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PUT AWAY YOUR TOYS: Sunday brought perfect weather for hot-air ballooning over the Old Mendon Highway -- but when it's over, you still have to pack up. / Photo by Nancy Williams

Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

After 15 years, I can finally say goodbye

By Marty Archibald

September 19, 2006 | Driving just to drive happens to me a lot. The drives are never planned, they just happen. Nothing ever comes out of the drives, except once. That one drive changed my life.

I missed my turn. I'd missed it before. I would just have to drive a little farther and take the next available turn. They both got me home.

I missed my turn again. I was left with two options: turn around or head into the canyon toward Bear Lake. I don't know why, but I took the Bear Lake option.

I hated going to Bear Lake. It always made me think of my dad. Thinking of my dad always led to crying. This time was no different. My crying did not cease for the rest of the night.

I wanted to turn around, but I didn't. I wound my way along the canyon road with tears streaming down my face, with what I call my sleepy playlist playing in the background. I disguise it as my sleepy playlist, depressed would be a better name for it.

I was still unsure as to why I was going to Bear Lake. I was looking for something. I just didn't know what it was yet. I got to the end of the canyon road and I all I knew is that I wanted to go left. It was somewhere on the northwest side of Bear Lake, along the main road.

How am I going to know when I find it? That was the only thought in my head. It had been 15 years since I had been near the spot. Surely I wouldn't recognize it.

I didn't recognize it. I passed it. I knew I had gone too far, but I couldn't convince myself of that. I kept driving. I finally listened to myself when I reached Montpelier, Idaho. I had gone 30 miles past the point where I knew I had gone too far. I wasn't even on the northwest end of Bear Lake anymore, and that is all I knew about where I wanted to be. I was over on the northeast end.

I turned around headed back the way I came. I was going home. I had wasted an entire night and I don't even know what it was I was intending to do. I drove along, tears still flowing, questions going through my head. Why did I want to go back there? What was I going to do when I got there, stand there?

I'd been standing there for 15 years.

Standing there, watching the open gate so no animals would escape.

Standing there, as my dad started the tractor and began to pull the heavy load of the cabin.

Standing there, watching the front end rise slightly from the heavy load as the tractor attempted to make it up the small slope to the road.

Standing there, as my mom and oldest brother got on the front to help counterbalance the load.

Standing there, as my brother jumped off as the front end started to rise again, this time uncontrollably with my mom still on.

Standing there, the front end sticking straight up, my mom still atop. The front end jerking, throwing my mom off and trying to return to the ground twice as fast as it went up. Only to find a tractor in its way, and my dad, still in the driver's seat.

Standing in the house across the street, staring at the numerous flashing lights.

Standing as one with my brothers, as my mom lay in her hospital bed trying to find the words to tell us what had happened.

Standing there, 6 years old, too young to comprehend what had just happened.

I can only imagine what it was like for my two older brothers who weren't too young. I was glad I hadn't found the spot. I needed to move on, stop standing there. It had been 15 years.

Then I saw it.

It looked completely different, but something about it was still the same. I knew it was the place I had been looking for; it was differently the same.

I slowed down, said goodbye and continued on my way home.

Goodbye. One word. My tears became those of relief and happiness.

It had been three hours since I missed my turn. Nothing had really changed except that it was a little darker, but for me my path had never before been so well lit.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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