smile back at him.
The food arrived, we ate hotdogs, french fries, and drank iced tea; it was a lot like the nights Dad would put us all in the car and take the family to the drive in movies. We were together in that big boat of a car as a family; these times are some of my fondest memories.
Soon, with full tummies we were back on the highway heading north. The sun had come out and it was a beautiful afternoon. It looked like smooth sailing the rest of the way to W.Va.
I was sorely mistaken.
 When our sedan Mom was driving ahead of us began to smoke Dad said, "Oh, Shit! It looks like the car is over heating!" He shook his head,” I checked the fluids and everything, the car seemed fine.”
Just then Mom again put on the signal light and faded toward the next nearest exit ramp coming up, Dad did the same. We followed Mom off of the highway; she pulled the car over at the nearest gas station. We pulled in behind her; Dad turned off the ignition and jumped out.
"Stay here, son."
Dad met Mom at the front of the smoking Chieftain. Looking very concerned she pointed and gestured. Dad carefully raised the hood. Smoke and steam bellowed from the engine. Mom moved back from the plume, Dad waved his arms trying to clear the blinding smoke, it was a weak gesture.
A mechanic came from the garage wiping his hands on an oily blue shop rag and joined Dad in front of the car. He peered in as the white smoke began to clear.
Both men talked and pointed into the foggy interior of the engine compartment for a moment then stepped back. Mom stepped forward to join Dad. He put his arm around her shoulders as he shook his head. Mom looked dejected. She opened a car door and Sissy, Mikey and Rushie followed her toward the truck from where I'd been watching all of this.
 She opened the truck door and smiled at me then jostled the other kids up into the cab with me. I asked the inevitable kid's question," What's going on Mom?"
"The car is broken, son, Daddy is seeing if we can get it fixed and get back on the road."
"Oh, OK." I said, I didn't push the issue; I could see Mom was upset again and I didn't want to make her cry.
Another garage guy joined the mechanic and the three men pushed the car into a work stall. Momentarily Dad returned. Mom climbed from the truck cab and closed the door. They talked for a very long time out there. Mom cried a little, Dad petted her. Eventually I could tell that Mom was trying to 'suck it up' and Dad was trying to get her to smile. Soon came the decisive hug and quick peck of a kiss, they turned and started back to the truck and we four very curious kids.
"Well, Kids," started Dad's explanation," The car has something wrong with the motor, we will have to wait here a little while as the mechanic finds out if he can get it fixed for us."
Mom added, “Say a prayer for the best."
We all put our hands together and silently said our child's prayer asking God to let it all will be OK.
We had been sitting there piled up in the cab of that U-haul for about an hour when the mechanic came out of the garage. Dad jumped out into the cold evening air, crossed the lot to meet him and find out what was the matter. The two men talked then went back into the garage. Moments later Dad and the mechanic stepped back outside. Dad shook his hand; the mechanic turned and went back in. I could see Dad give out a sigh, turned and come walking back to the truck.
After he climbed back inside he said to Mom," Well Honey, the car is shot. The head gasket is blown and there is no way they can fix it until Monday. I told them to fix it and I'd be back for it in a week."
"Oh no,” Mom injected, "Now what are we going to do?"
"I think we should get what we can from the car and then pile up in this truck and go," said Dad, “we are way more than half way. I don’t see us returning to Burlington so I say we press on."
"All of us," questioned Mommy, "in the truck?" "Will that be safe?" "How are the mountain roads, is it snowing in West Virginia?"
“Easy Tootie," Daddy smiled (Tootie was Mom's nickname), “No, it is not supposed to snow this week. There will be a little snow on the ground in the mountains but the roads will be clear and yes we will be OK if we take our time and work together. We only have a little less than four hours left on this trip."
"If you think we can do it," responded Mom," then I say let's do it."
“It’s settled then,” said Dad in that decisive voice as he reached for the ignition, “we press on!”
“Yay!” we kids chorused. Dad started the U-haul truck, put it in gear, then eased it over to the garage doors and stopped. He and Mom got out, unloaded the car and reloaded most of the stuff into the already packed truck. When we were back together again Mom arranged us in the cab as best she could; me against the passenger door, Sissy next to me, Mikey next to her, Mom next to Dad and Rushie Baby mostly on Mom. (Rushie would sit on Sissy's lap almost as often as he would climb on Mom). It wasn't long though, until we were back on the road, a little crowded together but very happy to be going.
