Snow pelted the windows and obscured the black night sky. It was 6 pm and my husband Vic was usually home by 5:30. I’d been through this before because we lived in a lake effect snow area near Lake Ontario. I stood at the window watching for car lights, but no one was out on our country road in this storm.
“Damn it, Vic. Where are you?”
He always called from work when he was late. He taught at Colgate in Hamilton, NY, so intense lake-effect snow was a fact of life, but this was an aggressive storm.
Soon it was 6:30 and then 7. My chest gripped with fear. I turned the inside lights down so I could see light on the road, but kept a small candle glowing near my photo of Anandamayi Ma and tried to calm myself by following my breath. Her loving eyes filled me with hope. She had died in India in 1982 and I’d never met her, but she was my inner image of Divine Mother.
“Care for him, Divine Mother. Protect him. Bring him home.”
At 7:10, I called the police. “No, Ma’am, no accidents reported. Everyone is staying home tonight.”
“Thank you,” I said. I described our Subaru to the dispatcher, imagining the slippery narrow crossway over Lebanon Reservoir.
Around 8 p.m., lights flashed in the driveway. Was someone coming to tell me Vic was dead?
I turned on the outside light. Vic climbed out of the car, white flakes covering his dark hair and shoulders. I threw open the door, put my arms around him, and held on.
“Where were you, Vic? I was terrified. What happened? Are you OK?”
“I had to pee and couldn’t wait, so stopped by the side of the road,” he said, grinning at his own foolishness. “I left the car running, and a wind gust blew the car door shut and somehow it locked. With no coat and the car locked and running, I walked a few miles in deep snow hoping to find a house with lights or a car I could flag. No one was out but me.”
“I got to the old building that used to be a gas station. There were lights inside. My body was numb with cold. Old guys playing cards and drinking beer at a small table looked startled when I knocked on the glass door.”
“What the hell you doing out on a night like this?” one asked.
“I had to pee and locked myself out of my car.” They roared with laughter at my idiocy, but one called AAA and drove me to the car in his rusty pick-up with the heater blasting.
“I was terrified, V. You always call.”
“I’m sorry I scared you again. I’m a space head, but everything is OK. I should have asked the guy with the pick-up to use his phone before we left the gas station, but all I thought about was getting home.”
Thank you, Divine Mother, for taking care of him when he can’t take care of himself.
Do you remember a time when someone was late and you had no one way reach them? I remember this happening with Vic and also with our sons. Cell phones have spared us many hours of worry. I wrote about a different lake-effect snow storm in The Loving Gaze: Support from the Divine Feminine. I always turned to Anandamayi Ma in devotion or when I needed help. I still do. The Dalai Lama was another source of spiritual support. For a blog about our first meeting with the Dalai Lama in 1979, see Give Thanks for this Imperfect Life.
Oh, I love that a “call of nature” may have protected Vic that snowy night to get him off the road! I know it’s impossible to prove any of this Elaine but I’m certain your own call was heard and answered by Anandamayi Ma. For everything it seems, was in Her hands, including the old gas station that provided shelter and the guys playing cards. What an amazing tale to share with your family, loved ones and readers alike!
I’m sure there’s been many times in my life when people were late and I was worried, pre mobile phones, but none like yours where their life was in imminent danger. I’ve just reread your earlier post about your image of the Divine Mother, Anandamayi Ma, and then my reply which makes me gasp today as back then I wrote … I know those eyes! And it’s true, I do, but I still can’t tell you how. Love and light, Deborah.
I hadn’t thought of this story from the point of view of Vic’s protection, but why not? He walked a long time in bitter cold wind and snow with no jacket. At least he was wearing his boots. I always turn to Anandamayi Ma when I feel helpless, and she’s been with me in many hard times. Her image is on my altar and I also keep a small photo of her in my wallet. Her eyes give me hope and calm my fears. Vic looks heroic in many of my stories but he also had a spacy side. Once the danger was over, he could make it an adventure and laugh at himself, but he was scared, too, and grateful for the men who helped him get home. It was the kind of weather that can turn a human to ice.
I wonder if many of us know those Anandamayi Ma eyes of inclusion and all embracing love. I have a few photos of her, but in this particular image, she’s the Wise All-Embracing Crone whose eyes can hold the suffering of the world.
Congratulations again about publication of your book ‘Soror Mystica: Balancing the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine.’ I’ll keep a pad of small post-it notes nearby as I read so I can mark and return to the poems that move me most deeply. Thank you for writing it.
Many thanks for your congratulations Elaine! As Soror Mystica is delivered worldwide this week, I’m very excited and kind of terrified at the same time! Another “call of nature” and the relief is immense! x
I understand feeling fear when sending our creative offspring out into the world, and I can imagine the relief. May your book find many new homes all over the world.
Vic certainly had a great reason for being late, one you just couldn’t make up. You knew he loved you and he probably had a good excuse, but still you wanted assurance—and certainty of his safety—as all good wives do.
Cliff was on the road for thirty years. I was glad to have a career away from home; otherwise, I would imagine the worst. And sometimes I did.
Once he called me just to hear my voice. He didn’t tell me that he lost his car keys on the beach with the tide coming in. While he waited for roadside (!) assistance, he called me, knowing I could do nothing, yet knowing that my voice would steady him.
I’m glad your story and mine had a happy ending. It could have been “Otherwise,” as poet Jane Kenyon reminds us.
