So here's the deal, I just got back from visiting my best Baylor buddies in Birmingham, and I've got my 4Runner packed to the roof to leave for Dallas tomorrow to start this so called next chapter of my life (a lot of good has been going on). It's almost midnight. I'm just going to type like a mad woman and say to heck with the editing. I'm getting this done.
So there I am, in the car heading east. Keep in mind, where my house is in Tennessee is so far it's almost in Virginia / North Carolina. About a 24 hour road trip, but I don't mind (Lana is saying, "Of course you don't... I drove your butt for about 85% of the drive"). I have over 1,000 super cool songs on my iPhone and I LOVE beef jerky and Sprees. Bring it on.
This whole time I have NO IDEA how I was going to feel or react to what lied ahead. I just knew there was something in my head... no... my heart, that was pulling me there. Is that your voice God? I made a quick pit stop in Lubbock to stay the night with my sister Kristen. No offense Krissy, but I'm always amazed that you are capable of living on your own. Maybe I just can't get past those memories of you destroying my Barbies and wetting the bed ;) Loooove you...and your cat Pamela that slept on my head that night.
Next stop, Dallas Ft Worth.
That drive was a little more tense. I knew what was about to happen. I hated it. But I can't hide from it my whole life like I wish I could. My sweet friend Curtis was going to pick me up as soon as I got there to take me to the cemetery. This would be my first visit since the funeral. It gives me chills as I type this. I was in such a blur on the day of the funeral... memorial service... whatever, I hate any word you want to call it. I had no idea where his grave site was, but luckily Curtie is good at keeping me together. I don't know how to describe that experience. There are no words. I'm not sure I can make sense of it in my brain. I just sat there touching the ground, like just maybe I could feel him. I know Brad isn't there, I know he is living in Heaven, but I don't know how to comprehend that such a handsome and smart man is buried somewhere under there. I just want to see that freckle above his lip one more time, crack a little joke about the grey hair he was getting, and those size 14 feet. Oh I miss him.
I was able to spend some time with Brad's parents before Lana and I headed to TN. Brad would be proud. We went to Snuffers and feasted on fried pickles and mushrooms. Brad really loved "fried fill-in-the-blank". Such a health nut.
You know it's an official road trip when Dairy Queen is involved. We do it right.
I need to back up and really explain how incredible my friends are....all of them. I know I could have asked every single one of them to load up in a bus and go with me to Tennessee, and they would. I asked my friend Lana to go with me because...well, because of many reasons. First of all... she can handle my quirks :) One of our favorite jokes throughout the trip was that she wasn't driving Ms. Daisy... she was driving Ms. Crazy. Lana just has this way about her. She knows how to talk to me. What do I mean by this? Well, she doesn't ask me those stupid kind of questions I've been asked over and over again. Lana is one of my best friends, and she was also one of Brad's best friends. Why am I trying to list why Lana went with me???... I could easily list another five hundred reasons.
Lana and I drove from DFW to Nashville on the first day. It was fun. A lot of fun. We told stories and laughed a lot. If you ever want to know the most hilarious Brad stories, spend some time with Lana. They were partners in crime. We stopped at an Irish restaurant that night for dinner. Earlier when I mentioned the stupid questions....perhaps that was a little harsh. They aren't stupid questions... I just have no idea how to respond. And if I do respond, I just make everything so freakin' awkward. Exhibit A:
Waitress: "Where are y'all from?"
Alicia: "A little bit of everywhere."
Waitress: "Are you on vacation?"
Alicia: "Not really."
Waitress: "Well what are you doing?"
Alicia: "Taking care of business."
Waitress: "Oh....." (as she slowly steps back and walks away)
See. I just make things awkward....and sound like I'm in the mafia.
The drive from Nashville to our house is about 5 hours. Again, we knew what was waiting for us at the end of this long drive. So nervous. It's like nervous on steroids though. This is no pre-job interview jitters. This is saying goodbye to your life ripping up your entire being jitters.
This was on a Friday. I knew there was several things I needed to take care of that day besides just sitting in my house. On our way there we made a quick stop by Brad's office. They had boxed up everything from his office. A huge box full of all things Texas. Such a Texan. I know they miss him. He carried a lot of weight around there. So smart, always thought outside of the box, so much promise.
Next stop was to see the Phalens, my neighbors that sheltered me the night Brad died. Tim had to leave for a business trip that day, but I had to get to him before he left. He was my angel. It was their house I ran to in the middle of the night. Tim ran to try and save Brad. I knew if there was any chance, Tim could do it. The Phalen kids comforted me and prayed for me all night. What an incredible family that God placed in our lives. Incredible.
I needed to get to the courthouse for more paperwork fun, but we couldn't drive past our house without going in.
I left that house terrified of it, but going back I felt something that I did not expect nor could have anticipated.
I wasn't scared. I felt comforted. We shared so many wonderful memories there. I missed it. We walked in and I went straight to our bed. I just wanted to lay there and not get up. There was a beautiful blanket of snow outside. I looked out the window and couldn't help but long for the Saturday mornings when Brad would wake me up at sunrise to go play in the snow with him and Dallas. I just wanted to rewind the clock, make things all better. But that's not possible, and I needed to make the best of this time. I needed to try and say goodbye to that life I loved.