As the late afternoon wore on Mom and Dad talked about their plans and aspirations. After a while we sang songs. We tired of that and eventually we simply rode along. I looked out the window at the big side mirror and watched the road zip away behind us. The sun was low in the sky; being winter it would be dark soon. We would be a couple hours late getting into Logan, W.Va. so it will be dark when we get there.
As the sun was setting Daddy turned off of the interstate and onto a two lane road heading north. North into the mountains. We were on the last leg of the trip and only about two and a half hours from home.
The heavy truck seemed to labor as it climbed the long grade coming over Cumberland Gap and you could see the relief on Daddy's face as we gained the top and started down the other side. I thought about a long slow rollercoaster when I thought about driving through the mountains; it was up, down and around. One curve after another, straight stretches becomes a thing of luxury when you are driving the Appalachians.
We were all getting tired of the trip and being cramped up in the cab of the truck, Sissy and Mikey got into a bicker over who's leg was toughing who's. Daddy put a stop to that argument with a parental growl. I think I may have pushed my luck a little too far the last time I asked Dad, “are we there yet?"
He simple ignored me and kept working the gears as we climbed yet another grade, Mom scowled at me and told me to hush and be patient. I clamped my mouth shut and went back to watching the mirror.
It was dark and cold outside and traffic was sparse on that country road all be it the main road into West Virginia. We topped a very curvy mountain and started down the other side. Eventually Mom said quietly to Dad," Do you smell something?"
"Yes, the brake drums are hot; when we get down this mountain we'll stop and take a look," Dad up shifted the gears, “this old truck is going to need a brake job after this heavy trip."
Mom did not look consoled.
"It's OK, Honey, I'm going slowly." And Dad didn't look very convincing.
We kids could tell that something was amiss. It was obvious that our parents were concerned about something. We sat quietly, wide eyed and listened trying to figure out just what was the matter. We came upon a wide spot and pulled off of the winding road.
"Wass wong Daddy?" chimed Rushie Baby.
"Nothing son, Daddy is gonna get out and check something stay here with Mommy."
Mom handed Rushie Baby one of his 'hot wheels' cars, "You want to play with your car?"
Rushie began pushing it along the dash and making motor sounds. Mikey flashed his clown flashlight into the floorboard. Red hair, two happy eyes, a big red nose and a giant smile danced where he pointed it. Sissy hung onto a Barbie doll but was more interested in what Dad was doing as was I.
Dad climbed down from the truck and walked around it. In the mirror I watched him approach along the passenger side, he stopped at the rear double wheels and knelt down to inspect it. It was cold out there; I could see Dad's breath. He checked the front tire then crossed in front of the truck, climbed up and got back in.
"They are hot but not red, there is really nothing more I can do but be careful and try to use my gears as much as possible." It seemed like a reasonable, grown up conclusion, although I was lost as to what he was talking about.
"If need be I can always use the emergency brakes."
"Well that's true, I guess." said Mom, "If you think we can get on in safely then let's go. I just want to get there. We are so close."
Daddy pulled the big heavily laden truck back onto the road and we started down the grade. From one switch back to another we were working our way slowly down that steep mountain and it looked like we were going to easily make it to the bottom. As we started down a particularly steep grade Dad applied the brakes and geared down to slow the truck when all of a sudden Dad was pumping a dead brake peddle. He pushed it easily to the floor, the brakes didn't respond. We were beginning to gain a little speed; Mom instinctively pulled the baby to her. Dad said only one word, “Jesus," then reached for the emergency brake handle all the time pumping on that dead brake peddle as if to be ready if it just so happened to start working again.
We were going rather fast at this point; we were only about two hundred yards from shooting off the side of that mountain and into the valley below. Dad pulled back on the emergency brake, it clicked once, twice, three times and the heavy truck began to slow. Then suddenly there was a loud boom from under the truck as if we had ran over a boulder. The emergency brake went limp in Dad's hand. I can remember him looking like the wizard of oz behind the curtains levering handles and frantically spinning wheels. Dad fought the gears, the grinding was harsh and complaining, we were simply going too fast!
“I got no emergency brake,” Dad looked like he just couldn’t believe it, he quickly let out a crazy laugh and said, “The damn brakes broke!”
Mommy looked around panicked.
"Get them down, Tootie! I'm going to have to ditch it!"
