When I was younger, I got used to hearing those two words. I would be in my room playing with my baby dolls, talking on the phone, or snuggling with my cat and dad would find me and say, “Load Up”. He would find Jennifer and say the same thing. Most of the time I would ask where we were going and he would just say, “It doesn’t matter, load up”. Thinking back, I am not sure if he had a map planned out. He just wanted us to load up and then he’d figure it out.
So, we would pile in his truck; Jen, Momma, Daddy and me and we would go. We would drive. For those of you that know my family, you know that daddy wasn’t home very much. These drives would happen when we were lucky enough to have dad home for a couple of weeks. They would usually happen on a Sunday morning/afternoon. I think that is what made them that much more special.
I never really understood what these drives were for. I’d be in the backseat staring out the window, trying not to drift off to sleep. Jen and I would usually start a competitive game of “Who Is Smarter?” Jen would get car sick, I would fall asleep, mom would be singing to every song on the radio. Dad, well, dad would just drive. He was usually pretty quiet on these rides. Momma used to hang on tight and tell dad to slow down as he was going around the curves. I can hear her now… I think he would get a kick out of it. Not that he would fly around them, it’s a thrill when you just aren’t sure what is around the corner up ahead. Momma would be a nervous wreck, but Jennifer and I would be having a blast (okay, usually arguing, “Who Is Smarter?” was a very competitive game!) Sometimes, we would look out the window and be staring straight down the side of a mountain. We didn’t feel scared, we knew we were safe. We always knew we were taken care of and safe, no matter what.
We usually ended up in the mountains somewhere, most of the time near water. We would look at fish, rocks, trees, and point out animals. It was always an adventure. Now, I wonder what he was thinking during those drives. I wonder if he was thinking what I am thinking now, driving these same mountain roads. Was he trying to figure out life or maybe he was just thinking about how blessed he was to be with his family, to be able to spend time with them, to know he was teaching his girls some good life lessons. I often wonder what made him want to go, what made him want to drive. Now, I think I know.
I came back to Tennessee this weekend to get away, to rediscover myself, to try to realize what I needed in my life to find some peace and clarity. While I was sitting at home, there was the desire, this thought in my mind, I just needed to load up. I just needed to go. So this morning (Sunday), I woke up and loaded up in the Jeep. The weather isn’t particularly nice. It’s storming – 63 degrees, lightening all around, and the rain is pouring down. It’s so beautiful to me. I am trying to soak up as much as I can. In Florida, I would stay inside during weather like this, but not here. I can’t seem to put in to words how refreshing it is to feel the snap of cold on my cheeks, the smell that the mountains get when a storm is brewin’ on the other side, or how delicate the rain drops look as they hit the leaves of trees on the way down. Peaceful, delicate.
I have never gone here alone before. It’s funny how I just knew where to go, though. It’s not too hard to find. Just drive for the mountains and keep on going. I passed some things that reminded me of dad, that reminded me of our times growing up – Indian Boundary, big Dodge trucks parked on the side of the road, and Bald River Falls.
I stopped at the falls and hiked down toward the bottom. I watched some kayakers go down the falls. I sat there for a while and looked up and the rain was pouring down. I just felt peace. I felt happy and I basked in the solitude of just being alone. I realized that life is so beautiful, no matter where you go. Life is beautiful and if you can take the beauty with you, you are going to be okay. I am so thankful that my dad showed me this beauty when I was a young girl. I am so grateful that he taught me this love for the outdoors, that he brought something so special into my life.
And today, as I drove those twisty-turny roads, I can see a metaphor to my life. There are lots of curves and I try to drive way too fast when I get in a good spot. Sometimes, you have to slam on the brakes when you aren’t sure what’s coming next, what’s around that curve. You learn to love the ride. And Lord did I love those rides. I miss them.
On the way home from those drives, if we had been really good, actually he would usually just do it anyways, we would stop and get milkshakes. This place makes the best milkshakes ever! Maybe that’s why I like milkshakes so much! Keeping with tradition, I stopped and got one today.
This one’s for you dad. Thank you for the rides. I love you.