Marian, I was scared Vic was in danger because the weather was severe and the roads were slippery with blowing and drifting snow. It was unlike him to not let me know when he would be late. The electronic world can be invasive, but I’m grateful for cell phones for those kinds of situations. I remember that Cliff traveled for many years. Vic was often in Hamilton without me being there, especially when our sons were younger. In his last ten years of teaching, I decided to commute with him again and taught women’s health classes at the university. Cliff was kind not to tell you the whole truth until later. I imagine he was also good at making a joke of his mistake or drawing a great cartoon.
Yes to happy endings! I love Jane Kenyon’s poem “Otherwise.” And, eventually, it’s always otherwise.
Thanks Elaine, amazing how being locked out of one’s own car can happen. Not that long ago I locked myself out of my house and property. But I had my cell phone. My husband came to my rescue.
I remember when my sons got their driving licenses and my concern about them being on the road, especially travelling some distance. My friend said to me ‘just put them in the light’ – so that is what I would do. It helped in decreasing the vibration of anxiety.
Cell phones save us from lots of worry. When Vic was sick, our cell phones were essential means of communication. Yes, I remember the scary days of a 16 year old getting his driver’s license. Putting our sons in the light was and is still the best idea, every morning, every night. It’s the same idea as putting them in the heart and eyes of Anandamayi Ma. Anxiety doesn’t help anyone.
Oh, Elaine and Vic,
This is a precious reminder of heartfelt Love, Protection, and childlike Vulnerability that accompany our human experience. Thanks for taking your readers into a deeper space!
Thank you, Michael. Finally a comment from someone who knows those lake-effect snow storms in Hamilton and knew Vic’s vulnerability and sweetness. Thank you for your loving message.
We had moved to Grand Rapids when I was 6 months pregnant for our third child. Jon had traveled every week before the move and was promised only local travel. It was a snow storm, lake effect, and at least 9 inches was predicted. Jon called and said he would stay in Kalamazoo for the night, I starting crying and said “this is going to be just like Chicago”. He drove home in horrid conditions and when I saw him open the door in hugged him and sobbed
Sweet, sweet husband. You understand those big snow storms where you live–and I’m so glad Jon heard your tears and responded to them by safely coming home. It’s especially lovely to have a husband responsive to our feelings during pregnancy. Thanks for sharing your love story.
Oh my goodness, dear Elaine. I absolutely understand your worrying and fear. You know, Al and I had the same moments those days now and then. The new Tech (with the SmartPhone) can be a great help yet! Thank you for this exciting short story. I may try to tell mine one day.
Cell phones might have helped, although his might have been locked in the car. Winter is always challenging. It’s snowing tonight, and I’m glad to stay home. I look forward to your story since I know you and Al could make life exciting.
I remember those times. Since he had to have dialysis three times per week and had to travel 18 miles one way by medical taxicab, I swear in the winters we had a snowstorm or ice storm just about every evening before he had to go in the next morning, so that he was riding in horrible roads with strangers driving him. Thankfully we had cell phones by 2007, so I could check on his safe arrival, but occasionally he didn’t answer or the call didn’t reach him, and then the worry clock would start over again. His old outgoing voicemail message is burned into my memory from listening to it and wondering if he was okay. One time I called the dialysis unit when he didn’t answer at all, one snowy winter morning, and heard the receptionist nurse call out, “Mark, the wife called.” I’m laughing out loud now at the memory, but my God, worrying about him 3 times per week was draining. Then came our Otherwise day, when he didn’t answer at all, and everything went sideways. 🙁
Yes, it could have been “Otherwise.” Jane Kenyon immortalized the simple every day life. And then, one day, it is otherwise.
I’ve heard how hard dialysis is and how the patient never truly feels good. That has to be especially discouraging on a cold winter day in a medical taxi with a stranger. Cell phones were a relief because you could stay connected, but when someone doesn’t answer (even now in the days of better cell phones), the worrying mind gets crazy. I’m glad you had a laugh to remember in the midst of the suffering. I imagine the memories flood in winter. They do for me. Sending you peace and gentle days.
Yes, there are the memories of times when my husband and/or children were late and I had no way reach them –but, as Deborah wrote, none like yours where their life was in imminent danger. A remarkable story, Elaine, and well told!
The time I remember the most was when I actually was able to be reached but then was left in a vacuum — a phone call from my 20-year-old son who was traveling alone on a remote island in Malaysia. A woman had loaned him her phone to call home to let us know that he had lost his wallet on the beach and was stranded on the island with no money to take a ferry to get somewhere where help would be available. I remember at the time feeling a pit of anxiety in my stomach, but also knowing that he was being held in the arms of the Divine Mother. She channeled the words for me to say, “All I know, Nick, is that you are about to learn a lesson in the deep kindness of strangers.” And so it turned out to be true.
Thank you, Anne. It’s always nice to hear from you. As you might imagine, I didn’t love living in such a snowy world, but I did it. I was tougher then. The story of your son must be one he’ll never forget and I’m grateful the kindness of strangers saved him. When I stopped to watch horses the other day, a young man in a pick-up truck stopped to see if I needed help. “Thank you. I’m just admiring the horses,” I said. He smiled and saluted me before driving away. I was grateful for his concern in this harsh world. Blessed Imbolc!
This would certainly create a lot of fright, and yes, cell phones have spared us a lot of worry.
Yes and it’s the price of living in the snowbelt. Thanks for your comment.