Journey Home

Journey Home

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Journey Home

As she glared at the Houston rush hour traffic, Grandma clutched her steering wheel as tightly as I gripped the map in my hand. That morning we had left Grandma’s little cabin in the Ozark Mountains to move her in with my family in southeast Texas. I was her designated companion on the trip.

“Look at that sky,” said Grandma. “Storm’s coming.”

I peered up at the sky. It was black, very black. Torrents of rain, hail and high winds hid in dark clouds like these. In my thirteen years of life I had watched enough newscasts to know that in the worst storms, Houston’s underpasses flood up to six feet deep in minutes, road signs blow down onto the expressway and hail the size of golf balls dents cars.

Afraid, I said, “Grandma, we gotta get off this highway.” I looked for an exit. Grandma was as worried as I was about the storm. From the inside lane of four lanes of traffic, Grandma spied an exit sign. With barely a glance over her left shoulder, she shot across three lanes of traffic. Cars honked. A few swerved. I closed my eyes until I could feel the car enter the exit ramp.

“Flip on the overhead light,” commanded Grandma as we slowed for a red light. “Find us a way home.”

We started a new journey down two-lane roads. Every time we came to a four-way stop Grandma looked at me. Each time I studied the map silently. When I figured where we were and where we were going, I pointed the way. Grandma did not question. The crumpled map became damp in my clutches as hour after hour we drove through winding back roads and small towns. The houses we passed in the middle of the night were dark. The Texas landscape was silent. It seemed as if we were the only people in the world who were awake.

Finally, it began to rain. Together, we strained against our seatbelts to see the road ahead. I did not need the map anymore. We were on the last stretch of road before the turnoff to our home. My eyes shut briefly every few minutes as I dreamed of my soft, warm bed. During one of my dozes Grandma switched to the outside lane. I was too groggy to comprehend that there was no outside lane on that twolane road. Moments after the “lane change” the rain fell faster. Tiny rocks dinged the windshield.

Mysteriously, the pavement suddenly became bumpy and uneven. I glanced out my window. We were rushing past tall weeds and bushes just inches from the window.

“Grandma,” I yelled. “You’re driving on the shoulder!”

“No, I’m not,” she snapped.

A few moments later the shoulder of the road ended. A bridge abutment loomed in front of us.

“Get back on the road,” I hollered.

Grandma swerved into the correct lane as the road funneled under a bridge.

We drove in silence, continuing to stare into the darkness, looking for our turnoff.

A few miles later I saw the exit to the road where we lived. Grandma slowed the car and turned off the lonely stretch of highway.

“There’s our driveway,” I announced wearily. She shifted into low gear, turned and missed the entrance completely. The car nosed into the ditch, the tires slowly sinking into the rain-saturated earth.

Grandma unfastened her seat belt. “Let’s go,” she said wearily. “We’re home.”

We staggered out of the car and up out of the ditch.

Sliding in the mud, I tried to keep up with Grandma. The porch light was on. A faint glow came through the window from the living room lamps. Grandma trudged slowly in front of me, exhausted from long hours of night driving, narrowly avoiding a bridge collision and parking in a ditch at the end of her destination. Still, we beat the storm. We made it home.

I know now what I did not know as a thirteen-year-old girl that dark rainy night. Grandma had more to be afraid of than the black clouds that gathered against the Houston sky. At the age of seventy she left, leaving the Ozark mountain cabin that held countless memories of her late husband. She was on her way to a small town on the Gulf of Mexico. There she would start a new life with her daughter, son-in-law and six children—a new life at the age of seventy, when she should have been settling into the routine of her twilight years. Grandma, my grandma, took on a whole new challenge.

Today, as a middle-aged woman I can only say that I hope to grow old like her. I want to face each new bend in the road as it comes, just as she did on that rainy night so long ago. With courage and a sense of adventure, I want to face the journey home.

Renee Hixson

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