I want to remind the reader that this was 1968 and seat belts weren't the law, as a matter of fact there wasn't even any installed in the U-haul truck we were in.
Mom grabbed Rushie and Mikey and pushed them into the floor board she climbed on top of them, "Carla, hold on tight to your brother! Gary duck down and hold onto Sissy and hold on tight to your seat!
 I wished for more hands.
Sissy wrapped her arms around my waist, interlocked her fingers and squeezed her eyes shut. I put my arm over her and clinched onto the bench seat, with the other hand I held onto the arm rest of the door.
We were going fast! Dad had the wheels on the passenger side off the road, we were throwing dirt and gravel.
Dad began easing the truck toward the ditch, I heard him whisper a prayer and just when I thought it was going to be too late he whipped the large steering wheel to the right. We dove into the mountain side. That big old U-haul truck slammed violently into the steep slope of the mountain and slide on its side along the ditch. The noise was almost unbearable, I heard Mommy whimper. We groaned and bumped along that mountainside throwing up dirt, rocks, snow and foliage as we dozered along. My face had been slammed up against the passenger window, I remember watching the mirror disintegrate and I realized as I was pinned there that if the glass broke I would be pulled out and crushed. But I couldn’t pull away, the force was too much!
Dad saw this and whipped the truck back off of the mountain, but we were still going too fast!
“Get down son, put your head down!”
I pulled my head down on top of Sissy; she reached up with both arms and hugged me down with her. I was in this cramped fetal position when Dad put the truck back into that mountainside once again. The noise and sickly grinding once again loudly filled our ears. It was the scariest thing I had ever experienced and it still wasn’t over.
It seemed that we slid and bumped hard on our side for ever so long, but actually it took Dad only seconds to decide to ditch the large truck, put it into the mountainside, ditch it again and then ride the wreck to a stop. The U-haul screeched and moaned then bounced heavily as it settled back upright on its wheels. It wasn’t going anywhere; it was jammed in the ditch.
 This suited me just fine. 
 Dad got that old U-haul truck stopped with about thirty yards to spare. He immediately put the gear shift in reverse and clicked on the emergency flashers.
"Everyone alright?" Daddy asked as Mommy climbed from the floorboard holding Rushie to her. Mikey came up looking around saying, "Wow Daddy, wow!"
"Yes, are you Ok?" Mom asked right back at him.
Dad again let a little nervous laugh escape, “Yes."
They both turned to us kids with relieved looks on their faces. Sissy had already taken Rushie Baby and was inspecting him for bumps and bruises.
“You OK, bubby?” She crooned. He was. It always amazed me how much Sissy did for us three brothers. She practically raised Rushie and as we got older she literally cared for all of us. She was the only girl in our family and being such we showed her extra respect and lord help us if we abused her. Dad’s wrath would come down heavy on us. He instructed us that as boys we were to be our precious sister’s guardians. This I took to heart, and to this day she has to only speak and I can’t want but to obey and please her.
Dad reached for Mikey and scanned him for damage. Are you Ok son?" He was a little jostled but unharmed.  Mommy looked over both Sissy and I then declared us ok.
Rushie stood up on the seat and placed his hand against Dad's face and asked " You 'Kay too Daddy?"
Dad scooped him up and hugged him, “yes son, Daddy's OK."
Mom and Dad both were happily relieved that everyone was ok.
Dad said, “That was one hell of a ride huh?"
In a nervous voice Mommy asked, "Is this trip ever going to come to an end?"
They both laughed, stopped then seriously looked at each other. Dad said what must have just dawned on both of them.
"Our stuff must be a mess."
"Oh no..." Mom trailed off.
Well, we'll worry about that later, right now I got to let traffic know we are wrecked here in this ditch, I need a light of some sort to wave at oncoming cars.”
They checked the glove box, behind the seat, and around the cab of the truck but there was no flash light. Mikey piped up and said, “You can use my light Daddy” He presented Dad with the clown flashlight. It was about 8 inches long; the lens was covered with a clowns face. Dad took it and flashed it on and shined it around, “It’ll do, Michael, you might have just saved all our lives, thank you son.”
“You welcome, Daddy.”  Mikey wore a great big smile as he proudly looked around at us. Dad got down from the cab of the truck, I watched him from the driver’s side mirror as her walked up the slope to signal oncoming cars and get some help. Dad stood there and shined the light back and forth as a car came around the curve; it slowed to a stop next to Dad. Dad was animated as he gestured and told the driver what had happened. The car pulled away and I heard Dad calling out a ‘thank you’ to the driver. Dad hurried back to the truck and called up to Mom.
