The first place we stopped was the gas station-ten bucks would top up the gas-tank for our drive up into the mountains, and hopefully to a trail of our choosing that would change the putrid chemical circulating in our bodies.
Everything seemed normal-we chatted while I pumped the gas and she washed the wind shield-I laughed when she laughed when the windshield wiper fell off into her hand, and again we laughed when I almost drove away with the gas flap open. It would seem either of our heads were on straight, and we knew it, but as usual laughter won out. Everything seemed normal.
We had two free coupons for coffees at Mac Donald's. Normally we would pick up our coffee's at Tim Horton's, but (free) won out. The conversation in the drive-threw was based around the rattle of the car in the engine compartment. We were like a two-bit-mechanic honing in with a perked ear. It was only when we received our piping hot coffee's did we abandon the rattle for what it was, old age.
It was a comfortable, cool evening, the clouds had wandered into the valley over the stretch of the day- making our August the coolest on record. It was hard to believe the day before was hot and sunny.
I had rounded up the young adults of the family to meet up at the lake for a BBQ dinner that night, which almost never happened out from the crowds that flocked to the lake from every city gateway along the freeway.
Eventually, however, we did have that dinner. The boys threw a football around and later went swimming. A boat, a small distance away played a Shania Twain song that echoed across the water. I smiled in that tiny moment and looked back to the picnic table where my youngest daughter sat in a lawn chair with her face buried in her knees. My secretive efforts to bring all the young one's together for comfort foiled. She wouldn't be bringing that kayak to the beach to join them. She would sit there in her torment.
And I----well I would cry a million tears silently inside.
To the mountains with our Mac Donald's coffees ( two days later).
We turned off of the main road of town and onto a long road that follows the rushing river in an almost absent, slow climb through the mountains past dots of river homes and tiny communities.
Partly up the road at a small park that we have never adventured before awaited a trail I assumed hugged the river through the trees from the parking lot. I was excited to take her there, and was disappointed when we arrived to find the gate closed for the night (dust it said on the sign). I should have known, course, it was still light out. None the matter, however, I turned back onto the mountain road and proceeded on with our adventure.
"Have you ever been up this way?" I asked her. She said no, and I turned off the mountain road and followed a meandering road up and then down into a hidden community of homes nestled along the river.
A small gravel pull off at the edge of the river found my car. I put the car in park and got out, hoping she would follow-she didn't. I lit a cigarette, probably to her dismay, but I couldn't help it. I stood for a moment and looked across the wide river with its wild colours roaring and tumbling. The mountains that stood before me were close and mighty, almost as if from another time, another world-withstanding, and holy. I pictured myself at that moment falling to my knees in mercy----but I didn't, instead I walked away from the car along the gravel pull off until I stood in front of a rustic, wooden sign that looked to have been made from one of the locals. At the end of the wooden pole was two wooden arrows stating the names of the two different mountains- one arrow pointed to, and read (Church) mountain.
We made our way back out of the little community along the river and back onto the main mountain road. I glanced over to her for a quick moment and saw the little girl in her-the girl who needed her mother-the girl who at nineteen had soft-blue smudges under her eyes against her porcelain skin attached to her frail body. The girl with the lost and desperate eyes. The girl, who's mother was quietly floundering herself in her own despair. The girl. The girl.....
We had woven along the mountain road back towards the town. The road was long and flat and easy to drive, giving way to conversation. It was all normal again. The air in the car wasn't sad with made-up-lyrics in our heads that only she and I could hear, it was, or seemed, much lighter as if we've come right out of a tunnel and into a vastly open valley.
And then it all changed in a moment.
Along the way she began to speak of a night four days ago with which I knew--with the spotty information I already had, that I wouldn't be able to bear hearing more of. In fact? I secretly willed her to stop. I might of even said it outside my head-I'm not sure. All I could hear in my head was her voice saying, "please tell my mother that I love her."
To be continued........