On Life’s Mystery Ride

“Let’s go for a mystery ride,” Pop would say, loading-up the family car.  Where?

“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a mystery,” he would say.  And so we would drive down the country road leaving clouds of smoke and dust.  Our world was about to change.

Life works that way—one mystery ride after another.  We try to plan for the unexpected.  When I was twelve, our family drove to LA to stay in an old downtown hotel.   I’d packed “heat”– my snub-nosed .45 cap pistol.

Now, mystery rides happen when you least want and expect them, the roadway curving into darkness. Yet there is no turning back.

I feel that way now– in the silence of life without Nina.

It used to be different—our Humboldt Holidays.  I often grumbled about them, especially Black Friday.   I questioned the frenzy of it all, packed parking-lots and pre-dawn shopping.

And yet I was fascinated by it.  I’d rise before dawn and, with TV camera in-hand, run to the old Mervyn’s to watch them open the doors.  Customers would clutch their free tree-ornaments.  Unlike the big city, nobody ever fought.

Unfairly or not, I also grumbled about the family.  Wherever we went, we shared the same small hotel room.  Every night was a symphony of snores, burps and teeth grinding, the equivalent of sleeping in a smelting factory.  Things were so much quieter when I was young and packed my .45.

On the other hand, I knew that my family would always be there.  Nina would always be there.  What did it matter that everyone smart-phoned around the Christmas tree and bought odd gifts for one another?  My favorite was the battery-operated scalp massager Nina’s daughter bought me, vibrating wires draping over my scalp.  It felt like a frontal lobotomy.  Maybe it was.

This year, my gift list priorities are somewhat different– kitty litter and hairball pills for my cat Amadeus at the top.  He loves those things.  I’m also buying a refrigerator for a family in the Dominican Republic.  Theirs is broken, so fresh food is not common.

Each night, one of the kids runs to the corner store to buy orange juice, butter or anything perishable.  Everything else would quickly spoil in the Caribbean heat.  So refrigerator it is.

More specifically, it’s me spending my Social Security benefit on somebody who needs it more.  I earned that money through 45 years of gainful employment–working holidays, covering snowstorms and plane crashes.  I can’t think of a better way to spend it.

Life has a way of stripping one of things and people you hold dear.  It has in my case, and probably yours.  But you were meant to continue on– or you wouldn’t be here.  That is where the mystery comes in—frightening and captivating—life without a map. Have faith.   Celebrate that mystery—for it is a great and beautiful gift.

There was comfort and beauty in those childhood mystery rides.  We always returned home—safe and loved.  The same is true today.  Home awaits us.  We can be sure of that.

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