Driving from Colorado to Utah in my Subaru, I tried not to think. But since I was also trying not to cry, really, the only thing I could do WAS think. I thought about a variety of things, as I’ve already detailed, interspersed with pep talks to myself: ”You CAN do this, Andrea. Just keep driving.”
I didn’t cry because I felt I had to be strong for my kids. Of course I’d let them see me cry in all of this. The grief and trauma we’d lived through had been so intense, all of us had cried. All of us had cried a lot. We had cried together. We had cried alone. At that point, in 2009, trust me: the Merriman family cornered the market on tears (and tissues) and I knew that.
I guess one reason I felt like I couldn’t cry was because I had to be strong for my kids–because I remembered what I had needed when the family I grew up in lost our dad. I was devastated, overwhelmed, scared, and a host of other feelings and emotions. And after the initial grief, what I wanted and needed at that time was for my mom to be strong for me. I needed to feel confident in her, in our future and that our family would survive in spite of our challenge. And she was. She was strong in the face of her tears. She was stronger and more courageous than I ever imagined she was capable of being. And she helped us not only survive, but thrive. I felt my children deserved that same thing from me.
I also didn’t cry as I drove because I was afraid if I gave in and started, I might never be able to stop.
I sort of felt like I was holding back the walls of the Red Sea in Cecil B. Demille’s epic movie, “The Ten Commandments.” Remember the scene? Where the Lord is miraculously holding back gigantic walls of water of the Red Sea as the Children of Israel crossed to the other side? That was me. Trying to hold back the walls as I drove.
Miraculously, I had done it for the first four hours of the drive.
But in the movie, at some point, the walls came crashing down. And that is what exactly happened to me.
Of course, unexpectedly!
Halfway through the drive I looked in my rear view mirror and realized both boys were asleep. At the same time I hit my former hometown of Grand Jct., Colorado, and without any warning to my psyche thoughts of the girl I had once been; my optimism for life, the future and eternity; my hopes, dreams and expectations; my childhood memories and everything else came flooding into my mind. And the walls came crashing down.
I cried for that little girl, all she had dreamed of, and for what she had ended up with instead.
I cried for my children, for all they had dreamed of and for all they had had, and for what they had ended up with instead.
I cried for my parents–that they weren’t here anymore and I was all alone, without even them to rely on. I cried, wondering what they would think of me now and the mess I was in, if they only knew.
I cried because I was alone.
I cried because I was so afraid, even though I desperately tried not to be. (I just couldn’t help myself on that one.)
I cried for all that was ahead of me in the immediate future, the next year, and the next 5-10-and 50 years of life. My TOTALLY unexpected life.
And I don’t know how, but I kept driving.