And I did.
I went to Dallas's doggie daycare that I loved so dearly. I got to hug them and tell them thank you for taking care of my fuzzy angel. I even got to love on some goldies that were there.
I went back to my old office. We sat in the back drinking coffee and laughing about all the crazy happenings I had missed out on.
Those hugs, those thank yous, those goodbyes - I needed it.
I'm so thankful I was able to spend time with friends and neighbors. I wanted them to all know how much I appreciated them. My old boss and his wife treated Lana and I like queens. I'm tempted to move back and live with them if that is the kind of breakfast they serve up. Tennessee hospitality. You can't beat it.
Lana and I managed to take care of a lot that weekend, but one of the most productive things for me was just doing nothing. We sat around my house watching movies. We went to the grocery store because I wanted to cook dinner one last time in my house. I wanted to set the table...the table where I could look out the window and see the mountains. Gorgeous.
As my fantastic luck would have it, we had to make a quick decision to leave Sunday night instead of later on Monday because some nasty weather was headed our way. Oh you know, it was just a state of emergency through Tennessee and Arkansas. God always has this plan I don't get at the time, but looking back it just makes sense. I was getting pretty emotional about having to leave my home for good, and I'm afraid Lana would have had to peel me out of there. God knew that a quick surprise would catch me off guard and prevent a total melt down.
Thank you Lord.
We had planned on staying with my adopted family across the street that night. Their little boy was mine and Brad's little buddy. He was not too happy when he decided that I had lied about staying the night. He decided my punishment would be that next time I would have to sleep on the bottom bunk, not the top. Just tragic.
These people aren't just my friends, they are my family.
It was a quick goodbye. It's probably for the best. I had accomplished a lot during those few days. I wasn't so scared. I was feeling stronger. I could almost look ahead for once, see a future. Before we drove off, I walked through the house one last time. I knew that if I did come back to help move, it just wouldn't be the same. I went into the room where Brad's life ended. It's a heavy feeling in there. I have so many thoughts and emotions that come out of me in that room. I'll never forget what I saw in there that night, though I wish I could. But mostly, I just hurt for him. The severe pain he had to feel at that moment. I always wanted to make it better, but I couldn't.
Lana and I made it to Nashville that night. She deserves a medal of honor after getting us home safely. Those roads were horrible...perhaps that's why the highways were closing.
Well, I have a confession to make.
I have had this certain thing on my mind since Brad passed away. Now, never in a million years would I dream that I would do this. I mentioned several posts ago that right after Brad died I opened my Bible and the first thing I saw was a highlighted "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Please understand that one of the few pet peeves I have is when ink gets on my hands. I would NEVER write on myself. Gross.
Well.... for some reason I kept writing that verse on my hand. And when it would wash off, there I was... writing it again. Looking at that verse helped me make it through picking out a casket, seeing Brad for the first time, and that reminder helped me keep taking one more breath after another. I would tell my mom, "I kinda want this on me forever." But I am the person that blacks out when I get my blood drawn.
Never say never. I had made up my mind that before we crossed that state line, I was going to have that verse on me forever.
Now check yourself.
I can imagine you are judging me right now. I know this because I would have been doing the same thing too. But please don't. Walk a mile in my shoes. I can promise you this is the least crazy thing I could be doing...
Yep, hurt like... uhh...can't say that word on here.
At this point Lana says, "I've never seen your neck this red!"
People tell me it looks a lot smaller in person. But you know, I don't regret it one bit. I love it. And little Taylor even told me I kinda look like Angelina Jolie - a much less sexy version of course.
And a true friend wouldn't let me suffer alone. She would get a tattoo with me :) Thanks for making me look like a huge baby Lana. I screamed for a solid 20 minutes. You just sat there like you were reading the news.
In honor of a tattoo going down my ribs, it's only fitting that we finish up our Tennessee trip with some famous Memphis BBQ ribs. I'm not sure why the waiter is in this picture. Once again, TN hospitality.
After Memphis the roads went from worse to, OH MY this is horrible! I-30 was being shut down, semi trucks were flipped over all along the side of the highway. No bueno. We had to pull over and stop in a small town in Arkansas. Problem is, all of the decent places to stay were booked. Interesting, the night before we stayed in a very nice place in Nashville, and I recall Lana telling me, "I'm a hotel snob." Well this night we were taken down a notch or five. Oh the "Relax Inn". Not so relaxing. We were a little nervous for our well being. Okay, a lot nervous. Lana moved the table in front of the door, and stacked these pee stained chairs in front of the window. She also slept with her hood like that. Very smart.
Lana and I have a list of quotes from our trip that I kept track of. We are pretty darn funny, and we also had a potty mouth on that trip ;) I'll have to type up a bloopers take on the trip with our outbursts.
I'll let Lana sum up this unforgettable trip:
"We are on a freakin' journey dammit!"