When I left Colorado in 1991, I was shaking up my life completely. Son #1 and I embarked on a circuitous journey that would end with our first residence at our first military instillation, but when we left our southern home, logging so many miles through so many states had not been part of the plan. The drive from Florida started in May and continued through August; we crossed thirteen states, many of which didn’t even lie on the route the crow flies. A seven-, eight-, nine-, ten-month-old and I spent the summer marking the beginning of my adult road trips, christening my passion for setting a course and paving a road to a new experience, a new view, and in this instance, a new life.
Measuring the magnitude of this outing in miles, or the vastness of its incredible isolation from my known routine, or the singular companionship of an infant all compounded the route that the military meanderingly identified for us and challenged me to go where the wind would carry me. The first assignment landed him in Texas, then on to Colorado for training, so I followed him to Colorado upon his arrival in the Mile High state. The military issued orders for Arizona and I prepared to keep a temporary home in Colorado until our departure to our permanent duty station. But new marching shipped him back to Texas for more training and new driving directions diverted my plans to see the Grand Canyon state. The military radically changed the direction of our lives, and now it changed my planned travel from the sun and dry warmth of Arizona to frozen forests of Michigan. Admittedly, this trip exemplified uncertainty, but instead of creating a lifetime of travel-related anxiety, the trek initiated my driving impetus and my sense of “itchy feet.”
When you’re sick (think scratchy throat and achy fever), down a dose of cold medicine, steep a cup of hot tea with honey, and tuck your toes into the blankets on your bed. That’s where you want to be, not driving away from Colorado, across the desolation of eastern Wyoming, and into the Dakota plains. The Sudafed helped, and even putting aside the oncoming bacterial storm long enough to enjoy George, Abe, Jeff, and Teddy carved into the mountainside couldn’t stave off the sleepless night ahead. My baby boy snoozed soundly through the night, but my system refused to follow suit, and I begged to be lulled away from the ill effects pummeling my physiology, aided by leaving the television chattering with the best early-nineties, round-the-clock, adult-sitting, aching, stuffy-head, fever, unable-to-rest network: CNN.
Inevitably when life kicks my butt, I witness and am reminded of people tackling a greater illness, overcoming a tougher obstacle, or conquering a taller hurdle. Or climbing a tank, or being held hostage by old-world Soviets. As I lie in the hotel bed in Rapid City, South Dakota dozing and swallowing hard against the sore throat, I witness the struggle of others as the Cold War dramatically ends. A hemisphere away from my new military future, the entire course of another military, a super-power nation, and the planet’s future is transforming. I hate being sick, but I endure a night of uncomfortable sleeplessness. I bemoan the military’s indecisiveness, but I witness the entire world change forever.