I picked my daughter and grandson up early on a Wednesday morning. Over days we drove to Oklahoma for a family reunion. At the end of the family thing -- the next Sunday, I drove them to the Tulsa airport for their flight home. I said goodbye, took a picture of them standing in the dark, and drove off to make my way home alone.
Making a long road trip just the one way works best for everyone -- a thing that all loving families know to be true. That said, I felt stomach sad leaving them just standing at the airport entrance– those two had been my great companions for five straight days. We had visited the places of my youth, well, all the places along the route 66 of my youth– the Boron museums, Oatman with its donkeys, Seligman and the Grand Cavern caves, the meteor crater near Winslow and other, less formal, spots. I got to share my well-worn stories – many that my daughter finished for me after hearing the first sentence. It was a well-traveled road.
I left the airport with undefined plans to go home to San Jose.
From Tulsa, I took the turnpike into Oklahoma City. After $10 in tolls, 15-35 cents at a whack, I ended up on interstate 40. I headed west. Each time I tried to stop for food, I got a feeling of sadness, and a very cute (ah, look how sensitive I am cuteness) shortness of breath – kind of a too big belly pushing up the diaphragm breathlessness. It discouraged me, so I kept driving until the gas light came on. I stopped in Weatherford and thought, ahh, this is where we stopped for a delicious meal at Mcdonalds. I ate, gassed the car, and quickly headed back on the interstate.
This is how emotions get triggered for me – I have the memory of a time and place when I’m moving through that same place at another time. I get flashes of me and others at different places and times in our life – like old snap shots, and the loss of this person in the remembering makes me sad and crybabieish. I remember individual people as real, but separated from me the me by the now, lost in time to me and abandoned, but still clear and real as the birth of a child.
I can see them as they were then, and feel the loss of them, and it’s this loss that would make me short of breath and start a buckets-of-tears kind of sobbing.
I also retired last Monday – it’s now Tuesday as I write this down, so this whole thing might be a related issue. I also have medical problems – stents, pacemaker, surgical scaring – so I thought I might be having altitude breathing problems.
All that’s for sure is that by using my keen intellect, I mechanically figured as long as I kept moving, the breathing stuff stopped. I just had to never stop, like a dead pirate ship.
This might be how the universe works, so I might be trying to take credit for reinventing the wheel. The feelings, unique to me, might be universal and just remarkable to me at because I’d stop taking SSRI pills up until a year ago and was not used to feeling much of anything.
Or, perhaps, I was being self-centered thinking that only if a thing happened to me could it be real – my fall back primary source rule for living a life and all.
I could not decide - I’m not good with decisions or emotions – In many ways I’m not really all that bright about the wet work parts of being human.
Anyway, about the back side of the mountains’ out of Needles, I started having panic attacks – mini-black hole kind of panic attacks – little balls of disconnected fear – like a throbbing Dr. Strangelove Hitler salute impulse -- I kept thinking of jerking my arm up on the steering wheel and plunging the car off the road into the abyss I was trying not to stare into. It was disconcerting and made me squint out of my bad eye mostly to see the road as distantly as I wanted to.
My right arm was fine, so I kept to the slow lane, passing trucks and chewing cherry balls when it all got too much to wait for.
All my symptoms cleared around Barstow, like the bats, I thought, from a different novel.