“That feller said he’d call the highway patrol as soon as he came to a place he could make a call, help will be here soon ,Honey. I’m going back up there.”
 “OK, be careful,” called Mom behind him.
And help did come, within a few minutes a police cruiser came up around the curve and turned on its emergency blue lights. Dad met the cop at the truck; they both were talking as a second cruiser arrived. Soon the mountain road was full of police and onlookers. Daddy explained to us that we were going to take a ride in a police car to the nearest place that was open. That we did; as I remember it we kids were all excited about riding in a cop car.  Dad and I rode off that mountain with one police car and Mom, Sissy and Rushie Baby rode in a second police car. I remember looking back at that bent and warped U-haul truck sitting there lopsided against that mountain; it was the last time I saw it. We arrived at a motel about a half hour later and gathered in the lobby. Dad was very busy coming and going. He would return and tell Mom what he was doing about the truck and that he had called Uncle Donald and he and Aunt Jan were on the way to get us all.
"Don will be here in a couple of hours, the owner of this motel said it was OK for us to wait here for them." said Dad.
"OK, Honey." said Mom; she looked like she was in a daze." What about our stuff, is it all ruined?"
"I'm afraid so, ‘sighed Dad," the Harley came loose from its bindings and rattled around in the back of the truck. Not only is my motorcycle a wreck but it bashed and broke just about every piece of furniture back there."
"In a whisper Mom said, "That is everything we own. What are we going to do without our stuff?"
'It's just stuff, Honey," replied Dad as he hugged Mom to console her, "we can always get more stuff, what is important is that we are OK and our important papers and photos and stuff is still OK."
"Right now," he went on, "what's important is to get you to your mother and family. Keep your mind on what you need to do when you get home, I'll worry about everything else."
 "OK, Carlos, you are right, just let me know what you need me to do."
"Honey, just stay with the kids and rest here, I'll be back after I talk to the tow truck guy."
In a flash Dad was once again out the door to take care of the situation. We kids were all lounging around on the lobby couches and chairs. I remember watching a show called 'Mannix' a detective show I'd never seen because our bedtime came before the show aired and we were always in bed. My young mind thought it was cool to be up so late.   
It seemed like hours went by before Dad came back and with him were Uncle Donald and Aunt Jan! We all jumped up and rushed to them. I remember Aunt Jan kneeling down to our face level and asked each one of us how we were doing and gave each of us a big hug. I sure loved my Aunt Jan.
Momentarily she stood up and asked Mom how she was doing. Mom fell into Aunt Jan's arms and wept for a moment as Aunt Jan cooed words of love and encouragement to Mommy. Eventually Dad and Uncle Donald left to salvage a few things from the truck and Mom and Aunt Jan talked and made plans for when we got to Logan.
Soon we were all in Uncle Donald's Vista Cruiser-a station wagon- on our way to Logan, we would be there in a matter of a couple hours.
Well, the rest is history. My Grandfather’s funeral was heart breaking, I’d never experienced such grief and lamenting. Time went by. We stayed with Uncle Donald and Aunt Jan for a couple of weeks. Dad salvaged all he could from the wreck and went back to N.C. for the sedan. We had only a few pieces of furniture and a couple of bed frames that wasn’t totally ruined in the crash.
Dad and Mom worked hard and soon we found ourselves living in a big three bedroom house; Dad was becoming the future 'top salesman' at Mountain State Packaging. We kids were back in school. Mom was once again back to humming old rock&roll tunes as she cleaned, cooked and kept house.
 The trip from hell faded into memory. Over the years when the accident did cross my mind I always wondered if I would have made the choices Dad did. Did he make any bad decisions? No I don't think so. As a matter of fact, what got us through such a grieving and turbulent time was his quick thinking and instant command of each situation as they arose. He was a hero in my young eyes. He was our saving grace.
The following year I watched the moon landings lying on the living room carpet at my Dad's feet. His explanation and 'play by play' still echoes in my mind, I smile fondly at that memory. I was 12.
 I consider the trip a pivotal point in my life. I realize from that trip I learned the value of love, family bonds, and that bad things can and do happen to good people. You just have to be prepared, use quick thinking, have your priorities in order, and most of all 'that which does not kill you can only make you stronger'.


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